13 Awesome Things To Do In Solvang, California

If you’ve never heard of Solvang before, you might think it was a city overseas as opposed to one you could visit while on the west coast. As a matter of fact, the city serves as a Danish capital of California. It’s a must-do stop if you’re traveling along Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles. That’s how we got to experience it too. For the benefit of those of you who may want to explore that area, we’ve put together a list of some awesome things to do in Solvang!

Elverhoj Museum of History and ArtSolvang is home to a whole handful of exciting attractions, restaurants, and farms. If you’re traveling through the area on a day-trip or want to spend a whole week in the city, you can spend your time wandering between some of these exciting hot spots:

  1. Old Mission Sana Ines
  2. SolvangUSA
  3. Solvang Windmill
  4. Elverhoj Museum of History and Art
  5. Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
  6. Hans Christian Andersen Museum
  7. Wildling Museum
  8. Quicksilver Ranch
  9. Ostrich Land
  10. Clairmont Farms
  11. Flag is Up Farms
  12. Buttonwood Farm, Winery, and Vineyard
  13. Rideau Vineyards

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at these Solvang attractions to give you a better idea of how each can make your trip all the more exciting. As you learn more about each of these attractions, you may find that they sneak their way onto your vacation’s itinerary.

Why You Should Visit Solvang

Solvang, California sits at the heart of Santa Barbara County. It is a reasonably small town, home to a mere 5,245 locals as of 2010. The town itself was founded in 1911 and sprawls for 9,000 acres, ensuring that it takes up a sizeable chunk of the Ranch San Carlos de Jonata Mexican Land grant.

Why, though, is Solvang named the way it is? The city was founded by a group of Danes who, in the early 1900s, opted to settle the area. That’s why Solvang is now considered to be both the Danish heartland of California and the Danish Capital of America. When you drive through the city, you’ll be able to identify old-European architecture in the facades of all of the buildings you pass. If you keep a keen eye out, you’ll even be able to spot a replica of the Little Mermaid statue that’s become so famous in Copenhagen.

Unlike Copenhagen, the weather in Solvang reflects California’s overall dry heat. You’ll want to have short sleeves on hand for a daytime trip and a light jacket available for the area’s cooler evenings, especially in the late summer to early fall. Wintertime makes the area grow cool, with temperatures falling to the mid-50s, but you shouldn’t have to worry about any frosts nipping at your nose.

The beautiful weather combined with the surreal architecture serves to make Solvang especially appealing to visitors. Whether it’s the European flair or the down-home sensibilities of the area, visitors and locals alike can enjoy the sense of history that the whole city exudes.

Solvang Landmarks

When you first drive up to Solvang, you’ll be able to spot some of the city’s most telling landmarks. Visiting them up close, however, is an adventure all on its own.

Old Mission Sana Ines

The Old Mission Sana Ines is one of the oldest operating structures in Solvang. It was the 19th mission to be established by Franciscan Fathers in California, with the final number rounding out at 21. The mission was named after Saint Ines, a Roman. She had pledged herself to Jesus as a young girl and, in turn, refused to marry as she got older. When the son of a Roman governor proposed, she refused. This slight did not go over well, and Saint Ines was martyred for her chastity and her faith.

 Mission Santa Inés — in Solvang, Santa Barbara County, California

Nowadays, Old Mission Sana Ines serves several purposes. It still operates as a religious center on its appropriate days. It also, however, houses a museum full of the art and artifacts related to the mission’s long history. The museum was a late addition to the mission, appearing in 1947 after a significant earthquake. It was the brainchild of still-present Capuchin Franciscans and attracts as many history buffs as it does religious practitioners to the mission’s doorstep.

There are no opening or closing hours listed for the mission, and the building is free to enter (donations, however, are appreciated). If you’d like more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

SolvangUSA

Solvang is perhaps best known for its celebration of Danish culture. SolvangUSA embodies this celebration, serving as a shopping center and foodie paradise for those individuals coming to California to celebrate their roots. SolvangUSA is full to the brim with bakeries, wine tasting rooms, and houses of international cuisine for you to visit with your family or on our own.

