As the cool SoCal breeze blows, the iconic Danish windmills turn gently above the tranquil streets of Solvang, California. Instead of enduring more than a 12-hour flight to Copenhagen, Solvang makes a great day trip from Los Angeles, where you’ll see how this small town makes you feel like you’re in the “world’s happiest nation.”
Experience Danish culture and watch as it comes to life through authentic Scandinavian flavors, architecture that looks directly imported from the homelands, and iconic landmarks that anyone who’s been to Denmark would instantly recognize. See some of the top things to do in Solvang that genuinely makes it California’s “Little Denmark.”
Coolest Places To Stay In Solvang
- Best Location. Svendsgaard’s Lodge is in the heart of the Danish Village and features a seasonal outdoor pool and hot tub. They serve a daily continental breakfast (w/ Danish pastries!) This is a great spot for couples.
- Quaint and Authentic. New Haven Inn is boutique and modern and offers unique rooms just a few blocks from Solvang town center. Some rooms include patios with fire pits, double walk-in tiled showers and vaulted ceilings with chandeliers.
- Near the Vineyards. ForFriends Inn Wine Country Bed and Breakfast is located in Santa Ynez. You’ll find access to a garden and a terrace, in addition to a delicious breakfast each morning.
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN SOLVANG
If you’ve never been to Denmark, Downtown Solvang is the closest thing you can get to it in SoCal. Massive windmills fan elegantly alongside traditional Danish architecture, housing some of the town’s trendiest boutique shops.
Sightseeing tours in Solvang are best started at the iconic scale model of Copenhagen’s Rundetårn windmill, adorned with a white coat and massive redwood blades. It’s one of many landmarks inspired by the Danish capital. Another is the Little Mermaid Fountain statue in Denmarket Square, which is a replica of one found on the rocky cliffsides in Denmark.
Browse landmark gift shops like Rasmussen, where you’ll encounter vibrant kitchen sets while shopping for Danish wares. Or admire the Scandinavian crafts decorating the shelves of Jule Hus.
Connect with the local Danish culture while exploring downtown at sites like the Hans Christian Andersen Statue, honoring the Danish literary icon, or seeing original works in one of the many art galleries.
SAMPLE DANISH EATS
With everything from juicy meat dishes to savory desserts, Solvang is no stranger to tourists arriving in search of what makes it a culinary hotspot. Local restaurants are your taste buds’ passport to Denmark, where you’ll get an authentic taste of Europe.
The smell of freshly baked napoleons and chocolate éclairs invite hungry travelers into the Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, where most patrons leave with the signature aebleskiver. Feel the sweet Dutch raspberry jam bursting into your mouth with every bite from these bite-sized pancake balls.
In the evening, sit out on the deck of the Copenhagen Sausage Garden. Plates of the Medisterpølse, a traditional Danish boiled sausage with its faint nutmeg flavor, make the perfect main course, before ending it with a sugar-coated kringle.
STEP BACK IN TIME AT ELVERHOJ MUSEUM OF HISTORY & ART
You’ll set your clocks back more than just an hour once you step inside the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art. The home is just as much a part of the visitor experience as the artistic creations exhibited inside it.
Beautiful flora lines the cobbled roundabout leading to the Elverhoj Museum. Can you believe that the entire building was built without using any nails or screws? The original aesthetics of this 18th-century Scandinavian-style farmhouse have been kept intact, which is evident when you’re navigating the quaint rooms.
Colorful Danish folk art decorates the walls, accompanied by works of art by artists from Solvang, Denmark, and beyond. In addition, the museum includes decorative china, amber jewelry, traditional clothing, literature, and other exhibitions exploring Solvang’s history.
FEED THE BIRDS AT OSTRICHLAND USA
Located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley lies one of only five ostrich farms in California. Feeding ostriches as a bucket list item is more common than you think, which is why OstrichLand USA is one of the top things to do in Solvang.
