Whenever we take a road trip from San Jose to Los Angeles or vice versa, we love to stop by the adorable Danish town, Solvang, for a quick day trip. Since we planned a trip to visit family and friends in Los Angeles and San Diego during the Labor Day weekend, we had to visit here.
Located in Santa Barbara County in Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is known as the “Danish Capital of America” and is translated as “sunny fields” in Danish. The area was established in 1911 by Danish immigrants living there.
Solvang is a small and touristy town. Yet, it’s such a fun place to spend a day to see Danish-style architecture and windmills, go shopping, and eat delicious Danish cookies and sweets (these are so good!) While we haven’t been to Denmark, wandering through the streets makes us want to go visit as soon as possible.
If you’re interested in visiting Solvang, continue reading this Solvang day trip guide on how to get there, what to do, and more helpful tips.
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How to Get to Solvang
Solvang is about halfway from Northern California to Southern California along Highway 101 so you can visit Solvang from either San Francisco/San Jose, Santa Barbara, or Los Angeles. It’s the perfect weekend destination! You’ll need to have a car to travel around Solvang.
From San Francisco to Solvang
If you’re departing from San Francisco City Hall, it’ll take 4 hours 40 minutes (301 miles) to get to Solvang. All you need to do is to take 101 South to Solvang. It’s so easy to get to!
If starting from San Jose (City Hall), the travel time is 4 hours (251 miles) as the city location is south of San Francisco and also has access to 101 South.
Click here to see the driving directions.
Tip – On your way to Solvang from San Francisco, consider stopping by San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach for the day. Check out the beautiful ocean views, beaches, delicious seafood, hiking trails (Madonna Mountain and Bishop Peak in San Luis Obispo), and sand dunes at Oceano.
From Santa Barbara to Solvang
Santa Barbara is very close to Solvang which is why it’s a popular day trip and weekend destination.
From Downtown Santa Barbara to Solvang, it’ll take 40 minutes (35 miles). There are two ways to get there:
- Take 101 North and then take CA-154 West/San Marcos Road to CA-246 to Solvang. Click here to see Google Maps.
Insider Tip – Once you leave 101 North, the road goes through the mountains so it’s very windy. If you get carsick on windy roads, DO NOT take this route.
- Easter route: Take 101 North to CA-246 East to Solvang. Click here to see Google Maps directions.
From Los Angeles to Solvang
Downtown Los Angeles is between 2 hours 13 minutes to 2 hours 25 minutes (128-143 miles) away from Solvang depending on which route you take. You can easily visit Solvang as a day trip from LA.
- Take 101 North and then take CA-154 West/San Marcos Road to CA-246 to Solvang. Click to see driving directions. **Remember: This is the windy route up the mountains.
- Take 110 North to I-5 North and exit 101B to 101 North. Take CA-154 West to CA-246. **This is only if you want to go through the windy mountains. Click here to see Google Maps.
- Easier route: Take 110 North to I-5 North and exit 101B to 101 North. Exit CA-246 East to Solvang (The flat route) Click here for directions.
How Long Do You Need to Visit Solvang?
The main downtown area is small and walkable so you only need 1 hour to a few hours here for your Solvang day trip.
A full day in Solvang is possible if you visit other attractions such as visiting vineyards for wine tasting.
Parking in Solvang
Public parking lots and street parking are FREE in Solvang. Hotels do not charge a fee either. Yay!
There are plenty of public parking lots and side street parking so you can easily find a spot.
Top Things to Do in Solvang in a Day
As a heads up, many places and restaurants in Solvang close around 5:00-6:00pm. Therefore, get here earlier to take advantage of Solvang’s attractions in one day.
1. Visit the Solvang Visitor’s Center.
Don’t know where to go or have questions about Solvang? Stop by the Visitor’s Center to ask questions and ask the locals about their favorite place to visit and where to eat.
Address: 1637-1639 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
2. Walk around and seek as many windmills as possible.
One of the coolest things to do in Solvang is to wander throughout the main Solvang area and see four wooden windmills incorporated on the rooftops. Unfortunately, the windmills do not spin or move, yet they’re fun to see in person.
3. Go shopping.
If you missed out on a certain souvenir when visiting Europe, you may find them here. There are a few places that sell Christmas decor all year round, colorful Turkish mosaics lamps, and another European decor.
Otherwise, many shops sell Solvang-specific souvenirs of t-shirts, hats, mini windmills, etc so you can remember your trip here.
4. Eat the Danish cookies and pastries.
We love eating Danish cookies, especially the almond marzipan horns. They are so good in Solvang. Plus, they’re made fresh every day. They’re pricey ($3-$4.75 each) but oh so worth it.
Definitely grab a dozen or two before you head to your next destination. You may end up eating a lot of them during your car ride!
We visited these two places:
- Mortensen’s Bakery – We loved this bakery and enjoyed the cookies so much that we went back the next morning before heading to Los Angeles.
You can’t go wrong with any of the choices, especially anything covered with dark chocolate. We loved the almond marzipan horns and pistachio square with marzipan inside. (Note: We tried the almond horns at Whole Foods and they’re a good alternative to the ones in Solvang.)
Address: 1588 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
- Olsen’s Danish Bakery – If you’re leaving Solvang and heading back to 101 Freeway, this is the last spot to buy cookies and pastries. We bought a variety of cookies such as chocolate crescent, mocha square, pistachio square, and almond horns.
Address: 1529 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
Here are other recommended bakeries to try. We didn’t get a chance to visit so we’ll add these to the must-try list on a future visit.
- Solvang Bakery (Address: 438 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463)
- Birkholm’s Bakery and Cafe (Address: 460 Alisal Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
- Danish Mill Bakery (Address: 1682 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463)
If you prefer not to eat cookies and pastries and enjoy fudge, we saw a few places selling decadent fudge.
