Get an authentic taste of Scandinavia by taking day trips or vacationing in Solvang—the best part is you don’t need to pass a security check at the airport! I love this little Danish town in Santa Barbara County, which is why I’m so excited to be sharing this guide of the best things to do in Solvang.
Solvang has a unique history—it’s known as “the Danish Capital of America.” It was established by Danish immigrants in the early 1900s and it’s only about two square miles. Cute and small.
From delicious Danish bakeries and wine tasting rooms to quaint museums and shops, Solvang wins over one million visitors per year.
I absolutely love it and recommend spending a few hours exploring the town! To help you plan your visit, I’ve put together this list of 17 fun things to do in Solvang.
17 Things to do in Solvang
1. Danish Bakeries
This one is at the top of my list because who doesn’t love Danish pastries?? Need I say more?
Going to Solvang and not indulging in pastries is like going to the ocean and not dipping your toes in the water. You won’t have any problem finding bakeries that serve up these Danish delicacies—the only problem might be choosing which one to try first.
Whether you’re a fan of the classic Danish roll or aableskivers (fried dough balls sprinkled with powdered sugar), you’ll definitely find the best in Solvang.
Whether you know a lot about Danish culture or not, you’ve most likely heard of Hans Christian Andersen. Best known as the author of the original Little Mermaid fairy tale, Andersen is Denmark’s most celebrated literary figure.
When Omied and I went to Copenhagen, we learned more about him and we saw the Little Mermaid statue (called Den Lille Havfrue).
While in downtown Solvang, you have to make a stop at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum located on the floor above a cozy book store called the Book Loft. It’s very small, so it doesn’t take long to browse through the collection of books and see the various displays that recount Andersen’s life and works.
Staying on the subject of Hans Christian Andersen, the park is another fun way to spend some time in Solvang. When you see the drive-through castle arch, you’ll know you’ve made it to the right place!
On the way, you’ll pass the Bethania Lutheran Church, which is also worth a quick stop. The large oak-filled park has plenty of green space and picnic tables to enjoy quality time outdoors—especially if you’re traveling with kids.
The park features a playground and a skate park that will keep the kids running and exploring. It’s a great way to keep them entertained while soaking in the warm California sunshine.
A visit to the Old Mission Santa Ines provides a fascinating glimpse into California’s history. It was established in 1804 by Franciscan missionaries to integrate the local Native American Chuman tribe of Santa Ynez Valley into Spanish life.
The Old Mission is one of 21 missions built in California and is one of the state’s oldest standing structures. It took many restorations to get the building up and running after years of neglect, but it now stands as an active church that holds weekly masses in English and Spanish.
Visitors can see the church, stroll the gardens and view important artwork from the mission period. As well as, manuscripts and the four bells on display at the museum—one of which dates back to 1804.
Who wouldn’t love a ride in a trolley? It’s so cute and a fun way to see Solvang’s best places and some neighboring Santa Ynez Valley highlights, so be sure to hitch a ride with the Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company.
Along the way, you’ll get interesting tidbits of Solvang’s history and local folklore.
To really sweeten the deal, you can enjoy a delicious ice cream or root beer float before your tour from their ice cream shop named the Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor.
Not in the mood for ice cream? Grab some homemade Solvang Trolley fudge for the road!
Spend a Sunday summer afternoon at the Solvang Festival Theater for their signature Jazz & Beyond Music in the Garden event.
You can also check their event calendar and see what other amazing performances are happening there throughout the year, which range from concerts to live theater.
As the only open-air performing arts center on the Central Coast, the Solvang Festival Theater has featured performances by a number of well-known artists and professionally produced plays and musicals.
7. Boutique Shopping
There are lots of charming things about Solvang, but one of the things that I appreciate is that this small town is full of one-of-kind boutiques that you won’t find anywhere else. There are literally over 100 boutiques ranging from art to antiques.
If you’re on the hunt for Danish souvenirs, you’ll definitely find them in Solvang! Downtown has plenty of local shops stocked with gifts and household items that come straight from the Danish motherland.
You can even get a custom Danish costume at Edna’s Dress Shop.
There’s also a popular antique mall called a Piece of the Past that features antique goods from over 28 dealers. No matter what you’re shopping for—books, dolls, dresses, jewelry, or music boxes—you’ll find a Solvang boutique shop for it!
This small but heart-warming museum is one of Solvang’s most precious gems. The Wildling Museum of Art & Nature was established on the belief that art can inspire the appreciation and conservation of wildlife and nature.
The museum has a small permanent collection on display that includes paintings and photography by influential nature artists, including an ongoing rotation of exhibits.
Their community events are super fun—they offer field trips, fun creative workshops, courses, and events for kids. It’s a cause you’ll feel good about supporting!
You don’t have to be a hard-core motorcycle enthusiast to appreciate the private collection of Santa Ynez Valley local, Virgil Elings.