You’ll come face to face with these flightless birds as they stare back at you with the largest eyes of any bird. More than 100 ostriches and emu are kept in the fields of this sanctuary, and their shy whines mean that it’s time for feeding.
Pay the extra buck at the entrance to grab a bowl of food to feed the birds. See a small flock take turns jabbing their heads into the bowl or reach high over the gate to see their long necks stretch up and achieve the impossible.
SEE THE SITES FROM THE SOLVANG TROLLEY
Nothing beats having a local guide take you around a place like Solvang, with hidden gems waiting to be discovered en route to popular landmarks. But instead of chauffeuring yourself around in an Uber, opt for the Solvang Trolley instead.
All about the “Honen!” This traditional 1915 Danish carriage is led by rescued Belgian draft horses standing in attention in front of the local visitor center, waiting to give passengers a pleasant ride around downtown.
For 25 minutes, your driver will entertain you with tales about Solvang’s Danish roots while pointing out restaurants, shops, and fountains you’ll surely be adding to your must-see list. Be sure to grab tickets early because they sell out frequently.
And don’t forget to save your trolley ticket because it earns you special discounts around town!
TAKE THE KIDS TO HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN PARK
Strut regally beneath the white castle arches while entering the Hans Christian Andersen Park for a day full of outdoor fun. The scenic grassy fields set against a distant mountain backdrop make the perfect setting for recreation or leisure for all ages.
You can watch as your kids approach the castle-like playscape getting ready to use all the energy they’ve been saving all day.
Trade in the playful screams of kids on the playscape with the tranquil sounds of birds chirping in the overhead oak tree canopy while going for a walk on the nature trail that circles around the playground.
Visit nearby Sunny Fields Park for picnic shelters, picnic tables, and grills.
TAKE IN THE TALENT AT THE WILDLING MUSEUM OF ART & NATURE
Cruise down Mission Drive until a distinct red brick cylinder building catches your attention. Home to the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature, it’s hard to miss!
Nature’s beauty reveals itself before navigating the elegant gallery spaces in the museum. It creates a traditional rustic viewing experience with polished hardwood floors and exposed ceiling beams.
Admire the fine art nature paintings, prints, and photography exhibited on the first floor, with works exhibited in the past, including Ansel Adams and Ray Strong. On the second floor, you’ll get to become the artist with hands-on crafts like making postcards. Lastly, see the future generation of artists with children’s works exhibited on the third floor.
CUDDLE WITH A BOOK AT THE HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN MUSEUM
Inspired by the man who said, “To travel is to live,” it’s only fitting that the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a popular tourist activity while visiting Solvang. Relive childhood memories of reading classic fairy tales like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Ugly Duckling at this space dedicated to the famed Danish author who wrote them.
The Book Loft has been a staple in the Solvang community for more than five decades, but many people start their visit upstairs in the space designated as the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. See memorabilia, letters written to the author, a scale model of his house, and editions of his books in some of the many languages they’ve been translated in.
SAVOR THE FINDS AT THE SOLVANG VINTAGE MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM
Based on the modest orange and blue wooden sign hanging outside the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, you may not realize the wonderous motorcycles that can be found inside the unassuming building. But you’ve got to go!
Turn into a motorhead as you walk around the open floor plan decorated with more than 95 motorcycles. The museum feels like an intimate invitation into the passion of Virgil Elings, who spent two decades curating a collection of rare bikes. Rows of rare and vintage Harley Davidson road bikes, Honda racers, Japanese and European bikes can be seen here. Some bikes that look futuristic, while others have been kept preserved.
You’ll leave a motorcycle expert after reading dozens of information plaques for the bikes.
APPRECIATE THE ARCHITECTURE OF MISSION SANTA INES
As you’re making your way through California’s 21 missions, Solvang is a chance to see one of the best-preserved missions. Mission Santa Inez brought the Spanish mission to the Santa Ynez River Valley, where this structure was built to convert Indigenous peoples to Christianity.
