Thank you to Visit Solvang for coordinating my stay so I could provide this detailed review of my experience.

Solvang, California is more than a kitschy touristy town meant for a quick stopover. Stay longer and you’ll soon realize that the Danish Capital of America has morphed into an exciting culinary destination. Blame it on the pandemic, but renowned chefs from Napa, Michelin star recruits, and foodie newcomers have set up shop in traditional half-timbered buildings in this Danish Disneyland. Solvang now has three Michelin Guide-listed restaurants, one of which is Bib Gourmand. Venture beyond Solvang’s Danish pastries, meatballs, and aebleskiver (“able-skeever”), to enjoy its burgeoning gourmet scene.

Solvang half timbered homes

Located in the Santa Ynez Valley above Santa Barbara and about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, the village of Solvang feels worlds away from city life. Surrounded by rolling green hills and interspersed with four wooden windmills, it’s somewhat reminiscent of a pristine English village or an idyllic German countryside town. Founded over a century ago in 1911, Danish-American Solvang has become one of the most visited spots in America, especially during the holiday season.

Solvang town horse with trolley

Create your own sensory tour in Solvang with these favorite discoveries

Sip Wine
Solvang boasts about two dozen wineries, wine-tasting rooms, vineyard settings, and wine/beer bars. The Santa Ynez Valley AVA features mostly boutique, family-owned vineyards located in Solvang, Buelton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynes.

Wine tasting at Brick Barn Estate Winery in Buellton in Santa Ynez Valley outside of Solvang

Brick Barn Estate Winery
While not technically Solvang, drive 10 minutes to Buellton right outside town to sip a wine flight on Brick Barn Estate’s relaxing outdoor patio in view of the mountains or inside the elegant chic tasting room with too many things you’ll want to buy. Part of a former world-class Arabian horse farm, the wine-tasting room was once a 36-stall brick barn from the early 1970s, created by an Italian stonemason.

Wine tasting at Brick Barn Estate Winery in Buellton near Solvang

Voted Best Tasting Room in the Santa Ynez Valley, enjoy a sunny afternoon outdoors on the spacious patio. Try a tasting flight or a glass of Chardonnay or Albarino, paired with a tasty charcuterie board.

Brick Barn Estate WInery wine tasting outside

Kings Carey Wines
For an intimate boutique wine-tasting experience, contact local winemaker James Sparks to sample small-production wines with single varietal and single-vineyard bottlings, made with minimal manipulation. Since 2013, Sparks has blended wine for Liquid Farm from multiple vineyards but he chooses to make Kings Carey Wines his way as he wants to “let the region tell its story and help the fruit fulfill its destiny.”

Kings Carey Wines

The brand’s varietal line-up has expanded over the years including Sémillon, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, and two different Chardonnay bottlings, and is currently in the process of releasing a sparkling program with a Rosé of Pinot Noir and blanc de noirs. Later this year, Kings Carey will release a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc. Sparks has received a handful of mentions in wine publications with consistent red wine scores of 92-95 points. You may find it impossible to leave without taking home a few bottles. Some of our favorites included the grenache and sparkling pinot noir rose, both featuring the logo (French fries) imprinted on the cork.

Kings Carey Wines

Tastings are available by appointment only, at the company’s industrial facility in Solvang. Sip the stellar lineup and learn about the wine methods while ogling the brand’s humorous wine labels made by Philadelphia-based illustrator and artist Hawk Krall.

Sample creative cocktails

V Lounge at The Vinland
Had enough wine tasting? Don’t miss Happy Hour at friendly V Lounge from 4 – 6 PM and 9 – 11 PM, for expertly mixed custom craft cocktails and a stellar lineup of martinis. Pair a Cold Brew Caramel Martini with Danish meatballs smothered in gravy, Caramelized Brussels, or a freshly made Smoked Salmon Flatbread with crème fraiche and topped with fresh veggies. Ask for off-menu cocktail options like the Solvang Cosmo or Key Lime Pie Martini. You’ll go home thinking about this orchestra of flavors.

V Lounge cocktails

High Roller Tiki Lounge
This place is a blast day or night, loaded with colorful custom-built tiki décor and the owner’s personal collection of items from his 17 years working at Disney. High Roller Tiki Lounge may be one of the coolest and craziest tiki bars we have experienced. Soft-opened in 2020 on the 65th anniversary of Disneyland’s 1955 opening date, owner Michael Cobb and his Tiki-phile crew craft tiki cocktails with a flair.

