During the summer of 1974, the first solstice parade took place in Santa Barbara, California, as a way of celebrating the birthday of Michael Gonzalez, a local artist and mime. Fellow buskers took to the streets in celebration, and each year, more entertainers began joining the procession. Eventually, the parade synced up with the Summer Solstice Music Festival, and Santa Barbara’s largest art event, Summer Solstice Celebration, was born.
Today, the eccentric spectacle continues to occur around the first day of summer. This year, the Santa Barbara summer solstice falls on June 20, 2016, but the annual parade doesn’t take place until June 24-26. While you will have to wait a few extra days until the big bonanza, that shouldn’t keep you from celebrating on your own terms. To help you welcome the longest day of the year, we’ve built an itinerary with some of the best things to do in Santa Barbara.
Sunrise: The sun is rising at 5:47 a.m., but if the thought of waking up that early has you scrambling for the snooze button, sleep in a bit and then head to Shoreline Café for breakfast. With seating in the sand and on the deck above, this sweet spot on Leadbetter Beach offers ocean views with a side of eggs. Kickoff summer with some fresh orange juice pancakes and huevos rancheros.
Midday: Ah, sea breezes, sunshine, and swaying palm trees—greet summertime down at East Beach. Sun worshippers earn their bronze glow on this Cali coastline, where you can join pick-up volleyball games, comb the shoreline for some seashells, and cool off in the salty waves.
Afternoon: You’ll fall for the local vibes at The Lark. Located in the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market building in the Funk Zone, this noshery serves locally sourced cuisine and wine from nearby vineyards. Hello smoked pork belly and Happy Canyon vino! The family-style dishes and long communal tables are ideal for sharing, so roll up your sleeves and dig into the artisan platters with your crew.
Evening: Still full from your Lark lunch? Roam the aisles of Isabella Gourmet Foods and pick up some light munchies to see you through the evening. The boutique artisan grocery store on Figueroa Street is stocked with goodies from specialty shops, near and far. Graze on sticky salt water taffy, raw almond sorbet, or savory quiche before heading over to the harbor for the sunset.
Sunset: The solstice sun is retiring at 8:14 p.m. tonight and you can get a front-row seat of the show during the Full Moon Solstice Celebration hosted by Paddle Sports Center. Members and nonmembers of the organization are invited to paddle out into Santa Barbara Harbor to watch the sunset and float by way of moonlight. The group will get underway at 7:30 p.m.
Viewfinder tip: If you plan on paddling out, the U.S. Coast Guard requires that you bring a white light with you.
If you’re visiting from out of town, stay at one of the hotels in Santa Barbara for easy access to all the seaside summer action. Interested in finding out how we rang in the season in the past? Check out our previous itineraries below.
Highlights from Santa Barbara summer solstice 2015
- Sunrise at Camino Cielo
- Santa Barbara Solstice Celebration with Brazilian Carnaval
- Dinner at Toma Restaurant Bar
Highlights from Santa Barbara summer solstice 2014
- Sunrise walk around Hendry’s Beach
- Summer Solstice Celebration parade at Alameda Park
- Live music at Oreana Winery & Marketplace
- A Camelot in Concert production with the Santa Barbara Symphony
What Santa Barbara summer events are on the top of your list?