There are over 95 rare and vintage motorcycles on display at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum ranging from 1910 to the present. Most are racing motorbikes but you’ll see a bit of everything from a wide range of brands including Ducati, BMW, Norton, Triumph, and more.
10. Elverhoj Museum
For a more in-depth look at the celebration of Solvang’s Danish roots and heritage, visit the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art. The 18th-century Danish Farmhouse-style building itself exudes warmth and charm, as it was originally a private home built by famous Danish artist, Viggo Brandt-Erichsen.
The museum hosts ongoing exhibitions—like the Viking exhibit—rotating exhibits, workshops, and children’s events throughout the year.
After a visit to the Elverhoj, you’ll have a new appreciation for the history of Solvang and the culture of Denmark!
Along Alamo Pintado Road, just north of Solvang, you’ll find the welcoming Blackjack Ranch Vineyards & Winery that’s open to visitors for all things wine.
At their vineyard, you’ll find merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah, and chardonnay grapes, so you can bet that they have some exquisite wine tastings to offer!
You can do a tasting in their California Rustic tasting room or outside in a canopied area with an outdoor bar and seating.
12. Rusack Vineyards
In the rolling hills in nearby Ballard Canyon, you’ll also find the idyllic Rusack Vineyards. Their mission statement says it all: to create handcrafted, world-class wines that reflect their love for the region.
The highlight is wine tasting out on their panoramic redwood tasting deck. You can take your time sipping on tasting flights of their award-winning wines while you soak in the view overlooking the vineyards and oak-dotted hills.
It’s a dreamy way to unwind and enjoy the scenery!
But really, why limit yourself to one or two of the most popular wineries in the Solvang area when you can tour them all? Book an exclusive or private tour with Solvang Wine Tours and let yourself be guided through the best of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Having a built-in designated driver and hands-on guide is really the best way to get the full wine experience, and this is a perfect chance to do it.
Whether it’s for a special occasion or just for a super fun day, a wine tasting tour is always a good idea!
14. Olive Oil Tasting
Wine and olive oil go hand-in-hand. A lot of wineries also have their own olive trees.
While we may all know about the many wine tasting opportunities in California, olive oil tastings often get overlooked. But they certainly shouldn’t be!
Sampling the tasty oil of the region is a fun way to spend your time in Central California and is one of the most unique and fun things to do in Solvang.
If you’re a big fan of olive oil, you’ll love the wide variety of oil to sample—from jalapeño to lemon infused.
Just six miles from Solvang is Nojoqui Falls Park, one of Santa Barbara County Parks. It’s the perfect spot to visit on your tour of the Solvang area if you’re up for some hiking or just a short walk to gaze at the lovely Nojoqui waterfall.
You can easily add this to the list of fun things to do with families in Solvang because the park also has a playground, plenty of picnic tables, and outdoor grills if you want to fire up the BBQ.
The trail to the falls is also very easy to access and easy to walk along, so you don’t have to worry if you’re a beginner.
16. OstrichLand USA
In case you didn’t know that there’s a place in the United States completely dedicated to ostriches, you do now!
Guests can interact with over 100 ostriches and emus that roam freely on the ranch at OstrichLand USA. Feel free to feed them or just sit back for some entertaining oversized bird watching.
It’s honestly a fun time for everyone and it’s guaranteed that you’ll get some pretty amazing photos with your new feathered friends!
17. Annual Events
There’s no denying that Solvang takes great pride in its heritage and community and hosts some super cool annual events to prove it. If you can fit your travel plans with any of these events, you’ll be happy you did!
In late September, there are Solvang Danish Days, which is their annual three-day Danish Heritage Festival. You’ll find parades, folk dancers, music, a Viking beer and wine garden, and axe throwing.
In October, you may be lucky enough to make it for the Solvang Grape Stomp, an annual celebration of the Santa Ynez Valley wine harvest. In addition to the traditional grape stomp, you’ll get the chance to taste from the area’s best wineries and savor local food.
Then in December, there’s Julefest, where the entire town of Solvang becomes the most “Chrismassy” town in the US. From the light-filled streets and merry decor, one visit to Solvang during this time of year is certain to get you in the holiday mood!
As you can see, for such a small Danish-American village in the middle of California, there’s a surprisingly wide variety of things to see and do in Solvang.
Whether you choose to make your visit a day trip from Santa Barbara—or anywhere in the Santa Ynez Valley—or a weekend getaway, you’ll be enchanted with this charming town.
You won’t be disappointed! If I missed anything or you decide to go tag me on Insta @wtfab!
Looking for more Central CA travel content? Explore and get inspired here.
The top attractions are:
– Old Mission Santa Ines
– Rusack Vineyards
– Hans Christian Andersen Park
– Nojoqui Falls Park
The best outdoor activities in Solvang are:
– Nojoqui Falls Park
-Hans Christian Andersen Park
– Solvang Park
Yes, Solvang is definitely worth visiting! There are so many fun activities and things to see in Solvang.