Every Thursday 5–11 p.m., Jueves de Verbena consists of dance, theater, art expos, music, and more, all presented in the Old Market  on one of several stages. Or rub elbows with the locals at the most popular local bar in town, La Rhonda, on the south side of the park, with beer, lots of space, and good appetizers.
If you’re here on a weekend during baseball season (Nov.–May), be sure to catch the local team, San Fernando, who plays in Estadio Roberto Clemente, named for the Puerto Rico–born Pittsburgh Pirate who died in a plane crash in 1973 delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. The tailgating scene atop the malecón  may be one of the most scenic in the world. Tickets start at $0.50.
Masayans celebrate all year long, observing various religious, historical, and indigenous rites with a wild collage of marimba music, traditional costume, poetry, painting, food, drink, and age-old customs. Many of the dances are family traditions, in which certain roles — and their accompanying masks and costumes — are passed from generation to generation. Costumes are a key element of the festivals and are often elaborate and gorgeous.
A few weeks before Easter, the celebration of San Lázaro features believers promenading with their ornately costumed dogs, to thank their patron saint for keeping their household animals in good health.
The fiestas only get more interesting.
In the Festival of the Cross, celebrated in May, people exchange thousands of palm-thatch crosses in honor of La Señora de la Asunción. The virgin icon is carried to Monimbó in remembrance of the miracle that occurred there during the last eruption of Volcán Masaya ’s Santiago Crater, in which the virgin saved the city from hot ashes.
September–December are peak fiesta months in Masaya . Things get started with the official fiestas patronales on September 20, in honor of Patron Saint Jerónimo. Toward the end of the three-month celebration, look for the extravagant Fiesta del Toro Venado, on the last Sunday of October. It’s similar to the North American Halloween, but instead of ghosts and goblins, Masayans don disguises that poke fun at their favorite politicians, clergy, and other public figures.
Held on the penultimate Friday of October, the Fiesta de los Agüisotes (Fiesta of the Bad Omens) is a nod to Nicaragua’s darker side: Folks dress up as scary figures from local legends, such as the chancha bruja, the mocuana, and the arre chavalo (a headless priest from León).
Patron-saint celebrations end the first Sunday of December with the Procesión de San Jerónimo. This is perhaps the most stunning of Masaya’s fiestas, as the statue of the city’s patron saint is paraded through the streets amidst a sea of flowers. Look for the Baile de las Inditas (Dance of the Little Indian Girls), Baile de Negras (Dance of the Black Women), and the Baile de Fantasía (Dance of Fantasy). Every Sunday from September through December features a folk dance of some sort, a competition between rival troops, or even dancers that go from house to house performing short dances to marimba music.
In mid-January, the Festival of San Sebastian explodes with life and energy in the indigenous Monimbó barrio. The celebration’s highlight is the Baile de Chinegro de Mozote y Verga, in which participants engage in a mock battle, hitting each other with big sticks and finally coming together in a peace ritual. The tunkún drum (a Maya instrument) beats out the rhythm of the dance, along with a whistle called a pífano. At the end of the ritual, everybody screams together:
La Novena del Niño Dios is an interesting December ritual in which small children are given pots, pans, whistles, and firecrackers and are sent into the streets at 5 a.m. to noisily call all the other children together for the 6 a.m. mass in celebration of the Christ child’s birth.
Pieces and parcels of Masaya ’s festivals are found in the various fiestas patronales of the many surrounding pueblos, each of which present their own peculiar twist to the events. In mid-June, for example, San Juan de Oriente ’s party involves “warriors” dancing through the streets and whipping each other with stiffened bull penises.