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If you’re looking for a trip to Scandinavia without, well, a trip to Scandinavia, look no further than Solvang, a quaint Danish-themed town just north of Santa Barbara in California’s Santa Ynez Valley.
A giant windmill, located on Alisal Road, will probably be the first giveaway that you’ve made it to Solvang, a city founded in 1911 by a group of Danes seeking to create their own warm-weather community. Danish for “Sunny Field,” the name Solvang is apt: The city, home to just 5,245 residents, experiences mild, sunny temperatures all year long.
During a weekend road trip to Solvang with a girlfriend, I spent hours walking the streets of its downtown, marveling at Danish-inspired buildings (which are a far cry from the Spanish-style architecture abundant throughout Southern California, despite Solvang being home to Mission Santa Ines, one of the original 21 California Spanish Missions).
In addition to the photo-worthy windmill, Solvang visitors will likely spot horse-drawn carriages; a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower; boutique shops selling minimalist, Scandinavia-themed goods (our favorite was The Copenhagen House); a slew of Danish bakeries (pro trip: try the spherical Aebleskiver pastries); and more than 20 wine-tasting rooms.
Our top standouts, however, were a bit more unusual: Beef Jerky Experience, a shop selling every type of jerky imaginable (including crocodile and ostrich), and Solvang Olive Press, which features a wide variety of fresh olive oils and balsamic vinegars of all flavors.
Solvang is walkable, and much of the village can be explored in just a few hours. Although my friend and I only spent one day in Solvang, there are plenty of accommodation options for those who need a longer rest during on a coastal road trip. Most options are inns, lodges and ranches, but those looking for something more contemporary will likely be happy at The Landsby, a 41-room Scandinavian-inspired boutique hotel.
The DetailsSolvang USAwww.SolvangUSA.com