In the mood for some Californian sunshine and good wine? Head down to Santa Barbara County in Central California and the charming city of Solvang. Nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang boasts a rich Danish heritage and world-renowned wineries. From urban parks to art galleries, there are plenty of fun things to do in Solvang, CA.
On arrival, you could be mistaken for being in Denmark rather than Central Cali! Established in 1911 by a group of Danish-Americans, Solvang looks like a Danish town. Explore the town’s culture and history at the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art. Marvel at the quaint windmill and tuck into delicious Danish Danishes at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery.
Ready to plan the perfect Central Californian vacation? Check out this complete guide to the best places to visit in Solvang, CA, and prepare to experience some unforgettable memories!
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Nojoqui Falls Park
Strap on those hiking boots and explore Nojoqui Falls Park. Tucked in the foothills of Solvang, Nojoqui Falls Park is home to the 80-foot Nojoqui Falls waterfall. It’s an easy hike to the cascade, ascending 175 feet up a shaded canyon full of lush greenery.
Pack a picnic on your visit to Nojoqui Falls Park and find a peaceful spot to relax after your hike. Barbecue pits around the park are perfect for toasting marshmallows and s’mores. The kids can enjoy a few games of baseball on the ball fields. Fido doesn’t have to miss out, either; dogs are allowed in the park on a leash!
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
If you love old motorcycles, then a visit to the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is a must. Owned by a local retiree Virgil Elings, this fun museum boasts an incredible collection of rare and vintage motorbikes.
Based in the old Solvang Designer Outlet Center, the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum has some amazing exhibits. Wander around the gallery and marvel at the collection that took Elings 20 years to build. See British, Japanese, European, and American racing bikes from the 1900s. Admire elegant Triumphs and powerful Ducatis and learn more about Gilera and Velocette.
The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is open on weekends and by appointment mid-week.
If you’re heading to Solvang in the summer, catch a movie under the night sky at Solvang Park. Located on the corner of Mission Drive, Solvang Park is a fantastic spot for picnics. It’s also where Danish Days are celebrated with festivals in September and Winterfest in December.
Escape the hustle and bustle of shopping and sightseeing and spend a few hours relaxing surrounded by beautiful landscapes. Free movies are played for the public on Friday evenings in Solvang Park during the summer.
Sunny Fields Park
Take a step back in time to the land of Danish Vikings at Sunny Fields Park. The kids will love this family-friendly park, where a huge, Danish-style wooden castle playground takes center stage. Danish heritage abounds with a wooden Viking ship, a gingerbread house, and several windmills.
Bridges, monkey bars, tire swings, and a rock-climbing wall will keep the kids occupied at Sunny Fields Park. Tiny tots can play safely in an enclosed area with playhouses and a wagon.
A shaded puppet theater puts on shows for all ages throughout the day. Or find endless fun by challenging your friends and family on the baseball diamond or volleyball court. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch at one of the picnic shelters in the park.
Hans Christian Andersen Park
We all know and love the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, from “The Little Mermaid” to “The Princess and the Pea.” Take a trip back to your childhood at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and explore his famous works.
Located on the upper level of the Book Loft Building in Solvang Village, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is dedicated to Andersen’s life and works. Wonderful exhibits show his early childhood home and characters from his books.
Take a guided tour and learn how the unrequited love he had for “the Swedish Nightingale” influenced his greatest works. Kids can meet his famous characters at Hans Christian Anderson festivals held throughout the year.
Elverhøj Museum of History & Art
Soak up some Danish culture and explore Solvang’s rich history at the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art. The community-based museum is housed in a beautiful Scandinavian-style building that was once the home of the famous artist Viggo Brandt-Erichsen. Built by hand, the building is remarkable with its hand-painted panels and intricate wrought ironwork.
Vibrant exhibits at the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art present the Danish-American pioneering spirit that founded Solvang. Learn about the city’s history and how a group of Danish-Americans established it. Explore the colorful culture and rich heritage of Denmark through some fantastic displays. Join an arts and crafts workshop and learn how to work wood like the Danes.
Old Mission Santa Ines
Boasting breathtaking views over the Santa Ynez River Valley, the historic Old Mission Santa Ines is an important part of Solvang’s history. It was one of several missions built by Spanish Franciscan priests in the early 1800s. Founded in 1804 by Father Estevan Tapis, the Old Mission Santa Ines was the first European settlement in the valley.
Explore the beautifully restored building that has suffered a myriad of disasters over the past 210 years. Marvel at the amazing collection of rare art, artifacts, manuscripts, and vestments on display in the church. Enjoy a mission tour or join a mass with the mission’s parish. Take a stroll around the church gardens and take in the incredible views.
Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery
In the mood for a classy Cab Franc or a magical Merlot? Head to Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery for a tasting and stock up on some fantastic wines. Set on Alamo Pintado Road, Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery is famous for its award-winning red wines.
The wine estate is named for the game of blackjack that owner Roger Wisted won, enabling him to pursue his dream of making wine. The first vintage was produced in 1997—and he hasn’t looked back since.
Sample some of Blackjack Ranch’s fine wines in the California-rustic style tasting room. The room has a bar built from a salvaged bowling alley lane from the old Solvang Bowling Alley. There’s also a temperature-controlled wine cellar housing 60-year-old wines from France and California.
