Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County in Southern California. The city is Danish-themed as if it were the Danishland section of Disneyland, since it was founded by Danish immigrants and quite a few Danish descendants live here. While the tourism industry does try to import genuine Danish culture and architecture, it can be just skin deep. If you have a last name that is common in Denmark, still expect the desk clerk at the hotel to be unable to spell it.

Downtown Solvang

If you are vaguely interested in shops selling Danish wares, or interested in seeing Americans pretending to be Danish, by all means visit.

Get in edit

By car edit

California Route 246 is the main artery running through Solvang, where it is locally known as Mission Drive.

The fastest way to town is through California Route 154, which connects Santa Barbara and U.S. Route 101 to Los Olivos through the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. A roundabout connects Route 154 to Route 246, passing through Santa Ynez.

An alternate route is to take Highway 101 to Buellton, where there is a direct connection to Route 246. This route is less winding compared to taking Route 154, but takes around 20-30 minutes longer.

By plane edit

Santa Barbara and Santa Maria are the nearest airports. Both are small; the nearest large airports are in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The Central Coast Shuttle[1] runs daily from all three airports to nearby Buellton, where you can transfer to Santa Ynez Valley Transit buses that run to Solvang.

By train edit

Although Amtrak doesn't serve Solvang directly, Amtrak Thruway coaches connect the town to the train station in Santa Barbara three times daily, where the Pacific Surfliner service stops. Buses leave Santa Barbara for Solvang at 6:55AM, 2:25PM and 10:00PM, and depart Solvang for Santa Barbara at 5:15AM, 11:25AM and 2:50PM.

All buses stop in downtown Solvang at Solvang Park on Mission Drive.

By bus edit

The Clean Air Express connects Solvang to Goleta but is of little practical use to tourists. The bus is primarily used by residents commuting for work, with a single bus leaving Solvang for Goleta at 6:15AM, and that bus returning to Solvang from Goleta at 4:34PM.

Central Coast Shuttle runs seven times a day from Santa Maria Airport to LAX airport, with stops in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Camarillo.

Greyhound and Flixbus stop in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.

Wine Country Express runs three times a day, weekdays, to Lompoc.

Get around edit

Downtown Solvang is very compact and walkable; however, it is advisable to have a car to explore the surrounding area, and because the most convenient way to get into town is by car, you are likely to have one during your visit.

Santa Ynez Valley Transit runs service throughout its namesake area. Scheduled service is provided Monday through Saturday, with dial-a-ride service provided on Sunday.

Parking throughout town is free, and even the off-the-beaten-path spaces are not too far from the action. You can also rent a surrey bike and pedal through town.

See edit

Keep an eye out for windmills all along the main streets. Many are shops and restaurants in thin disguise.

  • 1 Mission Santa Ines, 1760 Mission Dr (on California Route 246 at Alisal), +1 805 688-4815, fax: +1 805 686-4468, . M-Sa 10AM - 2:30PM daily (except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day). The 19th of the 21 California Spanish missions, founded in 1804 by Father Estevan Tapis, who succeeded Fermin Lasuen as head of the mission system. It was built between Missions Santa Barbara and La Purisima at the site of the Chumash settlement Calahuasa. It served as a seminary during secularization, and restoration efforts began in 1904 by Alexander Buckler and later the Capuchin friars. Some of the original adobe building material is visible in places. Catholic Masses take place regularly. $6 (Children 11 and under: free).    
  • 2 Elverhoj Museum of History & Art, 1624 Elverhoy Way, +1 805 686-1211, . Th-M 11AM-5PM. Delve into a bit of Danish culture and history. Suggested donation $5.    
  • 3 Hans Christian Andersen Museum, 1680 Mission Dr. Live out your own fairy tale.
  • 4 Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, 320 Alisal Rd, +1 805 686-9522, . Sa Su 10AM-4PM. Vintage motorcycles across all makes with a focus on racing. $10/person, kids under 10 free.    

