Dubbed the ‘Danish Capital of America,’ Solvang (which means sunny field in Danish) is comprised of 9,000 acres in the lush Santa Ynez Valley. Located just 125 miles north of Los Angeles, this quaint town should be on the must-see list of every Angeleno. Founded in 1911, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Solvang, and there’s plenty to see and do in the charming locale to celebrate the occasion.
When to go: Year round! Solvang boasts over 300 days of sunshine each year.
How to get there: Located 125 miles north of Los Angeles, it takes approximately two and a half hours to drive to Solvang. Take US-101 N from LA, and detour to scenic Santa Barbara if you have time to spare along the way! Solvang is located just 35 miles from Santa Barbara.
How to dress: Weather appropriate. Dress as you would for the weather in Los Angeles, and be sure to pack a sweater or coat for the evening as temperatures will drop.
What to do: Solvang has a vibe and an aesthetic that is reminiscent of a European fairy tale. Kids will love the whimsical Danish heritage that infuses downtown — which is complete with Danish style architecture, thatched roofs, and windmills. Stroll through downtown and pop in and out of all the cute shops, which are rife with trinkets, toys, and souvenirs.
Another fun way to explore Solvang is on bicycles or even better, a four-wheeled surrey cycle! Bikes and surreys are for rent from Wheel Fun Rentals.
Fans of Hans Christian Anderson may also want to visit the museum dedicated to him in The Book Loft Building (1680 Mission Drive).
If you’re in town on a Wed., don’t miss the Solvang Farmer’s Market on First Street between Mission Dr. and Copenhagen Dr. from 2:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Here you’ll find plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, flowers, bread, cheeses, nuts, and baked goods.
Just out of town, kids can get up close and personal with miniature horses at Quicksilver Ranch. It is open daily for visitors from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Or take the tykes to feed ostriches and emus at Solvang’s Ostrichland USA.
Bonus: Check out Solvang’s Julefest in Dec., where parades, pageants, free concerts, live entertainment and Christmas trees, and decor will light up the town with festive fun. Don’t miss a free performance of the Christmas Story in the Nativity Pageant at the outdoor Solvang Festival Theater at 420 Second St. where a choir, traditionally costumed actors, and live animals will take the stage.
Lunch spots: Pull up a chair at Paula’s Pancake House: Solvang’s Original Pancake House, where an extensive breakfast menu is served all day. Order up their famous Danish pancakes. Or order a sandwich, salad or soup on the equally impressive lunch menu. Note: Paula’s is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Or, you can grab some traditional Danish pastries and strudel from Solvang Bakery and go enjoy a casual picnic in Solvang Park, Sunny Fields Park, or Hans Christian Anderson Park.
— Beth Shea