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Explore the Santa Ynez Valley

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Sideways in Solvang

Founded by Danish-American educators in 1911 and known as the "Danish Capital of America," Solvang offers year-round temperate weather in a charming pedestrian-friendly village. Solvang means "sunny field" in Danish and boasts an average of 340 days of sunshine annually. Danish architecture and thatched roofs, European-styled artisanship and traditional windmills are all beautifully arrayed for the visitor.

Stroll the quaint streets, sample authentic Danish pastries and cuisine, take in a performance under summer stars at the Festival Theater and shop at the more than 150 one-of-a-kind boutiques.

Solvang wine tasting mapWine Tasting and "Sideways" in Solvang!

There are more than a dozen wine tasting rooms in town, all within steps of each other. The Academy Award-winning movie "Sideways" was filmed here and highlights the region's wines. A map with complete listings of local tasting rooms is available free from the Solvang Visitor Center or www.SolvangUSA.com.

Visit our Wineries and Breweries page for a complete listing of wineries, wine tasting rooms, breweries, and wine tours in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Download the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tasting Map here.

Stroll the Streets of Solvang

Approximately four blocks by four blocks in size, Solvang is truly pedestrian-friendly with wide sidewalks and benches for restful viewing of the colorful village scene. Consider spending an hour or so seeking out the four windmills in the village and other landmarks along the way. It's an easy stroll and encompasses most of the town, passing by unique shops, bakeries, restaurants and wine tasting rooms.

Begin on the corner of Mission Drive (Highway 246) and Alisal Road at the 1/3-sized replica of the famed "Little Mermaid" sculpture (see "Andersen Celebrated" for more information). Turn south on Alisal Road and walk two blocks to the first windmill. Located above The Windmill Loft, the blades of this windmill cheerfully spin when there is a breeze. Behind the windmill is a small plaza, one of many hidden throughout town, and a 1/3-sized replica of the famous Rundetaarn (Round Tower). The original literally towers over Copenhagen, Denmark, built by King Christian IV in the 17th century. A plaque describes the rebus (word puzzle) that appears on the tower.

Continue south on Alisal Road and turn right (west) on Molle Way, which is called "The Alley" by locals. On the right at the next corner is King Christian Tower, another replica of a famous Copenhagen landmark. Four dragons entwine, representing the unity of the four Scandinavian countries. Turn right (north) on First Street for one block and turn left (west) on Copenhagen Drive for one block. Another windmill comes into view on the south side of the street at the corner of Second Street and Copenhagen. The Blue Windmill in Hamlet Square is now the site of the popular Heidelberg Inn, which offers outside dining on a patio beneath the windmill.

Further south on Second Street is the Solvang Festival Theater built in 1974; this lovely 700-seat outdoor theatre is partially visible from the street. It is the summer home of PCPA Theaterfest (Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts) professional company. Continue on Second Street, then turn left (west) on Elverhoy Way to discover the delightful Elverhøj Museum of History and Art, located in a beautifully restored Danish-style home (see "Step Back in Time" for more detail).

Retrace your steps and stroll west on Copenhagen Drive, passing shops and eateries. Look for the large red wooden clog - a Solvang landmark outside the Solvang Shoe Store (1663 Copenhagen Drive). Parents have been photographing their children in the clog for 40 years! Turn right (north) on Atterdag Road and one short block brings you to Mission Drive; cross and turn left (west). The next block brings a dramatic, lovely windmill, which actually forms a room in this building, home to the Solvang Brewing Company (1547 Mission Drive). The final windmill on this walking tour is a bit off the beaten track. Proceed west on Mission Drive, continue across Fifth Street for a few hundred yards and be rewarded with a view of the fourth windmill in town.

Ready for a respite? Take a minute and rest on the Sladerbænken or "Gossip Bench" in front of the Solvang Inn & Cottages (1518 Mission Drive). Danish ladies love to chat on similar benches across Denmark. Don't miss the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Solvang Park before passing experiencing more shops that are charming and returning to your starting point at the corner of Alisal and Mission Drive.

  • Nathalie's Doll House (1693 Copenhagen Drive) feels like an Old World toyshop and has enjoyable collectables, dolls and toys for boys and girls of all ages.
  • Royal Copenhagen Shop (1683 Copenhagen Drive) was Solvang's first Danish importer and offers unique gifts as well as contemporary housewares.
  • Ingeborg's Danish Chocolates (1679 Copenhagen Drive) are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2011.
  • Gerda's Iron Art Gift Shop (1676 Copenhagen Drive) showcases handcrafted wrought iron, brass, and copper, plus lace, collectibles and more.
  • Solvang Shoe Store (1663 Copenhagen Drive) specializes in name-brand shoes and traditional clogs; the giant clog out front has been the site of many a photograph for forty years!
  • Nordic Knives (1634-C Copenhagen Drive) is known worldwide to collectors and users of fine knives.
  • First Street Leather (1634 Copenhagen Drive) since 1972, has been the area's finest leather goods emporium including clothing, accessories, shoes, boots and hats.

