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Just two hours up the coast from Los Angeles, you’re driving through the bucolic Santa Ynez Valley surrounded by vineyards when suddenly you spot a traditional Danish windmill on the horizon. Welcome to Solvang, “California’s Denmark.” In this picture-perfect village, you feel as if you’re strolling back in time along the charming streets lined with half-timbered buildings, thatched roofs, and five authentic Danish bakeries; not to mention world-class wine tasting rooms, restaurants, boutiques and museums. Stay for a day or spend a few nights (there are plenty of options to choose from ranging from luxury hotels to charming inns) – regardless, these are just a few reasons we think you'll love it here.
A unique Danish history that still lives on
The Elverhoj Museum
Founded in 1911 by Danish educators, Solvang offers plenty of ways for visitors to experience its authentic Scandinavian history. The Elverhoj Museum, housed in a building modelled after an 18th-century Danish farmhouse, documents Solvang’s heritage, with locally made handicrafts available in the museum shop. For a look into the life of one of Denmark’s best-known literary figures, visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, located in The Book Loft building. While you’re there, browse the collection of bestsellers as well as art and Danish-language books. Kids will enjoy spotting Danish icons (and great photo stops) on a stroll around town, from four traditional windmills to the Little Mermaid statue, storks on rooftops (for good luck) to a giant red wooden clog. (Insider tip: Want to ensure you don't miss any part of Solvang's unique heritage? Download the Solvang Heritage Walk Audio Tour App, which highlights the history, culture, arts and attractions of this Danish-American community.)
Sunny days, many ways
The River Course at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort
Solvang may look and feel like Denmark, but it’s got California weather on its side, making it a perfect place to get outside and soak up some sun year-round. You can go the traditional route by exploring the town in a wooden trolley car pulled by two draft horses, or go modern on a Segway tour. Hans Christian Andersen Park, fronted by a castle arch, entertains kids of all ages with activities from a rock-climbing wall to a skate park with serious half pipes. Consider renting a surrey-cycle for up to ten or a mountain or road bicycle for a quick ride into nearby wine country. Golfers can play a round at one of four nearby courses – including The River Course at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, just two minutes from the village.
The heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country
Fresco Valley Cafe
Fan of the Oscar-winning movie Sideways? The film’s famous wine-tasting road trip was filmed all around Solvang and the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley. You can explore locations from the movie on the Sideways wine trail, featuring 18 stops. But you don’t have to be a fan of movie star Paul Giamatti to enjoy wine here. Located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, Solvang’s climate makes it the perfect place to produce world-class varietals, from Pinot Noir to Grenache to Chardonnay. Solvang’s cozy downtown packs in 24 tasting rooms, serving wines from many of the surrounding local vineyards, as well as craft breweries (since it takes plenty of beer to make great wine)! And where there’s great wine, there’s great food – Solvang is no exception. While a visit to a Danish bakery or restaurant is a must (be sure to try the aebleskiver – a light, fluffy Danish pancake ball), Solvang’s culinary roots with farm-to-fork options have attracted top chefs who create foodie inspirations every day in romantic hideaways, family-friendly diners, rustic pubs, casual cafes, plus plenty of al fresco dining options – all paired with local vintages.
Events you won’t want to miss
Since 1936, the 25th anniversary of its founding, Solvang has hosted Danish Days each September. The streets come alive with traditional singing, dancing and culinary delights. The festival includes three parades, free concerts, a Viking encampment, and no shortage of Danish beer. Enter the aebleskiver eating contest if you dare. Foodies won’t want to miss Taste of Solvang, hosted annually in March, when the region’s farmers and artisans collaborate with chefs, bakers, winemakers, brewers, and distillers to create a culinary weekend that showcases the region’s food and drink. Sample the wares of more than 25 foodie stops around town on the Tasting Trail. And of course, you can’t beat December in a quaint Danish village. Solvang was named by Time Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Most Christmassy Towns in America.” There won’t be snow, but residents and visitors get into the holiday spirit in a big way with Julefest (Christmas Fest). From candlelight tours to music in the park to Danish glogg, it's the closest you’ll get to a white Christmas without heading north.
Where to stay
Solvang is a wonderful “home” base to explore all of the Santa Ynez Valley, whether you want to stay right in town in a four-diamond luxury hotel or charming inns, or get a little wild at a nearby historic guest ranch. Click here to find the best option for your stay and discover why Solvang was named by Expedia Travel in 20017 as one of the top 50 cities to vacation in North America.
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Discover Solvang, California’s Denmark! With its Danish-American heritage, world-class wines, farm-to-table culinary experiences, outdoor excursions, museums, boutiques, and of course, its famed Danish bakeries and chocolates. Just two hours up the coast from Los Angeles, yet a world away, begin planning your visit today at www.SolvangUSA.com.
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