What to do in Solvang: Julefest, bakeries, museums, Airbnb

Los Angeles is over 5,500 miles from Copenhagen – but for those looking hygge this festive season, a warm and cozy solution is just a three-hour drive from the coast.

The town of Solvang – also known as the “Danish Capital of America” ​​- sits in the Santa Ynez Valley, making the community of half-timbered buildings and windmills an easy day-trip destination or of a weekend getaway for Southern California travelers. In addition, the six weeks of Solvang julefest kicked off last weekend, which means it’s the perfect time to visit the quaint Central California town.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find tips for making the most of a December visit to Solvang. Where are you going in December? Send your travel plans and recommendations, and I may pass them on in a future edition of Escapes.

Discover the best of Julefest

Solvang stores decorated for Julefest.

(Central Coast Photos/SolvangUSA.com)

What exactly is Julefest? And what sets it apart from other parties?

The annual event, pronounced “yule-fest,” features all the hallmarks of other winter holiday celebrations — colored lights, photos with Santa Claus, and Christmas musical performances — plus a generous helping of Scandinavian flair.

Here is some of the highlights you can catch over the next few weeks:

  • Tree Lighting Ceremony: Ready for a last-minute trip? The ceremony, which includes dance and music performances, will take place from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, December 2.
  • Julefest Parade: Floats, cars, horses and dancers will invade the town center of Solvang from 11am. at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 3.
  • Candlelight Tours: Guides in Danish folk attire lead walking tours of downtown Solvang throughout the holiday season. register here.

Travel back in time at the Solvang History Museum

A laughing woman inside a store holds a traditional Danish child-sized outfit in each hand.

Travelers can buy handmade Danish clothing at Elna’s Dress Shop in Solvang.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

How did the Danish capital of America end up in the golden countryside of the Santa Ynez Valley?

You will learn this and much more during a visit to Elverhøj Museum of History and Art in Solvang. Dedicated to sharing the story of Solvang’s founding and development, as well as information about the Danish immigrant experience in the United States, the museum is a helpful stop for travelers visiting the city.

If you go, take a close look at the building itself: it was built by Viggo Brandt-Erichsen and Martha Mott, a husband-and-wife artist duo whose creative touches can be seen in details like the redwood door hand carved and painted. panels. The couple drew inspiration from Scandinavian architecture, particularly 18th-century farmhouses in Jutland, northern Denmark.

Hoping to go shopping while on vacation in Solvang? On December 10 and 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the museum will host a maker’s market, with handmade gifts available for purchase from local artisans and artists (and if you’d rather wear your story, stop Elna’s Clothing Shopshown above).

The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is open Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free entry.

Solvang has a surprising number of museums for a city of this size. The Hans Christian Andersen Museum and Wilding Museum of Art and Nature are also open to visitors during this holiday period.

Snack your way through Solvang

A man leans on a glass counter full of pastries

Bent Olsen, owner of Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, has been selling pastries in Solvang since 1970.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Vaniljekranse (round cookies with vanilla butter). Aebleskiver (spherical pastries made from fried dough). Kransekage (a marzipan ring cake).

You can find these desserts – and many more – at Solvang’s Danish and Danish-inspired bakeries.

“[G]Going to Solvang is the best thing to do before going home,” a Times reader wrote in 2015. “For me and many other American Danes, this is the only place to find and enjoy true Danish pastry.”

When visiting Solvang, I recommend starting your day with a healthy appetite and a plan to visit a few bakeries in a row, trying a different Scandinavian treat at each stop.

Here are a few to try:

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The most hygge stay in Solvang?

It’s not every day that you have a view of a windmill from your terrace.

I fell on this Airbnb ad while researching a trip to Solvang last year and was immediately impressed by the sheer number of “hyggeligand Danish-inspired touches sprinkled throughout the space – including a large artwork depicting the colorful houses of Nyhavn (a popular tourist destination in Copenhagen) and fuzzy blankets draped over Scandinavian-style furniture.

Oh, and it’s located in a replica of the Rundetaarna distinctive round tower in Copenhagen.

The Airbnb in downtown Solvang, which sleeps four, is still available on specific dates in December. It costs $550 per night (plus fees), with a two-night minimum.

Give this holiday season

Spending the holidays in Los Angeles? There are many interesting things to do in December without leaving the city. Best of all: donate your time to a meaningful cause.

My colleague Jessica Benda recently compiled a list of 26 ways to volunteer while on vacation in Los Angeles. This includes preparing food, distributing toys, walking shelter dogs and planting native species. Take a look at the list here.

🎸Road Song

Protect my energyby Little Simz. The holidays can be a tough time, to say the least. May this song remind you to take care of yourself in December.

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