5. Enjoy a meal here.
Solvang has yummy food options to satisfy your hunger. Whether you’re looking for a brunch place or more farm-to-table type of restaurant or burgers, feel free to try a couple of places if you’re in Solvang all day long.
Here are some popular restaurants:
- Peasant Feast – We loved eating here! Peasant Feast offers fresh and seasonal foods at reasonable prices. The menu changes daily so you try something new every time. If you’re a vegetarian, there are a few vegetarian items.
We tried the Brussels sprouts salad (which was raw sprouts cut thinly), yellowtail sashimi, and fish tacos. The side item of cheesy polenta is highly recommended.
The outdoor seating was lovely and had ample space between parties.
Address: 487 Atterdag Rd, Solvang, CA 93463 (next to Mortensen’s Bakery)
- Paula’s Pancake House – Who likes to eat pancakes? Head to this place to try Paula’s Special (Danish pancakes with fresh fruits), Belgium waffles, omelets, and more. Lunch items such as burgers, sandwiches, and salads are served here. There are plenty of vegetarian items to choose from.
Address: 1531 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
- Leonardo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria – This place is outside of the main Solvang area, but it’s only a short drive away. Visitors love the Italian food here and the variety of pasta. Pizzas are available for lunch.
Address: 632 Alamo Pintado Rd, Solvang, CA 93463
- Succulent Cafe – Check out this place for American comfort food. Breakfast is served here so try the fried chicken with biscuits or meatloaf biscuits. Otherwise, try the sandwiches and burgers. A vegetarian sandwich and Beyond Burger are available for vegetarians.
Address: 1557 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463
6. Feed the ostriches and emu at OstrichLand.
One of the unique attractions to do in Solvang is to visit OstrichLand which is along Highway 246. You’ll pass by this attraction before entering Solvang.
There are over 100 ostriches and emus living here and roaming around the land. You can feed them out of a plastic bowl (safety first) so it’s a fun activity for children and families to enjoy.
For souvenirs, there is a gift shop and you can buy fresh eggs here.
It’s recommended to schedule your visit on OstrichLand’s website here.
Address: 610 E Hwy 246, Solvang, CA 93463
Admission: $7 Adults, $3 Children Under 12 years old, $5 Military
7. Let’s go wine tasting!
If you love drinking wine, you’re in the right spot. Solvang has over 20 places in town where you can do wine tasting.
Click here to check out this Google Map of the wine tasting that you can do around Solvang town.
Prefer to go to a winery? There are many wineries to visit around the Santa Ynez area (Solvang, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez). Check out this Santa Ynez Wine Trail that has information on the wineries and a free map.
8. Stop by for the special events.
Depending on your visit, you can schedule a trip around a few iconic events in the area:
- Solvang Danish Days (occurs in September) – Come celebrate the city’s establishment with cultural activities such as dancing, music, parades, and more. Click here for more info.
- Solvang Julefest (occurs end of November to the beginning of January) – Let’s get in the holiday spirit! Check out the fun winter activities and celebrations in Solvang. Check for updates here.
Where to Stay in Solvang
Solvang is mostly used as a stopover for a road trip so many people do not stay overnight here. With many shops and restaurants closing at 6:00pm, the main Solvang Downtown area is quiet in the evenings.
We stayed overnight since we needed a driving break before heading to Los Angeles the next day.
Click here to read reviews and find a place to stay in Solvang.
Click here to find a place in Buellton, only a 7-minute drive from Solvang.
Recommendation: Sideways Inn
If you need a place to stay, we recommend Sideways Inn in Buellton. This place is less than a 7-minute drive to Solvang main area. You can’t miss this place as you see a giant windmill off 101 Highway before exiting onto CA-246.
Click here to make a reservation for Sideways Inn.
The rooms are updated and have cool amenities such as a white noise maker, coffee pot, and bath toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in refillable bottles. All the rooms overlook a swimming pool area and they have a balcony/patio with an outdoor seating area. In the evenings, there are several fireplaces to hang out and relax.
The bed was really comfortable. It’s comfier than what we sleep on at home! Therefore, we didn’t want to wake up the next morning.
This place provides a complimentary continental breakfast. Due to the COVID situation, everyone completes a checklist on food quantities and places it on a clip outside of the door and then the breakfast is delivered and placed on the door handle the next morning. We received a yogurt, bagel with cream cheese, pastries, and apple juice. Everything is pre-packaged so it’s easy to eat in the car on the way to your next destination.
The main lobby has hot coffee and teas in the mornings for free so you can enjoy a hot beverage with your breakfast.
Room cost starts at $150 per night for a 2 person occupancy.
Here are other accommodations to stay in Solvang based on high reviews.
- New Haven Inn – This place is in the heart of Solvang with clear rooms and ample parking spots. The cost per night starts at $160 for 2 person occupancy. Reserve your room at New Haven Inn here.
- Hotel Corque – This hotel is located in the Solvang downtown area and within walking distance to many shops and restaurants. Enjoy the swimming pool, in-house restaurant, and clean rooms. The cost per night starts at $160 for 2 person occupancy. Book your room at Hotel Corque here.
- Royal Copenhagen Inn – This inn is another popular choice with visitors. It’s located in the main Solvang area and has an outdoor swimming pool. Breakfast is included in the room. The cost per night starts at $150 for 2 person occupancy. Book your room at Royal Copenhagen Inn here.
Exploring Solvang in one day or a few hours is very doable. We love this place and recommend it as a stopover when you’re going on a road trip to Southern California or returning to Northern California.
If you want to read more unique facts about Solvang, click here.
If you need more ideas on where to visit in Southern California, check out our other posts below: