Guide to Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Photo Credit: Fritz Olenberger 

For 99 years, Old Spanish Days Fiesta has reigned as the summer event that locals and visitors alike look forward to each August in Santa Barbara. The streets of downtown Santa Barbara glisten with papel picado (colorful paper flags) and street vendors, taking place this year from Aug. 2-6, while live music, caballo (horses), mercados (markets) and the Historic Downtown Parade take festival-goers back in time to, well, Old Spanish Days. This annual festival is a celebration of the area’s rich history and diversity, with influences from Spanish, Mexican and Native American cultures.

Old Spanish Days Fiesta returns with a bang, featuring iconic events such as the El Desfile Histórico and Flor y Canto. Keep reading for the ultimate itinerary of events to attend at this year’s Fiesta celebration.

Visit Santa Barbara would like to remind the festival-goers that throwing and leaving confetti, sequins and glitter on the ground is considered littering. Using paper confetti only, sparingly, is encouraged.

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Courthouse Fiesta Tours between 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Free one-hour, docent-guided tours of the beautiful historic landmark take place every hour between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 6. The tour meets and begins in the iconic Mural Room at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Cost: Free to attend

El Mercado de la Guerra from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
This lively Mexican market has everything from souvenirs, live entertainment to authentic Mexican and Spanish cuisine. Located across from City Hall in downtown Santa Barbara, El Mercado De La Guerra is a great way to officially kick off Old Spanish Days Fiesta. This market is open every day of Old Spanish Days Fiesta through Saturday, Aug. 5.
Cost: Free to attend

La Fiesta Pequeña from 8-10 p.m.
Head into the evening at Old Mission Santa Barbara with the anticipated La Fiesta Pequeña, meaning “little fiesta,” and enjoy classic dance performances from Californios Spirit.
Cost: Free to attend


La Misa del Presidente at 10 a.m.
This Roman Catholic Mass dates back to the first day of Fiesta in 1936 and today is followed by a festive reception in Old Mission Santa Barbara’s Sacred Garden.
Cost: Free to attend

Fiesta at Dusk starting at 11 a.m.
Celebrate Fiesta with Drift Santa Barbara at Dusk Bar, where each day features a new shot, drink specials, live music, tequila tastings and more.
Cost: Varies by menu item

Fiesta Weekend Festivities with 818 Tequila from 12-9 p.m.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is partnering with 818 Tequila, Kendall Jenner’s award-winning tequila from Jalisco, Mexico, for four days of festivities from Aug. 3-6. From specialty cocktails and Flamenco dancing, celebrate Fiesta weekend at this picturesque resort by the sea.
Cost: Varies by menu item

El Mercado de la Playa from 12-10 p.m.
Happening between Thursday, Aug. 3 and Sunday, Aug. 6, head to Santa Barbara City College‘s La Playa Stadium for a festive market with music and souvenirs in a scenic setting. Explore four different attractions at this lively night market: The food court, where attendees can find delicious authentic Latin cuisine, Fiesta Bazaar for souvenirs, Fiesta Carnival for carnival rides and the Crazy Horse Cantina for refreshing libations.
Cost: Free to attend

DIGS! (Celebración de los Dignatarios) from 5-10 p.m.
Go to the Santa Barbara Zoo, for DIGS!, a ticketed, all-inclusive event for an evening of wild animals, food, music and dancing. DIGS! is a 21+ event, as there will be a wide selection of local wine, beer and tequila served all night long.
Cost: $125 (early bird), $150 (general admission), $175 (at the door)

Noches de Ronda from 8-10 p.m.
Noches de Ronda, translating to “night watch,” takes place at the Sunken Garden of the Santa Barbara Courthouse through Saturday, Aug. 5, where spectators can view various types of performances, including California-style dance and music, contemporary flamenco and folklorico traditions.
Cost: Free to attend


Annual Fiesta Friday Party at Loquita starting at 11 a.m.
Immerse yourself in Santa Barbara’s rich Spanish heritage with a flamenco performance by Mizuho Sato and music by Jesse Torre at Loquita. Indulge in authentic Spanish cuisine like chorizo y pollo paella, patatas bravas, bocadillo de verduras and churros. Sip on bottomless sangria and enjoy Lustau Sherry and Lalo Tequila tasting while dancing to DJ Val-Mar Records and a Smooth Exchange. This event is for ages 21+.
Cost: $85/ticket

