Are you planning a visit to the charming Danish village of Solvang? Whether you’re a wine enthusiast, a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, Solvang offers a wide range of activities and attractions to make your trip memorable. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top 15 things to do in Solvang, providing you with all the information you need to plan your visit.
Before we dive in, let’s get an understanding of this city and what makes it so special.
What About Solvang?
Solvang, located in the heart of California’s Santa Ynez Valley, is a picturesque and unique town that transports visitors to a Danish village, thousands of miles away from its American roots. The town’s history dates back to 1911 when a small group of Danish educators and artists sought to establish a Danish colony on the West Coast of the United States. In 1913, the Danish-American Colony Corporation purchased a large tract of land, and Solvang, which means “sunny fields” in Danish, was officially founded.
However, Solvang’s transformation into the Danish-inspired village we see today began in the 1940s. A group of Danish-American educators and community leaders, inspired by the notion of preserving their Danish heritage, decided to refurbish Solvang’s architecture to resemble the charming towns of Denmark. The result is a village featuring half-timbered buildings, windmills, and statues of Danish icons.
Over the years, Solvang’s Danish heritage has become a celebrated part of the town’s identity, attracting tourists from around the world. The town hosts annual events like Danish Days and Solvang Julefest, which pay homage to its Danish roots. Visitors can immerse themselves in Danish culture, savor Danish pastries, and explore museums dedicated to Denmark’s most famous storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen.
1. Wine Tasting in Solvang
Solvang is a haven for wine lovers. The village is home to numerous wineries, vineyards, and wine tasting rooms that showcase the best of California’s wine country. Explore the rolling vineyards, taste exquisite wines, and join guided wine tours to learn more about the winemaking process. Don’t miss Carivintas Winery for their unique winemaking approach, focusing on sustainability and social responsibility.
2. Danish Architecture and Culture
One of the most distinctive features of Solvang is its Danish architecture and culture. As you stroll through the streets, you’ll be charmed by half-timbered buildings, windmills, and statues of iconic Danish figures. The Solvang Museum offers insights into the village’s history and heritage, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in Danish culture. Be sure to explore Elverhøj Museum of History and Art as well for additional cultural immersion.
3. Outdoor Activities in Solvang
If you prefer the great outdoors, Solvang has plenty to offer. You can go hiking or biking in the surrounding nature parks and enjoy the picturesque views of the Santa Ynez Valley. Explore Hans Christian Andersen Park for hiking and picnicking opportunities. Early morning hikes offer the best chance to spot wildlife, and don’t forget your camera for stunning sunrise shots.
4. Shopping and Dining in Solvang
For those who enjoy shopping and savoring delicious food, Solvang won’t disappoint. The village is dotted with charming boutiques and stores where you can find unique Danish gifts and souvenirs. And when it comes to dining, you can savor traditional Danish cuisine, pastries, and local specialties in Solvang’s restaurants and bakeries. Check out The Solvang Bakery for delectable Danish pastries. Try the famous “æbleskiver” at the Solvang Restaurant for a delightful taste of Danish culinary tradition.
5. Events and Festivals in Solvang
Solvang hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, each celebrating a different aspect of its culture and heritage. Whether it’s the Danish Days, Solvang Julefest, or wine festivals, there’s always something exciting happening in the village. Check the official Solvang events calendar to see if your visit coincides with one of these fun celebrations. Attending the Danish Days parade is a great way to experience the village’s vibrant atmosphere.
6. Nearby Attractions and Day Trips
If you’re looking to explore beyond Solvang, there are plenty of nearby attractions and day trips to enjoy. You can visit Santa Barbara, just a short drive away, or explore the broader Santa Ynez Valley, known for its beautiful landscapes and additional wineries. Learn more about day trip options on Visit Santa Barbara’s website. A scenic drive through the Valley is a must, with stops at local vineyards for wine tastings along the way.
7. Visit Solvang’s Parks and Gardens
Solvang is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens that provide a serene escape. Don’t miss the chance to explore parks like Hans Christian Andersen Park and Sunny Fields Park for a leisurely stroll or a picnic amid nature’s beauty. Early mornings are ideal for birdwatching and enjoying the serenity of these parks.
8. Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Motorcycle enthusiasts will appreciate the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, which showcases a remarkable collection of vintage motorcycles. It’s a unique attraction that offers a glimpse into the world of classic bikes. If you’re a motorcycle aficionado, take the time to chat with the museum staff; they’re passionate about the bikes and can provide fascinating insights.
9. Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Learn more about the famous Danish author at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Andersen and is a fascinating stop for literature enthusiasts. Be sure to join a guided tour for in-depth knowledge of Andersen’s legacy.
10. Tasting Local Danish Pastries
Indulge your taste buds with local Danish pastries. Be sure to sample treats like æbleskiver (round Danish pancakes), kringles, and buttery Danishes. Many bakeries in Solvang, such as Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, offer a delightful selection. Plan your pastry tasting for the morning when they’re freshly baked and still warm.
11. Art Galleries in Solvang
Solvang is home to a vibrant art scene. Explore numerous art galleries that feature works from local and international artists. The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is an excellent starting point for art enthusiasts. Join one of the gallery openings to meet local artists and discuss their work.
12. Solvang Historical Society
For a deeper understanding of Solvang’s history, visit the Solvang Historical Society. You can explore exhibits and learn about the village’s transformation from a Danish settlement to a thriving tourist destination. Attend one of their historical reenactment events to immerse yourself in the past.
13. Visit a Lavender Farm
Solvang is known for its lavender farms, such as Buttonwood Farm, where you can stroll through fields of fragrant lavender and purchase lavender products. Visit during the blooming season for the most captivating sights and fragrance.
14. Olive Oil Tasting
Explore local olive groves and indulge in olive oil tasting experiences. Olive House is a popular spot for olive oil enthusiasts. Engage with the staff for an informative tasting session and learn about the olive oil production process.
15. Stay in a Cozy Danish Inn
What Are Some of the Famous Holidays Throughout the Year?
- Solvang Film Festival (March): Film enthusiasts can enjoy independent and international films, along with opportunities to interact with filmmakers during panel discussions and Q&A sessions.
- Solvang Festival Theater (Summer): The Solvang Festival Theater hosts a variety of live performances, including plays, musicals, and concerts throughout the summer months.
- Danish Days (September): Danish Days is one of the most iconic events in Solvang. This multi-day festival celebrates Danish culture with parades, live music, folk dancing, delicious Danish food, and a variety of family-friendly activities.
- Solvang Julefest (December): Solvang transforms into a winter wonderland during Julefest, the annual Christmas festival. The town is adorned with festive decorations, and you can enjoy holiday concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, a Christmas parade, and visits from Santa Claus.
- Wine and Beer Festivals (Various): Solvang is located in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley wine country and hosts various wine and beer festivals throughout the year. These events offer the opportunity to taste exceptional local wines and craft beers.
- Solvang Third Wednesday (Monthly): On the third Wednesday of each month, participating Solvang merchants offer special deals and discounts, making it an excellent time for shopping and exploring the town.
What Have We Learned?
We’ve learned that Solvang is a pretty amazing city to visit! With tons of fun, great food, unique experiences and so much more, it’s worth staying a day or two to really soak in the experience.