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Annual Italian Street Painting Festival in Santa Barbara

Annual Italian Street Painting Festival in Santa Barbara

The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival will celebrate its 31st anniversary from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 26, 27, and 28 at the Santa Barbara Mission. A ceremony at noon on Monday, May 28, on the Mission steps will introduce and thank the major festival sponsors and featured artist Meredith Morin as her street painting is concluded.

De La Guerra Plaza, a look back

Plaza de la Guerra, in the first block of East De la Guerra Street, has been a focal point of the city’s social life since the 1820s. During the Spanish and Mexican eras, the plaza was often the scene of dances, fiestas, and bullfights. Just to the north of the plaza, across De la Guerra Street, stands the former home of José de la Guerra y Noriega, perhaps Santa Barbara’s most prominent citizen during its early history.

Getty Images

Getty Images

In 1855, the city’s common council designated the plaza, along with Plaza Alameda and Plaza Vera Cruz, as a public square or park — the first official parks in Santa Barbara. There the matter rested for the next 20 years, as the plaza remained simply an open area. In 1875, a new City Hall arose in the middle of the plaza. Initially, the two-story brick building housed all city offices, the jail, fire house, and the municipal court.

Construction of the City Hall sparked more development around the plaza. Frenchman Louis Raffour opened the Raffour House at the northeast corner of the plaza in the late 1870s. José Borderre, a Basque sheepherder, opened his French Hotel in the southeast corner of the plaza in the 1890s. These and other businesses maintained the plaza’s position at the center of city life.

De La Guerra Plaza :: Town Hall

De La Guerra Plaza :: Town Hall

De La Guerra Plaza :: Casa DLG

De La Guerra Plaza :: Casa DLG

In 1910, the City Hall received a facelift with a new red metal roof and cement facade in the popular Mission Revival architectural style. By the early 1920s, it was apparent that the creation of new city departments and expanding government services dictated new quarters. The city already rented office space around town to accommodate its growing bureaucracy. Voters passed a $200,000 bond issue in 1922. Most of the funds were to go toward construction of a new City Hall at the site of the old Raffour House.

Ronald Sauter and E. Keith Lockard rendered the new facility in the Spanish Colonial style, in keeping with El Paseo and its “Street in Spain” across De la Guerra Street. The move to give Santa Barbara a unified architectural look based upon the Spanish Colonial Revival style was in full swing before the 1925 earthquake, which accelerated this trend. The new City Hall included not only city offices, but the police department and the city jail. The old City Hall in the middle of the plaza was razed, and the plaza landscaped with lawn and flowers.

Anchoring the plaza on the south side was the Santa Barbara News-Press building, designed by George Washington Smith and completed in 1922. At the time of construction, the building housed the Santa Barbara Daily News. In the 1930s, Thomas Storke would buy the rival Morning Press to form the News-Press. In 1951, the tower and the east wing were added to the building.

Shortly after the turn of the 21st century, controversy began to stir when plans were broached to ban autos from the plaza and transform it into a strictly pedestrian area. A number of businesses protested the proposed changes, and the plans were eventually shelved. The plaza continues to play host to a number of festivities during the year including the Fiesta Mercado and Cinco de Mayo celebration to name just two. Taken all together, Plaza de la Guerra, Casa de la Guerra, and El Paseo form a wonderfully evocative complex that is still, in many ways, the heart and soul of the city.

De La Guerra :: Fiesta

De La Guerra :: Fiesta

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Montecito Lifestyle Featured Listings


Montecito Lifestyle



The Best Small Cities in the U.S. (Santa Barbara included!)

What do Carmel, Aspen, Charleston and Santa Barbara all have in common? They were all rated as the best small cities in the U.S. by ‘Condé Nast’!


Santa Barbara has been recognized as one of the Top Small Cities in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards. Santa Barbara first appeared on the list in 2015.

The destination, which welcomes more than 7.2 million total visitors per year, is one of 15 winners ranked in the category among other top reader favorites.

More than 300,000 travelers took part in the 30th annual survey — a record high for participation — voting on 610 cities and 7,320 hotels and resorts, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

Several Santa Barbara South Coast hotels were named as winners under the survey’s Top 25 Hotels in Southern California category, including The Kimpton Goodland Hotel, Spanish Garden Inn, Belmond El Encanto and Kimpton Canary Hotel.


“We’re honored to be named a top destination for travel by Condé Nast Traveler readers and proud to see so many Santa Barbara South Coast hotels recognized,” said Kathy Janega-Dykes, Visit Santa Barbara president/CEO.

“Santa Barbara’s small-town charm and relaxed coastal vibe combined with its sophisticated, well-curated shops and attractions offer visitors and our local community the best in hospitality. Its excellent restaurants, stunning coastal landscape and world-class wine country also have helped create the bucket-list appeal of the destination,” she said.


Santa Barbara and all the winners of the 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards are featured in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler and on, which together reach 6.1 million readers per month.

A full list of winners can be found at

— Natalie Bovee for Visit Santa Barbara.

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Cinco de Mayo Santa Barbara


People travel far and wide to celebrate this fun filled festivity of Cinco de Mayo in the highly sought after travel destination of Santa Barbara and Montecito. Here's a few reasons why....

What is Cinco de Mayo?

Every May, Santa Barbara celebrates its Spanish heritage with the extraordinary Cinco de Mayo Festival at De La Guerra Plaza. This year’s festivities are here, and they will draw thousands of locals and visitors. With live music and delicious cuisine from an array of food vendors, this festival is the best place to be on the Fifth of May.


What's the history of Cinco de Mayo?

(pronounced: [ˈsiŋko ðe ˈmaʝo]; Spanish for "May 5th", or literally, "Five of May") is a celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.

Where & When is Cinco de Mayo?

Located in downtown Santa Barbara, De La Guerra Plaza is a haven for Latino culture in Southern California. It also hosts the Old Days Spanish Fiesta every August—one of the region’s most popular annual events. On May 5th, the city will commemorate the Mexican defeat of the French in 1862 and celebrate the country’s heritage.

What's happening in Santa Barbara for Cinco de Mayo?

With such a strong Mexican culture throughout the city and state, a Cinco De Mayo celebration in Santa Barbara is as authentic as anyone will find in the United States. In the past, festival-goers have enjoyed everything from confetti-filled eggs to live Mexican music to delicious taquitos, tamales, and grilled corn on the cob.

The city of Santa Barbara even throws in a few extra fun for everyone attractions, like the rock climbing wall which has made appearances at festivals past. To take part in the fun this year, just head over to De La Guerra Plaza.

With musicians jamming in the plaza, and chicken and beef simmering on the grill, this year’s Santa Barbara Cinco De Mayo Festival promises to impress.

Don't miss out on all Santa Barbara has to offer in this fun filled festival.

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