Solvang is a charming Danish city located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, in California. Close to Santa Barbara, Solvang is a quick and mandatory stop for anyone making the Pacific Coast Highway by car.
European-style wooden buildings with old mills welcome visitors to Solvang which is most known for being a replica of a Danish city in the heart of California. With architecture reminiscent of Scandinavia, many cute shops and restaurants are located in super charming Danish-style buildings. In addition, there are many attractions and tours that can be done in and around Solvang. The region has more than 120 wineries open for visitation!
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Solvang (CA)
1. Ostrichland USA
Ostrichland USA is a ranch where big birds roam and people can buy cups of food to feed them. They also feature a gift shop and fresh eggs. This is a small area where one can observe and feed ostriches and emus. The ostriches are in large open enclosures and visitors are separated from them by fences. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable.
Overall, it is a fun experience, but do not turn your back on the birds. These animals have adorably bad attitudes (part of the charm) and they might nibble on your ear if you are not paying attention. So, if you are traveling with children in California, a visit to Ostrichland is a very interesting option and an immensely fun and unforgettable experience for the whole family.
2. Solvang Visitor Center
Solvang Visitor Center is the official tourist stop housing maps, plus news on attractions, hotels, shopping, eateries, and wineries. Downtown Solvang is nothing short of fairytale magic. From the amazingly comfortable climate to the fascia of the buildings throughout the town and its delicious pastries; the city will not disappoint.
And even though the city center is small, the walk is light and pleasant. The ideal is to go out with a camera exploring all corners. There are about 4 blocks full of shops with lots of handicrafts and very typical things, several restaurants, and breweries. The charm of the place goes to the windmills, fountains, and buildings that bring a Denmark vibe mixed with a Viking air.
3. Mission Santa Ines (Ynez)
For those who love history, the option is to visit the Mission Santa Inez, which is one of the 21 Catholic missions established by the Spanish on the Californian coast. Founded on September 17, 1804, by Father Estevan Tapis of the Franciscan order, the place of the mission was chosen as a point midway between the Santa Barbara Mission in Santa Barbara and the La Purísima Concepción Mission in Lompoc. In fact, it was designed to alleviate overcrowding in these two missions and to serve the Indians who lived around the area.
It currently serves as a museum as well as a parish church for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The museum, church, and garden are open for self-guided tours that start at the gift shop.
4. Solvang Park
Solvang Park is a grassy triangle-shaped public park that is used to make delicious picnics. Although it is a small park, it is quiet and off of the main street in downtown Solvang. It offers a nice shade to relax on a hot summer day.
The park is also the highlight during the Danish Days in September, Winterfest in December, and Free Friday Night Movies in the summer. At the park, you will find a bronze bust of the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.
5. Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
The storefront Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum exhibits dozens of US, Japanese, and European vintage racing motorcycles. The museum displays a collection of old and rare motorcycles. The collection is quite extensive, although it emphasizes racing motorcycles.
In the museum, you will find names like AJS, BMW, Ducati, Gilera, Matchless, Moto Guzzi, MV, Norton, Triumph, Velocette, and Vincent. The museum rotates some of the bikes every month, so the bikes on display are constantly changing and the collection expanding. The value of the whole motorcycle collection is a few million dollars.
6. Gaviota State Park
Gaviota State Park covers nearly 3,000 acres extending from the ocean to the mountains, with hiking, swimming, and fishing. This low-key park is close to the Gaviota town, where less than 100 people live. Besides featuring camping and the crescent-shaped beachfront, the park also counts with hot springs that can be accessed through really short hikes.
If you go down to the beach, there are some cool places to explore. And if you drive down towards the beach, take the road that goes up to the right so you will have access to a great hike inland that goes to the wind caves. You can also choose to walk towards the water across the train tracks and admire the beautiful view and scenery.
7. El Capitán State Beach
Featuring a protected beach with tidal pools, El Capitán State Beach is a state park home to diverse wildlife, plus shaded picnic areas, campsites, trails, and lookouts. The beach itself has a sandy shore and rocky tide pools, offering swimming, fishing, and surfing.
The fully operational area also offers a gorgeous view of the ocean from the upper level as you lookout. The mountains are nestled on the other side of the freeway. And the surrounding landscape is filled with plain rolling hills that are serene and picturesque. Also, there is a 2-mile bike path that you can take to the Refugio campground.
8. Nojoqui Falls Park
The 85-acre Nojoqui Falls Park has a playground, picnic area, and an accessible waterfall measuring 80 feet. The falls when running are beautiful and the hike is fairly easy to get to. During your walk, you will cross two different bridges, giving excellent locations for photos.
