Spanish Days Fiesta in Santa Barbara

Fiesta Weekend Activity Guide

Santa Barbara sure loves a party and a parade!  The first weekend in August is a city-wide celebration of Old Spanish Days.  Young and old alike take to the streets, the Mission, local churches and private homes to celebrate the town’s Spanish history roots.

All over town, the weekend is a burst of color, music, and fun with parades of horses, children, rodeos, Spanish dancing at the Old Mission, parties and street vendors.

We’re already getting into the spirit by snacking on Fajitas, blistered Shishito Peppers and sipping August Red while we plan out the weekend’s activities.

Here is your definitive Fiesta guide!

Steak and Chicken Fajitas Fiesta Santa Barbara

El Mercado de la Guerra
Stroll through a colorful Mexican market (across from City Hall) to feast on Spanish and Mexican-American foods, shop for crafts and souvenirs, and enjoy live entertainment all day and into the early evening.

El Mercado del Norte
Enjoy Fiesta foods; the Fiesta Bazaar for souvenirs; Fiesta Carnival with rides and attractions for the kids; and the Crazy Horse Cantina for icy cold beer margaritas and live entertainment in the evening to get you out on the dance floor. Mercado Del Norte is located in Mackenzie Park.

Casa Cantina
Celebrate Fiesta where it all began as Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation at the annual Casa Cantina in the courtyard of the historic Casa de la Guerra.

Crazy Horse Cantina
The Crazy Horse Cantina, inside Mercado Del Norte, features a beer garden with live entertainment and is a favorite gathering spot for locals during Fiesta.

Las Noches de Ronda
Las Noches de Ronda, “Nights of Gaiety” is held in the famous Sunken Gardens of the beautiful Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The evening performances feature spectacular dances and songs from the fire of flamenco to the charm of Mexican folklórico dances. Over 200 performers entertain nightly and donate their time to this wonderful event. Admission is free to the public.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado
Enjoy one of the best traditions of Fiesta. Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado serves up a wide array of authentic Mexican cuisine and entertainment.

227 North Nopal Street
Visit a local secret at 227 North Nopal Street and experience homemade goodness for the whole family!

Fiesta table setting

El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade) 12pm
Amazing to see, this parade features hundreds of horses decked out in antique silver bridles and tack, fabulous Spanish dress on both men and women.

This year marks the 93rd anniversary of the Fiesta Historical Parade. It is unique to Santa Barbara and features floats depicting episodes from the history of the state and city, over 600 horses, as well as many antique carriages, coaches, and wagons. The parade starts at the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard, proceeds east along the beach to State Street, then up State Street to Sola Street.

Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo 
(Competencia De Los Vaqueros) 8am & 12pm
Incredible equestrian events and competition the whole family loves.  Bull riding, bronc riding and even mutton busting for brave little ones. Held at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Buy your tickets early at Jedlicka’s on De La Vina St.

Fiesta party table setting

Annual El Desfile De Los Niños (Children’s Parade)  10 am
This charming Children’s Parade is a not to be missed event organized by the City Parks and Recreation Department. Young people of Santa Barbara, their parents, and other parade participants don traditional costumes and celebrate the rich culture of the area. The parade proceeds down State Street, from Victoria Street to Ortega Street.

Fiesta Arts & Crafts Show Sat 10 am–6 pm Sun 10 am – 5 pm
Stroll along the beautiful beachfront Cabrillo Boulevard just West of Stearns Wharf and browse for handmade treasures created by local artisans. The Arts and Crafts show is an all-day event on both Saturday and Sunday of Fiesta week. Enjoy the arts and crafts while you take in Santa Barbara’s beautiful marina and a spectacular view of our coastal mountains.

PRCA Rodeo Performance 
(Competencia De Los Vaqueros) 7:30pm
Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association events, including Bareback Riding, Tie-down Roping, Steer Stopping, Mutton Bustin’, Saddle Bronc Riding, PRCA Team Roping, Barrel Racing and Bull Riding.

al fresco mexican food

Cascarones –  Eggs hollowed out, colored and filled with confetti, fun to smash on your friend’s heads. Confetti is found on Santa Barbara streets for weeks after Fiesta

Churro – a sweet snack consisting of a strip of fried dough dusted with sugar or cinnamon. Delicious!

Elote – Mexican street corn is simple yet delicious. Corn on the cob is grilled and then topped with a combination (depending on the recipe) of lime juice, butter, paprika, cotija cheese and salt. The results are just short of divine. Eat like a local by visiting the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mercado (227 North Nopal Street) for elote and all sorts of other culinary treats. It is off the beaten path but an experience not to be missed.

Horchata – a non alcoholic rice based drink spiced with cinnamon.

Agua de melon – puréed watermelon makes a delicious and refreshing beverage.

¡Viva la!  – Shortened from “Viva La Fiesta,” it translates by most to mean “long live the celebration.” This expression is shared between friends and strangers alike and can be heard echoing through the streets and plazas throughout the week. Bet you can’t say it without smiling?

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  1. Pingback: Folded Hills | Recipe: Fiesta Shishito Peppers

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