20220326_123430Solvang town center (March 2022)

Solvang means “sunny field” in Danish, and this small town in central California certainly pays tribute to its Danish history. Much of the town is decked out in quaint, half-timbered buildings reminiscent of the Nordic country, and it’s a popular tourist stop for those on their way up and down the California coast– even Danish tourists (including Prince Henrik) have visited before!

Although the town was first established by the Spanish in 1804 for its missions, a group of Danish-Americans came over in 1911 and bought the land as means of building a Danish community to stave off the Midwestern winters they were originally from. The community grew throughout the 20th century and to this day remains a huge tourist attraction to check out for its Danish architecture, customs, even cuisine. After all, it isn’t called “Little Copenhagen” for nothing!

My dad and I visited Solvang on our road trip last March along the central California coast. After our stop in Santa Barbara, we then drove 34 miles/55 kilometers northwest, and we spent part of the afternoon wandering the small Danish town. Compared to the dreary (and drizzly) morning we had in Santa Barbara, Solvang turned out to be very sunny and warm, which was a lovely surprise!

I’d gone to Solvang before when I was younger, the most recent being back in 2013 when I was still in university. The town had always been a stop my family and I took whenever we had our trips to central California, and we would stop to spend a couple of hours strolling the streets, checking out the windmill replicas, and having a Danish pastry (or two). This visit wasn’t any different, as we checked out the usual haunts after nearly a decade of not visiting.

We first stopped at the Mission Santa Inés, our second mission visit after Santa Barbara’s. Founded in 1804, Mission Santa Inés is one of the best well-preserved missions that dot the California coastline, as it’s under constant repair and restoration to keep it pristine. It costs $5 USD to go inside, and I spent some time going from room to room, exhibit to exhibit, checking out the history of the mission and how the Franciscan order interacted with the Native Americans who lived in the area then. The mission was smaller than that of Santa Barbara’s, but still lovely to visit– interestingly, I’d never visited Mission Santa Inés during my previous visits to Solvang, but this time, I’m glad I stopped by.

20220326_122433Mission Santa Inés

It was then a matter of heading into the town center to stroll its streets and see the number of windmill replicas (reported to be six) and otherwise window-shop its boutiques and patisseries. Unlike previous visits, we didn’t stop for lunch, but rather simply got some Danish pastries to enjoy– this time, we opted for some decadent pistachio squares and the famed Butter Ring, which is an alternate take on the Danish sosterkage (“Sister’s Cake”) that’s heavy with frangipane, icing sugar, and of course, butter. We enjoyed our pistachio squares outside on the terrace as a sort of afternoon tea, and we took the Butter Ring to-go: it served as our breakfast– even lunch!– during the rest of our trip in central California.

20220326_124635Pistachio squares

20220326_192017Butter ring

We made a brief last stop at the Little Mermaid statue replica for some photos. Although Solvang’s is smaller than the one docked in Copenhagen, it does the trick for getting close to it and admiring its ties to the famed Hans Christian Andersen tale. The town was super packed by the time we left, and we were happy to have revisited yet also avoid the crowds before they got worse.

20220326_130246Little Mermaid statue replica

More of my birthday adventures from last year to come soon. Until then! 🙂

— Rebecca


37 thoughts on “Destination: Solvang, California

  1. There’s even the Little Mermaid replica. How amazing is that! I grew up reading fairy tales based on folklore written by Hans Christian Andersen, and to this day, he still is one of my favourite writers, so a visit to Solvang would bring me great joy. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I have to agree with you, Rebecca. His assorted short stories, while wonderful, have some of the most unbelievably slack-jaw-inducing downer endings in the history of short stories.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Having been to Copenhagen way back when and seen the Little Mermaid, I can confirm that their replica is a decent one. A cute place Rebecca with an interesting history. I think I’d go for the pistachio squares and butter rings alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have heard about Solvang a lot and would be very curious to check it out – though I couldn’t compare it to Copenhagen! It seems very cute and perfect for an afternoon stroll! And those pistachio square sound delicious!

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