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Research

30
Hours of Research
14
Articles Reviewed
8941
Reviews Compiled

Contributors

Mackenzie Nia
Lead Writer
Pouya Nia
Photographer

Best Places to Eat, Play, and Stay in Solvang, CA

Published
November 16, 2019

Solvang, CA is a Danish-style town located just a few miles off the 101 freeway in Southern California. Whether you are making a quick stop on your way up or down the coast or doing a weekend getaway, Solvang is a one-of-a-kind Californian destination rich in Danish culture. With its gabled roofs, windmills, and numerous Danish bakeries, Solvang makes you feel as though you drove straight into Denmark, when in reality you are only about 35 miles from Santa Barbara. In addition to experiencing Danish food, architecture, and activities, Solvang has even more to offer its visitors, including wine tasting, an ostrich farm, and great coffee. We poured through all the articles and reviews on Solvang that internet has to offer to narrow down the top places to eat, play, and stay. We then visited our top picks in person to verify the claims.

Research

30
Hours of Research
14
Articles Reviewed 
8941
Reviews Compiled

Contributors

Mackenzie Nia
Lead Writer
Pouya Nia
Photographer

Places to Eat

About

Good Seed Coffee Boutique is a roaster and coffee shop in Solvang, serving up the best of the best to its visitors. In addition to their drinks, which are beautifully presented in ceramic mugs, Good Seed Coffee Boutique also serves pastries that are baked in-house, many of which are vegan and/or gluten free. Even though they are fairly new to Solvang, Good Seed Coffee is like a breath of fresh air to this previously specialty-coffee-deprived town.

The Research

We looked at various online reviews for the different coffee shops in Solvang and used that as our main tool to narrow down our top choice for best coffee shop. Since there are not too many articles written on Solvang, we did not find Good Seed Coffee Boutique nor its competitors in any articles.

Our Experience

When we entered Good Seed Coffee Boutique, the first thing that caught our eye was the impressive interior design, including the rustic-modern wooden furniture and intricate tiled walls. The next things to catch our attention was the friendly and relational service by the staff, who were especially helpful in helping us choose from a variety of pastries. As we sat and enjoyed our drinks, we noticed that this exceptional service was consistent among everyone else that visited. The ceramic mugs that our lattes were served in made them especially inviting (and photo worthy) and our biscuit and cinnamon roll were flaky and fresh.  

The Competition

The Coffee House by CHOMP is another great coffee shop that is also highly rated. While we liked that Good Seed Coffee Boutique felt more personal and unique, we are confident that The Coffee House by CHOMP will also give you a solid cup of coffee.

About

Copenhagen Sausage Garden is exactly what you would hope to find in Solvang—a replica of a Danish beer and sausage garden. On top of their countless sausage and beer options, what really makes Copenhagen Sausage Garden stand out is their countless sauce options, ranging from flavors such as Cajun Creole to Habanero to Maui Onion. In true beer garden fashion, all seating is outside on picnic benches.

The Research

After reading online articles about food in Solvang and checking online reviews, we were able to narrow down Copenhagen Sausage Garden to our top choice. While there are a variety of great food places in Solvang, few have as exceptional reviews and represent the Danish culture like Copenhagen Sausage Garden. Because there were not many articles written about food in Solvang, our experience at our top choices was a critical factor in our decision.

Our Experience

While seemingly small and unassuming, we were shocked at the selection of beers and sausages to choose from as we stood in line to order at Copenhagen Sausage Garden. After placing our order, our Radler beer was almost immediately ready for us to pick up at the counter, so we were able to sip on our drink (and pick out our sauces) while we waited for our food. Our chicken apple sausage was juicy and packed with flavor, and our pretzel was large and fluffy, and acted as the perfect vessel to shovel the gooey cheese into our mouths. Eating here truly made us feel as though we were transported to Europe!

Tips & Recommendations

Don’t forget to pick out a few (or many) sauces to try with your meal. The variety of sauces at Copenhagen Sausage Garden is one of the things that makes it so dynamic.

The Competition

Succulent Cafe, which was mentioned in a few articles written about Solvang and has strong online reviews, is another great option for a meal. However, we did not choose it as our top choice because it does not embody the Danish culture that most people come to Solvang for. However, if you are in the mood for a cheese plate, or maybe just want more of a “sit-down” feel, Succulent Cafe is probably a better option for you. We were also excited to read about Bit O’Denmark in articles written about Solvang, but we ultimately disappointed to see that is was not reviewed well online.

About

While Solvang Restaurant is a sit-down restaurant that serves full meals, it is most popular for its aebleskivers, which are made fresh and purchased from a window just outside their restaurant. Solvang Restaurant describes aebleskivers as pancakes shaped like tennis balls, which they serve topped with raspberry jam and powdered sugar. Some guests choose to take their aebleskiver-game to the next level, ordering their dessert a la mode. To order the aebleskivers, guests do not need to enter the restaurant, but simply walk up to the window and order there.  As you order, you can see the aebleskivers being cooked! Even though there is usually a line to order, the wait is not usually that long since fresh aebleskivers are constantly being prepared on the grill.  

The Research

Because there are many bakeries scattered throughout Solvang, it was a tricky process to narrow down our top choices. We read about Solvang Restaurant’s aebleskivers in several articles written about Solvang, so we were confused to find that this restaurant did not receive high guest reviews. After looking into this further, it became apparent that the lower reviews were written about the restaurant, but the reviews written about the aebleskiver window were exceptionally high.  

Our Experience

As we imagined on a weekend in the Summer, Solvang was alive with visitors, which inherently meant that there was a line to order aebleskivers at Solvang Restaurant. Regardless, we only had to wait about 5 minutes even though there were several parties ahead of us. When we ordered, we watched as our server put 3 fresh aebleskivers on a plate and poured raspberry jam and powdered sugar over them. There isn’t really a designated place to sit and eat the aebleskivers, so we just found a nearby bench to enjoy our sweet and slightly messy treat.  

Tips & Recommendations

Don’t be scared off if there is a line—it usually moves pretty fast!

The Competition

The competition is fierce for this category with the amount of highly-rated bakeries in such a small radius. While there are some great bakeries, like Olsen’s Bakery and Mortenson’s Danish Bakery, the bakery items—while they certainly could be consumed as dessert—seem to be more breakfast focused. Technically, an aebleskiver is a breakfast item too, but when it’s served a la mode, we are confident saying that it’s crossed the line into dessert.

Places to Play

‍About

Ostrichland USA is a popular 101 freeway road trip stop and is one of Solvang’s most popular activities, and for good reason! With over 100 ostriches and emus on their enormous property, guests can come view these 8-9 foot creatures for only $5 per person* and feed them for $1 per tray*. Ostriches are surprisingly aggressive when it comes to food, so guests are warned to hold their food trays with two hands to avoid dropping them when the ostriches slam their beaks into it. Ostrichland USA also acts as a rehabilitation facility for ostriches who were abused or sick, quarantining them from the rest of the ostriches while they are nursed back to full health. A truly entertaining activity for the whole family, Ostrichland USA is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Solvang.

The Research

When researching things to do in Solvang, Ostrichland USA emerged almost immediately as a must-do activity. We felt that this activity was so unique and could not be done everywhere, which we think is an important factor to consider when picking our top choices. Also, its inclusion in many articles written about Solvang and exceptional online reviews solidified its position as a contender for our guide.

Our Experience

I don’t think we stopped smiling during our entire visit to Ostrichland USA. We entered through their gift shop which is also where you pay the entrance fee and buy the trays of food. After we paid our admission and bought 2 trays of food, we went out the back door to see the ostriches. As soon as our eyes met the 9-foot tall ostriches, we were at a loss for words and all that came out of our mouths were giggles. These creatures looked like giant, dark chickens with long necks, making them look so ridiculous that we couldn’t help but chuckle. Before we entered, we were warned that ostriches are very aggressive and that we should use two hands to hold the tray or they might knock it out of our hands. We also fed emus, which are like smaller, less aggressive ostriches. We were delightfully entertained during our entire time at Ostrichland USA.

Tips & Recommendations

If you are debating whether or not you should buy the food tray, I urge you to buy it! Feeding the ostriches and emus is a huge part of the experience, and a great way to the animals up close. While some might be scared away by the ostrich’s aggressive pecking at the trays, we never felt uncomfortable and were just careful.

The Competition

Quicksilver Ranch is like a low energy version of Ostrichland USA, but with miniature houses instead of ostriches. Just down the street in Ballard, Quicksilver Ranch offers guests an opportunity to see and pet the miniatures houses that live there. If you have younger kids that might be startled by the aggression of the ostriches, Quicksilver Ranch might be a better choice.

*Price at time of publication.

About

Shoestring Winery is a family owned and operated winery located on Highway 246, the road into Solvang. On the Shoestring Winery property, there is a vineyard, tasting room, friendly goats, and beautiful outdoor seating. The winery was founded by Bill and Roswitha Craig, and is now run by their son, Shawn.

The Research

While Solvang is not necessarily a popular wine tasting destination, it is located in Santa Ynez Valley, a smaller but prominent California wine region. In Solvang, you’ll find wineries and tasting rooms, both providing opportunities to taste the local wine. Out of all the wineries in Solvang, Shoestring Winery had the strongest online reviews and even offered free food pairing with the tasting. We were intrigued and decided to check it out for our guide.

Our Experience

As we drove down the driveway into Shoestring Winery, we were instantly captivated by the beauty of this property. The tasting room is in a charming barn-style building and is steps away from the vineyard. The inside of the barn was filled with barrels and had a standing bar for the tasting experience. With our tasting, we paired the wines with a variety of local jams, cheese, and crackers; for a few of the wines, our server had specific pairings like dark chocolate. After our tasting, we walked the grounds to check out the beautiful vines and meet the winemaker’s goats.

Tips & Recommendations

Make sure to take advantage of the free food pairing! This is a great opportunity to explore food pairing with high quality wine and snacks.

The Competition

If you prefer not to leave the downtown Solvang area, there are plenty of tasting room options there to get your wine tasting fix. For tasting rooms, we recommend Sanger Family of Wines because of its top notch reviews, beautiful interior design, and the individualized and friendly service we received during our tasting.

About

Copenhagen Drive is truly the heart of Solvang and has all you need to get the full Danish experience. Walking down Copenhagen Drive, you can browse Danish shops, bakeries, and restaurants, all styled like buildings in Denmark. In fact, our top pick for best food and best dessert (Copenhagen Sausage Garden and Solvang Restaurant) are both located on Copenhagen Drive. Even if you walk down this street without any direction, you will feel as though you are exploring a town in Denmark. Specifically, you’ll want to walk from Atterdag Road to Alisal Rd on Copenhagen Drive, which is about a quarter of a mile each way.

The Research

As we researched things to do in Solvang, we noticed that there were many vague recommendations on how to experience the Danish culture. While most people come to Sovlang to do just that, we were determined to find what exactly people do to experience Danish culture here. Looking into this more, we found that the Danish experience could not be attained by a single activity, but rather a culmination of many smaller ones. Since most of the smaller activities recommended were on Copenhagen Drive, we established that a stroll down this street would cover most of your bases for a Danish experience.

Our Experience

Our experience walking down Copenhagen Drive was delightful as we expected. Since we made several stops during our stroll, we took our time and were able to take in the beauty of the Danish-style buildings. At the end of our walk, on Copenhagen and Alisal, there is a large windmill, which was truly the cherry on top of our experience.  

Tips & Recommendations

The best photo op on this Copenhagen Drive is on the southwest corner of Alisal and Copenhagen. You’ll notice people standing here and taking pictures with the windmill in the background.

The Competition

Mission Drive runs parallel with Copenhagen Drive and is also a great place to experience Solvang. If you have time to spend in Solvang, we recommend including Mission Drive in your walk, thought it does not have quite as much to see as Copenhagen Drive. Our choice for best coffee, Good Seed Coffee, is also located on Mission Drive.

Places to Stay

About

Wine Valley Inn and Cottages is a charming lodging option in a prime location right on Copenhagen Drive. Walking distance from just about everything in town, Wine Valley Inn provides guests with a quality lodging experience without the higher price tag of most other places. Rooms at Wine Valley Inn start at around $110* on weekdays, but go up on weekends and for their cottage and loft accommodations. Guests enjoy free wifi, parking, and breakfast, and do not have to sacrifice quality when lodging here.

The Research

We researched all of the top hotels in Solvang, including their online reviews and presence in online articles, to narrow down our choices. There were only a few hotels in this category that we felt were contenders, so we visited both.

