There’s a lot of fun things to do in California, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes you crave a getaway to somewhere completely different. Still, not all of us who are riddled with wanderlust have the luxury of taking off on a moment’s notice to sip Piña Coladas on the sandy shores of Puerto Rico or wisp away to Paris for a weekend of couture shopping and extravagance. One of my favorite getaways is a day trip to Solvang, CA!
Jobs, responsibilities, school, and life get in the way. An anecdote to my constant travel-sick blues lies in exploring nearby cities. I have found that plenty of interesting towns filled with character and quirk are just a stone’s throw away.
I was craving that European flavor though, and the satiety to my yearning came in the form of an adorable little Danish town 150 miles north of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara County, tucked cozily within the Santa Ynez Valley.
Solvang, or “Sunny Field,” aptly named after its acres of rolling hillside, vineyards and fields, was founded by Danes who migrated West, and has come to be known as “The Danish Capital of America.”
In 1911 Danish colonists settled here and brought with them their age-old Scandinavian traditions, customs, and windmills. Although the town attracts hordes of tourists daily, with a population of around 5,000 people, there is a resonant small-town vibe accentuated by the friendly locals and jovial atmosphere.
A day trip to Solvang, CA is a great way to take in the town’s Danish bakeries, souvenir shops, restaurants, and wine-tasting bars lining the main streets — which are appropriately named after Danish cities like Copenhagen and Atterdag.
How authentic is the Nordic heritage in Solvang? It’s hard to say without being a Dane, but the town succeeds in serving a slice of European lifestyle.
We spent a full day exploring Solvang and in the afternoon drove to the hot springs, which was really more like a lukewarm bath, and I found that the most enjoyable part was the hike into the springs.
There you have it! California isn’t an old state, but when you stumble on treasures like Solvang, you get to revel in centuries-old traditions. A day trip to Solvang is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the European side of California.
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