Today, I ventured into a little town that made me feel like I left the country. Solvang, California is located in Santa Barbara County and holds only 5,909 residents. Established in 1911 by three Danish men who all shared the same goal of creating a Danish town in America- oh yeah, did I mention it’s Danish?
This tiny town is head-to-toe Danish-themed- complete with multiple windmills. During my visit, I tried the food (a lot of it), searched the shops, and even fed some animals. It’s worth a stop whether you’re in the area or traveling from afar.
My first stop was to a bakery called Olsen’s. I walked in and asked, “What’s the most Danish thing I can get?” They recommended I try the Danish waffle. I was not disappointed. It was a flaky pastry on the outside sandwiched around a buttercream and raspberry filling.
They had a ton of bakeries on every street that all pretty much house the same treats, but I implore you to try Olsen’s. I know everyone can find a dessert for them with the plethora of options they had. My dad got a different pastry than mine, and it was just as good as mine- yes, I stole a bite.
My next goal was to walk around and get a feel for the town. It was amazing how much of the area was wholly themed. A lot of similar towns usually have one main street that is decked out, but Solvang focused their efforts on the entire city.
The architecture was my favorite part. The windmills, the brick buildings, and the enchanting archways all add to the small-Danish-town feel. It truly transports you right out of America and into Denmark.
The art plastered on various walls throughout the town was another big hit for me. It was, of course, Danish art. It included people in their iconic outfits and some more stylized art. I found some in a restaurant of a little fairy-like girl and a mermaid that were some of my favorites. Another was a Danish couple dancing together painted as a huge mural.
One of my favorite aspects of the town was the amazing shops laden throughout. They had a Christmas store, an “As Seen on Tv” store, and a whole row of shops that were “close-out” stores with everything massively discounted. They had a lot of more typical touristy shops, but these weird ones were much more fun.
We spent a while in the “As Seen on Tv” store looking at all of the strange inventions. A dog Snuggie, an object that put your socks on for you, and a magic kit that had on a note on it saying “Item Returned- they said all the pieces are here.” They even had a salt-gun used to shoot insects- like I said- strange.
Something to note is the town seemed relatively affordable. We bought two shirts for only a few bucks each. They even had free parking and free restrooms which can be hard to find in California.
Every year in September they host a Danish festival; if you’re interested in the culture that would definitely be the best time to visit!
For lunch, we went to the Solvang Restaurant- naturally. I got a ham and cheese croissant figuring, “you can’t mess that up.” They didn’t. It was probably the best sandwich I’ve ever had- not to be dramatic. My dad got a Danish sausage croissant, and his was equally as good. You’ve also got to try their most famous dish, Aebleskivers. It’s a little pancake ball thingy- hard to explain- but delicious.
The last place we went to was something we saw on the way in a couldn’t stop thinking about- an Ostrich farm. It only cost five dollars to enter, and another dollar to feed the ostriches.
This wasn’t your typical farm or petting zoo- these extremely tall and awkward animals would come right up to you and eat out of your hand. It’s also located out on a beautiful, green hillside which makes for some fantastic photos.
I would revisit Solvang. There’s a lot to do- but you can get it done in a few hours. This makes it the perfect spot for a day trip especially if you’re staying in or around Santa Barbara as this town is just 40 minutes away.
I encourage you to get out there and see what you can find in a tiny town- it may surprise you!