EVERY. SINGLE. EVENT: Can you, in one fell swoop (read: one busy five-day stretch) take part in every single happening at Old Spanish Days? You could make a go of it, for sure, but given that the historic, storied, and vibrantly venerable Santa Barbara festival is marking its 90th, you're going to find that the to-dos nearly out-number the hours. There are the major goings-on and destinations, from the mercados to the Fiesta Stock Horse & Rodeo Show to the docent-led mission tours to El Desfile de los Niños on Saturday morning (it's the family-sweet parade's 84th run this year). Rather than dashing from to-do to to-do, and only dipping a toe in where you can, the best bet is to choose a few hallmark events -- say, the Children's Parade and some lively horse show and bull-riding action -- and glide through the rest, when and where you can.
OF COURSE... visiting at least one mercado is key to Old Spanish Days. El Mercado de la Guerra is just across from City Hall and boasts "crafts and souvenirs" and Mexican-American and Spanish eats. El Mercado Del Norte has four neighborhoods full of shopping, a carnival, and the Crazy Horse Cantina.
FLOR Y CANTO: There's a lot of California past to Old Spanish Days, but perhaps no event is more emblematic for attendees than the evening of song and dance on Friday, Aug. 1. Want to feel transported to the 19th century? Make for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens (it's free to see).
FOR MORE HISTORY... on the history-festive event, read on. Love the Lobero Theatre? Then you know that Old Spanish Days and the opening of the beloved venue share wayback ties.