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Santa Barbara Festivals: Best Bets

Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, livens up the grounds of Old MIssion Santa Barbara over Memorial Day Weekend (Photo:  I Madonnari Festival)

The colorful Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, comes to Old Mission Santa Barbara Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

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 an artist's canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is an artist’s canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

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.

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara's Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

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.

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

“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.

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara's unique  mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara’s unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

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.


Deadly Duo: Poison Oak & Hemlock

You can identify poison oak  by its shiny triple-leafs. Heat or water stressed plants turn a deep orange or red in some areas. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Santa Barbara hikers, watch your step at Romero Canyon: The trail is lined with poison oak and hemlock. I noticed the green shiny triple leafed plant, up and down the trail during a recent Mother's Day hike. In many cases, the poisonous plant, … [Continue reading]

SB Fork & Cork Classic

guy hamilton and crowd

The weather was perfect for enjoying an afternoon of world class sips and bites at the Santa Barbara Fork and Cork Classic, presented by Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. The Kobe beef meatballs prepared by chefs from the Four Seasons were hard to … [Continue reading]

Lotusland: a Santa Barbara ‘hidden gem’

The pond in the Japanese Garden at Lotusland. The private estate turned world-class gardens is one of Santa Barbara's hidden gems. (Photo Traffic411)

Earlier this year I moved to Santa Barbara, CA, to host the morning show on the new Santa Barbara radio station, 88.7 FM KCRW.  It is gorgeous here along the ‘South Coast,’ and there are many hidden treasures, which I will be blogging about in the … [Continue reading]

So Cal Boat Parade of Lights

'Santa's Helpers' assist boat parade announcers  Lisa & Mickey Lazslo with holiday carol singalongs at Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey.

It’s a California holiday tradition. Rain or shine, colorful boat parades will be lighting up harbors up and down the coast almost until Santa comes down the chimney. Most of the parades take place this weekend. So, bundle up and watch twinkling … [Continue reading]

Retro Road Trip: Route 66


True to the song, Route 66 enthusiasts can get plenty of kicks in Seligman, Arizona. The main drag of this small town is a blast to the past of the days when Americans loaded the family in the Oldsmobile or Chevrolet to see the U.S.A. When … [Continue reading]

Jalama Beach: Off the Beaten Path

Jalama Beach in Lompoc is one of Southern California's hidden gems. Miles of uncrowded pristine coastline. (photo by Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Nestled in a cove at the southern end of Vandenberg Air Force Base, just above Point Conception, is a gem of a beach and camping site, Jalama Beach! My boyfriend and I visited Jalama (pronounced 'huh-LAH-muh') in an effort to beat a recent early … [Continue reading]

Wine & Art Fans Love Santa Barbara’s “2nd Saturdays”

The Santa Barbara Art Foundry hosted a wine reception during the Funk Zone Art Walk in August. I enjoyed looking at their artwork, including several Erte statues. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Looking for a fun one-day getaway on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner? Check out "The Funk Zone Art Walk" in Santa Barbara. It takes place on the second Saturday of every month in the 'Funk Zone,' a renovated industrial area that's now home to … [Continue reading]

Do You Waze?

Waze is a free app that uses mobile crowdsourcing to provide driving directions and route users around traffic jams (Photo credit: Waze)

The Waze real time traffic navigation app has almost made driving fun! I've been commuting at rush hour recently (I don't know how anyone does this everyday!) and, when I log on each morning, Waze offers up the most congestion route and provides the … [Continue reading]

Santa Monica Daycations


A great thing about living in Southern California is you don't have to travel far to at least FEEL like you are on vacation, even if it's only for a few hours. Santa Monica is a favorite quick getaway for me.   Walking in Palisades Park with … [Continue reading]