Your Next Must-Go Weekend Trip with Kids: Solvang, CA

The best things to do with kids in Solvang, CA
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Solvang (aka “Danish Capital of America”) has a lot more going for it than windmills and waitresses in dirndls. While the town still has plenty of kitschy charm worth checking out, there are also plenty of modern restaurants, boutique hotels, tucked-away tasting rooms and carefully curated shops to explore. Read on for all the details on where to play, eat and sleep in Solvang with kids.

Things to Do in Solvang, CA with the Family

Hans Christian Andersen Park

The entrance to the park is through a fairy tale-esque “castle” archway but most notably, HCA Park has tons of great features like a nice walking trail that begins near the park’s entrance to right (about where the Vinland Hotel is located—in fact, some of the Vinland’s rooms overlook the park).

HCA Park has a newer, modern playground structure which is often way less populated than Sunny Fields Park, an awesome skate park, free municipal tennis courts that were recently resurfaced, and brand new pickle ball courts. There are also secluded wooded picnic BBQ areas and loads of nature areas to explore.

Good to Know: Like all nature spots around California, mountain lions and bobcats are known to frequent the park, so it’s best to stay alert—and of course, also beware of rattlers (in season) and poison oak (always!).

633 Chalk Hill Rd.
Solvang, CA
Online: solvangusa.com

Solvang Trolley & Carriage Tours

Hop aboard this old-fashioned streetcar (but modernized thanks to its new electric motor) for a 25-minute tour of the town's most popular landmarks. Along the way, your guide (dressed in traditional Danish garb) will regale you with fun facts and local lore. We don't want to give too much away, but be prepared to discover the town's one authentic thatched roof along, when the first windmill was actually built and the meaning behind those wooden storks perched atop many of the local buildings. 

Cost: Adults, $14; seniors, $12; children ages 3-11, $9; free for children under 3

1639 Copenhagen Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: solvangtrolley.com

Sunny Fields Park

Just outside of town you'll find this Danish-inspired playground complete with a Viking ship, windmill and mini gingerbread house. Of course, there's also the requisite swings, slides and climbing structures that kids love. Added bonus? That bathrooms are really clean just in case your little one needs a potty break on the way in or out of town. 

900 Alamo Pintado Rd.
SolvangCA
Online: cityofsolvang.com

photo: Andie Huber

Dana V. Wines Tasting Room

There are loads of places to taste wine in town but this is the only one we found with outdoor games for the kids to play (during non-COVID times). While this tasting room opened in 2018, Dana Volk, the owner and winemaker behind the label, has been in the industry since 1996. Part of the growing movement of women winemakers (the number of women winemakers is particularly high in the Santa Barbara county region), Dana proves that you can marry your passion with your lifestyle (aka kids and family). Dana V. Wines is the direct (and delicious) result of that effort.

1588 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: danavwines.com

photo: Andie Huber

Ostrichland USA

No Solvang trip would be complete without a stop at this big bird mecca. Totally kitschy, kinda strange (birds are the descendants of dinosaurs after all), this roadside staple is everything you need and expect it to be. Little kids will probably need help holding the food and heed the warnings that the birds can bite.

610 E. Hwy 246
Solvang, CA
Online: ostrichlandusa.com

The Best Places to Shop in Solvang, CA

 

Onederchild

Owned by local dads (a #popandpopshop), this adorable boutique offers unique toys, books and gifts for babies and kids, along with gently (as in barely) worn clothes on consignment. Tucked inside one of Solvang’s most famous windmills, it's an under-the-radar local favorite featuring finds that are both whimsical, well-made and socially conscious (like one of our fave discoveries the Women's March Puzzle). Just a warning: You won't be able to leave empty-handed.

Solvang, CA
Online: onederchild.com

Hanson's Clock Shop

Kids will go cuckoo for this shop featuring cuckoo clocks galore. There are traditional, hand-carved wooded clocks with elaborate scenes, along with cute, tail-wagging cat clocks. If you can't manage to time your visit on the hour (who can blame you?), not to worry. Friendly shop-workers can manually adjust the clocks to chime for kids. 

467 Alisal Rd.
Solvang, CA
Online: clocksclocks.com

photo: Andie Huber

Hans Christian Andersen Museum & The Book Loft

The tiny museum is a hidden gem, is located upstairs in the independently-run bookstore. It's an intimate space that details the life and the legacy of Denmark's most famous author (The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea and The Little Mermaid to name a few) with knick-knacks and childhood home replicas—even your littlest ones will be delighted by all the exhibition pieces. Once you're finished with the museum portion, spend some time exploring all the wonderful used and antique books on the same floor.

Insider Tip: Keep an eye out for the "real" pea from The Princess in the Pea, displayed in a glass case within the museum. 

1680 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: thebookloftsolvang.com

The Copenhagen House

For anyone with a love of housewares, home decor and gifts, this store is a must-stop for the best in Danish design (so beautiful and functional). Kids can get in on the retail action by checking out the clever toys. Not only do they claim the largest selection of Hoptimist in the US, but there are some LEGOS here and the cutest stuffed animals that might have you lifting any purchase bans of soft loveys. And don't miss the adorable wall of clogs made in teeny-tiny kid's sizes.

