We recently spent some time in the Santa Ynez Valley for our first weekend getaway since moving to California! I had such fun exploring the area and will be sharing our experiences in a series of three blog posts. Today is our final post with an overview of Solvang, California and a recipe for Pandekager (Danish Pancakes).
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Check out my previous two posts on the area here:
- Beer Mac and Cheese and Buellton, California
- Blood Orange Chardonnay Cupcakes and Los Olivos, California
Along with Buellton and Los Olivos, Solvang is another small town located in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. It was founded in 1911 when a group of three Danish-American educators (Reverend Benedict Nordentoft, Reverend J. M. Gregersen, and Professor P. P. Hornsyld) purchased over 9,000 acres of land surrounding Mission Santa Inés.
They found the weather to be much more temperate compared to the Midwest and the name Solvang actually translates to Sunny Field in Danish. Most of the first arrivals were Danish and came from California, the Midwest, and Denmark. Learn more about the history of Solvang here.
Today, Solvang is home to almost 5,500 residents with 10 percent claiming Danish ancestry. Much of the architecture is Danish-inspired with little pieces of the country scattered throughout the town including a replica of Copenhagen’s Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid), Kronborg’s Holger Danske, five windmills, and more.
Free parking is available with street parking and a few lots. We had no issue finding a space in the morning, but did notice the crowds move in around lunchtime. With the exception of the park and vineyards located on the outskirts of Solvang, most of the spots on the list below are easily walkable.
I actually first heard about Solvang when I came across a video on how to make Æbleskiver for my Nutella Stuffed Aebleskiver. We were living near DC at the time, so I didn’t think much of it until I remade them last year. Now we live in Los Angeles and Solvang is only 2 1/2 hours away. Researching the area led me to all the other towns and things to do in the Santa Ynez Valley and we had such a wonderful weekend. Funny thing is, we had so many sweets and baked goods that I actually forgot to try the æbleskiver! I guess this means we have to go back again before we leave the west coast.
Solvang is filled with bakeries serving Danish-inspired pastries and other treats. Birkholm’s Bakery was our very first stop. Located at 460 Alisal Road, the bakery is open from 7 am to 5:30 pm daily (to 6:30 pm on Friday and Saturday). It was founded by Carl “Cookie” Sr. and Charlotte Birkholm in 1951 and has continued to be passed down generation to generation.
Along with the Danish pastries, sandwiches, and salads inside, you will also find Danish-themed artwork surrounding the building including a map of Denmark and drawings of the Danish monarchy.
Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
We also tried Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery at 1529 Mission Drive. This was a nice stop for a coffee break and a few treats. Owned by third generation master baker Bent Olsen and his wife Susy, they specialize in Danish pastries, breads, cookies, and cakes.
Found at 1580 Mission Drive, Jule Hus has been celebrating Christmas since 1967. Filled with European Christmas ornaments, decorations, and other items, I especially enjoyed the assortment of German nutcrackers and smokers (I haven’t seen this variety of smokers so far outside of Germany). They are open from 9-5 Mon-Thurs, 9-5:30 Fri-Sat, and 10-5 on Sunday.
Good Seed Coffee Boutique
On our second morning, we stopped by Good Seed Coffee Boutique at 1607 Mission Drive. The menu features a variety of coffee-based drinks, teas, hot chocolate (the barista even offered to make the drink less hot when she saw I was ordering it for my 3 yr old), superfood lattes, and baked treats. All the bakery goods are organic and half are gluten free with vegan options.
Across the street from Good Seed Coffee Boutique is Solvang Park. This little park is a great spot to take a moment to regroup. You will find a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, benches, a small grassy area, and public bathrooms.
D. Volk Wines
Solvang is home to 20 downtown tasting rooms along with the 200+ scattered throughout Santa Barbara County. We had such a hard time narrowing down which one to go to, but ultimately picked D. Volk Wines for the relaxing atmosphere with the kids (they are also dog friendly). Evan and Claire thoroughly enjoyed the large Jenga and Connect 4.
Located at 1588 Mission Dr, wine tasting is available inside the beautifully decorated seaglass-themed tasting room or just outside on the patio. The tasting flight is currently $15 (waived with the purchase of 3 bottles or signing up for the wine club). Winter hours are 12:30-6 weekdays (closed on Tuesdays) and 12:30-7 Friday and Saturday.
