Solvang, two hours north of Los Angeles in the central coast, is known as “California’s Denmark” since 1911, yet modern changes are churning like a windmill.
Like a page from a Hans Christian Andersen story book, thatched roof buildings and flower-bordered sidewalks line the streets to the shops and restaurants. A newer and modern direction is taking shape while keeping the Danish themed community’s heritage alive.
A vibe has been in the air since world renowned and 12-time Grammy nominee jazz drummer Stix Hooper brought a new tune to town. With his love for Solvang, he produced a jazz festival from 2007-2009 in the outdoor Solvang Festival Theater downtown. Big named performers like Freddie Hubbard, Roy McCurdy and Patrice Rushen accompanied him, livening up the usually tranquil scene.
I asked Stix what drew him to Solvang. Stix told me when he was with the musical group that he founded, The Crusaders, he discovered Solvang while driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco and it reminded him of Denmark. Copenhagen, Denmark, especially, has hosted American jazz concerts, and for years Stix and his fellow jazz artists regularly performed there. Solvang gave him the inspiration to organize jazz festivals just a short distance from Los Angeles.
Stix produced a two-disc live compilation, “A Jazz Moment in Time:, during the 2007 Solvang Jazz Festival and it continues to sell well. The CD can be purchased at Rasmussen’s Solvang Gift Store in town.
Solvang’s inviting setting gave him the rest and relaxation he desired from years of working global gigs. He liked how walkable the small town is and the food and wine made it that much more attractive.
Solvang continues to be the perfect destination for R & R, bike riding, independent shops, dining and wine tasting. I can attest to that, since visiting the delightful town over many years, even buying my first pair of clogs there.
Where to Stay
The Landsby Hotel, located on the main street entering town, has sleek and modern Scandinavian designs with warm woods and free parking (a feature throughout the town). Onsite restaurant Mad & Vin serves California Central Coast cuisine for dinner and breakfast featuring fresh healthy selections. There’s a lively atmosphere in the comfortable lounge as people enjoy meeting friends and family for happy hour before attending weddings and other celebrations.
Where to Eat
A must to eat is an aebleskiver! Solvang Restaurant on Copenhagen Drive is known for making traditional Danish aebleskiver (round puffy pancake balls) served with fresh raspberry jam and topped with powdered sugar.
Owner Jeff Paaske is a master at making aebleskivers and has a very large pan sitting over an open flame which cooks the golf ball sized dough. The trick is turning each one at the right time like a conductor directing a symphony.
A fun fact, Solvang Restaurant was used for the restaurant breakfast scene in the Oscar-winning movie “Sideways”.
Solvang has eateries from fine dining to barbeque and many use local produce and products for their meals.
If you’re bringing your dog, head over to the Wandering Dog Wine Bar to drink local craft beers and wines, plus the ever-popular house made selection of ”shrubs”; refreshing vinegar-based drinks highlighted with fruits and mixers. Dogs, of course, drink water during the blind tastings of wines.
Wineries dot the surrounding pastoral Santa Ynez Valley, many situated close to Solvang. Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours visit various wineries in a luxury Mercedes van and allow plenty of time to sit in the breeze while enjoying local vintages such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay without having to drive.
Speaking of driving, you can go car-free with Amtrak train/connecting coach service to Solvang daily, making sure your getaway is all fun and no stress.
And don’t leave town without visiting the old-time candy store with handmade and hand packed chocolates at Ingebrog’s Chocolate shop in Solvang. It’s been in business over 50 years and the candies are deliciously rich and shipped around the world. All the candies tempted my eyes and I did eat a “few” before leaving town.
Visit www.SolvangUSA.com for a complete list of things to do and activities to suit everyone.
The Landsby Hotel
1576 Mission Dr
Solvang, Ca 93463
1672 Copenhagen Dr
Solvang, Ca 93463
Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours, Inc
Ingeborgs Danish Chocolates
1679 Copenhagen Dr.
Solvang, Ca. 93463
Disclaimer- I was a guest of the Solvang Visitors Bureau, however my opinions are my own.