If you’re more intrigued by the historical side of SolvangUSA, there are attractions waiting for you, too. You’ll be able to make your way through an authentic Danish village, crafted with the memory of European architecture close at hand. You can even take a ride on the Solvang trolley, which forgoes the modern engine and instead relies on old-fashioned horsepower to get you from one side of the campus to the other.

When you come to SolvangUSA, you can not only enjoy individual boutiques but campus-wide events, including:

  • The Annual Grape Stomp
  • Thematic Faires
  • Danish Days
  • Julefest

It’s free to stop by SolvangUSA, though make sure you bring your wallet – the different boutiques, restaurants, and attractions all have varying prices. Likewise, hours within Solvang USA will vary depending on the whims on their individual owners.

For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Solvang Windmill

To say that you need to visit “the” Solvang windmill is, perhaps, to undersell the number of windmills available for viewing in Solvang. In fact, Solvang has four individual, wooden windmills all within four blocks of one another. While these windmills don’t function as normal windmills do, they do serve as beautiful points to visit while traveling through town.

Solvang Windmill
Solvang Windmill | Photo by Brian

You can take the Windmill Wine Walk to more effectively visit all of these windmills in one go. You’ll be able to visit some of the most popular wineries in downtown Solvang while also developing a better understanding of the architectural work that went into the design of Solvang’s famous windmills.

Solvang’s Windmill Wine Walks consistently cost $39.99, and tickets are only available to visitors 21 years of age or older. You can use your phone to order tickets and to check-in at each of the wineries that you’re able to visit. For more information about this Solvang attraction, visit its website.

Solvang Museums

Beyond Solvang’s most notable locales, there are museums to visit and historical adventures to uncover, so long as you’re willing to look for them.

Elverhoj Museum of History and Art

The Elverhoj Museum of History and Art is more than just a museum. This building once served as the hand-made home of Viggo Brandt-Erichsen and Martha Mott, who were both famous painters and sculptors in their time.

Nowadays, you can tour through the Scandinavian-inspired architecture to view art not only created by the couple but curated by them. The house itself serves as a testament to their intimate relationship with one another, not to mention their preferred art forms. It is said that the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art serves as an example of American-Danish living as well as the marriage of the two country’s artistic movements.

There is no charge for admission at the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, but the museum does encourage donations. The museum is open between the hours of 11 AM and 4 PM, Wednesday through Sunday, and remains closed on all Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

For visitors more interested in adrenaline and engineering, Solvang hosts its Vintage Motorcycle Museum. Upon visiting the museum, you’ll be able to tour galleries full of some of the rarest American and European racing bikes to roam the motorways. Different brands on display include:

  • AJS
  • BMW
  • Ducati
  • Gilera
  • Matchless
  • Moto Guzzi
  • MV
  • Norton
  • Triumph
  • Velocette
  • Vincent

Do note that these galleries rotate on a monthly basis, so you may not be able to spot all of the listed brands at the same time.

The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. You can also visit the museum during the week, but only if you make an appointment. Admission costs $10 per person, with children under 10 able to enter for free. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Hans Christian Andersen Museum

Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific writer and the original author of the “Little Mermaid” tale (or is it “tail”?). If you or one of your children is especially interested in his Danish legacy, you’ll be able to learn all you want to know about him and more at Solvang’s Hans Christian Andersen Museum. This museum houses more than 32,000 of Andersen’s childhood keepsakes, a number of which the curious visitor will be able to handle.

You’ll be able to find the museum above The Book Loft Building in Solvang. Entry is free, as the museum is owned and operated by the Ugly Duckling Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to facilitating a better understanding of Andersen’s life.

You can visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum seven days of the week between the hours of 10 AM and 5 PM. Be warned: Anderson’s “Little Mermaid” tale looks quite unlike the Disney tale your children may be familiar with, so go in with an open mind!

