It may not be what you’d expect, but you’ll find that the pairing makes a happy harmony in Solvang, California. Set in the gentle rolling hills north of Santa Barbara, Solvang is easy to reach – just take Highway 101 (El Camino Real) to Highway 246 east, and you’ll step into this old world wonderland. Enter the quaint downtown and stroll along cobblestone streets, wandering past the windmill and half-timbered shops, wine-tasting cellars, and traditional bakeries.
You can admire the statue of the Little Mermaid (a replica of the one in Copenhagen), based on Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale, or wander past one of the gurgling water fountains. In Danish, “solvang” means “sunny fields,” a fitting name for a southern California town where the sun shines warm and bright. Only 5,000 people make Solvang their home, so the town always retains its quiet charm.
Storks are a theme throughout the town. If you keep your eyes raised to the rooftops, you’ll spot many storks on the thatched roofs of the shops. Windmills are another feature of the town—five are easy to find, but there may be as many as seven. The town is filled with Danish bakeries, traditional ice cream shops, smorgasbord restaurants, museums, and plenty of Danish charm. Take a ride down First Street or through Hans Christian Andersen Park in a horse-drawn carriage or get the kids together for a family bike ride around town. You’ll find plenty of excellent golfing in the local area as well as wineries, Scandinavian craft and gift shops, antiques, and the Solvang Mall.
There are a number of fun annual events going on in Solvang, from the weekly Farmer’s Markets to the jazz concerts and Scandinavian Folk Dancing nights. The kids can take part in the annual Easter Egg Hunt in Hans Christian Andersen Park or the festive Independence Day parade. Throughout the summer, enjoy Movies in the Park – family-friendly films that are shown in Solvang Park for free. And in September, be sure not to miss Danish Days, a treasured celebration of Solvang’s rich Danish heritage. The good life and simple pleasures are remembered with Old World customs and costumes, Danish folk dancing, music, parades, food, and entertainment all weekend.
For a fun day trip near Solvang, take a tour of the Santa Barbara County vineyards or explore local towns like Ballard, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez. You can head to Santa Barbara for a day on the waterfront or a hike at El Presidio de Santa Barbara, or visit Gaviota State Park, set right on the coast near Solvang. A little farther a field, you’ll find the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, a great place to enjoy fishing, hiking, swimming, boating, and mini golf. The area also includes playgrounds for the kids and a nature center. To the south, off the California coast, lies Channel Islands National Park, a stunning coastal zone that includes five craggy islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. These isolated islands have animals and plants that are found nowhere else on earth! You’ll find terrific hiking, kayaking, bird watching, snorkeling, swimming, and relaxation on these amazing islands.