If the county fair is all you’re looking forward to this summer, then you’re not looking in the right places! Some of the best festivals are independent ventures that have become annual sensations. Whether you live in the area or are planning a weekend trip to these Southern California coastal towns, here are a few local favorites for the Ventura and Santa Barbara area.
Summer Solstice Parade, 2011 — Photo courtesy of sbclick
The Summer Solstice Parade & Festival, Santa Barbara
June 22nd-24th, Parade on the 23rd
While the famed parade draws over 100,000 spectators itself, Summer Solstice is a weekend-long event that opens with local artisan workshops and continues after the parade with a festival in Alameda Park. The park will host local food stands, over 75 arts & crafts vendors, beer & wine gardens, a children’s stage, and musical acts. This year’s theme is “Fantasy,” which is easy to fall into as you watch the participants and parade floats make their way up the picturesque State Street.
Dancing at Greek Festival — Photo courtesy of Ventura County Greek Festival
The Ventura County Greek Festival, Camarillo
Emerge yourself into Greek Culture with this festival at the Camarillo Airport. Featuring endless Greek food, music, dancing, entertainment, and an hourly prize drawing, there is no shortage of celebration. The festival also offers a unique and historical tour of the Greek Orthodox Church and has teamed up with a local boot camp organization to host an adjacent mud run. Nothing satisfies a good workout like a good gyro! Visit the festival website to get a coupon for free admission.
The California Wine Festival, Santa Barbara
Determined to give you an authentic Central coast wine experience, this festival opens with an Old Spanish Nights Wine Tasting downtown on the 19th. The 20th hosts two separate seminars and tastings in preparation for Saturday, when the actual Beachside Wine Festival begins. You can spend the afternoon at Chase Palm Park, tasting over 350 wines while enjoying the ocean view. You even receive a souvenir wine glass with purchased admission; a special token to remember one of the most scenic wine tastings you will experience.
Citrus Classic Balloon Festival — Photo courtesy of JefferyTurner
The Citrus Classic Balloon Festival, Santa Paula
July 27th & 28th
The Santa Paula airport hosts one of the fastest growing festivals in Ventura County. With the opportunity to watch hot air balloons ascend over the citrus and avocado orchards at either sunrise or sunset, admission to this occasion seems almost like a privilege. Attendees can take a closer look at the dozens of balloons and even catch a short ride in a staked balloon. During the day, the festival boasts live music, beer and wine gardens, a car show, air displays and performances, an art & crafts fair, souvenir booths, and several food trucks. For an additional price, you can even enjoy a fine dining experience with one of the best seats in the house for the night-lit balloons.
Old Spanish Days, Santa Barbara
This year, the bells of the Old Santa Barbara Mission will ring in the 88th anniversary of “Fiesta Days.” The five-day festival focuses on the tradition and history of the city’s Spanish heritage with mercados, fiestas, and cantinas. Other public scheduled activities include performances and dances at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, an equestrian parade, rodeos, historical tours, costume sales, an arts & crafts fair, dances, and even a bull-rider competition. Each event is packed with spectators and participants, so don’t forget to bring change for confetti eggs, which are cracked on heads left and right!