Top 20 Things to do in Solvang, California includes checking out the Solvang Windmills, enjoying pasties at 5 authentic Danish bakeries, and enjoying Danish architecture while strolling through streets lined with various wine tasting rooms and boutique shops. Plan a weekend getaway or make it your California Spring Break Destination.
Solvang is located in Santa Ynez Valley and is part of Santa Barbara County. It was founded in 1911 by 3 Danish educators. You can pass by this Danish Village in California on your way from L.A. to Northern California or take a day trip to Solvang from Los Angeles. If you have more time, I would suggest staying overnight, like we did, to really enjoy all the food, activities, unique shops, events, and so much more.
Located just 2.5 hours away from Los Angeles, a visit to Solvang – the Danish Village of California, will transport you to another place the moment you drive in and we can’t wait to go back to attend some of Solvang’s events and more of those delicious Aebleskivers ala mode.
Top 20 Things to do in Solvang, California:
1. Stroll around Solvang & enjoy Denmark’s Farm-Style Architecture and Ambiance
With its Denmark’s farm-style architecture, we instantly got transported to Denmark right when we drove into town.
See structures featuring half-timbered buildings. Half-timbering is a way of constructing wood-frame structures with the structural timbers exposed.
We saw roofs made of wood shingles cut jagged at the edges and thatched roofs.
We also noticed plenty of rooftops with storks on them – part of the Danish tradition of warding off lightning and bringing in good fortune.
A trip here will make you feel like you’re in Europe. It is after all the Danish Capital of America.
2. Visit the 5 Solvang Windmills
Find the four Solvang wooden windmills within four blocks and 1 additional windmill in a residential area. Use the Solvang Windmill Address below to locate all 5.
#1: 436 Alisal Rd. – This Solvang windmill houses Solvang Flavors – a gelato shop where I had a really good chocolate hazelnut (Nutella) gelato. It is located beside Solvang Bakery.
#5: Old Mill Road – This windmill is located in a residential area of Solvang. You will see it on the left side if you’re traveling north to get into the Danish village. It is located before Mission Santa Inez.
While you’re looking for all the windmills, you may also want to check out a 1/3-size replica of Copenhagen’s famous 17th-century Rundetarn (Round Tower) in Solvang, it houses a pizza place behind the windmill on Alisal Rd.
3. Stop by the Little Mermaid Fountain
Another Danish icon in Solvang is the Little Mermaid Fountain. It is a 1/2 size bronze replica of Denmark’s famous “Little Mermaid” statue. It’s been around since 1976 and is the only one authorized by heirs of the sculptor Edvard Eriksen who created the original which is located in the Copenhagen Harbor until today.
We visited it for a picture before grabbing dinner at CHOMP restaurant.
Little Mermaid Fountain address: 1693 Mission Dr.
4. Eat Aebleskiver ala mode & try authentic Danish dishes
If you’re a foodie, your first stop during your visit has to be at Solvang Restaurant. This was out 1st stop to grab lunch.
They offer traditional Danish dishes like Danish sausages & meatballs, as well as American dishes, but make sure to order their Aebleskivers before you leave.
If you don’t have time for a sit-down breakfast or lunch, you can get the Aebleskivers to go. Make sure to order them a la mode. The ice cream, raspberry sauce & Aebleskiver combination was amazing. I’d order it all the time if we are from Solvang.
Aebleksivers are traditional Danish round pancakes. In Denmark æbleskiver are traditionally eaten during the Christmas season. At Solvang Restaurant, you can have them either to go or when you dine in.
You can also buy the Aebleskivers pan & batter mix at the restaurant so you can make it at home. I don’t think I can replicate it though, especially with Solvang Restaurant’s really delicious house-made raspberry sauce. I simply have to visit again.
I also enjoyed their homemade honey mustard. It went well with the dishes we ordered.
Solvang Restaraunt address: 1672 Copenhagen Dr.
5. Shop at over 100+ Solvang shops
California’s Danish Village has plenty of unique stores. Enjoy doll & toy stores, clock store, children’s clothes store, Danish clog store, bookstore, a Christmas store (Jule Hans), and many more.
6. Try Danish pastries at 5 Solvang Bakeries
If you love bakeries as much I do, you’re going to enjoy visiting all 5 bakeries in Solvang. Enjoy traditional Danish pastries, bread, or bring home plenty of Danish butter cookie tubs to share and personally enjoy. Below are the 5 Solvang Bakeries where you can also grab your coffee as there is no Starbucks in town.
- Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe – 460 Alisal Road.
- Danish Mill Bakery – 1682 Copenhagen Dr.
- Mortensen’s Bakery – 1588 Mission Drive
- Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery – 1529 Mission Dr.
Solvang Bakery – 438 Alisal Road
7. Grab other sweets as you stroll around Solvang
You’ve visited the bakeries and you’ve eaten the yummy Aebleskivers but there’s more for those with a sweet tooth. You can also enjoy a Danish candy store, a fudge shop, and various ice cream shops around town.
- Swedish Candy Factory – 485 Alisal Rd Suite 125
- Ingeborg’s Danish Chocolates – 2734, 1679 Copenhagen Dr
- Old Danish Fudge Kitchen – 441 Alisal Rd.
- Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor – 1618 Copenhagen Dr.
- Solvang Flavors – 436 Alisal Rd., Ste B.
8. Sample wines at 20 Solvang downtown tasting rooms from 125 + area wineries
You’ll find many tasting rooms as you stroll around the Solvang Danish Village. Do note that some of them close at 5:30 PM, while some closes at 7:30 PM.
9. Rest at your Solvang Hotel
We stayed at King Frederik Inn while visiting. Our hotel is located in the middle of the Solvang Danish Village – making it easy for us to enjoy the stores, bakeries, and restaurants the moment we step out the door.
Our Solvang hotel is accessible through both Copenhagen Dr. which is the main street, as well as Mission Drive which is the road you get in from when visiting.
Either go for a quick nap after all the strolling around the Danish Village or go for a swim.
Our room has 2 beds with a balcony facing the pool and spa. You will feel as though you’re in Europe when you come out of the balcony.
Parking is Solvang is available in front of most shops. We didn’t have a hard time finding parking during our visit even if it was during Spring Break (although it was a Wednesday). If you’re visiting when there is a major Solvang event going on like Christmas in Solvang, you’re going to be happy that you book a room at King Frederik Inn as you will have a parking spot at the hotel while being steps away from everything.
King Frederik Inn address – 1617 Copenhagen Dr.
10. Dine at any of the 35 Solvang CA Restaurants
Take a break from everything Danish by also enjoying other cuisines with 30+ Solvang Restaurants to choose from.
Enjoy Italian, American, Japanese, Vietnamese, Irish, and plenty of other restaurants while visiting California’s Danish Village.
For dinner in Solvang, we dined at Chomp Burgers, Fries, and Shakes located beside the Little Mermaid Fountain. The food was delicious and the portion was huge. They specialize in burgers and shakes which the kids enjoyed while the hubby and I tried other things on the menu which were really good as well. I really enjoyed my crab cake salad while the hubby had nachos.
Chomp Solvang address – 1693 Mission Dr.
11. Visit Copenhagen House & Museum
My favorite store in town was the Copenhagen House. They sell contemporary designs of drinkware, gifts, LEGOs, jewelry, etc. all designed in Denmark as well as the classic Danish clogs.
And while you can find a giant clog in front of the Solvang Shoe store, this is an even bigger clog.
The Copenhagen House was once the Santa Ynez Valley bank established in 1919 by Danish immigrants. The exterior of the building was kept in respect to the architectural tradition of Solvang but the interior features Danish design in furnishing and flooring inspired by the Copenhagen Airport.
In one of the rooms is an 800 pound and 10-foot tall statue carved out of American cedar wood of the Danish mythical hero – HOLGER DANSKE. It has been said, that this particular Holger Danske in Solvang will wake up and come to the rescue if the “Danishness of Solvang ever gets in trouble”.
Outside, you’ll see a sculpture of the 3 founders of Solvang.
Copenhagen House address: 1660 Copenhagen Dr.
12. Visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Hans Christian Andersen is a renowned Danish fairytale writer. Does Little Mermaid, Ugly Duckling, The Princess, and the Pea, and Thumbelina ring a bell? It was all created by him. Even Frozen was inspired by his work – The Snow Queen.
Visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum on top of The Book Loft.
The small museum showcases exhibits and displays detailing Hans Christian Andersen’s life and works including a model of the author’s childhood home, antique tools for making wooden shoes (similar to those used by his father) and lots of first and early editions of Andersen’s tales.
Admission to the museum is free. They are open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 PM.
Hans Christina Andersen Museum address: 1680 Mission Dr.
