Nicknamed as California’s little Denmark, Solvang is a picturesque town with unique Scandinavian architecture and plenty of historic attractions. The town was founded by Danish Americans in 1911 and is surrounded by the beautiful vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, making it a popular tourist weekend destination in California.
Pay a visit to attractions like the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum and Hans Christian Andersen Museum, indulge in authentic Danish cuisine, and hop on a Solvang trolley to experience this historic Danish town from a different perspective. To make the most out of your stay, we’ve put together a list of best things to do in Solvang.
1. Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Located in the center of the town inside a former outlet center, the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum houses a private collection of vintage and rare motorcycles and European race bikes. What’s great about this museum is they rotate the collection monthly, which means there is always something new on display. The owner, Virgil Elings says how it took him over 20 years to put together this fascinating collection of rare and vintage models including British, Japanese, European, and American racing bikes. The entrance to the museum will set you back $10 per person.
2. Elverhøj Museum of History & Art
Art lovers and culture vultures should not miss the extraordinary Elverhøj Museum of History & Art in Solvang. Enjoy a family-friendly learning experience and see rotating exhibitions including numerous historic hand-crafted structures inspired by Danish architecture. From spectacular wood carvings and hand-painted panels to ornamental ironwork, there is plenty to discover when visiting the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art. The entrance to the museum is free of charge, but you can always donate.
3. Hans Christian Andersen Park
Solvang, the Danish village is home to many green spaces and one of them is the famous Hans Christian Andersen Park. With dozens of cute playgrounds and climbing walls, this park is an ideal place to visit when exploring Solvang with your kids. There are also many picnic tables scattered around the area where travelers can unwind. Don’t forget to check out the extraordinary music-making machine that produces old-fashioned chimes.
4. Old Mission Santa Ines
One of the oldest operating structures in Solvang, Old Mission Santa Inés is home to a vast collection of art including everything from manuscripts and vestments to paintings and artifacts. Besides its lovely museum, Old Mission Santa Ines also serves as a mission with an active parish and a religious center with a mass in English and Spanish language.
5. Rusack Vineyards
Wine lovers will be happy to hear that Solvang is well-known for its amazing vineyards. Head out to Rusack Vineyards, a boutique winery and vineyard that produces some of the finest wines in the region. They offer a beautiful setting where travelers can enjoy wine tastings and picnics. With a lovely redwood deck, the tasting room boasts spectacular views of the vineyards and offers a wide range of award-winding handcrafted wines.
6. Nojoqui Falls Park
Nestled in the foothills of Solvang, the Nojoqui Falls Park is a must-visit place for all nature lovers exploring the Danish town. The highlight of the park is the picturesque waterfall which can be accessed via a short hike. The trail meanders over cute wooded bridges and the hike lasts for about 30 minutes. Once you reach the waterfall, you can unwind at one of the picnic tables and snap some cool photos for your Instagram account. Facilities like playgrounds and restrooms can be found in the park.
7. Solvang Festival Theater
A community-based theater located in the heart of the city, the Solvang Festival Theater focuses on quality live performing arts. The theater’s outdoor 700-seat amphitheater is one of the most beautiful places in the area and showcases the popular Once Upon a Mattress performance for over 40 years. Apart from events such as Family Night at the Theater and the famous Sunday Jazz in the Garden, the theater is used for many events including comedy festivals and fundraising live music shows.
8. Quicksilver Ranch
Located in a valley right between Ballard and Solvang, Quicksilver Ranch houses a lovely California horse breeding facility. During your visit, you will have a chance to come face to face with many horses including the cute miniature breeds. It is a great place to visit with kids and daily tours are available for just $3. Your kids will instantly fall in love with these good-natured horses and can event pet them through the fence.
9. Sunny Fields Park
Adventurous travelers looking for a thrilling experience while visiting Solvang can visit the town’s Sunny Fields Park. The highlight of this place is the amazing custom-built wooden playground that features tire swings, a number of slides, and small houses where kids can enjoy a game of hide and seek. To honor Danish history, the park is also home to a Viking ship, Puppet Theater, and a lovely gingerbread house.
10. Visitor Center
Whether you wish to join an organized tour, want to find a place to stay while vacationing in Solvang, or need recommendations on what to see and where to go, the Solvang Visitor Center is an excellent destination to find all the necessary information while staying in the city. The knowledgeable staff is always more than happy to assist travelers in every way. Want to see if there are cool events happening in the city, or you are maybe looking for a nice restaurant in Solvang to have dinner? No worries, the Visitor Center will answer all of your questions.
11. Solvang Antiques
Located on Copenhagen Drive, Solvang Antiques is without a doubt one of the largest and best antique shops in the region. This world-renowned shop offers everything from sculpture and fine art to porcelain and jewelry. It’s an excellent spot to shop for high-end vintage decorative items and hand-curated antiques. The on-site Solvang Antiques Fine Art Gallery with its revolving exhibits of contemporary artworks is also worth checking out.
12. Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company
Take a step back in time and enjoy a ride in a Danish-style streetcar while visiting Solvang. Operating since 1964, the Solvang Trolley was used to transport people to the local shop where they would purchase groceries. Today, the trolley offers tours of Solvang which run every half an hour or so. A ride in the Solvang Trolley (Honen) is a unique experience and allows travelers to experience Solvang for a unique perspective. Tours with Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company cost around $10 and can seat up to 20 passengers.
13. Boutique Shopping in Solvang
Shopaholics visiting Solvang will be happy to discover that this picturesque Danish town is a boutique shopping paradise. With nearly 200 one-of-a-kind stores ranging from family-owned shops that sell hand-crafted gifts to upscale boutiques that sell jewelry and fine arts. Visit the Farmers Market to score some fresh and organic produce or check out the Mole Hole which offers unique themed gift collections from Vera Bradley, Swarovski, and others. If you wish to buy spiritual books and crystals and minerals, visit the Mystic Merchant. Travelers looking for internationally sourced casual leather accessories can go to the First Street Leather shop.
14. Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Hans Christian Andersen Museum celebrates the work of the famous Danish author and poet, Hans Christian Andersen. If you are young at heart or traveling with kids, this museum is simply a must-visit place. From the original letters and photographs to the author’s famous works like “The Little Mermaid,” “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the museum showcases a wide range of exhibits that document the life and work of Hans Christian Andersen. Guided tours are available and the museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
15. Rideau Vineyard
One of the younger vineyards in the region, the Rideau Vineyard is an award-winning wine estate that specializes in the Rhône grape varietals. Surrounded by lush landscapes, oak trees, and well-maintained gardens, this fascinating wine estate is a great destination to visit with that special someone. Wine tastings are available daily, as well as live music and Creole-inspired dinners. The production at Rideau Vineyards may be small with no distribution, but each Rhône varietal from the estate is amazing.
16. Ostrich Land
Looking for an activity in Solvang for the entire family? Visit the Ostrich Land which is home to more than 100 emus and ostriches. Guests will have a chance to feed the critters from designated feeding cups. You can also put pellets on the ground and see if these lovely birds are interested in a feast. The admission costs $5 for adults and $2 for kids.