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
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rodeo Performance (Final Event), 2 p.m.
Giddy-up for a good time and the rodeo, at Fiesta’s final event. 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.