Solvang: The Danish Town in Santa Barbara County

Despite the premise of it being a Danish town in Santa Barbara County, the main reason people visit Solvang is secondary to its history and architecture. Truth is, most people come because of the food and the wine. I, myself, can also be included in this group.

Solvang, California

Solvang, California

Most famous for its appearance in the film Sideways, Solvang has a variety of tasting rooms that range from the casual to the refined and offer the best selections Santa Barbara County’s finest. If your preference is red, or white, there is something for everyone, with over fifteen rooms located throughout the town. I prefer the Syrah Rose from the Presidio Winery.

With regard to dining, there are as many different varieties as there are wineries. Many restaurants serve traditional Danish favorites, such as Danish sausage, red cabbage and potatoes, and, of course, the famous Danish dessert: Abelskivers. There are also Middle Eastern, Japanese and Italian eateries, but if your tastes are less sophisticated there’s always Dominoes!

Solvang also has its own piece of history: the Mission Santa Inés. Established on September 17, 1804, the Mission, which was the last to be founded in Southern California, now stands as a museum. Priest vestments, original bells and other artifacts are on display. The 18th-century Madonna Chapel, with its wood carving of the Mother of Sorrows, is a remarkable highlight. For the lovers of theater, the Solvang Theater hosts several plays each year, ranging from the comedic to the dramatic.

The Elverhoj museum showcases the history of Solvang as well as exhibits from modern artists. However, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Hans Christian Anderson Museum. It’s a great place to learn about the life and literary works of this famous Danish author.

For a European flare during the holiday season, Solvang certainly decks the halls by hosting an assortment of parades and pageants.

If you decide to stay a night or two in Solvang, hotels vary from the reasonable to the lavish. Some accommodations even offer hot-tubs, which can definitely come in handy on rather chilly winter nights.

It is interesting to note that the majority of businesses, including many eateries, close shop at around 5 o’clock. Fortunately for me, my favorite restaurant, The Hitching Post, in nearby Buellton, doesn’t close until 9:00 pm. Also filmed in Sideways, it’s a popular steakhouse, and you can even watch them grill your order on an open wood fire. To compliment your meal, have a glass of their own house wine.

Aside from the obvious attractions of Solvang, there are also plenty of other things to do. Just outside of the town, there’s the Quicksilver Ranch, which is famous for breeding miniature ponies—a perfect place for  kids! The Alisol golf course is very popular with tourists and players alike. About 5 miles from Solvang, you’ll find the Nojoqui Falls. It’s necessary to hike over a mile to reach it, but it’s well worth it and the beautiful forest  is ideal for a picnic.

For those looking to experience Europe’s old-world feel and aren’t interested in a 17-hour plane trip from the West Coast, Solvang might be worth looking into. As an avid traveler, I’m usually attracted to a place that has a dark and twisted history. If a location is void of these two features, it’s pretty rare that I’ll visit, much less make it a regular stomping ground. Though Solvang doesn’t have a grim past, it does, however, have a surreal atmosphere that holds my attention and I love visiting there.

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