It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here. And, Santa Barbara knows how to Summer! The city nicknamed the “American Riviera” is home to an array of uniquely dazzling festivals, year-round.
Memorial Day weekend is considered the ‘unofficial’ start of beach season, so why not celebrate at the colorful I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival? The grounds of Old Mission Santa Barbara shape shift into an Italian city, where street painters using chalk sketch massive images.
Asphalt is their canvas as they create (or recreate) colorful works. This festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a non-profit which brings art into Santa Barbara area schools. Admission is free and the colorful drawings will stick around for a few days following the Memorial Day Weekend.
The Summer Solstice Celebration is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular events, drawing 100,000+ visitors. Many line State Street to be dazzled by the colorful dancers, drummers and pageantry of the Solstice Parade. No commercial entries allowed, so this parade is 100% home-grown Santa Barbara. Along with the parade on Saturday (noon, June 20, 2015), there’s a three-day weekend festival in Alameda Park, featuring live bands, artisans selling clothing and crafts as well as an array of food and drinks.
Watch: Sights & Sounds of Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade 2013!
July brings the French Festival, which ties in with France’s Bastille Day, and the Greek Festival, to Oak Park. Ooh La La! Or, should I say, Opah! You will delight in the native dishes and desserts being served. I enjoy attending summer festivals in Oak Park because they are free, not too large, and it seems like there’s a different one every weekend. You can drop in a couple of hours or spend the day indulging in traditional foods or enjoying free entertainment.
“Old Spanish Days of Santa Barbara,” aka “Fiesta,” takes over the downtown area on August 5-9, 2015. This granddaddy of Santa Barbara events features horses with riders in traditional Spanish attire. A rodeo and other events mark the nearly week long celebration. Click this link for details on the rodeo and other events.
“Old Spanish Days Fiesta is about the heart of Santa Barbara’s residents and their passion for life,” said Cas Stimson, president of the 2015 Fiesta. This year’s theme is “Fiesta Romantica.” The first Fiesta was held in 1924 to pay tribute to the Spanish traditions of Santa Barbara’s founding families.
The fun doesn’t end with summer. The California Lemon Festival comes to Goleta in September; followed by the California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria and the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival.
While we’re on the topic of Santa Barbara festivals, I have to mention the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The main event takes place in Winter, just ahead of the Academy Awards. SBIFF has become an important stop on the road to Oscar, where nominees can schmooze with peers and try to drum up last minute Academy votes. Building on its success, SBIFF has added a few mini-festivals called “Waves,” including a French Wave, featuring cinema of France, in July.
Click here to see a year-round list of Santa Barbara festivals and events.
Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Highway 101 into Santa Barbara (especially northbound) is usually busy in summer, and it will be jammed over the Solstice weekend. If you’re planning to attend the Solstice parade, arrive several hours early. Or, get a room and spend the night.