If you want to take a trip to Europe but haven’t the time to head abroad, why not head to a town that is full of European charm right here in California? That town is Solvang, a historic Danish town that has that relaxing atmosphere and European sophistication you’re looking for to explore on your next vacation.
Solvang has so much to do and see, so I’ve created this 30 Charming Things to Do in Solvang, California guide to help you get to know this lovely little place and enjoy it for everything it has!
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What to Do in Solvang, California
History of Solvang, California
Solvang is known as “The Danish Capital of America” and you may be wondering how it became so … Danish. In 1911, a group of Danish-Americans purchased 9,000 acres of land in order to escape Midwestern winters.
In the 1940s, upon returning from a trip to Denmark, a resident began building his Danish-style home. He then built the town’s four windmills.
And in 1947, an article in the Saturday Evening Post entitled “Little Denmark” turned Solvang into the little Danish touristy town that is today luring Los Angeles and San Francisco residents to visit on weekends!
How to Get to Solvang
Solvang is only 35 miles from Santa Barbara’s south-facing beaches, and 32 miles from those at Vandenberg Air Force Base. You can get there from Los Angeles which is just 125 miles down the coast. Solvang is 300 miles south from San Francisco, and if you’re over in Las Vegas, it’s 384 miles southwest.
It’s worth the drive and even if you’re flying in from another place to check out Solvang, it’s easy to get there from the big cities.
Where to Stay in Solvang, California
If you want a stay that is quiet and luxurious, The Winston offers that to you in the most stunning of ways with absolute beauty at every turn.
By contrast, The Landsby is innovative with a boutique-style filled with warmth and clean, contemporary design.
Hotel Corque is a gorgeous luxury boutique hotel and puts you in the right place to explore the surrounding wine country.
Vinland Hotel & Lounge
For the full charm of Copenhagen right in California, the Vinland Hotel & Lounge is the hotel to pick!
A rustic and small property, Hotel Ynez boasts gardens, a pool, and bonfire pits, perfect for relaxing under the stars for anyone that wants to get away from it all yet have modern accommodations.
Skyview Motel in Los Alamos
The Skyview Motel in Los Alamos is a completely renovated roadside motel that has received an upgrade with a full-service restaurant, heated pool, and a vineyard! While not located in Solvang, it’s only about a 10-15 minute drive up Highway 101 north of Solvang.
Where to Eat in Solvang, California
Solvang is a foodies’ dream destination! Here’s where you’ll find some of the best foods.
Pea Soup Andersen’s
As the name suggests, you have to go to Pea Soup Andersen’s for the split pea soup!
The original Andersen’s was opened in 1924 by Anton and Juliet Andersen. Anton was born in Denmark and the couple immigrated to Solvang along with many other Danes in the early 1920s. Their son later renamed the restaurant after his own nickname “Pea Soup Andersen.”
Paula’s Pancake House
You can’t go wrong at Paula’s Pancake House, though you will sincerely thank me for telling you to get the Danish pancakes topped with cinnamon apples. You’re welcome!
Hitching Post 2
Western BBQ and delicious Pinot Noir are just two of the reasons to stop at Hitching Post 2.
With an in-house butcher counter, Industrial Eats is your stop for charcuterie!
The Danish food, including those little balls of delight I mentioned earlier on, is all delicious at Solvang Restaurant.
Bit O’Denmark is another cozy place in a historic building where you’ll enjoy Danish food.
Mad & Vin at the Landsby
Get a taste of seasonal foods from the area with wines to match at Mad & Vin at the Landsby.
What to Do in Solvang, California
Eat a Danish Pastry at One of the 5 Bakeries
You can’t visit a Danish town without eating a Danish pastry! And there are 5 incredible bakeries where you can do just that. Visit each one to try their specialties!
Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
With recipes directly from Denmark, grab the best cup of coffee in Solvang at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery along with the revered Danish Custard Kringle.
Birkholm’s Bakery and Café
The charming exterior of Birkholm’s Bakery and Café will make you want to come inside and explore. And inside, make sure you grab a Cinnamon Crisp!
You can grab a buttery Danish pastry at Solvang Bakery as well as cute little gingerbread houses. They make them for all holidays and occasions so you can get a kit and make it when you get back home.
Mortensen’s Danish Bakery
The smell of deliciousness will make it so hard to decide when you walk into Mortensen’s Danish Bakery, but those pistachio squares are definitely something you shouldn’t miss.
Danish Mill Bakery
Danish Mill Bakery has been in business for over 60 years so you know they’re doing something right. Try the kransekage, a traditional wedding or holiday treat that goes great with coffee.
