What to do & where to stay during Fiesta in Santa Barbara
Perhaps Santa Barbara’s greatest festival, Old Spanish Days Fiesta is an ideal time to visit and experience the color, culture, spirit and heritage of Santa Barbara. This 5-day festival draws large crowds from both near and for its music, Spanish flamenco and Mexican folklórico dancing, traditional food and historic parade. Make sure you browse our Santa Barbara vacation homes to find the best location in which to stay during Fiesta Santa Barbara.
Whether you plan to stay the full week of Fiesta or just for the weekend, there’s plenty to see and do during this joyous festival, as the streets are literally alive with music, dance and color.
Fiesta Santa Barbara kicks off on Wednesday with music and flamenco dancers at the Santa Barbara Mission and finishes Sunday evening after a full five days of eating, drinking and being merry. Around town you’ll hear the famous phrase “Viva la Fiesta!” and the streets will be covered in colorful confetti.
The Old Spanish Days Santa Barbara Fiesta parade and festival is one of the most anticipated celebrations of the year, so if you plan on enjoying Fiesta weekend in Santa Barbara, check out vacation rentals that will put you close enough to festival and parade action, as you won’t want to drive and many streets will be blocked off.
We offer a variety of short-term vacation rentals in Santa Barbara, many of which are easy walking distance to State Street. However, you can opt to stay closer to the beach, but still within easy transit or bicycle to the Fiesta Santa Barbara festival activities happening all over town. Check out our short-term Santa Barbara beachfront vacation rentals for ocean views and pet friendly vacation homes.
Once you’ve gotten your vacation rental home sorted, read through our Fiesta Santa Barbara guide below to get the most out of this once a year Spanish festival.
Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade – El Desfile Histórico (Historical Parade)
Going strong for more than 90 years, the Santa Barbara Fiesta parade is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades featuring hundreds of horses, along with antique carriages, coaches, wagons and participants dressed in traditional vaquero attire. The parade starts Friday at noon at the west end of Cabrillo Blvd. and continues east along the beach and then up State Street to Sola Street. Claim your viewing spot on the street early or purchase seats via the Old Spanish Days Fiesta website.
<<Check out our Santa Barbara vacation homes to find vacation rentals conveniently near the parade route>>
Flamenco dancing & Mexican folklórico dancing
At the center of Santa Barbara Fiesta is the music and dancing. Mariachi music fills the streets and there are opportunities to see dancing in several locations around town.
In fact, the Old Spanish Days Fiesta kicks off Wednesday evening with a song and dance night called La Fiesta Pequeña at the Santa Barbara Mission. The event is free, so bring a blanket and picnic on the grass while watching the performance.
Although there are plenty of options to watch traditional Spanish and Mexican dancing around town, you won’t want to miss the evening performances called Las Noches de Ronda on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the beautiful Sunken Gardens of the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
Admission is free, so bring blankets and lawn chairs and get ready to be treated to a spectacular evening of vibrant Spanish flamenco and Mexican folklórico dances, colorful costumes and riveting music.
“Old Spanish Days Fiesta has grown in stature and reputation to become one of the best known regional festivals in the United States.”
Cascarones (confetti eggs)
“Fiesta” means party in Spanish, so what kind of a party would it be without confetti? Cascarones are an absolute must-have accessory for Santa Barbara’s Fiesta festival. Purchase a handful of cascarones, confetti-filled, decorated eggshells sold on nearly every corner by local vendors. Join in the fun and crack them open over the heads of fellow party-goers and make sure to shout “Viva la Fiesta!” as you spread confetti and joy throughout the streets.
El Mercado de la Guerra (De La Guerra Market)
Across from Santa Barbara’s City Hall is the El Mercado de la Guerra. This is the spot to go to experience traditional Spanish and Mexican food, shop and watch live on-stage entertainment throughout the day. There’s even a beer garden serving ice-cold beer and frozen margaritas to quench your thirst on a hot August day.
The Mercado is located in the center of town in De La Guerra Plaza. Check our short-term vacation rentals in Santa Barbara to find homes within walking or bike riding distance from this festival entertainment hub.
Schedule of Santa Barbara pre-Fiesta & Fiesta festival events
We hope this quick guide gives you a glimpse into the fun and spirit of Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta. We’ve covered some of the most popular activities you’ll want to experience while in town during the full five days or just for Fiesta weekend. However, there are many more activities around town, including children’s events and dances. Check out https://oldspanishdays-fiesta.org/ for a complete rundown of the entire schedule of events for Old Spanish Days Pre-Fiesta & Fiesta events.
Looking for a place to stay for the best Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days Fiesta experience?
Browse our Santa Barbara vacation rentals and homes located in the most ideal parts of town, fully stocked with all of the comforting amenities you need to relax and unwind after a full day of festival activities.