Weekend Getaway to Solvang, California

The windmill at Solvang Brewing Company is just part of the town's Danish charm.

The windmill at Solvang Brewing Company is just part of the town's Danish charm.


Above photo: The windmill at Solvang Brewing Company is just part of the town's Danish charm.

By Anne Roderique-Jones

Anne is a New Orleans-based freelance writer who covers travel, food and lifestyle topics.

A couple looks for romance in a Danish-themed town.

To be completely candid, Danish architecture doesn’t exactly scream romance to me. I prefer strolling on a beach with waves crashing in the background, or perhaps sipping pinot noir on the deck of a winery. You can easily find both options where I live in California.

But I had heard Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley, about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, was a charming getaway. So my husband and I set out to explore the small town, settled in 1911 by a group of Danish-Americans who were looking to escape the Midwestern winters.

We arrived on a warm sunny afternoon, but perhaps that’s not unusual: The name Solvang translates to “sunny fields.” Visitors will feel as if they’re in a different country with the town’s Danish gabled-roof buildings, windmills and replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue.

Traditional Danish bakeries pepper the downtown, and we saw a couple sharing aebleskivers — puffy Danish pancake balls — on a sidewalk. We stopped at The Bread Shop to try a savory variety, pulled fresh from the oven and filled with cheese and bacon. It turns out that bacon is my love language.

Too stuffed for a sit-down lunch, we meandered in and out of the stores — mostly Danish-themed souvenir shops or those peddling Christmas items. I bypassed the wooden shoes and cuckoo clocks and discovered a few hidden gems, including The Book Loft. As a writer, books also are my love language.

Unbeknownst to my husband and me, Solvang is a wine lover’s paradise. The town is home to 125-plus vineyards with a whopping 20 tasting rooms in the downtown area. We popped into Feliz Noche Cellars and sat down at a cozy table to share a tasting.

Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries year after year. One significant factor is a cultural construct called “hygge,” which translates loosely to “intentional intimacy or coziness,” most often in a harmonious shared experience. Examples include sharing a bottle of wine or a warm pastry, or cozying up by a fire. Solvang seems to have adopted the concept — everyone seemed to be quite cheerful. After a bacon pastry and a bottle of vino, we were, too.

Our impromptu happy hour led to us to Succulent Cafe, which serves made-from-scratch foods. Come evening, chilly weather settles on the central California coast, so I wrapped myself with one of the comfy blankets provided in the cafe’s succulent-filled courtyard as I sipped my local grenache under a heat lamp. We toasted to Solvang, a pleasant surprise for a weekend getaway. Certainly, this must be the definition of hygge.

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