Experience The Lively Feel Of Denmark At This Little Fairy Tale Town In California

Imagine a lovely town with graceful windmills, charming cottage-like shopping areas, the most incredibly delicious baked items you've ever eaten, and wine flowing like water every few feet. This fairy tale spot — one of the stunning American cities that feel just like Europe — is Solvang, California. Just around 35 miles north of Santa Barbara and around a 2.5-hour drive from Los Angeles, Solvang was founded in 1911 by three Danish men, and the name of the town means "sunny fields" in Danish. It's a small spot, with everything within walking distance, which is ideal as Solvang is a haven for wine tasting. Many of the wineries (and there are 120 in the area) around Solvang in the Santa Inez Valley (one of the most underrated wine regions in California) have tasting rooms where you can sample and buy some really incredible vintages. 


There is a lot to do in this tiny Danish-style town, from spotting all four windmills to trying æbleskivers (a fried Danish treat) for the first time to feeding ostriches (yes, really) nearby. It's lovely no matter what time of year you visit. Here's everything you need to know about Solvang, California, a little slice of Denmark in the Golden State.

Solvang's wine and æbleskivers

Solvang can get busy on the weekends, but you'll have lots of time to hit each tasting room during the week. You can easily walk around town, try all sorts of varieties, and hit some of the venues from the 2004 Oscar-winning film "Sideways" (starring Paul Giamatti), which was set in the town. Don't be intimidated if you're not a wine person, as Solvang tasting rooms tend to be really unpretentious. They'll ask you what sort of food and drinks you like and help you find a wine to love. Sometimes, if you're friendly, they'll add a small batch or special wine to your tasting.


A few spots we love include the Lucas & Lewellen tasting room, which has some incredible vintages right in town, and Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard on Alamo Pintado Road, which is just outside the town on the way to Los Olivos (the next town with even more tasting rooms). In fact, don't neglect Alamo Pintado Road wineries, which are so charming that you may want to get married again just to have your wedding at one of them. You cannot afford to miss bakeries like Mortensen's, which has some of the most delectable pastries you've ever eaten. Make it a priority to try æbleskivers while you're in town. It's a Danish round pancake served with powdered sugar and fruit syrup (pictured above). You can even buy a special pan to make it at home. 


Other things to do in Solvang

Visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in The Book Loft, as well as the replica of Copenhagen's The Little Mermaid statue on Mission Drive. There are charming shops and bookstores at every price level. Stop by the little square in the center of town, get a yummy sandwich there from Panino, and eat outside. No matter what time of year it is, stop by Jule Has, the little Christmas shop with the cutest ornaments, although Solvang is beautifully lit and decorated at Christmas and is worth visiting. Don't forget to ride the town trolley or a horse-drawn carriage with the Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company.


Outside town is Mission Santa Ines, a mission from 1804 built by Spanish Franciscan missionaries as part of 21 missions between San Diego and Sonoma. It has a daily mass, but the architecture alone is worth a visit. Also nearby is OstrichLand USA, where you can stop by and feed ostriches and emus, although the ostriches might be too aggressive for little kids. You can also watch the birds play with toys in their pens. Grab some to-go food and wine (with an opener) and a couples backpack (these are the best), and drive 6.5 miles down Alisal Road to Nojoqui Falls, a lovely little waterfall (which might be dry if it's really hot) that is less than a mile walk away.