Spot a Windmill
Check out a few of the six gorgeous windmills that dot the town:
- Sorensen Windmill is located between 1816 and 1818 Old Mill Road, Solvang, California 93463.
- Wulff’s Windmill is located at 1245 Fredensborg Canyon Road, Solvang, California 93463.
- Solvang Windmill is located at Mariposa Drive and Alisal Road, Solvang, California 93463.
- The Blue Windmill or Hamlet Square Windmill is located at Hamlet Square at 1618 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, California 93463.
- Kronborg Inn Windmill is located at 1440 Mission Drive, Solvang, California 93463.
- Solvang Brewing Company Windmill is located at 1547 Mission Drive, Solvang, California 93463.
And a bonus windmill is located over in Buellton at the Sideways Inn at 114 East Highway 246, Buellton, California 93427.
Visit a Museum
And between sampling the pastries around town, you’ll find museums that can help you learn more about Danish culture, literature, art, and more. We couldn’t believe the fascinating options here that made us fall more deeply in love with this sweet town.
Hans Christian Andersen Museum
For young and old readers alike, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is devoted to the life of Hans Christian Andersen. Located inside The Book Loft bookstore, a storybook is a great souvenir to bring home from this stop.
Elverhoj Museum of History
Can’t decide on history, heritage, or art? Get them all at the Elverhoj Museum of History which covers the history of Solvang, celebrates Danish culture and immigration, and promotes art all in one.
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Rev up your engines and head here to see vintage and rare motorcycles plus European race bikes at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. They’re always rotating the bikes in the displays so you’ll see something new every time.
Wildling Museum of Art & Nature
The Wildling Museum of Art & Nature brings nature and art together in a unique way to promote the preservation of natural heritage. It’s nature, wilderness, and art united in a purely spectacular way.
Solvang Amber Museum
Inspired by the Copenhagen Amber Museum, the Solvang Amber Museum takes you through the history of amber with some items that are an astounding 80 million years old. There are so many impressive pieces here, and of course, the chance to shop for beautiful souvenirs in the gift shop! Located inside The Copenhagen House.
Eat an Æbleskiver
Don’t waste time trying to pronounce it. Just order it. This Danish snack translates to “apple slices” but they don’t use them in modern versions. Spherical in shape, it has a texture like pancakes from Europe but the insides are light and fluffy. I’m doing it no justice by explaining it, but please, try one at Solvang Restaurant in the heart of the cute downtown area. There, you’ll find Danish Æbleskivers served with powdered sugar and raspberry jam. It’s incredible like this, though if you really want to indulge, get them with ice cream.
Admire the Danish Architecture and Charm from a Horse-Drawn Trolley
Since there’s so much to see in Solvang and so much to eat, you may want to give your feet a break. Hop onto a 1915 replica trolley, called a Honen, pulled by gorgeous Belgian draft horses that take you on a leisurely ride by the boutiques, bakeries, restaurants, windmills, and wine tasting rooms. It’s such a fun way to see Solvang!
Wine Tasting in Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley
I love wine, and if you do too, then Solvang is one fantastic place for you to come stay and explore. There are many wineries in the area that you won’t want to miss.
Gorgeous gardens set alongside a peach tree grove make Buttonwood Farm a stunning surrounding to enjoy some wine.
Rideau Vineyard is a beautiful family-owned vineyard that specializes in small production Rhone wines that you’re going to love.
With pepper trees all around, Lincourt Vineyards is a rural and charming vineyard and is known for spectacular fruit-forward wines.
Sunstone Winery is truly beautiful in every way! This sun-washed winery has some amazing tasting experiences you’ll want to reserve for the best way to soak up everything.
The kids will love Ostrichland, but then again, so will you! There are over 100 ostriches and emus here. Come feed these eccentric creatures and fall in love with the precious babies. Baby anything is cute!
Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch
Come take a tour at Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch, but make sure you get an appointment first. You won’t be able to pet or ride these tiny horses but you can get up close to them and learn more about this incredible breed.
Solvang Wind Harp
Want to know something cool? The Solvang Wind Harp was once on top of the Danish Pavilion towers at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. At the end of the expo, almost everything was demolished but this wind harp was rescued and brought to Solvang. The musical sculpture spins as the wind passes through which creates different sounds that are so cool to hear!
Solvang Festival Theater
The Solvang Festival Theater has been around for 46 years and is devoted to highlighting unique, live performance arts. This beautiful venue is where you can catch a variety of musical acts in the beautiful amphitheater.
