Solvang, California: A Danish Delight
A unique city in California
California is known for its diverse immigrant population, which makes the big cities a melting pot of cultures and heritages. However, tucked away in the San Ynez Mountains is the small town of Solvang, which remains an homage to its Danish creators.
How it came to be
Over 100 years ago, Danish immigrants from the Midwest wanted to escape the cold winters, so they moved their community to California. In a land predominantly occupied by Chumash Indians, Spanish missionaries, and American ranchers, the Dutch were able to preserve their heritage and construct a unique town that echoes their homeland. Because of this, the 5,000 inhabitants of Solvang receive over one million visitors a year. Their economy is largely based on tourism, as people come to enjoy the old-fashioned charm of a time gone by.
The main attraction
Luckily for us, the Danish residents also preserved their homeland recipes of delicious pastries, making Solvang bakeries one of the must-visit places for tourists.
TIP: When you visit to Solvang, arrive hungry! There a several restaurants and bakeries that serve the Danish signature dish of Aebleskivers, a fried pancake-like dough ball, with berry syrup and whipped cream on top.
Image via Flickr: myhsu
Shortbread cookies and dozens of other famous desserts are available at almost every corner.
TIP: Pace yourself with the sweets. I suggest cutting up each pastry into bites so everyone can sample each type, but without having to eat a whole pastry. We did this, and it allowed us to try many varieties without risking a diabetic coma in the process!
Things to do
There are numerous activities in and around Solvang, but some highlights are:
- Photography: The architecture is a big draw, and it’s better seen walking the streets versus driving around. Photographers and artists will enjoy capturing the scenery and vintage architecture that remains largely intact after all these years.
- Shopping: There are many diverse shops throughout the main village, selling souvenirs, traditional clothing, artwork, and many more interesting things.
- Museum: There’s a Hans Christian Andersen museum above the local bookstore. It’s a small set of rooms, but holds a lot of information on the famous Danish author.
There’s also a statue of Hans Christian Andersen in the park, and another from of one of his famous stories, The Little Mermaid.
- Sightseeing: A fun way to see the city is by taking a sightseeing tour around downtown in a horse drawn street car.
Image via Flickr: doug_wertman
The town is small enough that you can experience it in half a day if you’re short on time. If you’re looking for a more in-depth experience, I recommend visiting during the Danish Days festival held every September. The music, dancing, parade, and various activities create a Danish experience that would make an ideal family outing or weekend getaway.
So the next time you’re in southern or central California, check out the delightful city of Solvang. You’ll be glad you did!