Our Experience

Wine Valley Inn and Cottages’ charm was evident from the moment we arrived. While we could tell that this was not a luxury hotel, there was not an apparent lack in quality by any means. The woman at the front desk enthusiastically answered our questions and was very friendly and accomodating. Their grounds were beautiful—a great mix of modern and European design.

Tips & Recommendations

While we were told that walk ins can usually be accommodated at Wine Valley Inn, we recommend booking at least a few weeks ahead of time if you want to be sure to secure a spot here.

The Competition

The main competition for Wine Valley Inn and Cottages is Hotel Corque, another hotel in Solvang that is in a similar price range. While we felt that Hotel Corque was actually a bit fancier, it lacked charm and was slightly more expensive than Wine Valley Inn and Cottages.

*Price at time of publication.

About

The Landsby is a boutique hotel in Solvang, known for their self-proclaimed contemporary and Scandinavian style. Like Wine Valley Inn and Cottages, The Landsby is located in the heart of Solvang and is walking distance from everywhere in the downtown area. The rooms at The Landsby are tastefully decorated and incorporate their own style while still paying homage to the style of the town. The most basic room at The Landsby starts at $179* on weekdays, but can quickly rise depending on what type of room you reserve and when you visit. Due to its year round popularity, The Landsby has a 2 night minimum on any reservation that includes a Saturday.

The Research

Although there were not many articles written about lodging in Solvang, The Landsby was one of the top mentioned hotels in articles that we did find. This hotel also boasts incredible online reviews and, in our opinion, is the most beautifully designed hotel in the city. Our research indicated a lot of hype around The Landsby, so we made sure to check it out for ourselves.

Our Experience

While we did not have the chance to stay at The Landsby ourselves, we still visited the frontdesk to ask some questions and explore the grounds. However, since The Landsby often hosts weddings and high caliber guests, they keep most of their grounds private out of respect for their guests. From what we did see of the hotel, which was mostly just the lobby area, the conclusions we made in our research confirmed The Landsby as the best mid-range hotel in Solvang.

Tips & Recommendations

The Landsby is one of the most popular hotels in Solvang, so unlike Wine Valley Inn, they most likely cannot accommodate any walk ins.  Plan ahead if you want to stay here!

The Competition

Mirabelle Inn is another great hotel in a similar price range as The Landsby. While Mirabelle Inn is perhaps more immersed in the European style than The Landsby is, their style and design overall is not as consistent or impressive at The Landsby. While it might not be our top choice, it is still a great option and is centrally located like The Landsby.

*Price at time of publication.

About

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is a luxury resort located on a cattle ranch just a few miles south from downtown Solvang. While staying at Alisal Guest Ranch, a full breakfast and dinner are included accommodations, along with complimentary wine tasting at a variety of tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County. There’s a lot to do while staying at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, including horseback riding, golf, cycling, tennis, activities for children, and visiting the spa. A night’s stay at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort start at $650* per night, but increases on some weekends and holidays.

The Research

We looked at all the top hotels in Solvang, including their online customer reviews and mentions in articles written about Solvang. From what we read about Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, it was evident that it was a very unique place to stay, and seemed to offer a level of luxury that other hotels in this area did not. We were intrigued, and decided to visit.

Our Experience

We had the opportunity to tour the grounds of Alisal Guest Ranch and it was truly remarkable. It felt like being at a luxury adult summer camp where you can bring your whole family. We walked the grounds as the sun was starting to set, and families were dressed up making their way to the dining room. The horses were running around the enclosed fields and were especially beautiful as the sun set behind them. The staff here were incredible and it was obvious that they had such a heart for working at Alisal.

Tips & Recommendations

Summer is the most difficult time to snag a reservation at Alisal Guest so we recommend visiting in Spring, Fall, or Winter. It’s usually cheaper that way too!

The Competition

Our research found that Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort was the only place in Solvang to offer this level of luxury accommodations. It does not have any competition, at least in this area.

*Price at time of publication.

Sources

Disclaimer

Contributors: Days Away destination guides are a compilation of research, data, judgement, opinion, and recommendations of our contributors, locals, and advisors. These parties hold zero responsibility for the happiness, success, dissatisfaction, hurt feelings, or any possible result due to their contributions to this guide.
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