Feed the largest bird on the planet at OstrichLand USA. This popular attraction in Buellton is home to around 100 ostriches and emus from Africa and Australia, respectively. Enjoy the chance to meet these unusual birds and feed them by hand!
Just a short drive from Solvang, OstrichLand USA promises an unforgettable visit for the whole family. Meet the farm’s residents and learn all about the birds, what they eat and how they breed. Watch the odd-looking birds’ antics and how they interact with each other.
Want to see baby emus and ostriches? Head to OstrichLand USA to meet the fluffy hatchlings born at the farm during the spring and summer. Buy some beautiful souvenirs for friends and family at the gift shop on your way out.
Solvang Trolley & Carriage Tours
Take a step back in time and explore Solvang on a traditional Danish horse-drawn trolley ride. Solvang Trolley & Carriage Tours trundle through the town streets pulled by two teams of beautiful Belgian horses.
The owners of the horse-drawn trolley, the Orana family, will take you on a one-of-a-kind tour of Solvang. Dressed up in traditional Danish attire, they’ll share their passion and the town’s heritage and regale you with wonderful stories.
Learn about its rich history and see some enchanting Danish architecture along the way. Don’t forget to give your faithful horses a sweet treat at the end of the trip!
It’s never too early to do some Christmas shopping, and Jule Hus in the heart of Solvang is the perfect place to do it! Celebrating Christmas all year, Jule Hus is a traditional Danish store that sells beautiful Old-World decorations and other Yuletide gifts. Sparkling lights create fun, festive cheer that’ll really put you in the mood to shop!
Wander around Jule Hus and marvel at the stunning Scandinavian ornaments and gifts. From Danish Nissers to German wood Nutcrackers, you’re bound to find something unique at this store.
The gorgeous glass-blown ornaments will brighten up any Christmas tree, while Kuhn and Wendt angels and handcrafted nativity scenes will ensure you won’t go home empty-handed.
Buttonwood Farm Winery
Time for another glass of vino! Overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley, Buttonwood Farm Winery is a spectacular 39-acre vineyard with beautiful valley views. Founded by Betty Williams as a working farm, Buttonwood Farm Winery produces an array of limited-release whites and reds.
Visit the farm for some wine tasting and sip on limited-release Grenache Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Relax in the intimate wine-tasting room in the heart of a peach orchard and journey to the hills of Bordeaux.
Enjoy a picnic on the enchanting grounds while you sample some more wine. Take a stroll around the fruit orchards, fragrant flower gardens, and vegetable crops surrounding the vineyards.
Fondly known as the Danish capital of California, Solvang is home to all things Danish, including six windmills. The Solvang Windmill is one of six windmills in Solvang that are now renowned landmarks of the town.
Four of the six windmills were built by the architectural father of Solvang, Ferdinand Sorensen. Head to downtown Solvang to see them, including the Solvang Windmill on Alisal Road.
Nearby is the replica famous Rundetaarn (Round Tower) of Copenhagen. The windmills house businesses, so, unfortunately, can only be admired from afar. Even though the windmills are not functional, they add an old-world charm to Solvang.
Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
Tuck into mouthwatering Danish pastries and cakes at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery. Founded by third-generation master baker Bent Olsen, the bakery is Solvang’s go-to spot for traditional sweet treats and great coffee. The award-winning bakery is on Mission Drive and should be your first stop of the day for breakfast.
Using his great-grandfather’s original Danish recipes, Bent Olsen creates an array of European delights. Start the day with an authentic RundsTykker Danish continental breakfast. Then stock up Danish custard kringle, butter rings, almond tarts, and Scandinavian dark limpa bread. If you’re celebrating a birthday, order a Kransekrage (almond ring cake) for something really special.
If you love a good French Rhône wine, then Rideau Vineyard is the place to go. Founded by Iris Rideau in 1997, the award-winning winery is dedicated entirely to Rhône grape varietals. One of the most popular things to do in Solvang, CA, is to take a drive along Alamo Pintado Road to the beautiful estate for a one-of-a-kind tasting of some superb red wines.
The Rideau Vineyard estate is surrounded by spectacular landscapes of manicured gardens and majestic oak trees; it’s definitely worth a stroll around.
In addition to sampling the winery’s top wines, you can also enjoy Creole-inspired dinners paired with the estate’s Rhône varietals. Make sure to stock up on some wine before you leave, as the wines are not available in stores.
Horse lovers will delight in this amazing ranch that breeds show-quality miniature horses. Nestled in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley, Quicksilver Ranch is fondly known as the “Kentucky of the West.” Owned by Aleck and Louise Stribling, the ranch is home to gorgeous miniature horses that will steal your heart.
Surrounded by majestic oak trees and rolling hills, the Quicksilver Ranch is a wonderful place to visit for the day. Meet the tiny residents who are gentle and good-natured and pet and feed them.
If you want to see even tinier foals, visit the ranch in June when the babies are born. These little gems make great pets, too!
Solvang Village Square
Stroll around the beating heart of Solvang and soak up the Danish culture and heritage that gives the town its unique character. Solvang Village Square is lined with quaint Danish-style buildings that house boutique shops, cafés, gift stores, and restaurants.
Shop until you drop at the high-end boutiques that sell European imports and explore the art galleries. Sample some of the region’s finest wines at one of the many little wine shops selling local wines. Tuck into mouthwatering Danish pastries and Scandinavian treats. Watch out for special events that take place in the square year-round.