Included in the tasting during our visit:
- 2017 Chardonnay- Curtis Vineyard
- A 2017 Seaglass- White Rhône Blend, Santa Barbara County
- 2017 Grenache Rosé- Camp 4 Vineyard
- 2015 Pinot Noir- Central Coast
- 2015 Pinot Noir- Duvarita Vineyard
- 2016 Grenache- Central Coast
- 2016 Syrah- Hampton Family Vineyard
In addition to the delicious wines, there is also a collection of unique gifts and ocean-related merchandise for sale inside the tasting room.
The Book Loft
The Book Loft is an independent bookstore at 1680 Mission Drive. Founded in 1970, the store has a wonderful collection of books for all ages along with a large Scandinavian selection. The kids enjoyed browsing the children’s section with games and activity books. The books by local authors often include signed copies (check the website for book signing events).
The second floor holds antiquarian books and a small museum highlighting the life and works of Hans Christian Andersen. On display are multiple editions of Andersen’s stories, artifacts, and a Gutenberg printing press model.
The Book Loft is open Sunday-Thursday 9-6 and Friday-Saturday 9-8.
Fresco Valley Cafe
One of our favorite meals was a late breakfast at Fresco Valley Cafe. We tried the Breakfast Sando (toasted brioche with Black Forest ham, fried egg, cheddar, tomato, arugula, and chipotle aioli), Morning Wrap (scrambled eggs, cheddar, bacon, and avocado), and Danish pancakes with caramelized apples and powdered sugar. I especially loved the added touch of the California wine corks covering our table.
Copenhagen Sausage Garden
The Copenhagen Sausage Garden is an outdoor beer garden in the heart of Solvang at 1660 Copenhagen Drive. Along with the Danish Rød Pølse (photo above-top right), you will find different types of family-made sausages from around the world and plenty of condiments for pairing, charcuterie, salads, sides, wine, and a dozen beers on tap.
The Copenhagen House
Next door to Copenhagen Sausage Garden is The Copenhagen House. Inside, you will find a variety of Danish decor, gifts, toys, jewelry, kitchen items, and books. I even spotted the Cook Yourself Happy cookbook that I reviewed a few months ago.
Near the entrance is a replica carving of Holger Danske (photo above-top left, original is in the casemates of Kronborg Castle in Helsingør). We almost missed the small room tucked away in the back of the store with a variety of common and more rare lego mystery bags and storage containers.
Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor
Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor is nearby at 1618 Copenhagen Drive. They feature over 20 flavors of McConnell’s Ice Cream, smoothies, and soda fountain specialties. Claire was a big fan of the Chocolate Covered Strawberry (having a mini-cone size available was also a definitely plus).
Want to make your own æbleskiver at home? Rasmussen’s at 1697 Copenhagen Drive has the specialized pans and other kitchenware, glassware, jewelry, gifts, and souvenirs.
The Elverhøj Museum (pronounced Elverhoy) is just a short almost 1/2 mile walk south of Mission Drive at 1624 Elverhoy Way. This small museum focuses on the history of Solvang and Danish culture. It is one of the few museums outside of Denmark to do so.
They are open 11-4 Wednesday-Sunday and admission is free, but donations are accepted. Parking is available behind the building and the museum is wheelchair accessible. It took us about an hour to explore the exhibits.
The museum is housed in the beautiful former residence of Viggo Brandt-Erichsen (an internationally recognized painter and sculptor) and his wife, Martha Mott (also an accomplished painter and art teacher). They began building their dream home in 1950 in the style of the large farmhouses of 18th century Jutland. The family wanted to preserve the home, so it underwent an extensive renovation in 1987 before opening to the public in May 1988.
Current exhibits include:
- Local photographer Paul Roark: Between Light and Dark (until April 14th)
- Elverhøj Around Town (a pop-up gallery at the Montecito Bank and Trust, 591 Alamo Pintado Road)
- Vikings Invade Elverhøj (Evan and Claire enjoyed the hands-on display table about the Viking runic alphabet- also on display are stone age Danish tools, replica pieces, and weapons)
- Solvang Room Exhibit (tells the stories of Solvang from 1910 to the present with personal photos, text, and memorabilia)
We just happened to visit during the Adventures in Storytelling event on January 26th. We were able to listen to book readings from local authors and stations were set up in the courtyard outside (the kids were excited to find plus-plus here). In the gift shop, we also found a couple of Danish coloring books that were perfect for learning about our upcoming trip to Denmark. Events are held throughout the year so be sure to check out the calendar.
The Bread Shop
After exploring the museum, we stopped by The Bread Shop at 473 Atterdag Road for a quick snack before heading to the playground. They are open 10-4 Thursday-Monday. We especially loved the Nutella Buns (definitely need to try the Nutella Brioche next time). Other menu items include croissants, cheese sticks, bagels, breads, soups, and salads.
