If there’s such a thing as too precious, this Danish town might be it. But what’s wrong with a throwback as long as it includes new restaurants, pastries galore, and upgraded lodgings? Solvang could become your new favorite base for a trip to Santa Barbara wine country, which was named 2021 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. Stop by Ostrichland, take in an outdoor show, and perhaps spot a celebrity. Just know the town goes pretty dark on Mondays.
The Vinland Hotel & Lounge, on Mission Drive at the start of town, welcomes guests with a spacious entry and lobby. Its location makes for an easy walk to everything in the center of the action. The large, updated rooms offer plenty of space to spread out and relax. Try the wine country loft for bigger groups as there’s an upstairs with a third bed and a separate entrance ($259 and up). Many rooms overlook the valley and have patios where you can step out and sip coffee to start your day.
Wine and Dine
For an elegant dinner, make reservations at Mad & Vin at The Landsby hotel. Caramelized Brussels sprouts with bourbon maple syrup and prosciutto ($18) or a flat iron steak with herb butter and duck fat fries ($40) pair beautifully with local wines. At lunch, try mushroom tacos with pea shoots ($18) at Peasant’s Feast, where the menu highlights the season’s best. Go early; there are no reservations accepted.
A trip to Solvang must include pastries. Head to Solvang Restaurant for ebelskivers, puffy Danish pancake balls, served here with raspberry jam and powdered sugar. For a longer and more whimsical stop, try Danish Mill Bakery where you’ll be greeted by an animatronic baker telling stories of the start of the bakery in 1960 as well as the history of Solvang. Nearly every flavor of danish is available, and the cinnamon rolls are fabulous.
Get away from the hustle at the town’s center with a stay at Corque Hotel, just far enough for quiet nights but still within walking distance of everything. The premier rooms and suites ($168 and up) have balconies, patios, or French doors overlooking the valley. The boutique hotel invites guests in with an elegant entry featuring a lovely brick driveway. Of particular note in this era: There are no resort fees.
Sips and Scenery
Winery options are limitless, but plan ahead and make reservations. Family-owned Rusack Vineyards invites guests by appointment only to its small property. The vibe is serene while you sip and take in stunning hillside views from the deck under old oak trees. Tastings are customizable as nearly every wine is available to try. Sunstone Winery offers tastings seven days a week in its lavender-filled courtyard reminiscent of Provence. Shaded by olive and oak trees, the outdoor area is perfect for the five-wine tasting ($25), picnics, and cornhole. It also boasts high-end event space: “Modern Family” actress Sarah Hyland was married there in August. A slight detour to Lompoc will lead to Melville, with its grand entryway and plenty of lavender and wisteria. The family-owned spot uses grapes only from its own 120 acres. The Estate Tasting Flight offers five pours ($25) of highly rated wines, which you can find in O.C. at Fable & Spirit and Hi-Time Wine Cellars.
Tip From a Local
“A hidden treasure in Solvang is the mile-long circular walking trail, directly below the Mission Santa Inés, that surrounds a defunct olive grove. A great jaunt before a day of wine tasting.”
—AMY CHRISTINE, Solvang resident and co-owner of Holus Bolus Winery and The Joy Fantastic Vineyard
The Solvang Festival Theater just completed a one-year, $4.7 million rebuilding project
and reopened in the summer. The all-outdoor venue hosts performances year-round, including comedian Brian Regan, who appeared in September, and The Robert Cray Band in October. This month, the show is Stunt Dog Experience, which promises tricks, stunts, comedy, and more.
Kayaking Day Trip
If you want to spend a little time on the water, stop in Ventura on the way up or back and take a day trip to Channel Islands National Park. Santa Barbara Adventure Company leads seasonal kayak tours where helpful and personable guides will show you plenty of wildlife, sea caves, and perhaps even share some history of the area ($124 and up). All levels are welcome, and the Discovery Sea Cave kayak tour is a good introduction and not too strenuous.
Mark Your Calendar
Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley, Nov. 3 through 6: A four-day celebration of the valley’s food and wine includes tastings, chef-driven dinners, and other activities spread across six towns in the area. visitsyn.com/taste-of-the-santa-ynez-valley