By Craig Hall
Why You Must Go: Who said you had to go to Europe to get good Scandinavian? Nestled northwest of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley, just miles from the shores of beautiful Lake Cachuma, sits a piece of Holland complete with wooden shoes and windmills. Founded in 1911 by Danish immigrants escaping the cold Midwestern winters, the town of Solvang (which means “Sunny Meadow”) was born when the founding fathers—a group of idealistic Danish educators—bought 9,000 acres of land close to Old Mission Santa Inés to found a traditional folk school. The school is long gone, but playing up the town’s quaint, thatch-roof heritage has become Solvang’s bread and butter. Today it’s a charming, kooky little town with dozens of fun shops and tasty, truly unusual food—the perfect destination for a lighthearted weekend escape.
This so-called “Danish Capital of the US” has over 200 shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and (of course) Danish bakeries lining the five square blocks of downtown. The Wine Valley Inn & Cottages is the place to stay. A quaint Inn, it offers 56 spacious guestrooms, six charming individual cottages surrounding a private garden, and—if your want to splurge for the works—one grand suite. The uniquely-styled accommodations in one, two and three-story buildings are designed for every taste and budget—Fireplace Deluxe Room, Chateau Loft Suites, Chateau Standard Rooms and a spacious one-bedroom apartment. All rooms have private baths, in-room refreshment centers and an full on-site spa. The WVI&C offers a great continental breakfast each morning and wine-tasting every evening from one of the many local wineries. It’s a slice of green utopia, and only a few of hours north!
The Wine Valley Inn & Cottages, 1564 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, (800) 824-6444, www.winevalleyinn.com. Rates range from $119-$349; call or visit the web site for reservations, or email info@WineValleyInn.com
Where to eat: For a traditional Danish holiday faire, go to Bit O’Denmark and try the Hakkebof (ground sirloin), or if you prefer the other white meat go with the Flaeskesteg (roasted pork—both are served with sweet & sour red cabbage. Not Scandanavian enough? Try the Oksesteg, Frikadeller, or Medisterpoise.
What Else to Check out: Be advised most shops and business’s lining the streets of Solvang close at 6PM daily. The new Chumash Reservation Resort and Casino is the place for slot jockeys. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum, or the Hans Christian Anderson Park are always worth a visit. Another must see is the Mission Santa Inés.