The Danish village of Solvang, CA.

Posted on
Sep 23, 2010

Sometimes, I find it’s very easy to predict what I’d like.

For example, if you took me to some sort of cake exhibition that required us to wear pretty clothes and comfy shoes, I would enjoy that very much. On the other hand, if you made me listen to “comedy” of Dane Cook while sampling flavored mayonnaise, I might pray for a swift death. I think I am uncomplicated in this manner. But sometimes, sometimes I will like or dislike something passionately, and it’s difficult to foresee.

So when my husband was driving me to Buellton, CA, because I was curious about why it was the split pea soup capital of the world (a distinction which I find equally dubious and hysterical) and he saw the signs for Solvang, CA, he immediately suggested we go there instead.

“You are going to love Solvang.”

Again, it’s one of those things that I doubt anyone could have predicted: that I would like (nay, ADORE) the cheesiness of a small Danish village in the middle of California. But I did. Of course, it helped that they had actual danishes, of the frosted variety.

The name "Solvang" means "sunny fields" in Danish. Mmmm ... Danish.

Something is awesome in the state of California.

Rand had been there once years before – he had promptly forgotten about it, but when he saw the signs, he insisted we go. I was sputtering with excitement. It turned out to be a lot like Ashland, but with more marzipan. The town was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who spent a few nasty winters in the midwest, said, “F#ck this. I didn’t leave Denmark to freeze my ass off in Kansas,” and smartly headed towards California.

Solvang: warmer than Denmark.

Solvang: warmer than Denmark.

Some of the places kind of phoned-in their Danish-ness. Like the Viking Motel. I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but as my husband noted, probably not a lot of pillaging and abducting of women goes on there. This is probably for the best, as that sort of thing can really put a crimp in your Trip Adviser reviews.

Real vikings don't have the AAA seal of approval.

Real vikings don't have the AAA seal of approval. Unless "AAA" stands for "Ass-kicking, Ass-kicking, Ass-kicking."

Cardboard cut-out viking ships strike fear in the hearts of cardboard cut-out men.

Cardboard cut-out viking ships strike fear in the hearts of cardboard cut-out men.

Other hotels were a little more Scandinavian in appearance, but were nevertheless ill-advised …

Spacious closets for the lady who doth pack too much.

Spacious closets for the lady who doth pack too much.

No one wants to stay at the Hamlet Motel. Just imagine the Yelp reviews: “Friendly staff and spacious rooms, but the carnage in the great hall was a bit bothersome, as were all the sword slices in the drapery. Not recommended for children.”

Or, simply, “Horrible, horrible, horrible.”

Did I mention I was loving the heck out of this place? I was able to make dorky Shakespearean references, did my best Scandinavian Christopher Walken impression (yes, this is something I do. I think it is awesome), and then? A whole house, dedicated to pancakes. And none of that international pancake nonsense. Just Danish ones. This was fine by me, as the one time I tolerate ethnocentricism is in the case of sweets.

Take that, IHOP.

Take that, IHOP.

Rand proceeded to order a plate of pancakes roughly the size of a Volkswagen. I opted instead for the house-made sausage and eggs. And while there’s a clearly a “Your mom” joke there, I’m going to forgo it and simply say that it was awesome. Also, your mom likes house-made sausage (I was lying before).


Blah blah blah SAUSAGE blah blah blah YOUR MOM.

Blah blah blah SAUSAGE-FEST blah blah blah YOUR MOM.

After breakfast, we walked to the bakery next door, and purchased an assortment of cookies, because I like to know where my next dessert is coming from. I half expected the sweets to be overly-sugared frosted confections (as they appeared to be). It’s not that I mind – I like a diabetic coma as much as the next girl – but I do try to avoid that sort of thing, because I find I am slightly more charming when I am conscious. However, the cookies were perfect – not too sweet, deliciously fresh, and (since this is my blog and I can create my own reality) low-fat!

The glass is there so you don't drool on stuff.

