As a village known as the Danish Capital of the US, the best things to do in Solvang are full of Scandinavian culture, architecture, and cuisine.
Solvang is nestled amidst the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara. The area is well-known for vineyards, and wine tasting is definitely one of the best Solvang things to do!
On a Solvang day trip, wander the storybook-like streets, shop for Danish souvenirs, eat delicious pastry, and visit a California mission, one of the most historic Solvang attractions.
Here are the absolute best things to do in Solvang, California to get you started.
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Planning your trip to Solvang last minute? Here are the tours and hotels we recommend. If you are visiting Solvang on a road trip, check out the Best California Beach Towns and the Prettiest Southern California Beaches to visit.
- TOP EXPERIENCES & TOURS IN SOLVANG
- BEST HOTELS IN SOLVANG
- PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR SOLVANG
Is Solvang a Dutch or German Town in California?
While Solvang might seem like it was designed for tourism, it’s actually a true Danish settlement.
Solvang, which translates to “sunny fields” in English, has a rich Danish heritage that dates back to the early 20th century.
In 1911, a group of Danes wanted to establish a Danish community in the United States – free from the constraints of World War I and offering opportunities for Danish immigrants.
By 1913, the town was officially founded after acquiring a plot of land in Santa Ynez Valley.
The settlers aimed to create a Danish village reminiscent of their homeland, incorporating Danish-style architecture, traditions, and culture. That is why you’ll see half-timbered facades, thatched roofs, and windmills when you visit Solvang.
Today, Solvang remains a charming destination where visitors can immerse themselves in Danish history, explore Scandinavian architecture, and savor authentic European cuisine – all without leaving the warmth of California.
Best Things to Do in Solvang California
Get ready for a quick trip to Europe without ever leaving California to the town that blends Danish heritage with California’s laid-back allure.
Explore Danish architecture in Downtown Solvang
Wander through Solvang’s charming downtown and immerse yourself in its Danish-style buildings – a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in California. The streets feel like they have been transported straight from Denmark.
The village’s downtown is full of half-timbered local shops with gabled roofs, Danish bakeries, and antique stores. There is even a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue.
Don’t miss the Dutch windmills at Hamlet Square for a touch of authentic Danish flair. However, there are actually four different windmills in Solvang, so keep your eye out for all of them.
Old Mission Santa Inés is one of the Historic Solvang Attractions
While most of Solvang feels Danish, the area is still rooted in Spanish colonialism.
Familiarize yourself with Solvang’s history by visiting Old Mission Santa Inés. Founded in 1804, this architectural gem is one of the 21 original California missions
Explore the building, its airy courtyards, a Catholic church, and gardens as you dive into local history. Via Calvario is an outdoor Stations of the Cross overlooking the beautiful valley below that you can walk through.
Located at the edge of town, it is one of the best Solvang attractions that isn’t quintessentially Danish.
Daily Mass is Monday – Saturday in English at 8 AM. Sunday masses, held in English and Spanish, are at 8:00, 9:30, 11:00, and 12:30 PM. Self-guided tours of the grounds from 9 AM – 3:30 PM. Parking is free.
Eat Danish Pastries at the Best Bakeries in Solvang
One of the best things to do in Solvang, CA is to eat a Danish at a local bakery! Treat your taste buds to mouthwatering Danish pastries at local bakeries.
The classic is the cream cheese Danish, but you’ll find plenty of other options, from lemon to marzipan.
Most Solvang bakeries will also serve other European pastries like croissants, cinnamon rolls, gingerbread cakes, eclairs, and more. Consistently the longest line is at Mortensen’s Bakery but it moves quickly and they have plenty of seating.
The Danish Mill Bakery is another consistently popular choice. The Solvang Bakery is the cutest bakery and has plenty of treats and souvenirs.
No matter which bakery you choose, enjoy a delicious Danish treat while visiting Solvang.
Enjoy a Wine Tasting in Solvang
Solvang is surrounded by more than 120 wineries in Santa Ynez Valley wine country. The wine in this part of California is wonderful, and a vineyard or winery is worth visiting during a Solvang day trip.
If you’re short on time and want to visit the best Solvang wineries, visit the Sevtap Winery Tasting Room. The wine is great and they serve delicious pairing dishes like bread, gazpacho, and cheese boards.
