Solvang, meaning “sunny fields” in Danish, exudes just that feeling – sunshine, positive vibes and a Hans Christian Andersen setting of Danish delights – food, beer and entertainment, year-round. In fact, there’s so much fun to be had, you’ll need more than a day to explore the “Danish Capital of America” and that’s just what this article is about – discovering all that Solvang has to offer.
I’m writing this in November, though, just a week or so away from the big annual Solvang JuleFest, so we’re going to start out with what’s on this festive holiday before we look at the year-round offerings.
Solvang’s Danish-style holiday celebration is kicking off on November 24 this year, and will run through January 6 – an annual celebratory month of lights, holiday cheer, Christmas shopping and family fun, Danish style!
Before We Start, Mark Your Calendar For…
THE TREE LIGHTING on December 1 – 3 in downtown Solvang.
Get there at 5pm to grab a good spot to see the tree light up at around 6:30pm. For a true festive, family vibe, there’ll be dancers, musicians and other live entertainment.
THE SOLVANG JULEFEST PARADE on December 2, starting at 11am.
The 2023 theme is “My Favorite Christmas Movie.” Over 50 parade floats and 400+ costumed characters are expected to take part this year, among them cheery marching bands and horses. Santa Claus will be making a traditional appearance after the parade.
THE MAKER’S MARKET on December 6, from 5 pm – 7pm.
Taking inspiration from Europe’s open-air Christmas night markets, the Solvang Julefest Maker’s Market traditionally features a row of local artisans selling one-of-a-kind holiday gifts and treats in Solvang Park.
THE SOLVANG CHRISTMAS TREE BURN on January 5 at 5pm (weather permitting).
This one’s very European – you lit it up, now watch them burn to rid the town of evil spirits and welcome in a fresh start! The Santa Barbara County Fire Department will be on hand to keep everything safe and under control, and there will be live entertainment and refreshments on sale too.
What Else Is On At The Solvang JuleFest?
Throughout the Solvang JuleFest there will be a daily light and music show in Solvang Park for 10 minutes on the hour from 5pm – 9pm. Stick around – there are two different shows to enjoy: one at 5pm, 7pm, and 9pm, and the other at 6pm and 8pm.
You can also be a big kid with your children and go on the annual, city-wide hunt for the Nisser (Danish for “gnome”)! A group of naughty Nisser have hidden throughout Solvang, and it’s your job to track them down! Head to the Solvang Visitor Center for a list of clues to their hiding spots. When you find a Nisser, go back to the Visitor Center to claim your prize.
On Saturdays throughout December, Santa’s Village is open in Solvang Park. Take along your Christmas lists and read them out to Santa Claus in person, then get a free picture with the great man before he heads back to the North Pole! December 2: 2pm – 4pm, December 9, 16 and 23: 12pm – 4pm.
Enjoy a special candlelit tour through Solvang on December 8, 9, 15, 16, and December 18 – 23, starting at 5pm. Led by a festively costumed guide, you’ll get the chance to listen to traditional carols and learn about Danish traditions and some Solvang history. You’ll get an LED candle to hold during the tour. We recommend you book in advance.
Where Else Can I Experience European Christmas Festivals?
Ok, now I’ve got Christmas out of my system, let me show you all the other Danish magic Solvang has to offer – a truly unique town to explore, any time of year.
Visit The Solvang Museums
Whether you’re into art history, vikings, Hans Christian Andersen, motorcycles, native American heritage, oil memorabilia or amber (seen Jurassic Park? The amber museum here has pieces that are 80 million years old!), Solvang has something for you! Your first stop, though, should absolutely be the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art, totally devoted to Danish culture.
Drink Wine! Toast Your Good Health With Beer!
Enjoy a sampling of central coast wines at Solvang’s 19+ wine tasting rooms (we like The Good Life, especially when there’s live music), and discover wineries further afield in the Santa Ynez Valley. If you’re more into beer, there are plenty of beer houses and gardens to please in Solvang.
Chow Down On Some Authentic Danish Treats
Definitely worth your tummy time are the authentic Danish pastries – rolls, butter cookies, waffles, Aebleskivers and more – freshly made in Solvang’s world-famous bakeries (a whopping seven of them to choose from at our last count!). There are also numerous restaurants in town offering everything you could possibly want to dine on – not only Danish, but also Italian, Mexican, Asian and traditional American too! Our tip – don’t miss out on the Copenhagen Sausage Garden and be sure to buy some yummy fudge!
Shop For Authentic Gifts
Downtown Solvang has a delightful selection of one-of-a-kind, easy to access stores offering top service- from high-end boutiques selling European imports, antiques, art, clothing and accessories, to those selling everything you need for your garden, jewelry, home furnishings, beauty products and sweet treats, the likes of which you can only find in Denmark itself – like clogs and cuckoo clocks!
Catch A Show At The Theater
Solvang Festival Theater on 420 Second Street offers entertainment throughout the year, from rock, country and jazz concerts, to musical, theatrical, comedy and drama performances from June to September, a grand transformation into a now-legendary haunted house in October, and the Julefest Nativity Pageant in December.
Ride The Solvang Trolley
Part of the Solvang cultural heritage, since 1973, the Solvang Trolley, pulled by two draft horses, has been providing narrated tours of the Village of Solvang, Little Denmark – a real treat for families and friends, and a quaint way to enjoy the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.
Open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 12pm – 8pm. Hours may vary- call ahead to book: (805) 794-8958.
Take A Real Ghost Hunting Tour
For $55, take a 1.75-hour tour of old Solvang with an experienced local storyteller-ghost hunter weaving tales of evil deads and haunted buildings – it’s a nighttime adventure that’s perfect for believers and skeptics alike, and great fun for all the family!
Visit The Ostriches
Solvang boasts a 33-acre ostrich breeding farm with more than 100 birds, emus too! You can buy fresh ostrich eggs, meat, eggshell paintings and other cute souvenirs in their store.
Find it at 610 East Highway 246. Open 9am – Sunset. Call ahead to book your visit: (805) 686-9696.
Enjoy The Outdoors
From ATV, jeep and horseback tours of the scenic nature around the town to biking and hiking in the national forest or renting a boat to paddle across Lake Cachuma, Solvang’s surroundings have plenty to offer nature lovers!
Want To Stay A While?
Solvang has plenty of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets – from a luxury guest ranch resort and full-service hotels to bed and breakfasts. You’ll want to stay at least one night to catch everything the town has to offer!
While it’s famous for its Danish Christmas festival – the Solvang JuleFest – the town is equally worth your time and money at other times of year for its concerts, museums, restaurants, bakeries, beer and wine, shopping experience and authentic Danish vibe.
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the most up-to-date information, we always recommend you do your own research before you travel to a particular area or visit a specific destination, and check conditions with relevant official authorities. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!