Two hours northwest of Los Angeles is the beautiful Danish village of Solvang. Mostly known for its traditional Danish architecture and heritage, it’s also become a big player in Santa Barbara County’s wine scene. I was looking to get away for a couple days, and this seemed like a fun destination to explore.
You immediately know when you’ve arrived in the city of Solvang because of its authentic Danish architecture and windmills.
I spent most of the first day walking up and down the two main streets, Copenhagen Drive and Mission Drive. The town is very pedestrian friendly, and I found it very easy to get around by just walking – even from my hotel, which was a couple block off the main drag. It felt safe and comfortable both day and night.
When in Solvang, be sure to look up at the storks atop many of their buildings. While these are replicas, actual storks are known to nest on rooftops in Denmark – in fact, people will often try to attract them to their roofs, as they bring good luck & protection to the homes on which they sit.
The streets of downtown Solvang are filled with many local shops and restaurants, but you’ll also find many fun statues along your walk! The most popular is the Little Mermaid, a half-sized replica of the famous statue that sits along the harbor of the Langelinie Promenade in Copenhagen Denmark. In Solvang’s central park area, you’ll find a statue honoring Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author most known for his fairy tales. Inside the Copenhagen House, you’ll find the Sleeping Holger Danske – the mythical Danish folk hero who, according to legend, will awaken the next time the Kingdom of Denmark is threatened by its enemies.
At the turn of the 20th century, there was a large emigration from Denmark to the United States. While many Danish immigrants were settling in the Midwest, others wanted to travel further west, presumably to avoid the harsh winters so common in the Midwest area.
In 1910 some prominent Danish-Americans, Rev. Benedict Nordentoft, Rev. Jens M. Gregersen and Professor Peder P. Hornsyld, formed the Danish-American Colony Company in San Francisco to find and establish this west coast settlement. The following year, they purchased 9,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley and established the city of Solvang.
In front of The Copenhagen House is a statue honoring the three Solvang Founders.
Hans Christian Andersen Museum
1680 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Solvang also has a small museum dedicated to the life and works of Hans Christian Andersen. One of the more interesting things I found here was his paper cuttings. Apparently, he had a habit as he told stories of cutting a piece of folded paper much like we cut a paper snowflake at Christmas time. By the end of his storytelling, he would have a paper cutout of a scene from that story!
Solvang Wine Tasting
California is well known for its wines and there are over 120 boutique and family-owned local wineries in Solvang alone!
The success of the Oscar-winning movie SIDEWAYS in 2004, which shot on location in Solvang, has brought a lot of attention to the wines in the area. Most known for their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah varieties, you can also find some fantastic Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier… well, just about anything you would want!
Although I didn’t go out venturing to any wineries themselves, I did enjoy a couple of Solvang’s tasting rooms during my visit.
Wandering Dog Wine Bar
1539C Mission Dr., Solvang CA 93463
For my first wine tasting, I decided on the Wandering Dog Wine Bar. I sampled a Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cuvée, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. While I’m always partial to a good Cab, I especially liked their No Leashes Cuvée (45% Grenache, 45% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah).
476 1st Street, Solvang CA 93463
Carivintas Winery makes its name from a blend of Latin and French words, combined to mean: blending wine with philanthropy. The company is based on the principle of, in addition to doing something they love to make a living, also giving back to the community, and each year a portion of their profits are donated to specific charities.
The wines in their tasting flight included a Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and a Sangiovese/Tempranillo/Malbec blend.
BONUS TIP – Solvang Wine Tasting Deals: If you’re traveling with someone, be sure to check out the tasting room websites ahead of time (or, ask when you get there), as they often have 2-for-1 deals!
Read more about California wines at Two Days of Wine Tasting in Paso Robles for Under $200! or at A 2 Day Vacation in Temecula CA for $200.