Sunny Fields Park
After a day of shopping, we stopped by Sunny Fields Park on Alamo Pintado Road to give the kids a chance to burn off some energy. This is such a fun park! The vast wooden structures are designed with Denmark in mind with towers, viking boats, miniature houses, and more. There is even a designated area off to the side for smaller children (2-5) to play.
As a note, the structures themselves aren’t shaded (but there are covered picnic areas and benches) so it can get hot in the middle of the day- even during our trip in January.
After the playground, we spent some time relaxing and wine tasting just north at Rideau Vineyard. Established in 1997 by New Orleans native Iris Rideau, she began with the planting of five Rhône varietals. The vineyard continues to focus on the traditions of the Rhône valley and has been family-owned by Martin and Isabelle Gauthier since 2016. Learn more about the history of the vineyard here.
The tasting room is located inside the historic El Alamo Pintado Adobe. There is also plenty of seating outside (shaded and in the sun) as the perfect setting for trying the wonderful wines. The location is family-friendly with jenga and cornhole available.
There were two flights available in January 2019, the Signature Flight for $25 and the Adobe Flight for $20. The tasting fee is waived with the purchase of 3 bottles from the corresponding flight. Included in the Adobe Flight during our visit:
- 2016 “Coquelicot” Sauvignon Blanc
- 2016 “Brassman” White (a pronounced expression of four classic Rhône white varietals)
- 2015 “Sierra Madre” Chardonnay
- A 2015 Enchevêtré Rouge
- 2015 “Brassman” Red (an expressive Malbec-based wine)
- 2016 “Camp 4” Sangiovese
A complimentary tour is offered with every tasting. On Saturday and Sunday, tours run at 12:30pm, 2:00pm, and 3:30pm. During the week, they are at 1:30pm and 3:00pm (may be cancelled with inclement weather).
Events are held throughout the year including winemaker seminars, live music, and more.
We are visiting Copenhagen soon and Claire has been very excited about seeing Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) statue. She was so happy to find a half-sized bronze replica here in Solvang in the Denmarket Square at the corner of Mission Drive and Alisal Road. The statue was installed in 1976 by Earl and Dolores Peterson and is only one authorized by heirs of the original sculptor, Edvard Eriksen.
Along with the mini version of Den Lille Havfrue, Solvang also has its own version of Copenhagen’s Rundetårn (Round Tower). Tucked away behind the Solvang Bakery on Alisal Road (it took me a minute to find it), this 1/3 replica is home to Tower Pizza.
Other spots on my list for Solvang that we didn’t get a chance to visit it to include Paula’s Pancake House, æbleskiver at Solvang Restaurant, Casa Cassara Tasting Room, El Rancho Market, The Mole Hole, H.P. Vinhus, and Buttonwood Farm Winery.
Pandekager (Danish Pancakes)
I was inspired to make Danish Pandekager (pancakes) after trying them at Fresco Valley Cafe. Not be confused with the spherical Aebleskiver, Pandekager are thin, crepe-like pancakes similar to the German Pfannkuchen I grew up with and the Dutch Pannenkoeken. Fresco Valley Cafe served them with caramelized apples, syrup, and powdered sugar. I opted to pair the Pandekager with strawberry jam, ice cream, and whipped cream.
I actually came across the exact same flavor (chocolate covered strawberry) of McConnells Ice Cream Claire tried at Solvang Trolley Ice Cream at our local Whole Foods. It complemented the strawberry jam-filled Pandekager so well.
While preparing the remaining Pandekager, you can keep the cooked ones hot by placing them in a warm oven (150-200˚F) until ready.
Pandekager (Danish Pancakes) Recipe
Pandekager (Danish Pancakes)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups milk divided
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled, plus more for greasing the pan
- Powdered sugar
- Jam strawberry, raspberry, or apricot
- Ice cream
- Whipped cream
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar, cardamom, and salt.
- Pour in half the milk and stir until well combined and free from lumps, then mix in the remaining milk. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the melted butter.
- Place a large pan over medium heat. Grease lightly with butter. Add about 1/2 cup of the batter, swirling the pan to create a thin, even layer. Cook until the bottom is just golden and the top is starting to set. Flip carefully and cook the other side just until golden. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing the pan between pancakes.
- Sprinkle a little sugar and add jam to the warm Pandekager and roll up tightly. Serve immediately if desired with little whipped cream and/or ice cream.