Photo Credit: Fritz Olenberger
Old Spanish Days Fiesta draws large and loyal crowds to Santa Barbara year after year, in celebration of Santa Barbara’s heritage and traditions. From Aug. 1 to 5, the streets of Santa Barbara are bursting with music, dancing, time-honored traditions, authentic cuisine, and so much more.
We encourage you to immerse yourself in the history, culture, spirit and merriment that is Old Spanish Days. Watch the parade, dance in the street, and eat and eat until you can eat no more. Most importantly, don’t forget to join in the fun of cascarones. This time-honored tradition of cracking a confetti-filled egg on a friend’s head will never get old.
To maximize your Fiesta fun, we’ve pulled together a list of must-visit events when traveling to Santa Barbara for Old Spanish Days 2018:
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 1
Fun for All at El Mercado del Norte
Located at Mackenzie Park on the corner of State and Las Positas Streets, El Mercado del Norte kicks off the Old Spanish Days festivities Wednesday and continues on through the weekend! Enjoy live music, tons of delicious food vendors, carnival rides, and then cool off in the beer garden. Stroll through the Fiesta Bazaar for memorable keepsakes, and your kids will love the colorful adornments and exciting carnival games to play. (3098 La Positas Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)
Sip & Swirl at the Canary Rooftop, 5:30pm-7:30pm
The sunset views from the Kimpton Canary’s rooftop are unparalleled, so don’t miss your chance to sip chilled tequila and nibble flavorful, authentic Spanish bites while taking in the watercolor-splashed sky at Sip & Swirl Fiesta. The Old Spanish Days take on the popular tasting series is bound to be a show-stopping success as town-wide festivities get into full-swing. Afterwards, catch La Fiesta Pequeña at 8:00pm at Old Mission Santa Barbara to top off your first night of Fiesta!
La Fiesta Pequeña, 8 p.m.
No backdrop could be more picturesque than Old Mission Santa Barbara. As a colorful August sun sets slowly behind the “Queen of the Missions,” know that you are a part of history, as the Old Mission Santa Barbara has been home to the official opening of Old Spanish Days since 1927.
Family and friends bring blankets and picnics to sit upon the Mission lawn, as they watch La Fiesta Pequeña, “Little Fiesta,” a colorful, historical program that includes traditional songs and dances from Californios, Flamenco, Spanish classical and Mexican folklorico. (2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)
THURSDAY, AUG. 2
El Mercado de la Guerra, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Spend your Thursday afternoon strolling through a colorful Mexican market to feast on Spanish and Mexican-American foods, shop for crafts and souvenirs to take back home, and enjoy live entertainment all day and into the early evening. Can’t make it on Thursday? Don’t worry, this Mercado is open from Wednesday, Aug. 1 to Saturday, Aug. 4, and is located in De La Guerra Plaza, on the first block of East De la Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. (0 East De la Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
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FRIDAY, AUG. 3
El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade), 12 p.m. ‘noon’
Now in its 94th year, the Fiesta Historical Parade is a cherished tradition in Santa Barbara and is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades, featuring over 600 horses, antique carriages, coaches and wagons.
Grab a spot and set your seats up ahead of time along State Street. From historic floats to historical reenactment, sit back and cheer, as you’ll be in clear view of this parade from the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. Starting at West Cabrillo Blvd to State Street, the parade will then finish at 1500 State Street.
Loquita’s Parade-Watching Fiesta Party, 11:00am – 2:30pm
Nab a prime spot of real estate for watching El Desfile Histórico from the air-conditioned interior of Loquita and dig into a Fiesta-inspired lunch featuring authentic bocadillos, paella, postres and Fiesta party favors. Don’t miss Loquita’s all-you-can-drink signature sangria along with a live Flamenco performance by Zermeño Dance Academy at 1:30pm. And for your little ones, cascarón decorating – traditional Fiesta confetti eggs – will keep them occupied while you soak up the colorful music and tradition. (202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
Tacos & Tequila at Court of Califia, Friday Aug. 3, 11:00am-2:00pm
Looking for authentic street tacos and chilled tequila to stay cool during Fiesta? Hotel Californian will be throwing their first ever Tacos & Tequila affair where you can savor juicy carne asada and sip on a salty Cadillac margarita while basking in the sun. Satisfy your taco craving and relish in the energy of Old Spanish Days at the Court of Califia (located directly adjacent to Goat Tree), and don’t miss the melt-in-your-mouth churros con chocolate. (36 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Authentic, flavorful and entertaining, one of the absolute best traditions of fiesta is enjoyed at Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado. While this Mercado is open Friday to Sunday, serving up authentic Mexican cuisine, we suggest heading over after the El Desfile Historico. This way, you’ll beat crowds and get a delicious taste of what Old Spanish Days is all about. (227 N Nopal St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103)
Fiesta at Paseo Nuevo, Various Times
All Fiesta long, join Paseo Nuevo in downtown Santa Barbara as they celebrate Old Spanish Day’s Fiesta with Flamenco dance performances and live music in Center Court. (651 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, CA 9310)
SATURDAY, AUG. 4
Annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade), 10 a.m.
This parade is too cute and too charming to miss! Parading down State Street, from Victoria Street to Ortega Street, children and parents of Santa Barbara dress in traditional costumes to celebrate the rich culture of the area.
Casa Cantina, 12 p.m. – 12 a.m.
For those who are 21 and over, celebrate Fiesta where it all began, as Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation presents Casa Cantina in the courtyard of the historic Casa de la Guerra. All you need to do is kick back, relax, sip a cold drink, and celebrate at the home of Fiesta. And should you want to come back again and again, Casa Cantina is also open Wednesday, Aug. 1 to Saturday, Aug. 4. ( 15 E De La Guerra St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
Live Flamenco Dancing in the Funk Zone, 1:00pm and 5:45pm
Zermeño Dance Academy, one of the largest all-age dance groups to participate in Old Spanish Days, will have two free performances in the parking lot of Santa Barbara Wine Collective and Figueroa Mountain Brewery Co. Bring the whole family to watch the impeccably coordinated dancers whirl and twirl their colorful traditional garb and enjoy wine by the glass from Santa Barbara Wine Collective.
SUNDAY, AUG. 5
West Coast Symphony’s 46th Annual Free Fiesta Concert, 3:30 p.m.
Held in the beautiful Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, these festivities comprise an afternoon of beautiful music conducted by Dr. Michael Shasberger. Bring the family, pack a picnic and snacks, and don’t forget about a blanket or lawn chairs for optimal viewing. (1100 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101)
Rodeo Performance (Final Event), 2 p.m.
Giddy-up for a good time and the rodeo, at Fiesta’s final event at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Excitement and entertainment are a guarantee as riders compete in Bareback Riding, Tie-down Roping, Steer Stopping, Team Penning, Mutton Bustin’ and Saddle Bronco Riding, plus PRCA Team Roping, Barrel-Racing, and Bull Riding. (3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93105)