I love this cute little historic town in the heart of Southern California’s wine country. Just an hour north of Santa Barbara, the Danish town of Solvang is filled with shops, bakeries, and plenty of places to eat good food and drink beer and wine.
It’s an easy day trip if your homebase is in Santa Barbara, but you can also book a quaint little inn in the countryside if you want to stay more local. (This is also a great stop on a bigger road trip along the California coast!) If you’re day-tripping, I recommend leaving Santa Barbara no later than 7:30am on the weekends so you can get to Solvang in time for breakfast. It will be much easier to find parking and you’ll be able to enjoy thin crowds for at least a little while. 😉 Here are my recommendations for spending a day in Solvang!
1. Get there early and fuel up
Start off with a delicious breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House where you can get traditional Danish pancakes (much more like crepes than thick American hotcakes.) If you’re early like I recommend, you have a good chance of scoring a free parking spot right in front of the restaurant, too, and keep your car there for the day!
2. Wander & shop
Enjoy the quiet(ish) morning by meandering through the streets and shops after breakfast. It will still be early enough that you should beat the crowds! Be sure to stray off the main thoroughfares and check out the hidden brick-laid courtyards where you can find local flavors like coffee and candy shops. Get yourself a treat and have a seat on one of the curlicue iron benches beneath a flowering tree for a post-breakfast snack.
3. Rent a bike and head into wine country!
It’s best if you book this ahead of time, but there are a couple of bike rental shops in town that accept same-day bookings. I recommend booking a full-day rental; even if you don’t stay out for 8 hours, I personally think it’s worth the little added cost so you don’t have to rush back. It’s an easy route out of town, and you’ll pass lots of wineries, rustic barns, and gorgeous Santa Ynez countryside. Don’t forget to stop and say hi to the little horses! Wander into any of the wineries you want for tastes and linger for awhile. It’s only about a 35-minute ride to Los Olivos (if you don’t stop), where you can have lunch and pop into the boutique shops for a bit before heading back. Save room for your next activity!
4. Time for Solvang’s famous pastries!
Back in Solvang, head to The Solvang Bakery for traditional Danish pastries (or cupcakes or ice cream!) for a mid-afternoon snack.
5. Skål! (“Cheers!”)
Finish off the day with a cold local beer at the Solvang Brewing Company. I love sitting at the outside tables in late afternoon, enjoying the golden sun and reminiscing on a fun-filled day. Try a local brew, like the brewery’s own raspberry wheat ale (my fave!)