Solvang meaning “sunny fields” in Danish, is a little town in California that you might want to visit if you are missing Europe. The Danish town of Solvang in California is charming and offers many sweet things to do — you can indulge in some authentic traditional Danish sweet treats like aebleskiver, have some of the BEST Belgian waffles ever and taste some of that delicious Santa Yenz Valley wine.
Established by Danish Americans, the charming town preserves and promotes its Danish heritage and calls itself the “Danish capital of America”. Having spent a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark a couple of summers ago, it was fun to visit Solvang. Nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a scenic 45-minute drive from Santa Barbara, and the charming unique village is perfect to spend an afternoon or weekend. This area is truly one of the hidden gems of California.
I love small towns like these, walkable, filled with art galleries, small shops, flower-lined streets, unique restaurants — Whitefish, Helen, Santa Fe, Carmel, Vail are a few other towns that you want to check out if you like small towns like me.
Things To Do In Solvang
This little town packs a punch. It is just over 2 square miles but there is so much to see and do in Solvang, CA, especially if you like art, wine and food — especially the sweet kind. Wander a little further into the valley to find horseback rides, vineyards, and other outdoor adventures.
Start the morning right
Start the morning with some Danish pancakes or crispy Belgian waffles or crepes stuffed with fruits. Breakfast is served all day at Paula’s Pancake House and their sister restaurant Belgian Cafe on Copenhagen street 🙂
Stroll Through The Danish Village
You don’t need plane tickets to Europe, you can get a glimpse of Northern Europe by strolling the streets of Solvang. You will see half-timbered buildings, colorful shops selling Danish goods, and of course, windmills.
To make the stroll more interesting, take the Solvang Heritage Audio Tour, accessible from the Tour button in the Experience Solvang Mobile App. Over the course of 2 miles, you learn about Solvang’s heritage and attractions (there are 22 tour stops) including the Little Mermaid statue, and two of the windmills
See 14 other American towns that feel like Europe
Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Hans Christian Andersen was Denmark’s most famous authors, who published fairy tales in 1835. You probably have heard of his stories — The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling. You can learn more about him at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.
Elverhøj Museum is the former residence of one of Solvang’s most artistic families. It is now a community museum devoted to the history of Solvang and the colorful heritage of Denmark, and the arts. Housed in a historic handcrafted home, the Elverhoj Museum is definitely worth the time. You can admire the traditional Danish clothing, furniture, and also see a model of the Solvang village.
The Santa Ynez Valley
If you have more than a day in Solvang, explore the nearby Santa Ynez Valley. As you drive through the twisting country roads, you are treated to not just wineries but vistas featuring idyllic rural life and might run into fields filled with cows or alpaca.
A few wineries to check out are:
- Bridlewood Estate Winery
- Sunstone Vineyards and Winery
- Barbieri Winery
- Rusack Winery
- Foxen Vineyard and Winery
Wine tasting in Solvang
With over 20 wine-tasting rooms, Solvang makes it easy to taste some of the area’s best wine. Grape to Glass at its finest! Harvest season or early fall is a special time in the Wine Country, throughout September, as part of California Wine Month, you can enjoy events and promotions in Solvang and nearby Buellton, Ballard, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez.
Best place to try the Danish treat, Aebleskiver
Solvang Restaurant, located in the heart of Solvang’s downtown with a painted-on facade of timber framing is the best place to try these tasty traditional Danish treats called aebleskiver (ebelskiver is pronounced able-skeevers). They are basically fluffy pancake balls that are a little crispy on the outside, sometimes filled with fruit preserves and smothered with jam. You can buy the mix and the Danish Æbleskiver pan if you want to try them at home.
If you are looking for an authentic Danish meal Solvang Restaurant is a great option, they have a wide variety of choices for vegetarians as well.
Best Shops & Solvang Attractions
The main street in Solvang is filled with small shops where you will find all sorts of interesting Danish-themed souvenirs — everything from dirndl to danish clogs. It took me back to the stores in Salzburg for a few moments.
Looking for authentic gifts, stop at the Solvang Shoe Store, it is easy to find, just look for the oversized wooden clog out front. They sell traditional hand-painted Danish clogs along with other popular shoe brands.
Don’t miss the festive Christmas House at the Jule Hus. The entire store twinkles with tiny lights and offers an array of European blown glass ornaments and other Christmas decor like German wood nutcrackers and holiday figurines. Pop in to check out their collections of Nativities from different countries.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay in town, there are a few nice options:
Solvang Inn and Cottages located on 1518 Mission Drive is considered one of the popular hotels in Solvang (according to Trip Advisor). The location is pretty central.
The Landsby, a 50-room boutique hotel, is contemporary and cozy. It is situated right in Solvang, California, but Santa Ynez Valley wineries are a short drive away.
Mirabelle Inn and Restaurant is a lovely little boutique hotel located at 409 First Street in Solvang is another great option.
Or stay at the nearby Marriott located in Santa Ynez Valley.
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is on my wishlist for the next trip to Solvang CA, the Ranch-style resort boasts miles of horseback riding trails, a lake, golf courses and much more. It is spread out across 10,000 acres, has two 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts, their stable has over 100 horses, a fitness center and a spa. Convinced yet?!
We stayed at beach resort in Santa Barbara and did a day trip to Solvang.
How to get there
Solvang is located about 45 minutes from Santa Barbara, 3 hours from Los Angeles and 5 hours from San Francisco. You can visit as a day trip from Santa Barbara or spend a weekend exploring the Santa Ynez Valley and even make the drive to San Luis Obispo.
See this California Road trip Itinerary post for other ideas
I hope you find this guide of all our favorite things to do in Solvang CA helpful when planning your next trip to California!
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