Take this FTF family's advice on what you should see and where you should stay in the Danish-American community of Solvang , meaning “Sunny Fields” in Danish
Straight out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, Solvang is the “Danish Capital of America.” Designated a “Preserve America Community” by First Lady Michelle Obama, it sits at the crossroads of California’s southern central coast in the Santa Ynez Valley, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country. Since its inception in 1911, magic prevails in its quaint painted streets, tiled curio shops, and window-sill flower boxes. Fantasies appear from fanciful Little Mermaid statue (the original is by the water’s edge in Copenhagen), and the twinkling gaslit street lights that illuminate the town complete the enchantment.
Settle into one of the many family-friendly hotels in the area. The newly renovated Hotel Corque (800/624-5572) is a premier boutique hotel owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Spacious rooms and suites can easily accommodate up to a family of five, and amenities include a large outdoor pool, fitness center and complimentary continental breakfast. The Meadowlark Inn‘s (800/344-9792) cottages, many large enough to accommodate families of five, surround an expansive lawn. Amenities include a small pool, a picnic area under giant oak and redwood trees, and a complimentary continental breakfast. With a prior reservation, the Inn’s European hospitality also extends to well-behaved dogs.
All Around the Town
A delightful family weekend gets underway by taking in the beautiful Danish village onboard the Honen (replicas of Danish streetcars of the 1900’s) drawn by massive Belgian Draft Horses. For those who enjoymore of a workout, therea re wonderufl surry c-cov ered bikes that hold four to eigh passentgers at Surrey Cycle Rentals (805/688-0091).
Year-round outdoor family fun is popular at Solvang Park, Hans Christian Anderson Park, Solvang’s Skatepark for “boarders,” and the whimsical Sunny Fields Park.
If you’re here on a Wednesday afternoon, don’t miss the local Farmer’s Market selling farm-fresh produce, gorgeous cut flowers, plant and crafts. It takes place year-round between Mission and Copenhagen Drive on First Street.
Quicksilver Ranch (805/686-4002), a ranch of miniature horses, set on 20 lush acres of green pastures, is a state-of-the-art training and breeding facility. These horses are popular because of their gentleness and affectionate nature.
The Elverhoj Danish Heritage and Fine Arts Museum (805/686-1211) s devoted to the cultural heritage of Solvang and its early history, and the Hans Christian Anderson Museum features a large collection of the author’s books and art, with hundreds of first editions.
Ostrich Land (805/686-9696) stretches across 30 acres, and is home to the largest birds in the world. The ranch produces ostrich chicks through breeders, enormous ostrich eggs, unique leather, feathers and ostrich meat.
Old Mission Santa Ines (805/688-4815) is a National Historic Landmark, dedicated in 1804, as the 19th in the chain of California Missions. Located right outside downtown, this active parish church offers tours and features Spanish artifacts, arrowheads and pottery.
Cachuma Lake and Recreation Area
The jewel of the Santa Ynez Valley is beautiful Cachuma Lake, where year round, outstanding services and recreational activities abound. Fishing, boating, a nature center displaying plants, wild life and Native American artifacts are your gateway to fun. From March to October, don’t miss the “Wildlife Cruise,” to view deer, bobcats, resident and migratory birds (including the American Bald Eagle) in their natural habitat. Call Cachuma Lake Eagle Cruises at 805-686-5050 for information.
In summer, weekends are especially busy with patrons of PCPA Theaterfest (805/928-7311) which presents musicals and other plays in the 700-seat open-air Solvang Festival Theater (805/686-1789). For three days in mid-September (specific dates vary by year), Solvang celebrates The Danish Days Festival.
Family Dining and Shopping
Enjoy Solvang’s Heidelberg Inn (805/688-6213) on Copenhagen Drive for authentic German, Danish and American dishes, Greenhouse Cafe at Petersen Village (805/688-8408) for Danish and American food served in a garden athmosphere, and the Red Viking Restaurant (805/688-6610) on Copenhagen Drive that specializes in authentic Danish smorgasbord. The landmark Mustard Seed (805/688-1318) on Mission Drive, set in a house built in 1911, serves comfy home-style cooking.
Savor the aromas of aebleskivers, delicious Danish pancakes served with lingonberry jam, mouthwatering irresistible authentic Danish pastries and sweets from the village bakeries like Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, Mortensen’s Danish Baker and Danish Mill Bakery. Taste the fudge and candy that melts in your mouth and the yummy icecream from McConnell’s Ice Cream of Solvang on Mission Drive.
Enjoy browsing the more than 150 one-of-a-kind stores and boutiques selling clogs, handmade lace, classic toys, clothing and Danish novelties at at Petersen’s Village Square, Tivoli Square, King Atterdag Court and Copenhagen Square.
For the Adults
A romantic evening is yours in the Mirabelle Inn’s Restaurant, open Thursday through Sunday evenings. With European elegrance, Chef Mario Ramos presents his exquisite wine country cuisine, with awared wining wines and impeccable service. The Mirabelle Inn (800/786-7925)is a charming ten room boutique hotel
Adjacent to the Hotel Corque, celebrity Chef Bradly Ogden brings his culinary talent to his new signature restaurant and local hotspot Root 246 (805/688-9003)
The Oscar award winning Fox Searchlight 2004 film “Sideways” was shot around the valley, and still brings it worldwide attention. Los Olivos Cafe (805/688-7265) is where the cast ate and the film’s dinner scene was shot. The Sideways Dinner Menu that was served to the casat is offerreddaily from 5 to 9pm. It includes a glass of Los Olivos Cafe house Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, Butternut Squash salad, Cafe Salmon (served in the movide) or Cafe Pot Roast or Florentine Ravioli and topped with the Chocolate Scream, a homemade flourless chocolate cake, topped with homemade icecream and caramwel sauce. Wines enjoyed by the movi stars duirng their dinner are also available. In the Cafe’s adjoining space, The Wine Tasting Bar presents a selection of local and international wines by the glass and The Wine Merchant features over 500 local and international vintages and is the exclusive distributor of owner Sam Marmorstein’s Bernat Wine.
For lodging and further information contact The Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau (800/468-6765).
Photos by Mel Greenberg
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.