Other wineries in Solvang to check out are the Royal Oaks Winery and the Sanger Wines Tasting Room. Both of them are located on Mission Drive.
We visited Rucksack Vineyards and enjoyed tasting several reds surrounded by Santa Barbara County’s rustic views. Some other vineyards in the area are Sunstone Vineyards, Foxen Vineyard & Winery, and Gainey Vineyards.
Take a Small Group Wine Tour
There are a few different types of tours you can take in Santa Ynez Valley. The first is a Full Day Wine Tour visiting three wineries. Learn about the wine-making process, have tastings at each vineyard, and enjoy a lovely picnic lunch.
They will pick you up from your hotel in Solvang and coordinate all the details so you can relax and enjoy the day. The tour is likely to sell out so book in advance.
Ride Through Santa Ynez Valley on a Biking & Wine Tasting Tour
Embark on an unforgettable adventure through the stunning Santa Ynez Valley with the invigorating Biking and Wine Tasting Tour.
Bid farewell to mundane minivans as you embrace the freedom of cruising through the Valley’s enchanting scenery.
Depart from the charming town of Los Olivos to will pedal through parks, quaint villages, and idyllic rural landscapes.
During the day, savor two wine tastings, a gourmet picnic, and an olive oil tasting. This tour encapsulates the essence of the Santa Ynez Valley, combining adventure, culture, and culinary pleasures into an unforgettable escapade.
Visiting Museums is one of the Best Free Things to Do in Solvang
One of the most popular free things to do in Solvang is to visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and Elverhøj Museum of History & Art.
Immerse yourself in the world of Hans Christian Andersen at the museum dedicated to the famous Danish author who wrote classic titles like The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Pea.
The Hans Christian Andersen Museum is located on the top floor of The Book Loft, a terrific bookstore with new and rare books that is so much fun to explore. The store is open from 10 AM – 5 PM, museum closes one hour earlier.
The Elverhøj Museum offers exhibits celebrating the experience of Danish-American immigrants and the heritage of Denmark through paintings, photographs, videos, and artifacts.
It’s set in the former home of artist Viggo Brandt-Erichsen, which is worth a visit all on its own. Open from 11 AM – 5 PM.
Stay at Alisal Ranch for Tons of Activities
Many people do a day trip to Solvang but the countryside outside this Danish city is idyllic.
One of the best trips we ever took in California with our kids was a weekend at Alisal Ranch. We stayed in one of the cabins with cozy, modern ranch decor.
It’s great for things to do in Solvang with families. They offer an outdoor pool, lake fishing adventures, horseback riding tours, a rodeo every week during the summer, plus a BBQ buffet with line dancing.
Adults can play a few rounds at their golf course, have a romantic getaway, or a wellness weekend. If you stay on the Alisal Ranch, spanning 10,000 acres, you will have the opportunity to fully experience its rustic charm.
Hop on a Solvang Ghost-Hunting Tour
Solvang is full of history, even haunted tales. After dark, follow a storyteller ghost hunter with your own EMF investigation equipment for a thrilling adventure around downtown Solvang – all while unraveling eerie tales of the town’s history.
It’s a must-do in Solvang for anyone curious about the supernatural or into anything spooky-scary. Reserve your spot on a Solvang Ghost Hunting Tour in advance to make sure to get a spot.
Stop by the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
If you’re into old-school rides, Solvang is home to a unique collection of vintage motorcycles. The collection is so extensive that the owner rotates some of the bikes every month, so you never know what you might come across.
He is also very passionate about the collection and loves to show people around and talk about the history of motorcycles.
Explore Local Art Galleries
Check out spots like the Pavlov Art Gallery and Dowdle Gallery with fine and folk art, showcasing a range of artworks from both local and regional artists. They also have a great selection of puzzles.
There’s also Gerlach Photography, which has prints, magnets, postcards, and a selection of other souvenirs and gift ideas.
Go Hiking at the Best Trails Near Solvang
The natural beauty around Solvang is another reason to visit! The Nojoqui Falls Park presents picturesque hiking trails, leading to the captivating Nojoqui Falls.
The Nojoqui Falls Trail is rated as moderate on AllTrails. You’ll follow through lush greenery and oak trees that lead you to a stunning 80-foot waterfall.
Also, Cachuma Lake is a short distance away and is full of panoramic vistas and recreational activities like boating, fishing, and birdwatching.
