As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers” and in Santa Barbara, the truth in that phrase is undeniable. Spring welcomes not only a bounty of wildflowers and lush greenery that delicately drapes across the expansive mountain enclave, but also a myriad of performances and festivals to elevate your visit. And, for National Travel and Tourism Week (which falls between May 7-13 this year), we invite you to relish in the excitement of so many happenings around town.
If you’re celebrating Mother’s Day in our slice of the central coast, there are plenty of ways to make mom loved with these thoughtful, Santa Barbara-inspired experiences and gifts. This May, it’s easy to get energized by the expressions of local artists, taste delectable wines paired with curated dishes and other signature events.
SPRING BITES AND DELIGHTS
It’s time to get wild at the Santa Barbara Zoo! Roar & Pour (May 6) is one of the zoo’s signature wine tasting events, where attendees can taste dozens of local varietals while viewing the animal residents in their outdoor habitats. This unique experience allows visitors to explore the zoo after hours and catch the sun setting over the Pacific from the grassy hilled venue space with a glass of pinot noir in hand.
Back by demand is the highly anticipated Taste of Santa Barbara, happening from May 15-21. Hosted by Santa Barbara Culinary Experience in honor of the legendary Julia Child, revel in insightful panel discussions, creative pop-ups, film screenings, farm tours, tasting events and other countless ways to connect and celebrate the best of Santa Barbara County’s culinary scene.
Starting May 18, Santa Barbara Sailing Center hosts the popular on-the-water event every third Thursday aboard Double Dolphin, aptly named Sipping on the Sea. In May, Summerland Winery is the featured vendor, however each month features various wineries and breweries from across Santa Barbara County on a rotating basis.
Also happening on May 18: Hotel Californian’s winemaker dinner featuring Ferrari-Carano Winery. Hosted at the hotel’s restaurant, Blackbird, this event highlights a four-course meal prepared by executive chef Travis Watson paired with an assortment of delicious tastings from Ferrari-Carano Winery.
And from May 19-21, Santa Barbara Vintners will be hosting a series of wine education events that take you “behind the scenes” of Santa Barbara’s revered wine country, where attendees will delve into topics like sustainable winemaking, expanding your wine tasting palate and the evolution of the Sta. Rita Hills.
POLO IN PARADISE
Bring out your finest sun hats, dresses and seersucker coats, because Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club’s 2023 Sunday Polo Season kicks off May 7. Nestled in the foothills of Montecito, watch the thrilling equine sport from the grandstands and graze on a chilled charcuterie board under shaded awnings. May through October, the pristine grass and stunning mountain views make an unforgettable backdrop to gaze at while sipping champagne and cheering on the players. Level up your polo experience and book a private field-side cabana, where you will get a front-row seat to the action.
LIVE IN SANTA BARBARA
Musical performances and productions come alive at historic venues across the Santa Barbara South Coast throughout May. At Granada Theatre, catch the 25th anniversary show of Riverdance (May 9), followed by the Santa Barbara Symphony’s 70th anniversary celebration featuring American composer Jonathan Leshnoff (May 13-14). At Lobero Theatre, Grammy-award winning jazz artist Tierney Sutton takes the stage (May 12), then Mighty Popular (May 17). Catch the stunning La Primavera flamenco show at the historic Casa de la Guerra for this pre-Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebration on May 13.
In the hills of the Riviera, not only can you enjoy vast views of the Pacific at the Santa Barbara Bowl, but also three thrilling shows throughout May. On May 4, enjoy blues-rock tunes from The Black Keys on their Dropout Boogie Tour. The month of country music at Santa Barbara Bowl kicks off on May 6, Billy Currington and Eli Young Band. On May 19, country artist Brett Young commands the stage with openers Morgan Evans and Ashley Cooke and on May 21, Grammy-winner Brad Paisley is hosting a benefit concert for Unity Shoppe, a nonprofit, free, referral-based grocery store started by Paisley and his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley.
FULL OF HE(ART)
The fan-favorite I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival returns on Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29). Watch as talented local artists (madonnari means “street painter” in Italian) create painted chalk artwork in front of Old Mission Santa Barbara. Artists representing a wide range of local organizations paint throughout the weekend and visitors can admire their gorgeous creations, as well as get a peek at the art process. Make a day out of it and pack a picnic to enjoy in the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden afterward—and don’t forget to stop and smell the blooming roses.
There are plenty of other signature festivals to attend in Santa Barbara—read here for more information on some of Santa Barbara’s most iconic festivals to plan for during your next trip to The American Riviera®.