The park is great for families with lots of room for kids to play and run. In fact, not only will the kids love the waterfall, but they will also light up when they see two still alive hollowed-out trees that they can climb in and peek out from. And great tables and barbecue grills for cooking are available on-site. Also, dogs are allowed but keep them on a leash.
9. Hans Christian Andersen Museum
The Hans Christian Anderson Museum highlights the life and work of the great Danish writer. Throughout his life, he has written over 160 fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 100 languages. Among the most famous are: “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The King’s New Clothes”, “The Thumbnail” and “The Snow Queen”, which inspired the movie “Frozen”.
The museum is the only one in the USA that celebrates the Danish author and is located on the top floor of The Book Loft bookstore building, being run by a non-profit foundation. Known as “Father of the Fairy Tale”, Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday on April 2 is celebrated as International Children’s Book Day with a free party each year at the museum.
10. La Purisima Golf Course
At La Purisima Golf Course, the course itself is hard, but the scenery is amazing and the customer service is outstanding. The course is cut into a hill scenery where you will hit your tee shots out of tree shoots.
Featuring excellent greens and hole placements, the course has elevated tees and tight fairways that can be quite challenging. Back hole 9 will make you feel like driving through Jurassic Park as you meander through the oak trees. Play early though, as the wind kicks up at around 11 am.
11. Sunstone Winery
Sunstone Winery was modeled on a French villa with a lavender-filled courtyard and wine caves. This is a great winery and vineyard for wine tasting and spending an enjoyable part of your day. The winery is excellent wines for sampling or enjoying a few glasses while taking in the beautiful scenery. There are many picnic tables available at the winery for bringing in your own picnic food to make the wine tasting even more enjoyable.
With a stone architecture and a Provence winery style, Sunstone offers an intimacy that is created by its location which gives it a feeling of being isolated from the rest of the world. When you pull up, you enter into almost a quiet chateau, a space of calm, and the layout has all of the feelings of a castle.
12. Refugio State Beach
The serene stretch of coast of Refugio State Beach features picnicking spots with a snug, basic campground, and scenic views. The beach is part of a protected state beach park in California, approximately 20 miles west of Santa Barbara. This is a great place to stop and enjoy the ocean after a long drive.
The beach itself is nice for swimming or practicing any water sports with a nice break off a point at the north end of the beach. You can park right next to the beach with a short walk to the water.
13. Solvang Festival Theater
The veteran nonprofit 700-seat amphitheater of Solvang Festival Theater offers outdoor concerts and events, plus a concession stand. This is a fantastic venue, small and intimate. And there is not a bad seat in the house. The setting is fantastic and there are always the best bakery treats to buy before it is showtime.
Overall, this is a great place in Solvang to watch live theater. It is an outside venue, performances usually start at 8 pm, and most nights are cool so wear appropriate clothing.
14. Quicksilver Ranch
The beautiful and picturesque Quicksilver Ranch is a mini horse ranch that lets you visit and walk around horses and ponies. You can park and take a stroll through the ranch. Most of the horses ignore you, but some of them come up to the fence and let you pet them. They have restrooms inside the barn and if you are lucky, you will catch an adorable mini horse being bathed.
The ranch is not a major time killer. Just another pleasant roadside stop for people who like to see the lesser-seen animals.
15. Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard offers tastings of Burgundy & Rhone-style wines at a family-owned vineyard in manicured grounds. In fact, you might recognize this winery from the movie “Sideways” when Paul Giamatti “Miles” guzzles spent wine from the spit bucket after a pourer refuses to serve him a full glass.
The tasting room is spacious, and the staff is more than happy to tell you everything you have ever wanted to know about wine. The Enhanced Wine Flight captures the notes one looks for in whites and reds. Their highlights are the 2017 Viognier and 2018 Riesling.
16. Hans Christian Andersen Park
Hans Christian Andersen Park is a shady green space with several picnic areas available for rent, plus a playground. This beautiful park is nestled in the hills just out of town and features a lot of green open space and even a skateboard park with a bowl. The playground itself is a lot of fun with some tall slides, musical instruments, and a rock wall.
Overall, this is a great park for an easy hike with the dogs around the gorgeous green park with large oaks. The well-kept park also counts with amenities such as restrooms and trash cans.
17. Elverhøj Museum of History & Art
Elverhøj Museum of History & Art has exhibits on Danish culture and the history of Solvang along with an art exhibit. This way, the museum aims to collect, preserve and exhibit the Danish history and culture of the region. Interestingly, Elverhøj is one of the few museums outside Denmark dedicated to Danish culture and the Danish-American experience.