Built in the early 1800s, this mission is an excellent example of traditional Spanish architecture with its neutral beige façade, arched windows, and Spanish tiled roof.
Take some time admiring the exterior architecture before entering the structure. When not in service, the active church offers guided tours to give visitors a closer look at the intricate details of the building, and the craftmanship that kept it preserved for so many years.
ENJOY THE FALLS AT NOJOQUI FALLS PARK
Witnessing the beautiful white ribbon streams of water dropping 80 feet at Nojoqui Falls is one of the best things to do in Solvang — but you have to hike to it! A nature trail leads you less than a mile into the forest to see this natural wonder.
Visit during the spring to experience Nojoqui Falls at its full force. Take a refreshing shower after your hike by standing below the falls in the transparent pools at the foot of the moss-covered cliff.
Don’t rush out of the park after checking out the waterfall. Nojoqui Falls Park has plenty of greenspace, perfect for letting the kids and pets run around. There’s also a playground, shaded benches, and a picnic area.
CATCH A PLAY OUTDOORS AT SOLVANG FESTIVAL THEATER
The old-world Danish architecture of the Solvang Festival Theater delivers world-class theatrical spectacles full of acting, singing, dancing, and more. And with an upcoming multi-million-dollar upgrade, the viewing experience is about to become even more special.
See talented local actors perform your favorite plays, including classics like Mamma Mia, Adam’s Family, and The Nutcracker, and also modern productions like Shrek. The PCPA productions put on daily shows listed on the theater’s front wall before descending into the bowl-shaped outdoor amphitheater.
On busy nights, the Solvang Festival Theater holds up to 700 people.
SAMPLE THE WINE
Although Solvang’s local wine scene was put on the map after the comedy film Sideways won an Oscar, its timeless flavors have always captivated wine connoisseurs indulging in the spirits of Santa Barbara County. The sprawling wine country features 20 wine tasting rooms for 125 area vineyards.
Treat yourself to a wine tour of some of the top vineyards in the region, each with its own specialties. First, visit Rusack Vineyards, where perfectly arranged grape trees line Ballard Canyon. After the tour, sample its signature Pinot Noir or other red wines.
Next, head to Royal Oaks Winery, where expert sommeliers help you choose between a sample flight of fruity dessert wines or a mix of reds and whites. Stop by Lucas & Lewellen and enjoy a tasting either indoors or outdoors. Lastly, when you’re looking to pick up a few bottles to go, Buttonwood farm Winery & Vineyard has an excellent selection of some of Solvang’s finest spirits.
Next Level Sampling
Solvang Taxi and Wine Tours are the latest buzz amongst tourists looking to take their wine sampling experience to the next level. You’ll get the VIP treatment as you embark on a wine tasting tour curated to your tastes.
Several tour operators provide private wine tours. Visit the best wineries specializing in Chardonnay or serenade your palate with sips of Syrah in a guided tasting experience. The first-class tour lets you and your groups enjoy the comfort of having a designated driver who will give you an interactive experience through conversations with the vineyard owners. Some of the tours even include picnics.
Private wine tours are much more immersive, bringing you into the local wine world and connecting with the people upholding its world-renowned reputation.
Is Solvang worth visiting?
Yes, Solvang is definitely worth a visit. In Solvang, you’ll find a charming downtown, lots of fun shops, delicious Danish-inspired restaurants, small museums to visit, and plenty of things to do.
Is one day enough in Solvang?
As far as exploring the city of Solvang, you could see the highlights of this small city in one day. You may want to stay longer though, because there is much to see in the greater Santa Barbara County area.
What is Solvang CA known for?
Solvang, CA, is known for its Danish culture, which can be seen being celebrated in the architecture, restaurants, and shops. It’s a charming town and a popular vacation destination.
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- YOUR CALIFORNIA VACATION
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- LAKE ARROWHEAD: 12 Spectacular Things To Do In Lake Arrowhead, CA
Where To Stay In Solvang CA
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