Charming Galleries for Art & Antique Lovers

  • The Solvang Antique Center (486 First Street) houses dozens of exceptional dealers from around the world.
  • Pavlov Art Gallery (1608-C Copenhagen Drive) offers the acrylic, mixed media, watercolor and ink stylings of artist Chris Pavlov and associates.
  • Solvang Graphic Arts Gallery & Frame Shop (1693 Mission Drive) offers a wide variety of art.
  • Thomas Kinkade Gallery (1576 Mission Drive) - One of the most collected living artists in the world is showcased here - he's also painted several Solvang scenes.
  • Z Folio Gallery (1685 Copenhagen) presents passionate perfection in art, glass and jewelry design.

Authentic Danish Treats

  • Danish Mill Bakery (1682 Copenhagen Dr) is located in the middle of lively Copenhagen Drive. It also serves lunch; has a coffee shop and is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
  • Mortensen's (1588 Mission Drive) features authentic Danish pastry baked on the premises. Look for a full range of flaky pastries, butter cookies, bread, layer cakes and specialty tarts, which can be enjoyed on site or taken home to delight family and friends.
  • Olsen's Danish Village Bakery and Coffee Shop (1529 Mission Drive) specializes in traditional Kranskage, which are almond horn-shaped cookies, and freshly baked breads. Sunset Magazine named Olsen's one of the Best Bakeries in the West. Open in Solvang since 1970 and in Denmark since 1890.
  • The tempting Solvang Bakery (460 Alisal Road) offers everything from strudels and Danish, to bear claws, brownies, and is famous for holiday gingerbread houses shipped worldwide. A Gift and Home Store is located at the bakery's entrance.
  • Solvang Restaurant (1672 Copenhagen Drive) has a unique walk-up window offering round pancake-like Aebleskiver pastries served hot with raspberry jam and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Delicious Danish Dining

These eateries all offer traditional Danish dishes or smørgaasbords:
  • Bit O'Denmark - 473 Alisal Road
  • Greenhouse Café: A Nordic Bistro - 487 Atterdag Road
  • Little Mermaid Restaurant - 1546 Mission Drive
  • Paula's Pancake House - 1531 Mission Drive
  • Red Viking - 1684 Copenhagen Drive
  • Solvang Restaurant - 1672 Copenhagen Drive
  • Viking Garden - 446-C Alisal Road
Besides the acclaimed Danish baked treats, dessert offerings include numerous ice creameries in town: locally made Ice Cream & Yogurt Parlor (1588 Mission); Ingeborg's Danish Chocolates, which offers handmade chocolates and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor (1679 Copenhagen); or the delicious Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (1655 Copenhagen); Old Danish Food Farm (441 Alisal) offers fresh fudge, candy apples and several more.

There are also varieties of international dining options throughout the village.
  • Café Angelica (490 First Street) offers Mediterranean-style food in a charming bistro with patio dining
  • Cowboy Way BBQ - (485 Alisal Rd. #L2) offers succulent pork ribs, beef & chicken & fixings
  • Kabuki (443 Second Street) serves authentic Japanese cuisine and sushi in an intimate setting
  • Manny's (1693 Mission Drive) is a popular Mexican restaurant family owned-operated by 3 generations
  • Mirabelle Inn Restaurant- (409 First Street) - Gourmet wine country cuisine by Chef Norbert Shultz
  • Root 246 Restaurant by Chef Bradley Ogden - (420 Alisal Road at Hotel Corque)-exquisite, award-wining "farm-to-table" creative wine country cuisine
  • The Touch (1635 Mission Drive) is a Chinese restaurant with full bar and outdoor patio.

Step Back in Time - Spanish California and Early Solvang

Don't miss a visit to the lovely Old Mission Santa Inés (1760 Mission Drive) with its restored bell tower and sanctuary. Established in 1804 as the 19th California mission, it was famed as a center for the education of the local Chumash Indian population. (The Chumash are still a vital presence in the region - their reservation and casino are located a few miles down Mission Drive in Santa Ynez.) The Old Mission is still an active parish; the schedule of masses is posted in front of the chapel. A half-hour audio tour illustrates the interpretative displays of Chumash and Mission-era artifacts. There is a minimal charge to tour the mission, but you can stroll the peaceful gardens, lovingly tended for over two centuries, for free.

The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art (1624 Elverhoy Way), located in the former home of an artistic Danish family, was once the gathering place for local artists and writers. The building incorporates elements of Scandinavian architecture and showcases ornamental wrought ironwork, hand painted panels, a carved wooden front door and much more. Period rooms show the life of early Danish immigrants and display many of Denmark's traditional folk arts such as paper cutting, weaving, stitchery and lace making. Docents in authentic costumes are often on hand to demonstrate these hand crafts and provide personal tours of the museum and its Art Gallery. In the back house is a diorama of Solvang in the 1920s. The gift store offers unique handcrafted gifts. A donation is requested. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 1:00-4:00 pm.

Bethania Lutheran Church (603 Atterdag) is one of the finest examples of Danish architecture in Solvang and is open to the public. Services have been held here - originally only in Danish - since the church was completed in 1927. There is a finely carved wooden pulpit, altar and baptismal font, plus a Phelps pipe organ and lovely stained glass windows. However, the most fascinating feature is the ship hanging in the nave, a symbol of safe haven across the waters of life.