High Roller tiki lounge for tiki cocktails in Solvang

Meet a whole cast of characters here while sipping an Island Tsunami with rum, basil and lemongrass syrup, lime, and coconut, in a tiki glass with glowing ice cubes and all the tropical fixings. Try their signature drink, Neon Numbskull served in a slot machine ceramic tiki mug (that looks almost like a scary face) with a spicy Szechuan flower bound to make your mouth tingle, buzz, feel numb, and all sorts of weird sensations enhancing each cocktail sip. Besides the wow factor menu of specialty tiki mug cocktails, there is a solid Michelada menu, Aloha vibe beers on tap or in cans, mulled wine with spices on tap, and the owner’s personal wine brand Sort This Out Cellars with sexy fun vintage-esque labels. Cobb also owns Bettie Page rum, available in California.

Tiki cocktails at High Roller Tiki Lounge in Solvang

Linger for Lunch or Dinner

Ramen Kotori
Find some of the best ramen in California right here in Solvang at Ramen Kotori. Opened five years ago, the kitchen operates inside a charming Danish building with outdoor seating, perfect to slurp a large bowl of noods drowning in chicken and pork broth. The owners (a Japanese woman and a local guy) worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Napa and a Michelin Bib Gourmand ramen shop before opening this noodle gem.

Ramen at Ramen Kotori in Solvang

Expect a hearty portion of noodles and unique options hard to find elsewhere, like Oxtail Wonton Ramen and Udon Noodles with Hope Ranch Mussels and Tsukune. A favorite is the Shoyu Ramen with pork shoulder and marinated bamboo shoots. Spicy lovers will enjoy the Chicken Tan Tan Ramen with spicy ground chicken, baby bok choy, soy marinated egg, scallion, wood ear mushroom, chili bomb oil, roasted sesame seeds, and cilantro. Vegetarian Miso Ramen options are offered too.

Ramen Kotori outside in Solvang

In addition to ramen, a plentiful sushi and seafood menu includes favorites like Uni Rolls (made with local Santa Barbara sea urchin) that are so popular they sell out fast. Local spiny lobster and shrimp dumplings with uni butter and chanterelle mushrooms are also at the top of the list.

Peasants Feast

We recognized Peasants Deli as the only restaurant in California’s Central Coast to be awarded a Bib Gourmand designation in the 2022 Michelin Guide. But directly across the lane, hospitality industry duo Chef Michael Cherney and his wife Sarah Cherney, soft-opened their first full-service Santa Ynez Valley restaurant, Peasants Feast, early-pandemic in 2020.

sea urchin or uni pasta at PeasantsFeast in Solvang

The chef and restaurant management duo brings more than three decades of hospitality experience, having worked in Michelin-star restaurants and highly regarded California eateries. The team wanted to bring a more affordable and relatable place through deliberate dishes meant to highlight the local agricultural community.

PeasantsFeast in Solvang

This cozy restaurant with plants, lined cookbooks, and grandiose basket weave chandeliers is one of the highlights of a culinary road trip, as each dish offers an added surprise or new flavor profile with mostly seasonal locally sourced ingredients. Since the menu changes, specials deserve extra attention, like Caramelized Onion Pierogis, Fried Butter Chicken in a masala gravy, and Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. Standout dishes also included the Sea Urchin Carbonara and Braised Beef Cheek with Everything Bagel Spice and Pomme Puree, washed down with a Japanese rice lager and sparkling kumquat cider – truly satisfying!

Dessert at PeasantsFeast in Solvang, California

Visitors have raved about the sandwiches at both locations such as Instagram-worthy Grilled Cheese Creations, Solvang Hot Chicken, Pastrami Smoked Salmon, and the Lil’ McFEAST Smash Burger. Since February 2023, diners have kicked back in the attached retro arcade with many 1990s games through a secret door at peasantsDELI.

First and Oak

Winner of the Michelin Plate Award in 2019, First and Oak at the Mirabelle Inn has now been listed in the Michelin Guide for a 5thconsecutive year. Choose from 3 and 5-course set seasonal menus with a natural wine pairing option that enhances the experience of each course.

