Old Spanish Days Fiesta.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta representatives discuss plans for next week's festivities in Santa Barbara. (Courtesy photo)

Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta returns next week with its traditional parades, crafts shows, celebrations and a new historical re-enactment. 

Old Spanish Days goes back to 1924 to celebrate Santa Barbara’s history and culture. This year’s theme is “Let’s Fiesta” and will have events going Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 2-6. Most events are free to attend. 

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is showing an exhibit through Sept. 22 to celebrate the last 99 years of Fiesta. This year’s installation will include photos of pageantry, fashion and a look back at Fiesta’s long-standing traditions. Admission is free to the museum at 136 E. De la Guerra St.

Daily Events

From Wednesday to Saturday, El Mercado De la Guerra will be at De la Guerra Plaza. Visitors can stroll through the market right across the street from City Hall, 8 E. De la Guerra St. Vendors will be selling crafts, souvenirs and food all day as live music plays. The full entertainment schedule can be seen here.

For anyone wanting to visit Santa Barbara’s iconic County Courthouse, they can enjoy free hour-long guided tours Wednesday through Sunday. Tours begin at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.. Tours will begin at the mural room of the building, at 1100 Anacapa St.

El Mercado de la Playa will be Thursday to Sunday at the parking lot of La Playa Stadium at Santa Barbara City College on Cabrillo Boulevard. This family-friendly event will feature carnival rides, food, games, live music and Crazy Horse Cantina. There will not be a mercado at Mackenzie Park this year.

Las Noches de Ronda will be Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Sunken Garden of the courthouse. The evening will include performances from the fire of flamenco to the charm of Mexican folklórico dances. There will be more than 200 performers. 

The Fiesta arts and crafts show will be Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Cabrillo Boulevard just west of Stearns Wharf. The show will feature handmade items from local artists.


La Fiesta Pequeña will be from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Santa Barbara Mission, at 2201 Laguna St. It’s free. As Fiesta’s traditional opener, La Fiesta Pequeña showcases traditional music and dance from Californios Spirit in front of the “Queen of the Missions.” Free seating is available on the lawns with views of the performances on the mission steps.


La Misa del Presidente begins the second day of Fiesta with a High Mass in the main church of Old Mission Santa Barbara from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s been tradition to hold Mass during Fiesta since 1936. La Misa is held in honor of La Presidenta and the Old Spanish Days board of directors. Mass is followed by a festive reception at the mission’s sacred gardens. 


Friday’s festivities will also feature a re-enactment at 10:30 a.m. just west of Stearns Wharf, with a Chumash tomol greeting a life-size replica of the San Salvador ship, referencing the day in 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into local waters. The greeting ceremony will kick off Friday’s festivities.

Fiesta’s historical parade will be on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. and will feature floats depicting the city and state’s history. With more than 600 horses, it’s one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades. Descendants of local Spanish pioneers, Native Americans, the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, and local service clubs and organizations all re-enact historical scenes. The parade begins at the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard near Pershing Park, continues east along the beach to Calle Cesar Chavez, then back down Cabrillo Boulevard. 

At 7 p.m. in the Courthouse Sunken Gardens, visitors can enjoy a rare opportunity during Flor y Canto to experience 19th century Spanish California music and dance along with historical narration. The songs and dances will be performed by local residents in authentic costumes. 

Saturday and Sunday

The children’s parade, or El Desfile de los Niños, at 10 a.m. Saturday will feature young families of Santa Barbara while wearing traditional costumes and celebrating the area’s culture. The parade proceeds on Cabrillo Boulevard from Garden Street to Calle Puerto Vallarta. 

After Friday’s historical re-enactment, tours of the San Salvador ship will be available 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

More information about Old Spanish Days events is available here.