Take a Solvang Day Trip to See a Show at the Solvang Festival Theater
If you’re in town during one of the many events in Solvang, it might just be held at the Solvang Festival Theater.
Home to a 700-seat outdoor amphitheater, the venue is a hotspot for summer concerts and other year-round events.
The Music in the Garden summer series runs from June to September featuring genres from jazz and funk to rock and Latin fusion.
Wander Through the Solvang Farmers Market
Come Wednesday afternoon, the Farmers Market is one of the liveliest places to visit in Solvang. The market is a hub of local produce from honey to organic vegetables as well as artisan crafts and flower bouquets.
The Solvang Farmers Market is open every Wednesday from 2:30 to 5:30 pm.
Relax and Play at the Hans Christian Andersen Park
Filled with live oak trees, Hans Christian Andersen Park is a great place for family fun in Solvang. You know it’s going to be fun when you have to drive through a castle arch to enter.
It offers plenty of Solvang things to do for the whole family, thanks to its Danish-themed playgrounds and skate park.
You’ll also find Solvang Park in the center of town where you can enjoy a picnic.
One of the Best Solvang Things to Do is Shopping
Before you leave, don’t miss out on grabbing a few Solvang souvenirs – especially if they’re edible! You’ll find all sorts of local boutiques and shops scattered across Solvang, particularly on Copenhagen Drive and Alisal Road.
Grab some Danish pastries, handmade crafts, Danish-style jewelry, homemade fudge, locally-made soaps, and so much more. When we were little, we always begged for a pair of dutch wooden shoes every time we went to Solvang. 😂
- The Book Loft – terrific selection of new and rare books with the Hans Christian Anderson Museum upstairs.
- Jul Hus has Christmas decorations and nutcrackers.
- Pebble People is the go to place for wooden cuckoo clocks.
- Solvang Olive Company has everything from local olive oils and artisan vinegar to serving dishes and beauty products.
- The Mole Hole is the place to find unique items like soaps, paperweights, Santa Clauses, and more.
Solvang Events – Danish Days and Julefest
Visiting in time for some iconic events in Solvang is a treat! Immerse yourself in typical Danish culture during Danish Days in September. Solvang is one of the best places to visit in California in December for the festive Julefest.
Danish Days has been going on for nearly 90 years and offers beer gardens, live music, traditional dance, Danish cuisine, plus unique activities that attract visitors from around the country.
Julefest, however, is a month-long celebration full of holiday cheers. You can take part in parades, a tree light ceremony, music + light shows, candlelight tours, and all things festive.
Check out Nearby OstrichLand USA
From the 101 freeway to Solvang, you will undoubtedly pass by OstrichLand USA. You might want to add a stop to your list of Solvang things to do.
This quirky spot offers the opportunity to feed these animals, take photos, and soak up this unique experience in Santa Barbara County!
Just note that ostriches can be mean and I know of someone’s child that was bitten. If you are cautious it can be one of the most entertaining things to do in Solvang with family.
Where to Stay in Solvang
If you are also visiting Santa Barbara, you might prefer to stay at one the the best Santa Barbara boutique hotels and do a day trip to Solvang.
Or if you are looking for a wine country weekend or visiting Solvang on a California Road Trip, here are the best places to stay in Solvang for every budget.
Best Hotels in Solvang
- The Landsby (9.1) – spacious rooms with stylish decor, fantastic restaurant, convenient location in town
- Hotel Ynez (9) – a new boutique hotel on a stunning property with a pool, fire pits, cozy sitting areas and E-bikes.
- The Winston Solvang (8.8) – large rooms and suites with cool decor in the center of town. Contactless check in/out.
Best Places to Stay in Solvang for Families
- WorldMark Solvang (9.1) – studios and 1-2 bedrooms with kitchens, outdoor pool, gym, and walking distance to town.
- Hotel Corque (9.2) – affordable spacious rooms, outdoor pool, great restaurant, 5-minute walk to town (8.2)
- Solvang Alisal Vacation Cottages (9.6) – cute little one-bedroom cottages with a kitchen and living room with a pull-out sofa.
Final Thoughts About the Best Solvang Attractions
Solvang is one of the most unique towns in California. With its Danish heritage, cultural experiences, and not-so-typical attractions, a Solvang day trip is a must!