Solvang is a little town established in 1911 by a group from Denmark, located 2.5 hours north of Los Angeles. With a population of less than 5,500, the Danish heritage continues today in the town. The town is filled with bakeries, restaurants and shops offering a taste of Denmark in California. Being near Santa Barabara wine county, there are also plenty of wine tasting opportunities, making it a good weekend getaway or day trip from Los Angeles (but make sure you don’t drink and drive!).
For lunch we stopped at Solvang Restaurant, famous for their aebleskiver. These are Danish pancakes cooked in a special pan (see second picture below) so it comes out in a sphere shape, then coated with raspberry syrup and dusted with sugar. The restaurant has a takeout window for customers who just want to get aebleskiver. We went in for sit down service and ordered the combination plate of Danish sausage, meatball and red cabbage, chicken and waffles, and aebleskiver for dessert. Honestly I wasn’t a fan of the aebleskiver that everyone was lining up for outside, it was too sweet with a mushy center. If anyone has a favorite aebleskiver joint somewhere, please let me know! The savory dishes we ordered were decent, but nothing amazing.
After lunch we made a stop at Mortensen’s Danish Bakery. About 45 years ago Ove Mortensen from Copenhagen opened this bakery. Today it remains a family owned business. We got the bearclaw, custard danish, florentine, and cinnamon crisp. My favorite was the custard danish. We heard the danish butter ring is a must try, but it was too big to share for two.
Many of the facades and buildings in Solvang reflect traditional Danish style of architecture (e.g. windmills, brick and timber). We walked around town a little more, popping into kitschy souvenir stores. As I mentioned before, Solvang is near wine county, so there are many wine tasting opportunities in the town. We didn’t stop to wine taste, but if you’re staying the night or don’t need to worry about driving back, definitely pop into one of the tasting rooms.
My main reason for visiting Solvang the past weekend actually wasn’t completely for the Danish town… I really, really wanted to go to Ostrichland USA. Just as the name suggests, visitors can visit this outdoor mini-zoo to feed ostriches and emus. The entry fee is $6 per person (including a bowl of feed), and you can buy extra food pellets for $2 per bowl. Located 5 minutes outside of the main Solvang town, we headed over after we were done exploring the town. The ostriches can get quite aggressive and try to steal the food pans, so make sure to hold on tight. It’s fun to watch them run a lap around the property chasing each other. There are also baby emus that are adorable – they won’t be as cute in a couple of months! This was such an enjoyable experience for both children and adults, I highly recommend this stop if you are visiting Solvang. You can call ahead to check if they are done with feedings for the day, during the busy season they might close earlier when the birds are full.
Fun facts about these birds:
– Ostrich is the only bird with two toes
– Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand, only in cartoons
– Ostriches have the largest eye of any land animal, their eyes are actually bigger than their brains
– Emus predominately travel in pairs
– Emus enjoy water and can swim quite well
Solvang and Ostrichland is an easy day trip to make from Los Angeles, whether you have kids and want to take them somewhere fun or if you want to wine taste without going all the way to Napa. What I like about Solvang is that it’s visually appealing, dog-friendly and very walkable (flat streets, no inclines). It is a tourist town after all, so if you want to avoid tour buses and heavy crowds, try to come during the off season to enjoy a stroll through this cute Danish town!