First and Oak restaurant's charming exterior in a half timbered home in Solvang

Look for the romantic half-timbered home with ivy-covered walls and dine in the moody, dimly-lit dining room or the twinkly-lit outdoor terrace under heat lamps. Menu highlights included a Sweet Potato and Granny Smith Apple Salad with tahini vinaigrette, oysters from Morro Bay, Sunchoke Risotto with a nice crunch, and Braised Short Rib with broccolini, local foraged chanterelles, and sweet potato puree.

oysters at First and Oak in Solvang

Solvang Restaurant

You can’t leave without trying some traditional Danish bites like juicy Danish sausage with a sweet sauce or Aebleskiver (“able-skeever”), doughy pastry mounds doused with raspberry jam and powdered sugar, which are more traditionally served around the holidays in Denmark. Make sure to add in a loaded hot Reuben sandwich here at the Solvang Restaurant too with sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and corned beef. Danish family-owned and operated Red Viking is another solid choice to sample Danish fare.

Solvang Restaurant - Danish food in California

Danish Pastries

Check out the Village’s “Fab Five” and pick up some tasty traditional pastries like Danish Kringle, cinnamon rolls, or a cream cheese blueberry Danish – all found at one of the original Danish bakeries: Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe, Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, Danish Mill Bakery, Mortensen’s Danish Bakery, and Solvang Bakery.  The count recently rolled up to six, when Danish Mill Bakery opened storefront offshoot Brød & Kage, next to The Landsby Hotel. Pop over to Good Seed Coffee to enhance your pastry selection.

Aebleskiver or Danish food at Solvang Restaurant

Coming Soon
Stay tuned for newcomer Crudo restaurant and bar, opening this spring in the downstairs space across from Solvang’s Alisal Windmills.

Chef Budi Kazali, former chef/owner of the Ballard Inn, will be returning to the kitchen with a mixed cuisine concept featuring Asian influences, located in the longtime Succulent Café space on Solvang’s Mission Drive.

Stay Awhile

New Haven Inn
We are still not sure if they took the name from Connecticut, but this first-floor stay in this Danish-style inn is convenient for walking to everything in town, as the New Haven Inn is located on a side street with the rolling mountains in the distance. Newly renovated with plush modern décor and style, it features a private fire pit, a brand-new bathroom with ambient mirror lighting, a fridge, and comfy linens. Watch the colors swirl on the horizon from the room’s private patio. It’s also easy to enjoy the beauty while walking home from dinner under the dramatic starry sky. Recent renovations include an expansion with ten new guest rooms and suites including two penthouses with full kitchens for larger groups, families, or extended stays.

New Haven Inn exterior in Solvang

The Winston
Situated right in the heart of town, this adorable boutique hotel with 14 unique rooms offers the convenience of self-check-in, with cheery modern rooms accented in new, colorful, whimsical décor and design. Ask for a room with a balcony on the top level of The Winston overlooking the park. The hotel has hip common areas such as an Honor Bar stocked with local wines and craft beer.

The Winston in Solvang, boutique hotel

Alisal Ranch
About 5 minutes outside of the town of Solvang, families, friends, and couples will adore a stay at this 10,500-acre working ranch, where the menu of activities includes petting barn animals, horseback riding, golfing, tennis, ax throwing, archery, biking, wine tasting and fishing in a private freshwater lake. The property offers 73 suites and recently renovated private guest cottages, all donned in an upscale Ralph Lauren feel. Relax at the spa or the pool; energize at the fitness center. Breakfast, drinks (alcoholic and non), and a lavish dinner are included in the single nightly price. Alisal Ranch has been welcoming guests for over 75 years and it’s no wonder why guests return again and again to this godly cowboy land.

Alisal Ranch in Solvang, California with lake and cows

Continue to Explore Surrounding California Towns

Solvang makes a great weekend stop on a longer road trip or a home base for exploring!

Avila Beach
About an hour away, this quaint town features white sand beaches, piers, wildlife, and a bustling harbor.

Eat: Mersea’s (casual) for the freshest fish, at the end of the pier, with great harbor views.

Stay: Spend a night on the coast in Avila Bay, high above the harbor, in a Beach Cottage at Flying Flags.

Flying Flags in Avila Beach, California

Los Alamos
There are some culinary surprises twenty minutes away in this former stagecoach stop ranching hub now small-town wine producer

Eat: Bell’s (Micheline Star), Bob’s Well Bread (breakfast/lunch)

Stay: Make Solvang your home base.

Los Olivos
Wine-tasting rooms and boutique shops line the main street of this quaint town 15 minutes from Solvang.

Eat: Mattei’s Tavern

Mattei’s Tavern in Santa Ynez Valley, Los Olivos

Sip: Saarloos and Sons (cupcakes and wine pairings), Carhart Wine (large outdoor tasting patio)

Stay: Inn at Mattei’s Tavern (modern farmhouse vibe), Fess Parker Wine Country Inn (upscale traditional)

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