The museum is based in a Scandinavian-inspired house which was also the residence of one of the most artistic families in Solvang. The hand-forged iron decor is amazing so pay special attention to the metalwork and craftsmanship. The door and latching mechanism are incredible too.
18. Presqu’ile Winery
The modern estate of Presqu’ile Winery is surrounded by acres of trim vineyards, offering tastings, and picnics on the grounds. Besides a gorgeous landscape, they have an amazing farm where they grow their own vegetables and herbs.
The whole experience kicks off with a short but beautiful drive through the estate vineyards, then you are greeted at the massive, modern winery with a welcome glass of Sauvignon Blanc. From there, the well-organized tasting moves into a side-by-side of two Chardonnays, followed by two Pinot Noirs, and finishes with a big Syrah. The food is family-style Mediterranean tapas and is an Instagram-worthy spread of ingredients that are grown locally.
19. Gaviota Peak Trailhead
Gaviota Peak Trailhead is an intense hike that is totally worth it once you reach the top or the hot springs. The hike is uphill most of the time but even though it is steep, it is not technical.
Perhaps, the best option is to go to the right when the path breaks off, towards Tunnel View, and take the trail straight up to the peak. Once you are walking down close to the bottom where the shade and trees start, there is a trail that has no signs which lead to the hot springs if you want to take a soak once you are pretty much done.
20. Rideau Vineyard
Featuring great service and delicious wine, Rideau Vineyard also counts within idyllic surrounding and beautiful grounds. The vineyard has a great atmosphere with very relaxing vibes and a professional and friendly staff.
They offer traditional wine tasting as well as wine flights. You can choose between the Signature Flight and the Adobe Flight. The second one has more depth of flavor and complexity, especially on the lighter end of the wines. Make sure you make a reservation beforehand!
21. Solvang Trolley & Carriage Tours
The most traditional way of touring the city is aboard the Solvang Trolley & Carriage Tours pulled by two stylish Belgian horses that take a 25-minute tour of the city center. Also known as Solvang’s Honen, the carriages are cared for by the Orona family. The trolley can seat up to 20 passengers and it is an open-air transportation.
Even though the tour might seem short, they will show you around Solvang’s historical landmarks while telling you about its history and some fun facts about the city.
22. Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petroliana
The family-run Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petrolina features a private collection of vintage gas pumps, racing cars, and roadway artifacts, with guided tours. You will not find a more eclectic collection anywhere around. Their collection includes nostalgic signs, gas pumps, hot rods, custom barbecues, and other assorted items from California history. You do not need to be a car expert to enjoy it.
Not only is the museum full of history but it is also a family-friendly, cozy, and welcoming place. And the owners and the curators know the story of every piece of memorabilia on the walls, ceiling, and roof.
23. The Olive House: Home of Twenty Mile Wine
The Olive House: Home of Twenty Mile Wine offers more than great house wines as they also have a tremendous selection of olive oils and balsamic. Regarding their wine selection, they are generally mild and good flavored with the Pomegranate and Concorde as their best sweet wines.
And besides their amazing selection of olive oils, their balsamic vinaigrette is also a hit. At The Olive House, you can choose between doing a wine tasting or an olive oil tasting. Or maybe, even both. And it helps that the staff is extremely helpful and skilled behind the bar.
24. Wildling Museum
The small Wildling Museum features ever-changing exhibits of nature-centric art, from paintings to photography. The museum seeks to connect art and nature by offering its visitors a perspective on the importance of preserving the natural heritage. In addition to temporary art exhibitions that celebrate nature, Wildling offers a look at local nature through a large mural of oaks in the valley, surrounded by the wildlife found near them.
This is a great place for those who appreciate art and budding artists alike. The downstairs is a gallery dedicated to a fine art. The second floor offers a small exhibit of various media and includes a table where visitors can design and mail their own postcards. The third-floor hallway is lined with children’s art and has a room set up for origami.
25. Pea Soup Andersen’s
Pea Soup Andersen’s is a longtime, memorabilia-adorned American spot specializing in wholesome dishes like split-pea soup. In fact, their soup is so famous and traditional that they serve over 2 million bowls of soup per year!
The soup is vegetarian, full of flavor and filling. You can order all the fixings with it including ham, bacon, cheese, and green onion. They do have other offerings besides just soup, and when you arrive or leave, they have a fun little gift area. Overall, they serve good portions for the price, and the burgers are a great option if you are not a soup person.