Do edit

  • Danish Days. This festival has been held nearly every year since 1936 and typically lasts from Friday-Sunday during the third weekend in September. The festival features eating contests, Danish maids, raffles, parades, Viking demonstrations, Danish musicians and dancers, and family entertainment.
  • Alisal Resort Golf Course. Get in a round of golf at the lovely riverside course.
  • Wine tasting. At your choice of over 100 wineries in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley is offered daily, typically from 10AM to 5PM (learn about wine country from the Vintner's Association). Don't drive, instead, take advantage of one of many reliable wine tour companies. Most will pick you up right at your hotel lobby and take you out or a full day of tasting with a knowledgeable guide. The typical tour includes tasting at four wineries and a picnic lunch set up for you in wine country.
  • Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle. Offers daily tasting tours and focuses on hospitality, comfort, and flexibility. Guides are accommodating, the shuttles are roomy, and unlike most other services, the Grapeline does not limit the winery choices to a handful of "preferred partner" wineries, so winery requests are encouraged and every trip can bring new discoveries.
  • Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours. For the more rugged types who like the sun on their shoulders and the wind in their faces. Open air jeeps are more fun, if the weather is right, which is often the case in the mild coastal climate. Beyond winery knowledge, Cloud Climber guides pride themselves in knowing the area history, plant and wild life.

Buy edit

Downtown is full of bakeries offering pastries of all types. Be sure to splurge on a plastic tub of assorted Danish butter cookies. There are also a number of tempting candy shops offering assorted chocolates, candies, and European specialty sweets.

Toy stores also abound in the town. Many specialize in hand-crafted or Danish-style toys.

  • Farmers market, 1st St (at Copenhagen Drive). We 2:30-6PM. *Stock up on fruits and veggies at the farmers market. Take your purchases to the adjacent park for a picnic.
  • Vinhus of Solvang, 440 Alisal Rd. Sells a selection of European imported groceries. A hearty selection of international wines, cheeses, and condiments are complemented by tea service items. Stop here to gather ingredients for a picnic. Make sure to chill your bottle in the wine bath before you leave.

Eat edit

Two notable area specialties include aebleskievers (a sort of spherical pancake, often served with a raspberry jam sauce) and the smorgasbord (a Nordic-themed all-you-can-eat buffet). Both are Danish-inspired and shouldn't be missed! Most local restaurants have a version of one or the other, if not both.

Danish specialties in Solvang – medisterpølse with æbleskiver – a combination of dishes unique to Danish Americans

Watch local menus for ostrich burgers, which taste much like hamburgers but are much leaner and lower in cholesterol.

  • The Red Viking, 1684 Copenhagen Dr. Offers Danish and American classics.
  • Solvang Restaurant, 1672 Copenhagen Dr. Boasts the best aebleskievers in town.
  • Paula's Pancake House, 1531 Mission Dr, +1 805-688-2867. A local breakfast institution.
  • Mattei's Tavern. In nearby Los Olivos started out as a stagecoach stop and now serves fresh California cuisine and local wines.
  • Greenhouse Café, 487 Atterdag Rd (corner of Copenhagen and Atterdag), +1 805 688-8508. Solvang's largest patio dining restaurant. Housed in an actual greenhouse structure and family run. A local and tourist favorite.

Drink edit

After the hit movie Sideways, the vineyards and wineries of the Santa Ynez Valley are more famous than ever.

Wineries edit

  • Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, 1500 Alamo Pintado Rd, +1 805-688-3032. 11AM-5PM daily. Perhaps best known among Santa Barbara wineries for their excellent dessert wines. They have a picnic area for wine tasting.
  • Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards Tasting Room, 1645 Copenhagen Dr, +1 805-686-9336. A pretty tasting room, featuring some of the finest of Santa Barbara County wines. They grow 25 grape varietals on their 400 estate acres. Open from 11-5:30 daily and later on Friday evenings throughout the summer.

Sleep edit

Go next edit

There are several beaches following Highway 101 South. Other California missions near Solvang include Mission La Purisima Concepcion (101 South at Lompoc), and Mission Santa Barbara (101 South to Santa Barbara).

  • Santa Barbara, approximately one hour south of Solvang, represents the quintessential California beach town.
  • Nojoqui Falls[dead link] (read NAW-ho-ee) is a pleasant state park with parking and picnic facilities. A lovely fifteen-minute walk inclines steeply at the end but rewards the effort with a beautiful pond and waterfall.
  • Santa Ynez - Solvang's neighbor four miles to the east, Santa Ynez sits at the heart of the rural Santa Ynez valley, an area that attracts travelers to its many wineries. The valley was the setting for the 2004 film Sideways, and fans of the film are known to make pilgrimages to the inns and restaurants from the movie.
  • Buellton - Located four miles to the west, Buellton is home to several Santa Ynez Valley wineries. Visitors will also find the ostrich & emu farm interesting, with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the giant birds.
Routes through Solvang
LompocBuellton  W   E  Santa YnezEnds at  

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