The glass is there so you don't drool on stuff.

Afterwards, Rand and I walked around town. I was a bit nervous leaving all our stuff in the trunk of the car (you should NEVER LEAVE ANYTHING IN YOUR CAR while traveling) but the biggest crimes in Solvang involve defending King Claudius and saying you like Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid better. So thankfully everything was fine, and we were able to enjoy the shops of Solvang in relative peace. And what shops they were!

ZOMG. Thomas Kincaid: Painter of Light.

ZOMG. Thomas Kincaid: Painter of Light.

And a place with depressing needlepoint!

This is horrible.

This is horrible.

We then stumbled on to the most magical place of all: Yule Hus. IT’S AN ENTIRE STORE DEDICATED TO CHRISTMAS, YEAR-ROUND. I know, I know. I kind of freaked out, too. They even have a Facebook page (I am going to like the sh!t out of it later). The store was full of all sorts of crazy. I highly suggest that you move to Solvang immediately so you can do all your shopping there.

Yule Hus: Like getting beaten with AN AWESOME STICK.

Yule Hus: Like getting beaten with AN AWESOME STICK.

Yay! It's August!

Did I mention it was August?

BLAH BLAH BLAH nut-cracker BLAH BLAH BLAH your mom.

Blah blah blah NUT-CRACKER blah blah blah YOUR MOM.

I can’t say if you’ll like Solvang as much as I did, but I suspect you won’t. I loved it madly and weirdly. It was the kind of thing I doubt I could have predicted (though if you had told me about the plentiful amounts of baked goods, perhaps I would have suspected it). Fortunately, I travel with a guy who knows me, possibly better than I know myself …

The one thing better than baked goods.

The one thing better than baked goods.

And on the list of things that I love madly and weirdly, he beats out even Solvang.

Leave a Comment

  • You didn’t mention the outdoor theatre!

    Where, by the way, I interned the summer after my freshman year in college.

    And by the way, don’t knock Anderson’s split pea! My favorite when I was a kid…

  • Spent a weekend in Solvang a million years ago and LOVED it! I hate split pea soup so I had no desire to go to silly ‘ole Buellton. Soup over Danish cookies? No contest.

  • HOMESICK! My far-less charming hometown is a mere 30 miles north of Solvang/Buellton (though owing to a rift in time-space, it takes 4 days to traverse that 30 miles). We made many, many (many) trips thereabouts in my youth. Also, “Sideways” was shot mostly in that region (for you Paul Giamatti fans). And if you are ever back there in the summer, go see a show at PCPA. It’s a nice outdoor theater space and they do great work.

    Quick(ish) story: I picked up my sister’s wedding cake in Solvang (20 years ago) and then promptly destroyed it by taking an ill-advised left turn out of a McDonald’s parking lot. It was December. While waiting for the cake to be fixed, still dressed in wool pants and a turtleneck despite it being 80 degrees — because the daily winter temperatures vary by about 30 degrees there from morning to afternoon, a woman on a Casio keyboard was sitting in the middle of a completely dead field of grass singing “Winter Wonderland.” I’ve never wanted to kill anyone more.

  • Bhavya

    I can say I won’t like as much as you do, since I live across the pond and beyond a couple of deserts and mountain ranges and stand no real chance of going to Solvang (or Denmark) anytime soon. 🙁
    That’s one charming village, cheesy cardboard cut-outs and all; also, I heart [the] Thomas Kinkade storefront.

  • Lisa

    Okay, that Dane Cook/flavored mayonnaise thing? I so *officially* adore you.

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  • Solvang? Whoa! Thanks for bringing us too in this trip. An eye-opener.

  • I adore your blog, your posts and (in a non creepy way) you. Your posts get me through all my brainfart moments at work, when I just.need.a.time.out. Specifically, I am commenting to touch on your discovery and consequent ‘love’ for the Yule Hus: If you have ever been to Montreal, you’ll know that we have our very own 365-day Christmas Store (which is my mother”s favorite place to visit when she comes into town)and if you don’t then consider it an excuse for you both to come visit! I have yet to discover your blog in its full glory, so if you have been to Montreal, oops! And if not, then I am pretty sure the city will be excited to have you both.

