Also known as the Danish Capital of America, Solvang is a popular town in Santa Barbara County, California. The town is just two hours away from Hollywood. It has established itself as an all-year-round tourist destination for its delightful Danish culture and relaxing, laid-back atmosphere. Solvang has a lot of things to do and places to see from historical attractions, unique architecture, museums, antique shops, and restaurants. Not sure what to do or where to visit this idyllic and charming town? Don't worry; we are here to help you. Here is a review of the 20 best things to do in Solvang, CA.
20. Visit The Legendary Old Mission Santa Ines
Established in 1804, Old Mission Santa Ines is a place of worship in Solvang. It's one of the 21 Spanish Missions built in California in the early 19th century. Today, it's one of the oldest and best-preserved remaining Spanish Missions serving as a Parish church. It also serves as a museum that displays manuscripts, rare paintings, sculptures, vestments, artifacts, and more. The church also has a peaceful and beautiful courtyard with an elegant landscape. A self-guided tour to the museum and church costs only $6. It also has a gift shop where you can purchase gifts and souvenirs to remember the historical place and elegant Solvang.
19. Experience The Danish Culture at Elverhoj Museum of History and Art
The Elverhoj Museum is a popular museum situated in the village of Solvang. It displays Solvang's rich culture and heritage and its predominant Danish influence. The museum building was a Danish 18th-century-style former home with striking Scandinavian architecture, panels painted by hand, ornamental ironwork, and artisan wood carvings. It has great galleries and changing exhibitions with local and international art displayed. Here you will find a host of classes, workshops, Danish events, and more for kids. The premises also have a gift store where you can purchase unique Danish-themed and art-related items.
18. Wine Tasting in the Rusack Vineyards
Solvang is a popular town for its sweet wine, mostly Pinot Noir. Wine acting is a must when coming to those cities on the nearby vineyards. Rusack Vineyards makes world-class wines you can take while enjoying the elegant landscape of your surroundings. It provides a splendid setting where you can enjoy picnics with your family and friends with magnificent wines. The vineyard has a bizarre tasting room where you can taste the most outstanding award-winning wines. Other wine tasting spots to check out include; Carhartt vineyard, Sanger Family of Wines, and Sunstone Vineyards.
17. View Gorgeous Little Ponies at Quicksilver Ranch
Quicksilver Ranch is found in Santa Ynez Valley, only a short distance from Solvang. The ranch has the best-bred horses and miniature horses that look like baby unicorns. The ranch is open daily from 10 am to 3 pm. Guided tours around the farm go for about $3. So, have it in your schedule to visit the Quicksilver Ranch and enjoy the beauty of these ponies. However, according to AAA, dogs are not permitted on the ranch.
16. Experience the Ultimate Escape Rooms
Today, most towns in America have an escape, and Solvang has not been left behind. You can discover this excitement about escape rooms when you book one at the Ultimate Escape Rooms, Solvang. You and your friends get locked in a themed house to use clues to escape the room before the designated time is over. According to Escape Rooms, you can select from three different themes; the Mischievous Nisse, the Phantom of the Big Top, and Gold Fever. Go and find out if you are sharp enough to beat the rooms.
15. Play A Round of Golf at River Course
If you plan on visiting Solvang for some days and enjoy golfing, you should consider enjoying a round of golf at the River Course on the Alisal. The golf course has four lakes and breathtaking views of the Santa Ynez foothills, mountains, and valley. On the path of the Santa Ynez River, the golf course provides the chance to enjoy the outdoors in a super beautiful environment. Although considered challenging, the course is not unduly so. It provides a wonderful recreational opportunity on a vacation or weekend getaway in Solvang.
14. Visit the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Another fun and the best thing to do in the California town is visiting the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. The museum is located at the former Solvang Designer Outlet Center and took about two decades to finish. Virgil Elings is the owner of the museum, as well as the motorcycle on display. This vintage motorcycle museum features all types of vintage motorcycles as well as vintage sport bikes from Europe and other rare automobiles. Rotating exhibits means you will always have a wide range to explore, from the 1900s automobiles to the classic and more modern motorbikes. The museum is normally opened on Sundays and Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm. However, if you want to visit the museum on weekdays, you can make an appointment in advance, and the museum will be happily open for you.
13. Enjoy the Solvang Trolley & Carriage Through Town
Solvang Trolley & Carriage in Solvang is a carriage ride service that takes you back in time. It consists of a ride in trolleys pulled by horses with a well-informed tour guide of the city is one of the most quaint and charming ways of exploring this town. According to BringFido, the guides will show you all the historical and famous stops of the town as they narrate the town's heritage and history. Stroll the town and anciently appreciate its exquisiteness on the carriages or trolleys.
12. Go Shopping at The Solvang Antiques
The Solvang Antiques is the biggest and most renowned antique shop in Santa Ynez Valley. It's situated in Solvang on Copenhagen Drive, at the heart of the shopping village. The store features a wide array of hand-crafted and vintage antiques for you to shop from. You can purchase striking silver jewelry, fine art, sculptures, porcelain, and more here. There is a professional staff that will assist you and answer your questions. The store also features Solvang Antiques Fine Art Gallery, where you can view stunning antique pieces and contemporary artworks displayed in the rotating exhibits. Visit Solvang Antiques to witness prestigious Solvang artwork and beautiful antiques.
11. Take Breakfast at Paula's Pancake House
Paula's Pancake House is a popular café serving delicious Danish and American cuisine. They also serve vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dish options for guests to take care of everyone's needs. Even better, the breakfast options here are terrific and will surely prepare you for the rest of the day. Ensure you try out the Danish sausage, Danish pancakes, and French toast at the café.