For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Wildling Museum

The Wildling Museum of Solvang doesn’t capture the history of the Men and Women North of G.R.R. Martin’s literary Wall. No, the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature instead reveals the incredible history of Solvang. Artists have captured the long, Danish history of the area and placed within public reach, allowing the Wildling Museum to better educate locals and visitors alike about the ecology and culture of the area.

The museum aims to serve as a hub for local leadership and to share the value of Solvang’s history with the visiting public.

Admission ranges as follows:

  • Museum Members: Free
  • General Public: $5.00
  • Children (18 and under): Free
  • Third Wednesday Visitors: Free

Hours also vary throughout the week, with the museum firmly closing on Tuesdays. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Solvang Farms and Vineyards

Beyond the artistry of Solvang, there exists a sweeping agricultural culture that tourists can visit at their leisure. Of the many farms and attractions in the area, the following stand out for their accessibility and deep-dives into local sustainability.

Quicksilver Ranch

Quicksilver Ranch actually rests in the valleys between Solvang and Ballard, California. If you opt to use Solvang as a base, you can drive out to this ranch for the day and spend your time getting to know some of the area’s most precious locals.

Horses. We’re talking about horses.

Quicksilver Ranch is home to a California horse breeding facility that is said to rival those currently in operation in Kentucky. When you drive up to this beautiful ranch, you’ll be able to look into its green pastures and spot gorgeous thoroughbred horses grazing alongside some of the cutest miniature breeds that you’ve ever seen.

You don’t need to be in the market for a horse to enjoy a trip to Quicksilver Ranch. The ranch offers daily tours to visitors at a rate of $3 per person. While you won’t be able to pet the horses in a designated petting pen or take a ride on a horse-drawn cart, you will be able to meet the ranch’s horses face-to-face.

Quicksilver Ranch takes on visitors between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Ostrich Land

If you’re looking to meet animal friends that are a little more exotic than Quicksilver’s thoroughbreds, then you can make your way over to Ostrich Land. This Solvang attraction houses – you guessed it – over 100 emus and ostriches that the public can visit at their leisure.

The folks at Ostrich Land encourage you to feed their critters from designated feed cups, which ensure that the animals’ diets aren’t disrupted by food from off the ranch. You’ll be able to approach these birds along with your family and encourage them to eat pellets you place on the ground or straight from one of Ostrich Land’s branded cups.

Admission costs range as follows:

  • General Public: $5.00
  • Children (12 and younger): $2.00

Ostrich Land is open every day of the week from 9 AM to 6 PM. For more information about this Solvang attraction, visit its website.

Clairmont Farm

If you’re less in the mood for animals and more in the mood to explore California’s vast and beautiful flora, you’re in luck. Solvang and the broader Santa Ynez Valley plays host to Clairmont Farm. Clairmont Farm is famous in the area for its lavender crop. Lavender is considered a prized herb due to the versatility of its oil, which can provide health benefits as well as additional flavor to your favorite foods.

Clairmont Farm operates as sustainable as it can and sports a “100 percent organic” reputation. As you drive up to the farm, passing 175-year old olive trees, you’ll be able to spot the farm’s employees harvesting lavender by hand. Tours of the farm will reveal an intimate harvesting process, which involves farm employees hanging the lavender to dry and utilizing a hedge clipper to clear the broad fields.

Clairmont Farm is open to the public every day of the week except for Tuesdays. You’ll be able to stop by anytime between the hours of 10 AM and 5 PM. Pack a picnic lunch to eat in the fields, take a stroll through the farm’s facilities, or buy lavender oil for yourself in the farm’s boutique. No matter how you spend your time at Clairmont Farm, you’ll come away from your visit refreshed.

For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Flag Is Up Farms

We’ve already waxed elegant about the horses that you can visit when you come to Solvang, California. There’s more than one horse ranch in the area, though, and Flag Is Up Farms is special for more reasons than one.

Flag Is Up Farms is owned and operated by Monty and Pat Roberts. The Roberts have proudly welcomed visitors to heir ranch and home for the past 50 years. Their fame comes from their gentle care and keeping of the horses on their ranch. Both Monty and Pat breed racehorses and advocate for a violence-free upbringing that allows the horses to remain as healthy and happy as possible.

You can visit Flag Is Up Farms seven days a week between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM. There is no admissions charge, but make sure you have your wallet on hand so you can purchase some of the merchandise that the Roberts’ have made available to the general public. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Buttonwood Farm, Winery, and Vineyard

If you’re looking to get your wine on, you definitely need to use Solvang as a base of operations. Not only does the city itself have a plethora of wineries in operation, but the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley could rival Napa for its diversity of wine.

Take Buttonwood Farm, Winery, and Vineyard for example. Founded by Betty Williams in the 1960s, this farm and vineyard are rooted in sustainable practices meant to keep the ecosystem of Santa Ynez Valley all the healthier. While the farm initially only housed horses, it now produces organically-grown vegetables and a stunning variety of wine.

You can tour the grounds of this 106-acre property on a daily basis. Wine tastings are available between the hours of 11 AM and 5 PM, with a classic tasting costing $15 per person. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Rideau Vineyards

If you’re interested in visiting a younger vineyard, then the Rideau Vineyards are the place for you. These vineyards were originally planted in 1997 and only recently expanded into their sixth block. The estate on which they’re based, comparatively, dates back to the 1800s. Should you happen to visit, you’ll get a double helping of delicious, modern wine and old-world California.

Follow the tree-lined drive up to the El Alamo Pintado Adobe, the Rideau Vineyard’s tasting room. You’ll be able to enjoy live music along with your wine on a daily basis. Wine tastings are available between the hours of 11 AM and 5 PM every day for varying prices, depending on the size of your group.

If you’re looking for a more intimate encounter with the vineyard, you can take on the Rideau Estate Experience. You’ll have access to a private banquet table and an individualized tour of the vineyard and winery. You’ll also be able to taste the two terroirs the vineyard is most famous for courtesy of an additional Food and Wine Pairing package.

Suffice to say, Rideau Vineyards offers Solvang’s visitors a refined taste of California. For more information about this Solvang attraction, you can visit its website.

Best Things To Do In Solvang At Night

If you’re looking to spend a night on the town, Solvang’s got you covered. There are a number of different boutiques, attractions, wineries, and restaurants available to the savvy visitor, including:

  • SolvangUSA
  • Solvang Windmill Wine Tour

SolvangUSA alone plays host to a plethora of individualized shopping centers and foodie paradises. If you’re looking to make the most of a Solvang evening, the city’s Danish heart is the best place to start.

Free Things To Do In Solvang

If you’re on a budget during your visit to Solvang, never fear. The city has a number of free attractions available for you to visit, including:

  • Old Mission Sana Ines
  • SolvangUSA
  • Elverhoj Museum of History and Art

Do note that while SolvangUSA is considered a shopping center, you can tour its beautiful European architecture without spending a dime. No matter what your finances look like, you’ll be able to find something to do in the Danish heart of Solvang.

If you’re heading to Solvang for your next vacation, take advantage of the area’s rich Danish and agricultural culture. You’ll be able to enjoy all sorts of different attractions and activities, so long as you know where to look.

More suggestions while visiting California

If you’re traveling along Highway 1, I think you’ll find these posts interesting as well –

Top 10 Things to do in Santa Cruz, CA

9 Best Things to do in Palo Alto, CA

6 Stunning State Parks in Big Sur, California, You Should Add To Your Bucket List

Best Things to do in Monterey, CA

Just beginning to plan your trip to The Golden State? You may also find this post helpful: 19 Best Cities to visit in California (Bucket List Post!). Have fun! And as always, leave me a comment! If you visited Solvang, let me know what you think about this list! And if you haven’t visited this lovely Dutch city just yet – let me know if you’re planning on doing that sometime!

13 Awesome Things To Do In Solvang, California

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