This post is full of Solvang images! Enjoy!
You probably have heard about Solvang. It is a Danish city in the middle of California’s Santa Ynez Valley (close to Santa Barbara).
Yes, you may have negative connotations about Disneyfied places like this. After all, you can find the following in Solvang:
- Danish architecture
- A replica of the Little Mermaid Statue
- A bust of Hans Christian Andersen
- A replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower
- Stores selling Danish dishes and sweets
- A giant clog (shoe)
But let me tell you something, Solvang is different.
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On 1911, a group of Danes (some of them educators) escaping the harsh Midwestern winters, founded the town on a land grant. They wanted to maintain their heritage and spread Danish culture. And, you know what? They have accomplished their goal. In 2011, Solvang celebrated its 100th anniversary. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark. Museums showcase history, art, and culture. Folk traditions are celebrated during annual festivals. World famous plays are presented at the open air theater. Even the Queen of Denmark has visited the city!!! If the town is good enough for the Royals, I guess we mere mortals can enjoy its many offerings.
I have to admit my knowledge of Danish culture is minimal. Solvang helped me to immerse myself (at least a little bit) thru the veins of a beautiful country. I ate a smorgasbord. I tried cookies and pastries. I saw the windmills moving to the rhythm of the wind. The visit has piqued my interest for all things Danish. Who knows? Maybe I can visit the actual European country one day.
For now, I will not bore you will more details of how fascinated I ended up with Denmark after visiting Solvang. Here are some images showing why this town is a must for Old World lovers. Ahhh, and by the way, Solvang means “sunny meadows” in Danish. That is the perfect name for a town which can make visitors so happy.
Solvang has an excellent visitor center located at 1639 Copenhagen Drive. The staff will be more than happy to answer your questions and/or offer recommendations. I like to stop to pick up flyers offering dining, wine tasting, and accommodation discounts.
If you visit the Danish Capital of the United States, it is obligatory to try one of the many Danish delicacies found in town.
For breakfast, go to Paula’s Pancake House. They serve scrumptious Danish pancakes, Belgian waffles, Danish sausages, and classic American favorites. This is a place I adore! Other breakfast options include The Belgian Cafe and Ellen’s Danish Pancake House (in nearby Buellton).
Restaurants such as The Red Viking, Bit O’Denmark and The Solvang Restaurant serve pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, Havarti cheese, open sandwiches, cured salmon, liver paste and sausages. Some flavors (herring, pate) may be too strong for newbies but I encourage you to try at least one new dish.
If you are not feeling the Danish vibe, you can stop by places such as Fresco Valley Cafe, Root 246 and Succulent Cafe. In my opinion, the best food in the area can be had at Industrial Eats in nearby Buellton. I recommend visiting this restaurant if you are a food lover.
Solvang’s bakeries are one of the town’s main pulls. They sell butter cookies, butter ring coffee cake, cinnamon swirl bread, kringles, strudel, Danish waffles and a large selection of pastries. Olsen’s and Mortensen’s are good places to get your sugar fix. Other bakeries are located along Alisal Road and Copenhagen Drive.
The aebleskivers (think about them as round pancakes or big donut hole) deserve a special mention. They are served in bakeries and restaurants with raspberry jam and powdered sugar.
Also, a tube of butter cookies (3 pounds) is the perfect souvenir.
Location and Access
Solvang is located 35 miles from Santa Barbara, 70 miles from San Luis Obispo and 128 miles from Los Angeles.
From Santa Barbara, it is faster to reach Solvang using CA-154. This scenic route will take you through the San Marcos Pass and the Santa Ynez Mountains. You can also reach Solvang using US-101 (the freeway). This route affords incredible views of the Gaviota Coast, one of the largest undeveloped coastal areas in California.
A good idea is to take CA-154 to go to the town and return through US-101. If you are driving at night, I recommend taking the freeway.
There are two big parking lots along Mission Drive. There is another lot on Oak Street. Street parking is widely available. All parking is free.
Prices in Solvang and nearby towns like Buellton and Los Olivos have increased in the last 10 years. During the week, you should have no problem finding affordable accommodation. Now, everything goes up during weekends. If you want to get the best price possible, you need to book several weeks before you arrive in town.
I save money by staying at Lompoc, a city located 20 miles from Solvang, on the opposite side of the Santa Ynez Valley. Hotels are way cheaper in there. Once again, lock in a good rate by booking at least a week before your stay
I cannot write about Solvang and obviate the following attractions:
Ostrichland USA (2.5 miles) – a fun spot where you can feed ostriches and emus
Quicksilver Ranch (2.8 miles) – ranch breeding miniature horses. The public is welcome to stop by to take a look at the horses for free
Chumash Casino Resort (3.2 miles) – this is a spot for those who enjoy gambling and buffets
Many, many vineyards – it is impossible to name every single vineyard located close to Solvang. If you have something specific in mind, you can get recommendations at the visitors center or at the tasting rooms in town. Companies such as Grapeline, Stagecoach, and Artisan Excursion offer wine country tours.
The Santa Ynez Valley is full beautiful towns. Combining a visit to Solvang with other towns in the area is a good idea.
Los Olivos – probably my favorite town in the valley. Find wine tasting rooms, gardens, and nice restaurants.
Santa Ynez – this is the cowboy town of the valley
Buellton – another small town with good restaurants and several tasting rooms
Lompoc – this town located 20 miles from Solvang is known for its flower fields, downtown murals, wine ghetto, and beaches.
More of Solvang
If you are interested in planning a weekend in the Solvang area, here is my detailed post on what to do in the area:
Here are other posts with more photos and info.
Solvang Pictures: The Danish Town of my Dreams
More of Southern California
Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
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