Olive Oil Tasting
Wine and pastries aren’t the only things you need to taste while in Solvang. This sweet town is known for some exceptional olive oil too.
At Olive House you don’t have to choose. You can taste local olive oils as well as wines from Twenty Mile Winery.
And at Solvang Olive, you can try extra virgin olive oils alongside artisan-crafted vinegar. It’s quite possibly the best of the local flavors, something you’ll definitely want to bring back home with you.
Solvang Olive Press
The olive oil and the balsamic at Solvang Olive Press come from Modena, Italy. While it’s not local, it is exceptional in quality. Plus, the array of other goods and gifts will certainly have you checking off your souvenir list!
Shop for Souvenirs
Speaking of souvenirs, you can’t come to Solvang and not pick up some mementos of your trip. I know I always have people to buy gifts for, and in Solvang, you will not be disappointed with the souvenirs you’ll find.
The Book Loft
Remember your visit to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum? Located inside The Book Loft, it’s a great place to purchase a Hans Christian Andersen book!
Do you love Christmas as much as I do? Then this store is for you where it’s Christmas all year long. Jule Hus has glass-blown ornaments, Scandinavian handicrafts, and nativity scenes from all over the world.
Solvang Shoe Store
It really doesn’t get any more classic than this. A pair of authentic Danish clogs will be an unforgettable souvenir from this trip! Find some at the Solvang Shoe Store!
Swedish Candy Factory
Stop at the Swedish Candy Factory and get something for the road that everyone can eat. Polkagris is a traditional Swedish candy that gets softer and chewier while in your mouth.
Solvang Toyland calls itself “the biggest little toy store” and it’s easy to see why. Grab puzzles, wooden toys, or even plush items too for little ones that are missing you while you’re out of town.
Hike to a Waterfall
Get some exercise and take in the sights all at once. There’s Nojoqui Falls Park, where a short trail leads to the falls that create a simply breathtaking backdrop. You’ll love this refreshing stop on your trip in Solvang.
Let the Kids Play at Hans Christian Andersen Park
If you have kids along with you for this trip, I know they’re going to love Hans Christian Andersen Park. This beautiful place welcomes you in through a castle arch. There’s a skate park where you can let older children try out the half pipes or simply watch the advanced skaters. A wooden playground just behind that is perfect for younger kids to burn off energy.
Beer Tasting in Buellton
Prefer beer to wine? Or would you like to get a well-rounded tasting experience in Solvang? Whatever the reason, you should make time to taste the beer.
The beer at Firestone Walker is made from locally-foraged ingredients and is a huge reason to stop in for a taste. The taproom and restaurant are spacious and friendly, the perfect setting for you to get acquainted with this local favorite.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
Check out craft beer with hand-drawn art at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. This place started from humble beginnings and now is one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country!
If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday, be sure to check out the Solvang Farmer’s Market and grab some fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, nuts, cheeses, bread, and more!
Festivals in Solvang, California
Perhaps your trip to Solvang will coincide with one of the festivals. And if so, you won’t want to miss out on the fun!
Julefest in December
The Danish-themed holiday festival of Julefest has a Santa’s Village and holiday market that you have to see. Even the Grinch himself would find it hard not to be happy here.
In October, you can stomp on grapes during the Grape Stomp, and even better, taste plenty of wine!
If you’re looking for some of that European charm in California, you need to come here. It has something for the kids as well as adults, too! The sweet style and welcoming feel of this town make it easy to see why it’s so popular!
I’ve always loved stopping in Solvang when passing by! It’s such a charming little town. Are you planning a trip? Let me know in a comment what you’re most excited to do!
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Golden State Getaways wants to acknowledge that we live, operate, gather, and benefit everyday on the traditional stolen lands of several Indigenous peoples and nations including the Tongva (Gabrieleno), Kizh (Gabrieleno), Chumash, Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, Awaswas, and Fernandeño Tataviam peoples who have stewarded the lands and waterways throughout their many generations in what is now the state of California.
I wanted to personally acknowledge these Indigenous people and nations and both their commitment and current contributions to the land with a donation to the American Indian College Fund because acknowledgment without action does not begin to address the systemic issues facing Indigenous people. If you feel as though you benefit from the land you’re living on or traveling to and you have the means, I kindly ask that you donate at least $1 to a Native-led organization such as the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund.
Solvang is on Chumash, Ineseño, and Shmuwich (Barbareño) land. You can learn more about the Indigenous land you’re living on or traveling to by visiting the Native Lands website.
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