    • Everywhereist

      Andi –

      I was in Montreal ages ago, and it is literally one of my favorite places on the continent. People were incredibly friendly, and the food and shopping were so fantastic. I’ve never written about it, because it was before the blog was in existence. But it might be time to go back. There’s a restaurant that I need to flip off (long story. LOOOONG story.)

      • After I wrote my comment, I went back through your archives and read your posts involving Canada and Montreal”s famed Poutine. Coming back to Montreal is a great idea! And when you do, have a gander at my food blog and see if there are any restaurants that might tickle yours and Rand”s fancy (i know, i know, total self promotion- i had to :p). As for the restaurant that you have to flip off, a few come to mind that might be the cause of your insult. I say, go get ’em!


        • Everywhereist

          Aw, thanks Andi! Trust me – if I tell you the story of the restaurant, you’ll understand why flipping it off is so damn crucial. I just might have to blog about it. 🙂

  • T.A.

    Just found your blog by way of the Time list (hooray for a fellow Seattleite!) and this was the first post I read. O M G what memories… we side-tripped to Solvang after a day visiting area vineyards three Thanksgivings ago. I thought it was better than Disney as the epitome of American kitsch. I possess many of the same pics as you posted here. (Ah, that blue sky, sigh.) And the caption under the nutcracker pic — I think those are the exact words I uttered to my partner under my breath as we stood staring at those same nutwhackers within earshot of his kitch-obsessed mom.

    I’m a big fan already. This is going to be fun!

    • Everywhereist

      Hooray! I’m so glad you like the blog – and so happy you are a fan of kitsch!


  • Amanda R

    You have to go back. You missed the best part of Solvang: Aebleskivers. They are magic pancake balls covered in raspberry jam and powdered sugar. The Solvang restaurant even has a take out window for them.

  • Anya Lee

    Excellent post, but I can’t believe a fellow Seattleite could write about an awesomely cheesy themed town without making a single mention of Leavenworth and *their* pancakes and Christmas store!

    • Everywhereist

      Confession time, Anya: I have never been to Leavenworth.

      There. I said it.

      • Anya Lee

        I am shocked and appalled!

        It’s worth a visit for the tea shop alone (and said tea shop isn’t even properly themed).

      • Melissa

        Leavenworth really is a LOT like Solvang sounds – from your photos I totally would have mistaken the location (except for the Viking cut outs) and more emphasis on Bavarian foods rather than Danish, but those aren’t so very different (same quaint bakeries, pastries, pancake house-type places) along with lots of places to get German sausages (thought you’d appreciate that) and I swear, the exact same Christmas store!!! You’ll have to check it out when you have more than a few days in your home state between trips – it’s only a 2 1/2 hour drive – one of those destinations that is never THAT exciting, but I am up for at least every couple years….

  • Jen

    If you liked Solvang, you’ll LOVE Frankenmuth, MI. It’s basically the German version of Solvang, complete with Christmas shop. Except their Christmas shop is bigger. MUCH bigger. In fact, it’s the biggest Christmas store in the world (so they say). The building is the size of 5.5 football fields. They get about 2 million visitors from around the world every year (for reasons that escape me, it’s actually a tourist attraction. Who plans their vacation and says “You know what? I want to see the world’s largest year-round Christmas store”?!)

  • Cathrine

    My last name is Solvang and it is on my bucket list to visit this town. I am not from Denmark, I am from Norway, but Denmark ruled our country like a 100 years ago

  • amcrni

    Oh hell yes. Me and my fiance are honeymooning in Cali this coming October and Solvang is on our list of towns to visit while we drive up the coast. Probably hitting it in between Santa Barbara and Cambria.

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