Arts, culture, entertainment, outdoor recreation, food, drink and shopping are wildly abundant in Santa Barbara County. Lose yourself in the music and majesty of the Santa Barbara Opera, observe wild animals and learn about their habitats at the Santa Barbara Zoo, walk the decks like a seasoned sailor at the Maritime Museum or find the best route to be one less car with the help of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition — and much, much more.
Residents of Santa Barbara County can enjoy a colorful spectrum of annual events, festivals and community gatherings.
Autumn Grapes & Grains Festival
Held in October, the Autumn Grapes & Grains Festival takes place in downtown Santa Maria. The street fair features local wines, brews and artists as well as art demonstrations, carnival games, food, a petting zoo, a car show, live entertainment and a Chalk Art Expose. For more information on the festival, visit the city of Santa Maria’s website at www.cityofsantamaria.org or http://santamariawines.com/events.html.
California Avocado Festival
The California Avocado Festival, or Avofest, is held in October in the heart of downtown Carpinteria, a three-day extravaganza of food, a guacamole contest, music and family fun.
I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival
A truly unique celebration, the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival is held every Memorial Day at the Old Mission in Santa Barbara. Madonnari, or street painters, transform the Old Mission into a colorful work of art with more than 100 chalk paintings. Benefits go to the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program that serves 50,000 children throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Lompoc Flower Festival
Celebrated for more than 60 years, the Lompoc Flower Festival is held every June in the Lompoc Valley. The festival’s flower show is considered one of the highest-ranked flower shows in California. Festival-goers will also enjoy a parade, carnival rides and games, arts and crafts, entertainment and, of course, flower displays and arrangements.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta
This famed five-day celebration of Santa Barbara’s heritage is held in early August. Recognized as one of the five-best regional festivals in the U.S., the fiesta has marked the area’s Spanish and Mexican heritage for more than 90 years. Enjoy Spanish and Mexican dance, song and food in the plazas, parks and streets of Santa Barbara. These festivities, along with a live rodeo and the large equestrian parade, “El Desfile Historico,” draw in thousands each year.
Parade of Lights
The Parade of Lights is held in December at the Main Harbor and Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. The boat parade begins at 5:30 p.m. and is followed by a fireworks display. Come early and enjoy Santa’s Village on the City Pier.
Santa Barbara County Fair
Held in July at the Santa Maria Fairpark, the county fair celebrates agriculture, local organizations and hometown pride. Festivities include carnival rides and games, a destruction derby, a country rodeo and calf scramble, music and more.
Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Held in late January/early February, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is world-renowned. The 11-day festival screens hundreds of films to an audience of more than 75,000 film enthusiasts, industry professionals and even Hollywood superstars.
Santa Barbara International Orchid Show & Festival
The longest-running orchid show in the nation, the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show & Festival is held in spring. Featuring gorgeous displays of exotic orchid species and hybrids, the festival boasts thousands of blooming orchids, fine art and photography. Orchids, corsages and supplies are available for sale. There are also free workshops on orchid care, led by experts.
Santa Maria Elks Rodeo & Parade
The Santa Maria Elks Rodeo & Parade is a three- to four-day June extravaganza at the Elks-Unocal Event Center in Santa Maria. Watch exciting performances, including bull riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, mutton bustin’ and, of course, the parade.
Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival
Celebrated on the fourth weekend of April at the Santa Maria Fairpark, the Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival showcases delicious strawberry creations. Free attractions, educational exhibits, carnival rides and live entertainment mean there’s something for everyone.
Summer Solstice Celebration and Parade
A celebration of the longest day of the year, this event centers on June’s Solstice in Alameda Park in Santa Barbara. Live music, dancing, food, arts and crafts, and a children’s festival attract more than 100,000 people from around the world. Watch the colorful and extravagant spectacle of more than 1,000 costumed participants as they dance, drum and spin up State Street in the parade.