13. Shop at the Solvang Farmer’s Market every Wednesday
Every Wednesday from 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM, you can enjoy the Solvang Farmer’s Market on First St. between Copenhagen Dr. and Mission Dr.
Shop for fresh produce, flowers, nuts, cheeses, bread, and many other foods.
14. Picnic at Solvang Park
Just beside the Solvang Farmer’s Market as well as our hotel – King Frederik Inn – is Solvang Park. You will find a bust sculpture here of Hans Christian Andersen and a giant grass area for the kids to run around in. Make sure to watch them as there is a street next to it.
This is the center of the action for Danish Days in September, Winterfest in December, and Free Friday Night Movies in the summer.
You can pack a picnic or bring what you bought from the Farmer’s Market and eat it here.
15. Ride a Surrey Bike to get around the Danish Village
Just beside the Solvang Park is Wheel Fun Rentals where you can rent a surrey bike and bike around town. The kids will surely love it.
16. Ride the Solvang Trolley
Ride the Solvang Trolley during your visit to the Danish Village. It is pulled by two draft horses. It has been providing narrated tours of the Village of Solvang, Little Denmark.
They are only available from Fri-Mon 11:30 AM to 5 PM.
17. Visit Old Mission Santa Ines
Santa Inés Mission is the 19th of 21 California missions established by the Franciscan Fathers. The historic 1804 Mission was already around when the three Danish-American educators founded the town of Solvang in 1911.
Take a tour of Santa Ines Mission when you visit Solvang. Tours are available seven days a week 9 AM – 5 PM. Enter through the Gift Shop to see the museum, church, and gardens. You’ll also see a station of the cross.
Masses are still held on weekends. For better parking to tour the mission, try visiting on a weekday.
Self-guided tours are $5 per person, children 12 and under free. If you wish to do a docent-led tour or group tour, call ahead 2 weeks in advance.
18. Visit the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art
The Elverhoj Museum of History & Art is a community museum devoted to the history of Solvang, the Danish-American pioneer spirit and the colorful heritage of Denmark.
The main room at Elverhøj includes a variety of exhibits ranging from Viking artifacts and prehistoric tools to historical photos and artifacts from Solvang’s early years.
The Immigrant Room reproduces a typical family home in 19th century rural Denmark.
In a corner of the Museum garden is a quaint cottage housing a diorama of early Solvang. The small scale buildings represent businesses and residences existing in the 1920s.
They are open 11 am – 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free, $5 donation is suggested.
Elverhoj Museum address: 1624 Elverhoy Way
19. Visit the Sunny Fields Park
If you are looking for more things to do in Solvang with Kids, you have to take them to Sunny Fields Park. Solvang actually means Sunny Fields in Danish. Here, you’ll find a unique themed wooden playground. Our girls enjoyed everything during our trip but this was obviously their favorite place. They played hide and seek until we got hungry again.
Sunny Fields Park address: 900 Alamo Pintado Rd.
20. Come for the annual Solvang events
- Taste of Solvang in March – a weekend of events featuring Solvang farmers, chefs, bakers, winemakers, brewers, distillers, and artisans. Taste of Solvang showcases the bounty of Santa Barbara wine country set amidst the quaint Danish town.
- Danish Days in September – Danish Days celebrates Solvang’s heritage with authentic food, music, dancing, parades, live entertainment, and family activities.
- Julefest in December (Solvang Christmas) – Solvang is one of the most “Christmassy” towns in America. Enjoy a month full of lights, celebration, and holiday cheer with tons of family fun, music, shopping, delicious food, wine and beer, holiday open houses and more.
Pin for later:
1. Admire Danish Architecture
2. Visit 5 Solvang Windmills
3. Visit a replica of Denmark's famous Little Mermaid statue
4. Try Danish food like Aebleskiver ala mode
5. Shop at 100+ Solvang boutique shops
6. Visit 5 Solvang Bakeries
7. Try other sweets in Solvang
8. Sample wine from Solvang Tasting Rooms
9. Rest at any Solvang Hotel
10. Dine at 35 Solvang Restaurants
11. Visit Copenhagen House & Museum
12. Visit Hans Christian Andersen Museum
13. Shop at Solvang Farmer's Market
14. Picnic or Play at Solvang Park
15. Ride a Surrey Bike
16. Ride the Solvang Trolley
17. Visit Old Mission Santa Ines
18. Visit Elverhoj Museum of History & Art
19. Play at Sunny Fields Park
20. Attend Solvang Events
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