Wildling Museum of Art & Architecture
1511 Mission Dr., Solvang CA 93463
Cost: $4 with Groupon (*regular admission $5)
On my second day, I visited the Wildling Museum of Art & Architecture. Such a wonderful space! Their mission is to “inspire our community and visitors to enjoy, value, and conserve wildlife and natural areas through art.” (https://wildlingmuseum.org/about-wildling-museum)
On the first floor is their temporary exhibits area (photo above). When I visited I saw “Celebrating the National Parks of California”, with photos, signage, and multi-media pieces highlighting the beauty in California’s National Parks. The second floor focuses on stories of the local tri-county area and houses some permanent exhibits including the, that I was lucky enough to see when he was just painting it! Finally, on the third floor is the Barbara Goodall Education Center that focuses on exhibiting works from the local community.
BONUS TIP – Discounted Admissions: I saved a little by buying a discounted admission from Groupon, so be sure to always do a quick search of the various coupon sites (think Groupon, Living Social, etc) before you travel, to see if you can get a discount on something you’d like to do in the city!
Mission Santa Ines
1760 Mission Dr., Solvang CA 93462
Cost: $5 (suggested donation)
California is home to over 20 historic missions and Solvang is home to the beautiful Mission Santa Ines. For a donation of $5 (to help with restoration & maintenance), you can take a self-guided tour through the grounds.
Founded in 1804, this Mission survived a revolt in 1824 and established the first Seminary in California in 1844. The Church houses many beautiful artifacts, artwork, and vestments. The garden, which also includes the cemetery, is beautiful. And, there is a stunning rendition of the Stations of the Cross on their grounds, overlooking the nearby countryside that’s just breath-taking.
Nojoqui Falls Park
Alisal Road, Solvang CA
A short drive outside of town you’ll find Nojoqui Falls Park. It’s an easy, out-and-back trail that takes about 15-20 minutes to walk, depending on how much you like to explore the flora and fauna surrounding you. The effects of the drought were present at the time I went (2016), and there was no water running in the falls. A sad happenstance, yet still a beautiful sight.
Solvang at Christmas
If you have the chance to visit Solvang in December, you will see the village cheerily decorated for Christmas. And you might even be lucky enough to be serenaded by Christmas carols from some local musicians!
If you’re interested in reading more about Christmas travel, be sure to check out 5 Beautiful Christmas Markets in Europe.
There are some amazing restaurants in Solvang that will satisfy every taste and every budget! Here are the ones I visited on my trip.
1663 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang CA 93463
The popular and classic Solvang Restaurant is best known for their Danish Aebleskiver – essentially a pancake-textured jam filled donut that’s absolutely delicious and definitely a must eat when visiting Solvang! To stay with the iconic Danish meals theme, I also tried their Danish Meatballs with Red Cabbage.
Succulent Café Wine Charcuterie
1555-1557 Mission Dr., Solvang CA 93463
I had an amazing dinner at Succulent Café Wine Charcuterie that included Bacon Wrapped Scallops with a side of Mac ‘n Cheese and some melt-in-your-mouth mini biscuits accompanied by a Basil Gimlet cocktail.
Other places for a fun meal or treat include: Paula’s Pancake House (1531 Mission Drive – $16) a popular restaurant in the downtown area that often has a wait; Birkholm’s Danish Bakery and Café (460 Alisal Road – $6) for a classic Danish; and of course, my personal favorite treat anywhere I go is an ice cream cone from a local creamery and I enjoyed mine on this trip at Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor (1618 Copenhagen Drive – $5).
My Hotel in Solvang CA
Solvang Gardens Lodge
293 Alisal Road, Solvang CA 93463
The Solvang Gardens Lodge is a great place to stay in Solvang! It’s a comfortable hotel with ample parking. They have a beautiful garden with a water fountain in front and a private garden courtyard area I was able to access directly from my room. It was a lovely place to sit and enjoy a morning cup of coffee before I headed out for the day. They also provided a continental breakfast buffet for guests.
Solvang Itinerary and Budget
Here’s a look at my Solvang itinerary and budget for the weekend:
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