Solvang - A Taste Of Denmark In California
There is one and only one town that we have visited many times and may visit many more times. This was the first town our son took us to for a sightseeing trip when we moved to the US to join him after our retirement in the nineties, and since then he must have taken us there to enjoy most of his extended weekend holidays. His wife is as much in love with the town as he is, and now we too are addicted to Solvang.
Nestled in the heart of Central California's wine country, Solvang is a small Danish-style town full of charm, culture, wine and, of course, pastries. The town garnered international attention and acclaim from the hit-movie "Sideways," and maintains its tourist allure today, thanks to its many windmills, window shops, bakeries and wineries. In a state as bustling as California, Solvang offers a great escape for a quiet, intimate weekend for two or a culture-filled family excursion.
Situated about 300 miles South from San Francisco on U.S. 101 – Highway, a Mecca for the “Dansk-Amerikaners,” the village is also proving a very popular weekend resort for anyone wishing to spend a weekend or a vacation in leisurely walks in the scenic streets of Solvang – the Sunny Valley - , enjoying its colorful mosaic architecture and the ethnic food of Denmark, including the delicious Smorgasbord dinner and the Danish pancakes and pastries. So, “Velkommen til Solvang” - welcome to Solvang. There is no dearth of decent accommodation in Solvang which has a large number of lavishly designed and furnished inns, many with hot pools and spas, at a reasonable price.
Solvang was founded in 1911 on 9,000 acres (36 km²) of formerly Spanish land by a group of Danish educators. The settlers of this city left for the west to escape midwestern winters. The city is home to some bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the buildings follows traditional Danish style. There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, as well as one featuring the bust of famed Danish fable writer Hans Christian Andersen. A replica of the Copenhagen observatory, Rundetårn, in the city centre.Storks peek down from thatch, copper and tile roofs; while delightful shops offer imported European wares: porcelain, collectibles, wrought iron and every form of handicraft. The aroma of chocolate, bakeries, coffee and beer flavor the quaint streets. Solvang offers a Shopping Showcase of unusual, quality imports and collectibles from 200+ merchants.
Food lovers really appreciate Solvang. They adore the Danish pastries, cookies and breads prepared in town's bakeries, and they relish the frikadeller (meat balls), medisterpolse (sausages) and rodkaal (red cabbage) served in many restaurants. No visit is complete without tasting aebleskiver, the jam-draped, powdered sugar-dusted Danish pancake balls. But visitors also can choose from a wide variety of restaurants preparing traditional American and ethnic cuisine.
The Santa Ynez Valley produces some of the finest premium wines in the world. The Santa Barbara County wine industry has more than doubled in size since 1996. There are currently over 18,000 acres of grapevines and over 60 wineries. The Santa Ynez Valley is known especially for its outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also produces fine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and many other varietals.
Solvang has several world class golf courses to choose from while staying in the Santa Ynez Valley. Alisal River Course has 4 lakes which grace its beautiful terain. La Purisma was the site for the LPGA qualifying round. Zaca Creek Golf Course offers a challenging 9-hole, par 29 layout with a nice view of the Santa Ynez River and the hills.Come experience this spectacular new 18-hole, 7,000-yard Rancho San Marcos Golf Course.
This is how we spend our weekends in Solvang, and never ever regret repeating it over and over again on every visit:
Eat breakfast at Paula's Pancake House. Experience a little of the Dutch culture Solvang was built upon, try one of the local dishes, such as the Danish pancakes.
Visit the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art that shows off the Danish heritage with old photographs, period costumes, and arts and crafts. Continue our museum and local heritage tour with a visit to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which honors the Danish author who was famous for such fairy-tales as "Thumbelina," "The Little Mermaid" and "The Ugly Duckling."
Eat lunch at one of the local cafes or restaurants. If we want something that highlights the Danish culture through food, eat at Bit O' Denmark, the Danish Mill Bakery, the Little Mermaid, Olsen's Danish Village Bakery or the Red Viking Restaurant.
Visit the Old Mission Santa Ines just outside downtown Solvang. Check out the old artwork and artifacts from the mission's past, take in the architecture and walk into the mission's church.
Engage in some wine tasting at the many, many wineries Solvang has to offer. Some of the most popular wineries include Lucas & Lewellen, Mandolina, Presidio Vineyard & Winery, Royal Oaks Winery and Tastes of the Valleys.
Take any souvenir wine glasses to add to what we have already collected along our testing excursions. There are many shops that are unique to Dutch country where we pick up miniature windmills or porcelain Dutch figurines. The bakeries are also a great place for souvenirs because many stock freshly made sheepherder's bread and pastries.
Sit down to a nice dinner and/or wine pairing at 5 Bistro and Wine Bar, BACCHUS Restaurant at the Storybook Inn or the Cabernet Bistro & Wine Lounge.
Drive up Highway 246 for a few miles to try our hand at some gambling at the Chumash Casino Resort, an Indian casino that belongs to the Chumash tribe.
If all this is not enough of enjoyment for our mini vacation, that's a motivation to return for another joyful routine, may be on the next holiday weekend.