Old World Solvang, CA

A continent away, just 4 hours north of San Diego.

Solvang's got plenty in the way of architecture and history – but if you're here just for the food and wine, that's fine, too.
  • Solvang's got plenty in the way of architecture and history – but if you're here just for the food and wine, that's fine, too.

Usually it's places with some sort of dark, twisted history that attract me. If a place doesn't have that, it's pretty rare that I'll visit, much less make it a regular stomping ground. So, considering that, said place should be worth my time – and Solvang definitely is.

Despite the premise of it being a Danish town in the heart of Santa Barbara County, the main reason people visit Solvang is not its rich history or architecture. Truth is, most people come for the food and the wine. I can be included in this group.

The town has a variety of wine tasting rooms from the casual to the refined, featuring some of the best selections of area vineyards. Whether your preference is red or white, there's something for everyone. I myself prefer the Syrah rose from the Presidio winery.

Where food is concerned, there's as many varieties as there are wineries. Restaurants serving traditional Danish favorites such as Danish sausage, red cabbage, potatoes and gravy, and, of course, the Danish dessert abelskivers are easy to find. There are also Middle Eastern, Japanese and Italian eateries throughout town. It’s interesting to note that the majority of businesses here close shop around 5:00 p.m. Fortunately for me, my favorite restaurant, the Hitching Post steakhouse in neighboring Buellton (home to scenes from the movie Sideways), doesn't close until 9.

For those staying in town, hotels can range from reasonable to lavish depending on your tastes. It can get rather cold in Solvang at times, so those with a hot tub may come in handy.

Solvang also offers plenty for those, unlike myself, who actually want to do things aside from eat and drink. Just outside of town you can find the Quicksilver Ranch, famous for breeding miniature ponies. A perfect sight for the kids. The Alisol golf course is popular with tourists. About five miles out of town there’s Nojoqui Falls, an actual waterfall that requires a little over a mile’s hike. Within a picturesque park-and-forest setting, it's the ideal backdrop for a picnic.

Solvang also has a piece of history in the Mission Santa Ynez; founded in 1804, the mission now serves as both a parish and a museum. The Elverhoj Museum showcases the history of Solvang as well as exhibitions from modern artists. The most visited museum in Solvang is the Hans Christian Andersen museum, displaying aspects of the famous storyteller's works.

For theater lovers, the Solvang theater hosts several a year. During the holiday season, the town has an assortment of parades and pageants with more decorations than you'll find this side of the North Pole.

On a final note, for those who haven't had the opportunity to travel to old-world Europe: you can experience a similar feel in Solvang and not have to endure a 17-hour flight or airport security.

All in all, a pleasant stay.

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