20 Things To Do In Solvang

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Its Danish-inspired architecture, old-world charm and unique history puts Solvang right up there as a pretty unique place to visit in California. The city was settled by Danish immigrants fleeing the cold Midwest during the early 20th century, who brought with them their traditional cultures, customs and building styles.

Solvang started taking on its picture-perfect Danish appearance during the 1940s. Today, virtually all buildings and attractions in the town are Danish-themed, providing Solvang with a vibe that makes it almost too perfect to be real. Here are the top things to do in Solvang. 

Solvang, California

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Top Tours

solvang
Discovering a little piece of Denmark in California is one of the things to do in Solvang that will stick in your mind.

20 Things To Do In Solvang

1- Shop For Danish Items at The Copenhagen House

The Copenhagen House is one of the best places to shop for contemporary Danish designs and items such as jewellery, furniture, décor pieces and dining sets.

Housed inside the old Santa Ynez Valley bank building, the Copenhagen House was established by Danes to bring authentic Danish products to the people of Danish-themed Solvang.

The Copenhagen House is much more than just a shopping venue, billing itself as an entire Danish experience thanks to its Copenhagen Airport-inspired interior, 10-foot-tall (3 m) wooden stature of mythical Dane Holger Danske, and its several rotating art exhibitions.

The Copenhagen House is at 1660 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

Recommended tour: Solvang City Self Guided Audio Tour

2- Visit Ostrichland USA

Ostrichland USA is a unique outdoor attraction in the Santa Ynez Valley that specialises in educating visitors about all there is to know about ostriches, the world’s largest bird species.

The centre covers an area of more than 33 acres (13 ha) that’s inhabited by more than 100 ostriches and emus.

There’s also a shop on site where you can buy unique gifts, ostrich products and decorative ostrich eggs.

Ostrichland USA is 2.5 miles (4 km) from downtown Solvang at 610 E Hwy 246, Solvang, CA 93463.

3- Tour the Hans Christian Andersen Museum

Hans Christian Andersen was a 19th-century Danish author who was famous for his fairy tales such as “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Little Mermaid”.

You can learn more about the author’s life, works and cultural impact through the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which is housed inside a small space above the Book Loft, an independent bookstore in downtown Solvang.

Despite Andersen never setting foot in Solvang, the museum remains among the most popular places to visit in the town.

It fits with Solvang’s rich Danish roots and is free to visit. 

The Hans Christian Andersen Museum is at 1680 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

Recommended tour: Solvang Showdown Scavenger Hunt

4- Explore the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

With an expanding collection of vintage motorcycles and two-wheeled racing machines from around the world, the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is the place to go if you’re interested in automotive and racing history.

The museum was opened in 2000 by local motorcycle collector Virgil Elings and showcases some 95 unique motorcycles that you can examine up close.

Among the museum’s collection are rare racing machines such as the Vincent Grey Flash and the Britton V1000, as well as a supercharged version of the iconic British-built Vincent Black Lightning.

The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is at 320 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463.

5- Learn About Traditional Danish Art at the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art

Dedicated to celebrating and preserving Solvang’s Danish roots, culture and history, the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art is one of the few museums outside Denmark solely focused on exhibiting Danish art and culture.

The venue first opened in 1988 and is housed inside the former home of renowned artist Viggo Brandt-Erichsen and his wife, Martha Mott.

The museum hosts workshops, exhibitions and art classes throughout the year and features an extensive art collection that include everything from photographs to displays depicting wooden clog making and lace-making.

The Elverhøj Museum of History & Art is 1624 Elverhoy Way, Solvang, CA 93463.

6- Go Hiking In Nojoqui Falls Park

Home to the popular Nojoqui Falls and its trailhead, the Nojoqui Falls Park is a quiet and scenic outdoor attraction near downtown Solvang that’s suitable for hiking, picnicking or snapping some amazing photographs.

The park lies about seven miles (11 km) outside Solvang and covers an area of about 85 acres (34 ha), and is free to the public.

Nojoqui Falls Park has spectacular vantage points of the 100-foot (30 m) waterfall, a range of hiking trails, picnic areas, BBQ’s and playgrounds.

Nojoqui Falls Park is at 3250 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463.

7- Sample Sweet Treats at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery

Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery in downtown Solvang has been serving up traditional Danish sweet treats and pastries made in-house for more than 50 years.

Established by Bent Olsen and his wife Susy in 1970, the bakery is still owned and operated by the Olsens, who delight locals and visitors with their daily batches of freshly baked Custard Kringle, Vaniljekranse and Butter Rings.

If you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth or in the mood to try an authentic RundsTykker Danish Continental Breakfast, Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery has you covered.

Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery is at 1529 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

8- Hop Aboard a Trolley and Carriage Tour

The most unique way to explore downtown Solvang is from aboard a Solvang Trolley and Carriage Tour, which uses a custom-made horse-drawn carriage called the “Honen” to take visitors on sightseeing tours of this charming Californian town.

Operated by the Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company, the “Honen” (which means ‘the hen’ in Danish) was donated to the town by H.H.H. Rasmussen in 1973 and is pulled exclusively by a pair of Belgian Draft Horses.

Tours include a narrative of downtown Solvang’s attractions that is an interesting history lesson while taking in the sights and soaking up the atmosphere of this Danish-themed town.

9- Explore the Old Mission Santa Inés

Cloudy Day At Santa Ines Mission California
Visiting the Santa Ines Mission is one of the iconic things to do in Solvang.

Established by Father Estevan Tapis in 1806, the Old Mission Santa Inés is one of 21 missions built in California by Spanish Franciscan priests between 1769 and 1836, and is the oldest European settlement in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The mission is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places and is a designated US National Historic Landmark and California State Landmark, making it one of Solvang’s most significant cultural landmarks.

Situated in the heart of downtown Solvang, the mission stands out among the town’s other Danish-inspired attractions and structures, treating visitors to a beautifully landscaped exterior and a historic interior to savour.

The Old Mission Santa Inés is at 1760 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

10- Spend an Afternoon Inside the Hans Christian Andersen Park

Solvang’s Hans Christian Andersen Park is a popular urban outdoor recreation space situated in the heart of downtown with verdant oak trees and playgrounds. 

You’re greeted by a colourful archway designed to look like a typical castle in a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, followed by a series of interconnected pathways and trails that lead you to the park’s different attractions.

Free to visit and ideal for an afternoon stroll or a leisurely picnic, the park even comes complete with a rock climbing wall and access to several downtown Solvang attractions.

The Hans Christian Andersen Park is at 633 Chalk Hill Rd, Solvang, CA 93463.

11- Tour the The Wildling Museum

Combining the beauty of art and nature into one unique venue, the Wildling Museum showcases the rugged natural beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley through several art mediums including photographs, paintings and portraits.

The museum/gallery first opened in 2000 and was initially in Los Olivos some five miles (8 km) outside Solvang before making the Danish-themed town its permanent home from 2013. 

The museum features a couple of permanent and rotating exhibits throughout the two-story venue and has showcased works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Carl Oscar Borg and Ansel Adams.

The Wildling Museum is at 1511-B Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

12- Catch a Live Show at the Solvang Festival Theater

The Solvang Festival Theater is a community theatrical venue that has a mission to promote the local performing arts scene and showcase local talent through a variety of productions.

The outdoor theatre hosts concerts, plays and live shows throughout the year and is capable of seating up to 700 people at a time. 

The only venue of its kind along California’s Central Coast, the Solvang Festival Theater is a popular attraction in the town during summertime and is steeped in Danish charm and culture.

The Solvang Festival Theater is at 420 2nd St, Solvang, CA 93463.

13- Admire Solvang’s Danish Architecture

Faux Windmill In Solvang, CA
Exploring the town on foot (you’ll love the windmill) is one of the things to do in Solvang CA.

Solvang is best known for its unique Danish architecture, which you will notice as soon as you arrive in this one-of-a-kind California town.

The town’s first Danish-inspired dwelling appeared in 1947 following an influx of Danish-decent arrivals who fled to the West Coast to escape the harsh winters of the Midwest, and today, virtually everything in Solvang is Danish-themed.

Often dubbed “The Danish Capital of America”, downtown Solvang’s Danish-inspired buildings create a fairy tale setting and atmosphere that’s enchanting. 

14- See The Little Mermaid Fountain

Situated in downtown Solvang’s Denmarket Square, The Little Mermaid Fountain is a half-size replica of the original Little Mermaid Statue in Denmark’s Copenhagen.

Solvang’s half-sized version was gifted to the town in 1976 by Earl Peterson and his wife, Dolores, and installed at its current location in Denmarket Square that year.

Located beside a small fountain and a reflecting pool, Solvang’s Little Mermaid Statue allows you to get a glimpse of the real deal up close without having to travel all the way to Denmark’s capital. 

The Little Mermaid Fountain is at 1693 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

15- Go Ornament Shopping In July at the Jule Hus

The Jule Hus in downtown Solvang is a year-round Christmas gift store selling festive items and decorations inspired by the traditional European Christmas shops and markets.

Jule Hus, which means “Christmas House” in Danish, specialises in typical European festive décor pieces and ornaments such as nutcrackers, nativity collections and eye-catching figurines.

Housed inside one of Solvang’s many Danish-themed buildings, Jule Hus is a favourite spot town and has a year-round festive spirit.

The Jule Hus is at 1580 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

16- Visit the Solvang Amber Museum

Housed within the Copenhagen House, itself a fascinating attraction, the Solvang Amber Museum is among the more recent additions to the town’s attractions worth visiting.

The museum became the Solvang Amber & Viking Museum in 2022 when the Amber Museum’s collection combined with newly acquired Viking artefacts, educating visitors about how Vikings used amber beads to trade from as early as the Iron Age.

Some of the Solvang Amber Museum’s exhibits date back more than 30 million years and include authentic Viking swords, axes and spears acquired from auction houses around the world.

The Solvang Amber Museum is at 1660 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

17- Go Wine Tasting at Rusack Vineyards

Bunches Of Purple Grapes On The Vine In Solvang, California
Going on a winery tour is one of the best things to do in Solvang.

Rusack Vineyards is a boutique winery situated just outside downtown Solvang in Ballard Canyon.

It provides visitors with a world-class vineyard experience comparable to wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys

The winery began producing its wine varieties in 1995 and today spans an area of roughly 48 acres (19 ha), 17 acres (7 ha) of which is planted with grapevines.

Sample Syrah, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc wines at the on-site tasting room which overlooks the scenic, oak-tree laden winery.

Rusack Vineyards is at 1819 Ballard Canyon Rd, Solvang, CA 93463.

Recommended tours:

18- Stroll Through Solvang Park

Although not the town’s biggest park, Solvang Park is certainly the most centrally situated right next door to the Solvang Visitor Center and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.

Solvang Park hosts community gatherings and special events throughout the year, with some of the most popular being Winterfest, Danish Days and Free Friday Night Movies.

Free to visit and doubling as the centre of downtown Solvang, Solvang Park is accessible, beautifully landscaped and decorated with a gingerbread house, a shaded puppet theatre and a Viking ship.

Solvang Park is at 1630 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463.

19- See Miniature Horses at the Quicksilver Ranch

The Quicksilver Ranch, or the Quicksilver Ranch Miniature Ranch as it’s also sometimes called, is a pretty unique attraction that’s home to several miniature horses.

Standing no more than 34 inches (86 cm) tall, miniature horses are an entirely different horse breed altogether and should not to be confused with ponies or other dwarf breeds.

Many of Quicksilver Ranch’s miniature horses are smaller than larger dog breeds, making these adorable animals quite a sight to behold when visiting the region.

The Quicksilver Ranch is at 1555 Alamo Pintado Rd, Solvang, CA 93463.

20- Plan a Day Trip to Santa Barbara

Situated just 33 miles (53 km) from ritzy Santa Barbara, Solvang is the ideal launchpad from which to explore all the sights, attractions and stunning scenery there is to see in one of the most famous destinations along the West Coast.

Santa Barbara is renowned for its excellent arts scene and top-notch culinary options, as well as its thumping nightlife and beautiful beaches, making it a pretty exciting destination to plan a day trip to from more low-key Solvang.

Solvang’s proximity to what many dub “The American Riviera” make it possible to explore Santa Barbara on a budget, an enticing possibility when considering how pricey things can get in the popular coastal city.

Recommended tour: Pacific Coast Highway: a Smartphone Audio Tour between LA and Santa Maria

Old Belltower And Clock In Solvang CA
Checking out Danish architecture, such as the old belltower and clock, is one of the things to do in Solvang California.

For more California ideas, see:

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Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.