Some people love Santa Barbara’s outrageous Summer Solstice Parade & Festival. Other folks, not so much. Here are details on how to enjoy and how to avoid Solstice.

Embrace it

“Celebrating Unity” is the Solstice theme this year, so join right in. Friday night’s opening ceremony in Alameda Park celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love with a $4 Happy Hour and $5 Tasty Bites from 4 to 5:30 p.m., when the live music and dancing starts.

Arrive early for Saturday’s parade, which departs at noon from State and Cota streets and winds its wild way down State Street before turning up Micheltorena to Alameda Park. Creativity has no bounds, for the most part. Nudity, once a mainstay of Solstice, is not allowed. But be warned: It can get a bit spicy, but is fine for most kids.

Ingenious people-powered floats, huge balloons, revelers in inventive masks and costumes and gyrating dancers of all kinds parade to the beat of ever-present drums and live music. It’s a true spectacle, albeit one attended by more than 100,000 spectators.

The Alameda Park Festival runs until 8 p.m., featuring live music, foods and beverages, a boutique with more than 75 artisans and craftsmen, and the ubiquitous “drum circle” formed by paraders and public alike. Parade floats are on display until 4 p.m. A special children’s area features a stage with storytellers, musicians, puppeteers,and more.

The frolicking continues on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. with the charming Children’s Parade starting at 2:30 p.m. on the Main Stage. More information at

Ditch it

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With so many people downtown, this is a good weekend to stick to the fringes.

Go high: Visit the Botanic Garden in the hills above Santa Barbara. Take in the redwood grove here, a shady and serene spot far from the crowds. The oldest tree is now more than 90 years old. Nearby are the remnants of the Old Mission’s historic water system, including a dam and aqueduct.

Go low: For an uncrowded beach, start at Hendry’s Beach (also known as Arroyo Burro), at the foot of Las Positas Road. At the beach, turn left and cross the creek. Dogs can run off-leash here. Keep walking toward Mesa Lane Steps, which can be taken to the Douglas Family Preserve (Fido goes back on-leash until the Preserve). Or stay on the beach to “Thousand Steps Stairs” (actually around 150) that go up to the dead-end at Santa Cruz Boulevard, just off Shoreline Drive. Check tide tables, as these beaches can become inundated.

Go back in time: The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum at the harbor presents a fascinating look at Santa Barbara’s relationship to the sea, from the hand-carved Chumash tomol (canoe) to modern industrial “hardhat” diving equipment. Kids love the interactive exhibits, but this museum is a treat for visitors of all ages with exhibits about local shipwrecks, tall ships, ranching on the Channel Islands, commercial fishing, surfing and more (

Julia McHugh can be reached at