Fiesta Weekend at Sunstone Winery from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Join Sunstone Winery for another fun-filled Fiesta weekend! Enjoy live music, Mexican and Spanish-inspired food and the release of seven new wines.
Cost: Free to attend

El Desfile Histórico starting at 12 p.m.
Historically held on State Street, this year El Desfile Histórico boasts a brand-new route: Cabrillo Boulevard to Calle Cesar Chavez and back. The parade begins at 12 p.m. and will feature antique coaches, carriages and wagons, floats and over 600 horses. Parade attendees will be able to park in the downtown parking garages, where they can take a shuttle—free of charge—to the parade route. This service is offered courtesy of the City of Santa Barbara and Downtown Santa Barbara.
Cost: Free to attend

Flor y Canto from 7-8 p.m.
Held at the Sunken Garden of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, Flor y Canto is a short-but-sweet celebration of Spanish music and dancing.
Cost: Free to attend

Alfonso Losa Flamenco: Espacio Creativo starting at 7:30 p.m.
Join the Flamenco Arts Festival in celebrating the dance expression of award-winning flamenco dancer Alfonso Losa, referred to as “the most genuine current representative of the Madrid school of flamenco dance and the necessary bridge between the masters and the new generations” at Lobero Theatre.
Cost: $51-$106/ticket

Flamenco Arts Festival Gala After Party starting at 9:30 p.m. to midnight
Meet the artists from the Flamenco Arts Festival gala and enjoy music, delicious paella, tapas and beverages at the Lobero Theatre Courtyard. The event is catered by L.A. Chef Roger Navas-Balladares.
Cost: $36/ticket


El Desfile de los Niños starting at 10 a.m.The charming Children’s Parade is a favorite fiesta event. This year, El Desfile de los Niños will take place along Cabrillo Boulevard, from Garden Street to Calle Puerto Vallarta.  This parade highlights young people of Santa Barbara and their families as they don traditional costumes to celebrate the rich culture of the area.  Children walk, ride in wagons and dance down the parade route!
Cost: Free to attend

San Salvador Ship Tour from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
In partnership with the Maritime Museum of San Diego and Old Spanish Days Fiesta, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum welcomes the galleon replica San Salvador into port for this year’s Fiesta celebration. The ship offers for free public tours at the city pier at Santa Barbara Harbor on Aug. 5 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Aug. 6 from 10 a.m-2 p.m.
Cost: Free

Mujeres Makers Market from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
From Saturday, Aug. 5 to Sunday, Aug. 6, join this popular monthly market for its Fiesta edition. Mujeres Makers Market promotes community and unity amongst women creatives and highlights women of color. Come shop and support over 50 women-owned businesses at this outdoor event at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.
Cost: Free to attend

Fiesta on Stearns Wharf from 2-3 p.m.
Looking for somewhere to continue the Fiesta celebrations after the Children’s Fiesta Parade? There’s no better place than on the iconic Stearns Wharf! Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca will provide a free Mexican folklórico dance showcase, complete with traditional costumes and skilled dancers, immediately following the highly anticipated El Desfile de los Niños.
Cost: Free to attend

Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival starting at 5 p.m.
The Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl for its 26th year. Grab your tickets to the event, which features performances from Edith Marquez, El Mariachi del Divo, Majo Aguilar, Mariachi Femenil Nuevo Tecalitlán, Mariachi Angeles and Mariachi Garibaldi.
Cost: Prices start at $85.50/person

Courthouse Legacy Foundation Fiesta Party from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
View Las Noches festivities from the Courthouse’s second-floor Loggia and Mural Room. You can also take in the breathtaking, sweeping city views from famous clock tower. This is an exclusive annual fundraiser for the Courthouse Legacy Foundation, and Fiesta attire is strongly encouraged. No tickets sold at door. Must be 21 to attend.
Cost: $125/person

Sunday, Aug. 6

Fiesta Arts and Crafts Show from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. at West Beach on Cabrillo Boulevard
Close out the week’s festivities with a stroll through the Fiesta Arts and Crafts Show on Cabrillo Boulevard, where you can discover expertly crafted pottery, jewelry, home decor, art and more.
Cost: Free to attend.


Project Fiesta: 99 Years recurring daily between 12-5 p.m.
As the 100th anniversary of Old Spanish Days approaches, Santa Barbara Historical Museum celebrates the festive annual celebration with 99 photographs spanning 99 years in the exhibit “Project Fiesta: 99 Years.” The exhibit is on view through Nov. 12, 2024.