¡Viva la Fiesta, Santa Barbara!

This past weekend was my first Santa Barbara Fiesta experience. Part of the fun of moving to a new city is learning about all of the traditions and local events that make the town home.

2016 Fiesta Poster

What’s makes Fiesta Santa Barbara different from other parades and festivals? Cascarones! These empty eggshells are filled with confetti, and revelers smash them on people’s heads. The streets were filled with confetti!


Parades and Performances during Fiesta Santa Barbara

Even though I was working most of the weekend, I got to take a peek at the Equestrian Parade on my lunch break Friday (Perks of working downtown!).

Apparently this is the largest equestrian parade in the United States. The weather was gorgeous and the horses didn’t even seem that put out after marching from the Beach all the way up State Street.

I missed the children’s parade on Saturday morning, but it sounds absolutely adorable—kids all dressed up in costumes dancing down State Street!

Despite having to work, I was able to catch a few of the dance performances. The girls in their ruffled dresses were too cute! I would have died to be able to wear something like that as a young girl. Groups performed all over town all week. There are several schools that teach traditional dancing.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse features a sunken garden that was a beautiful backdrop to a night of dancing. There was live music and many dance numbers.

I grew up loving ballet. I took lessons for years. While I still think it’s a beautiful art and love seeing performances, the very narrow definition of what a ballerina should look like did have negative effects on my self-image growing up. What most impressed me about these groups of young women—and especially the teenagers—is that they were all sorts of shapes and sizes, and still completely skilled. I loved it. It would have been very affirming for me to see that as a young girl.

Where to Eat During Fiesta Santa Barbara

fiesta margarita

My brother and I had dinner at Cielito, a Mexican restaurant just steps away from my library in the little la Arcada shopping corner. I will definitely be returning to sample more of their dishes. It has one of the most extensive vegetarian menus I’ve seen in Santa Barbara. The cocktails were amazing and while a bit touristy, the atmosphere is fun and the location is perfect.

We spent the evening wandering through the mercado and taking in the sites. I’ve only been in Santa Barbara month, but from my experience, there isn’t much nightlife (at least downtown on State Street). Not so during Fiesta! Santa Barbara was hopping all weekend.

Next year, I hope to get a fuller Fiesta Santa Barbara experience, but this weekend was a lot of fun.

What is your favorite hometown festival? 

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