10. Take a break in the parks
You can consider relaxing at a green space park when you want a break from your busy schedule. One relaxing park to go to is Solvang Park, situated off Mission Drive at the heart of the village, with picnic restrooms and tables. This is an excellent place to take a break, particularly if you have kids, as they will have sufficient space to play. Hans Christian Andersen Park is another park situated on Chalk Hill Road, a short distance from Mission Drive. The park has many mature trees, a playground, walking trails, and picnic tables with the Hans Christian Andersen bust gracing the park.
9. Olive Oil Tasting
If you like olive oil and are searching for free things to do in Solvang, you can consider sampling some of them. Other than wine tasting, Solvang has several olive oil shops where you can taste free samples. Some of the few olive oil shops to go for olive oil tasting include; Solvang olive, olive house, Sanger family of wines, and Solvang olive press. Some olive oils are infused with different tastes and flavors, such as lemon, Rosemary, and jalapeno. The shops also provide vinegar tastings.
8. Witness the Solvang Wind Harp
The Solvang Wind Harp is among the Solvang's things to witness and the oldest across California. The wind harp was created in the image of a particular part of the St. Nikolai Church found in Copenhagen, known as the time ball or tidskuggle, which sat at the paramount. When the wind blows through the wind harp, it produces lovely musical notes. According to Atlas Obscura, the wind harp was made of wood and bamboo, but it has now been refurbished and is made of metal. One of the incredible things about the wind harp is that it is close to a nursing home, gently singing the little tunes as the wind goes by.
7. Visit The Nojoqui Falls Park
Nojoqui Falls Park is near the Solvang village, only a fifteen-minute drive. The park is 85 acres with sweeping greenery and views. The falls are a rise 80 feet above the ground, falling onto moss-covered stones far beneath. The falls are full during the winter but are still elegant in their thinner state in the fall and summer. The park also has a children's playground and a stunning designated area where you will enjoy a picnic. So, if you are okay with going out of Solvang for a short while, Nojoqui Falls Park is a place you don't want to miss.
6. Attend A Show at The Solvang Festival Theater
Solvang Festival Theater is a local community-based theater where you can watch entertaining live performances. According to Trip Advisor, this 700-seat outdoor theater was built in 1974. Ensure you set some time to watch a concert, theater show, comedy festival, or jazz festival at the Solvang Festival Theater. Solvang is a beautiful city filled with Californian sunshine and Danish culture. The theater is a perfect place to experience the intertwined cultures of California and Denmark while sipping some wine.
5. Experience Christmas Mood at The JULE HUS
Situated in downtown Solvang, the beautiful Jule Hus known as the Christmas House, with a characterized red façade, is a treat from the outside. However, you shouldn't miss visiting the building to experience the Christmas mood. The store is filled with great Christmas items and twinkling lights, and is happy to browse. View beautiful Scandinavian-inspired decorations and the unique Old European Christmas ornaments. You will be amazed by nutcrackers made of angels, wood, and Santa's nativity collections from many nations worldwide. You can purchase one Christmas at the Jule Hus to remember your visit to Solvang.
4. Take A Tour of The Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Hans Christian Andersen was a renowned Danish author for writing travelogs, plays, novels, poems, and fairytales. According to Solvangusa.com, this museum is devoted to Hans Christian Andersen and his popular works. The museum has different exhibits and displays that present the life and work of the author. You can have guided tours of the museum and engage in various activities offered in the museum, such as parties, festivals, and mini-lecturers. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm for all visitors.
3. Taste Authentic Danish Pastries
A visit to Solvang won't be complete without eating the traditional Danish pastries from the authentic local Danish bakeries. The town's bakeries serve freshly baked cookies, pastries, bread, and more. There are several popular authentic Danish bakeries, such as Olsen's Danish Village Bakery, Birkholm's Bakery & Café, and the Solvang Bakery. Don't miss out on trying the butter cookies, Danish rolls, cream puffs, aebleskivers, Risalamande, and Danish waffles from these fanciful bakeries.
2. Spend Time with Ostriches at OstrichLand USA
Ostrich Land USA is a farm with more than 100 birds, including emus and ostriches, open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The farm is on 33 acres of land and provides sweeping landscape views. Here, you will enjoy feeding the biggest bird of the world yourself or just choose just to watch and enjoy the ostriches. The zoo or farm also has a store where you can purchase food to feed the birds. The zoo also has a store where you can purchase food to feed the birds and fresh eggs the birds. Pass by this amazing destination to experience the birds up close by interacting or feeding with them.
1. Appreciate The Danish Architecture
Solvang has some of the best Danish architecture. While homes and other structures of the town were initially developed in the local style, the town later transitioned to the contemporary European look. According to Trip.com, the Bethania Lutheran Church, established in 1928, was among the first structures in Solvang to feature a special Danish appearance. Also, the first windmill in Solvang was established during the 1940s, and residents began modifying or building their homes to install the half-timbered facades. Today, you can see many windmills in Solvang village, a clock tower that plays seasonal tunes, some of the oldest structures and homes, and many fascinating facades.
These are the 20 best things to do in Solvang, California. The many Solvang attractions mean you won't be short of things to visit, explore, or enjoy. Whether you want to eat delicious Danish food, shop around, visit some wineries, explore some historical spots or connect with nature, a visit to the Solvang village in California will surely satisfy your curiosity. Hopefully, this list will help you narrow down your best destination options.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn