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If you’re looking for fun places to stop on your California roadtrip, look no further than Santa Ynez Valley where you’ll find a charming little town called Solvang, otherwise known as “the Danish capital of America”. 😉 Get ready for the best things to do in Solvang California!

Located in Santa Barbara County wine country halfway between San Francisco and San Diego, Solvang is a tiny universe all its own with a population of just over 6,000. But, don’t let its size fool you. For a small town in Central California, “Little Denmark” sure has a lot going on.

Loaded with charm, history and character, it’s a site to behold for anyone with an affinity for Danish culture, adorable, picturesque villages or, for those just wanting a place to get off their sore butts and stretch their legs on a road trip. Not to mention, you can cover most of it in a day or so before continuing your journey along the California coast!

In this blog, I share…

  • The Magic of Solvang
  • Solvang History
  • Things to Do in Solvang
  • Famous Photo Opps
  • Where to Eat in Solvang
  • Where to Stay in Solvang
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[This post was originally posted May of 2022. Updated November of 2022]

The Magic of Solvang

There’s always a special place that clings to our memories when we relive childhood. For me, that place is Solvang, whose name literally translates to “sunny field”.

Was it the giant danishes my dad and I used to eat together by the towering windmills, the little mermaid restaurant that serves strawberry ice cream in fancy silver dishes… the giant Danish clog on the sidewalk… or the fact that the storybook village made me feel like a damsel in distress from the mind of Hans Christian Andersen, “Father of the Fairytales”?

Mermaid Fountain
Mermaid Fountain in Denmarket Square

I’m not sure what did it… All I know is that 20 years later, Little Denmark is just as magical to this Cali girl as when she was a little girl wandering the streets with her light up velcro shoes.

And here’s how it all began…

Solvang History

By now, you’re probably wondering, how the heck did Denmark end up in the middle of California? Well, here’s the short version. In 1911, 3 Danish-American educators from the mid west wanted warmer weather so they moved out west and snatched up 9,000 acres for $75,000. Not bad huh? 😉 And just like that… “Little Denmark” was born.

Solvang Danish Capital of America

Things to Do in Solvang California

  • Explore Solvang Village on foot

There are so many things to do in Solvang with just a quick stroll… see the windmills, grab a danish or a hardy traditional Danish meal, explore cultural icons like the Hans Christian Andersen Museum or, feed ostriches and emus, ride a tandem or surrey bike or make like Miles and Jack from Sideways and do some winery hopping. Just not all at once of course. 😉

Or, do what I did as a kid and let the adults go shopping while you chill out in the famous red clog.

FUN FACT

Solvang’s residents wanted to achieve the authentic look of Denmark’s homes but couldn’t afford timber for the beams. So instead, they mixed cement with brown dye and called it a day.

  • Visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum

I literally jumped at the chance to go to this museum since I grew up reading fairytales Hans Christian Andersen created like The Little Mermaid and Princess and the Pea. It’s the only museum in the US dedicated to the author. If you love history like me, you’ll be there checking out the upstairs and downstairs rooms. Don’t make the same mistake I did and be sure to grab a bite before you head in so you’re not hungry!

Geeves at Hans Christian Andersen's Museum in Solvang
  • Attend an Annual Solvang Event

March: Taste of Solvang
September: Danish Days
December: Julefest

  • Embrace your inner Wino

In addition to over 20 wine rooms in Downtown Solvang, there are also over 125 vineyards in the area to sip from. Plenty of places to get your wine tasting on. I think the characters from Sideways would be overwhelmed today with these many options. 😉

Picking grapes in a vineyard
Vineyard conveniently located right outside my hotel, Sideways Inn
  • Ride a Surrey Bike

There’s a great place in Solvang called Wheel Fun Rentals where you can choose from 3, 6 & 9 people Surrey Bikes (plus 2 small children up front). As a kid, I remember my big bro and I being too little to pedal so, my parents put us in the baskets while they pedaled to our destination. It’s a great way to explore the city!
Rent your bike here.

  • Feed Ostriches & Emus

At Ostrich Land USA in Solvang, you can actually get up and close with these feathery friends. Just be careful when you feed them or, they’ll turn into fiends. One bit my sister’s hand!

Feeding emus and ostriches in Solvang, California

Famous Photo Opps

Here are some great spots in Solvang to take pictures!

  • Red Clog

Arguably one of Solvang’s most kitschy photo opps, the red clog is right outside Solvang Shoe Store. Looking back at pictures, I can’t believe how small it actually is in person. It looks massive when you’re a tiny child. It’s fun to pose next to though.

  • Windmills

There are 5 major ones. Check them out here.

Solvang windmill
  • Little Mermaid Fountain at Denmarket Square
  • Round Tower

Fun North Lake Tahoe Adventures

Heading up to Northern California? Check out my blog about Lake Tahoe and fun things to do in the Summer!

Where to Eat in Solvang, California

There are so many great restaurants in Solvang! Here are some of my favorite places.

  • Mortensen’s Danish Bakery
Geeves holding a danish at Mortensen's Bakery in Solvang
Literally bigger than my head!

I’ve been going to this bakery since I was a kid. Get their Danish Kringle. They’re big and delicious!

  • Bit O’Denmark Restaurant

All I can say is, you will not be hungry when you leave this restaurant. It’s hardy and delicious. Order any of the Denmark classics, you won’t be disappointed.

Danish food at Bit O'Denmark in Solvang
Traditional Danish fare
  • Pea Soup Andersens in Buellton

You simply cannot go to Solvang without heading to Pea Soup Andersens, whose pea soup recipe has been winning over stomachs everywhere since Anton and Juliette Andersen opened the restaurant in 1924. You can even get yours bottomless with an unlimited assortment of toppings like bacon, green onions and cheese! They also have a hotel if you’re too full of pea soup to continue on to your destination. 😉

a bowl of pea soup at Pea Soup Andersen's in Buellton, California

Want to save on hotels & earn travel perks?

Having traveled 170+ days/yr. for many years, I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to travel perks and hotels, especially Marriott. Check out my Marriott series where I share the world of travel rewards and how to take advantage of loyalty programs.

Where to Stay in the Solvang Area

  • Sideways Inn

There’s a lot of talk about where to stay in Solvang but in my mind, there’s only 1 place… Sideways Inn (not sponsored). It’s in Buellton which is right next to Solvang. If you’ve seen the movie Sideways, then you’ve definitely seen this hotel. It’s referenced in the movie as its previous name, “Windmill Hotel”. But don’t worry, they’ve done a complete renovation since its filming, making it a comfortable, stylish and affordable stay. You can even request the room they filmed in!

Enjoyng wine and grapes at Sideways Inn in Buellton, California

My room was cozy, breakfast was delivered to my door, I had a nice workout at the gym and a swim in pool. It was nice to sit on my patio and enjoy some wine and sunshine.

Book your stay at Sideways Inn here.

Booking.com

Shop My Solvang Look

TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES

Packing Guide

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There are ways to travel even with a chronic illness. Check out my chronic illness travel tips and how I travel despite having Lupus.

Best Travel Insurance

Accidents happen. Make sure that you’re covered on your next trip. Compare travel insurance here.

Earn Travel Perks & Free Trips

Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. Read my in depth guide on how to earn points toward free hotel stays, flights, car rentals and more with Marriott’s brand partners! Travel smart, get the most for your money.

Rent a Car

Sometimes its nicer (and cheaper) to rent a car and go at your own pace. Discover best deals on car rentals here.

Wardrobe Looks for Every Season

Each new season brings an opportunity to dress cute. Get some outfit ideas and shop here.

Dating Safety

Every woman should be able to date without being the next victim. Check out my safety tips guide for women.

That’s a wrap!

I hope this blog inspired you to take a trip to Solvang, California!

Now, I want to know! What would you do in Solvang? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Geeves traveling

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Thank you so much for your continued love and support! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.

Until next time…

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Megan!
    Unfortunately, it was so long ago that I don’t remember what the name is. I was hoping one of my readers went there and could tell me!
    But there are so many other great restaurants to try if you can’t find it. I hope you have a great trip in December! They have a holiday event going on. Thank you for reading! 🙂

    – Geeves

  2. That danish had me drooling. Do they have multiple flavors like raspberry? My favorite!
    As a child, I also had my finger bit by an ostrich at the San Diego Zoo.

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