Looking for a unique and enchanting getaway that transports you to Europe without leaving California? Look no further than Solvang, a picturesque village nestled in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley. Known as the Danish Capital of America, Solvang is a delightful fusion of Danish culture and American hospitality. If you can’t actually make it to Denmark and Copenhagen, this would be the next best choice. You can explore most of this place in a day so it’s the perfect choice for a road-trip to get out of the city and somewhere completely different from the norm.
Discover Danish Culture in Solvang Village
Solvang’s rich Danish heritage is beautifully celebrated at every corner as you explore the main part of town. Stroll down cobblestone streets, adorned with half-timbered architecture and windmills, and lose yourself in the Danish atmosphere. It’s the multitude of vibrant colors that makes this place so wonderful.
Many charming boutique shops are offering authentic Scandinavian goods, from clothing to home decorum. Solvang is primarily a daytime destination, and it may not offer much in terms of nightlife or entertainment compared to larger cities. If you’re seeking vibrant nightlife or a diverse range of entertainment options, you may find Solvang a bit lacking.
Throughout the year, Solvang organizes vibrant festivals celebrating Danish holidays, providing visitors with a chance to witness authentic cultural festivities. Come here for the “Danish Days” celebration, where the streets come alive with parades, traditional music, folk dancing, and colorful costumes. Enjoy the “Solvang Julefest,” a winter wonderland filled with lights, Christmas markets, and warm Danish hospitality. These festive events capture the essence of community and bring the town’s Danish heritage to life.
Explore the fascinating history of Danish immigrants to California in the 1900’s at the local museums. The commitment to preserving Danish culture is what sets this place apart from other tourist destinations. Immerse yourself in the traditions of Denmark by visiting the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art or exploring the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, dedicated to the legendary writer. Pick up a souvenir here
Solvang boasts a numerous amount of foodie lovely places to indulge your appetite, serving up many Danish delicacies that will leave you craving more before you want to leave. From savory Danish open-faced sandwiches in their restaurants to mouthwatering aebleskiver (Danish pancake balls) at the many authentic bakeries. The Danish love for pastries is evident in the world-famous Danish pastry, flaky and buttery, often filled with sweet fruit or creamy custard. Danish cuisine puts a strong focus on simple yet delicious dishes. You can spend a day here just eating all the delectable options here.
Solvang Wine Tasting
Solvang is part of the wine-country here and has several exceptional wineries scattered throughout the rolling hills surrounding the town, offering daily samples at their tasting room and vineyard tours of the Santa Ynez countryside, the heart of Santa Barbara County’s wine region. Indulge in the pairings of Danish cuisine paired with the finest California wine. The quality is excellent and you will find the staff friendly and personable.
The vineyards and wineries offer some amazing panoramic views, making each glass of wine as you relax a truly immersive sensory experience. Or if you want to be more active rent a bicycle and leisurely pedal through the rolling vineyards, enjoying the fresh air and stunning scenery. You can also find tasting rooms around town as well if you do not feel like leaving the comfort of the main street.
Solvang Festival Theater
This outdoor theater is a true delight in Solvang. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and weather permitting you can see some great performances under the stars. Both theater with high production values to comedy shows and live music performances, it’s a great way to spend the end of the night here.
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Not exactly a typical part of Danish culture, this museum is still impressive though with motorcycle bikes dating as far back as the 1900’s. It’s interesting to see how far things have progressed as you view the different models and time periods. If you are a motorcycling enthusiast or historian this is the perfect place to spend some of your time here. Or if you are just looking for another interesting part of the town to explore this can definitely fill up a hour or two of your time.
Old Mission Santa Inés
This is probably the first thing you notice as you enter Solvang. A National Historic Landmark, it’s one of the oldest surviving structures in all of California. Established in 1804, this magnificent mission of adobe architecture, adorned with beautiful frescoes and intricate religious artwork, shows how important it still is today. You can take a self-guided tour to see the artwork, old manuscripts, and church bells.
Outside you have tranquil gardens surrounding the mission offer a serene landscape, inviting visitors to reflect and find solace in its peaceful atmosphere. As one explores the captivating exhibits and artifacts within the mission’s museum, a deep appreciation for the rich cultural heritage and religious significance of Old Mission Santa Inés can be found.
If you want to spend part of your day outside of town, the area provides plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. Explore the scenic Alisal River Course which is perfect for an 18-hole round of golf and scenic views of the Santa Ynez mountains. Or hike through the pristine trails of Nojoqui Falls Park to visit the small waterfall and short trail. It’s a simple and easy add-on to your day. You can even see wild animals like deer, cows, and horses as you drive by.
When Should You Visit Solvang?
Being located in sunny California, Solvang is nearly perfect to visit all year round with the weather. Which can mean it will get fairly busy with other visitors as well as the locals who are looking to enjoy their time here as much as you are. If you want to get the most of your day, coming during the month of July as these are the longest days.
Where to Stay in Solvang
If you decide you wanted to spend the night or have turned your day trip into a 2-day trip, there are many accommodations here for a place to stay. What you will find is that even the hotels and inns are built in the Danish architectural style. So you won’t be seeing any large modern-day hotel chains here. We suggest the Corque Hotel as it is located right downtown and within walking distance of everywhere you may want to explore the village.
This small town is what make traveling so great. And this is just one of the highlights of visiting Southern California. From here you can head a little down south to the next big city Santa Barbara and pass that to Los Angeles. If that is where you started from originally, continue to make your north along the California coast, exploring more gems of the sunshine state.