One of the most charming little villages that can be discovered in the California countryside is the town of Solvang. Just a short drive inland from Highway 101 (set in the gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley) is a century-old town that was developed by three Danish settlers who wanted to preserve the heritage and traditions of their homeland, Denmark.
This welcoming township is usually a quick stop for us (when we’re heading to Santa Barbara from the Monterey Bay); but on one recent weekend, we decided to make Solvang our ultimate destination. Instead of just bouncing in for a coffee & pastry, we took the leisurely route by exploring this inspiring little place.
As we drove along the scenic road down to Solvang, we were instantly enchanted when we unexpectedly saw an Ostrich farm called OstrichLand. Plus, we were amused to learn that the Ostrich farm is open to the public and that visitors can even feed the animals. What a fun and unique way to welcome visitors into this magical town!
As we neared the town, we started noticing a growing number of traditional Danish homes and buildings, including a dramatic windmill at the Solvang Brewing Company. The charming structures were flanked by tree-lined streets, window boxes filled with colorful flowers, and bakeries every where you turned.
While it’s an easy village to stroll by foot, one of the most whimsical ways to explore the town is via a horse-drawn carriage ride. Whether you’re interested in capturing photos of the picturesque scenery, inspiring Danish architecture, or the lush vineyards and rolling hills surrounding the town, spending a few hours discovering the hidden gems will surely delight you and give you the opportunity to get tons of beautiful snapshots.
Where to stay in Solvang
If you plan to stay a night or two in Solvang, a couple luxurious properties in town are the Landsby (featured above) and the Mirabelle Inn & Restaurant (shown below). On this particular trip, we stayed at the top-rated boutique hotel, the Mirabelle Inn, which was a delightful experience.
This romantic bed & breakfast is within walking distance to the must-see Solvang Festival Theater (which boasts outstanding theater productions) and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum (which houses an impressive array of his legendary children’s books that ultimately inspired classic Disney films, such as The Little Mermaid and Frozen).
As you enter the lavishly appointed hotel, you’re greeted with freshly baked cookies at the registration desk. As their friendly, attentive staff welcome you to the property, they show you where the elegant dining room where a sumptuous daily breakfast is served.
Each morning, guests are treated to a delicious breakfast, including Blueberry Pancakes, Danishes, eggs, and freshly squeezed juice and coffee.
Where to eat in Solvang
When it’s time for dinner, one of the best spots in town to get gourmet food is at First & Oak Restaurant. This award-winning 5-star restaurant offers delectable dishes prepared by chef Steven Snook, who has worked alongside famed celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey.
If you’re in the mood for a casual atmosphere with good grub, head over to the Solvang Brewing Company for a beer and hamburger. Any meat-loving man who likes to chow down on a juicy burger will surely dig this late-night spot.
While Solvang is probably best known for their Danish pastries (which can be found at any of the many bakeries), one of our favorite places to dine al fresco on delectable desserts is Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe. The cheery atmosphere and congenial staff make this family-owned bakery (which was founded in 1951) a great spot to enjoy a coffee and pastry, morning or afternoon.
What to do in Solvang
Since Solvang has over 150 boutiques and shops, it makes shopping an all-day outing. From enchanting bridal boutiques and artisan shops to home decor, apparel, and antique stores, there’s no shortage of unique and interesting things to find here.
During the Summer season, live concerts are held regularly in the park at sunset. This brings out both the locals and the tourists, making merriment for all who gather.
If you’re looking to learn more about the Danish culture, visit The Copenhagen House. Here you can discover the traditions of Denmark, shop for contemporary Danish pieces, including innovative food & wine gadgets, Danish jewelry, and even clogs.
If you’re looking for a romantic weekend spent exploring the charms of the California countryside, then Solvang is definitely worth adding to your travel wish list. Just remember to believe in magic, because… in Solvang, fairytales do come true (when the time is right).
For more travel tips and advice, visit the Travel section on Inspirations & Celebrations.