1660 Copenhagen Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: thecopenhagenhouse.com

The Best Places to Eat with Kids in Solvang, CA

Peasants Feast

Hooray for kid-friendly foodie spots! Sit outside on the large patio and enjoy food that's fresh from local farms, ranches and coastal waters, sure to please both “big” and “little” kids. Chef/owner Michael Cherney helms the craft-food eatery, relying on his serious restaurant industry résumé—with time spent in Michelin-starred kitchens in Los Angeles, at Ortolan, and Las Vegas, at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon)—to turn out signature lunch or dinner items like seasonally-shifting grilled cheese creations, Instagram-famous sandwiches such as their Solvang Hot Chicken, or smash burgers (including a kids’ sized version), straight-from-the-farm stand salads, and family-friendly soups which utilize local, seasonal crops. Can't miss desserts include house-made ice cream, crafted by the Cherneys’ tween daughter, Reina, plus freshly-baked cookies and a family-favorite frozen lime pie.

487 Atterdag Rd. 
Solvang, CA
Online: peasantsfeast.com

brekkies by CHOMP

Stop by the register to order your meal before taking a seat (don't worry about the long line—it moves quick!) at this sweet breakfast joint that offers a full breakfast menu that is sure to delight everyone in the family including gluten-free waffles that are all the rage. Other go-tos? Breakfast burritos with a tator tot surprise, veggie omelettes stuffed with vegetables and for the kids? Banana Nutella pancakes of course. 

1655 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: brekkiessolvang.com

Paula's Pancake House

Almost as famous as the windmills within the town's limits, this breakfast hotspot fills up fast. If you don't get there by 8 a.m., expect to wait for your Danish pancake fix—thin pancakes served with whip cream and fresh fruit. The kids will like the chocolate chip pancakes (what's not to love about that) and you'll love that the coffee is strong and refilled regularly.

Insider Tip: Good news for early risers—they open as early as 6 a.m.

1531 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: paulaspancakehouse.com

photo: Andie Huber

Good Seed Coffee Boutique

This Solvang-staple coffee shop is the place to go for your morning joe, your afternoon pick-me-up or honestly, everything in-between. The coffee is roasted locally and the baked goods are organic with vegan and lots of gluten-free options.

Don't miss out on the superfood lattes. The turmeric (pictured above) was a cup of cozy with a snappy finish thanks to the ginger and cinnamon. Definitely worth the stop and be prepared to linger—the cool Nordic vibes coupled with the local staff’s warmth make it hard to leave.

1607 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: goodseedcoffeeboutique.com

Danish Mill Bakery

The Danish Mill Bakery, one of Solvang’s “fab five” Danish bakeries, was recently acquired and the new owners (who also own The Copenhagen House) have added fun animatronic bakers in the front window, along with a life-size animatronic baker inside the restaurant, who gives this whole little speech. Trust us, it's fun and not creepy. Treat yourself to their aebleskiver (similar to doughnut holes), chocolates, pastries, breads, and one of our family's favorite—Napolean's Hats.

1682 Copenhagen Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: danishmillbakerysolvang.com

photo: Andie Huber

Cecco Ristorante

From the wood-burning oven pizza to the fresh and tangy Puttanesca, the food here is everything you want rustic-Italian cuisine to be—comforting, satisfying and delivering on all taste levels at the end of a long day. And while the restaurant is "casually elegant," the staff and the atmosphere is warm, welcoming and accommodating—including delivering an order of plain spaghetti with no butter, no oil and no decorative "greens."

475 1st St.
Solvang, CA
Online: ceccoristorante.com

Via Gelateria

Recently opened in September 2021, this family-owned and operated gelato shop, focuses on using locally sourced ingredients, and is determined to bring authentic Italian gelato to the Santa Ynez Valley. And with up to 18 flavors on display, they've made the choice between Belgian cookie gelato, dark chocolate or salted caramel extremely difficult. Of course, now you have all the more reason to frequent this gelato shop more than once while you are in town.

1623 Mission Dr. 
Solvang, CA
Online: viagelateria.com

 

Where to Spend the Night in Solvang, CA

The Landsby

For contemporary Danish-style, a stay at The Landsby is a must with room rates starting at $169. Wood accents, muted colors and tactile fabrics all layered together in that enviably effortless, hygge way that transports you directly to Denmark without ever leaving the country. The lobby sets the tone for an entirely welcoming atmosphere while the outdoor seating area, complete with fire pits, make sitting outside a comfortable treat day or night. The 50-room hotel is in the middle of downtown Solvang. Plan to leave the car in the parking lot and easily walk everywhere from its central location. The Landsby is also dog-friendly.

Insider Tip: The Landsby’s onsite restaurant, Mad & Vin, is a great option for a family-friendly breakfast, brunch, dinner, or even Happy Hour nibbles, but it does book up in advance—meal-time reservations are recommended. 

1576 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: thelandsby.com

Vinland Hotel & Lounge

Copenhagen meet California! This pet-friendly, modern hotel offers 82 guest rooms and is located right in the middle of town—meaning you can leave your car in the parking lot and walk to all of the must-go spots Solvang has to offer. The kids will love the hot tub and heated pool while parents will love the V Lounge that features local wine, fresh fare and innovative cocktails. Midweek rooms start at $149.

1455 Mission Dr.
Solvang, CA
Online: vinlandhotelandlounge.com

Festivals, Fairs & Events Happening in Solvang, CA

With its mild weather, relatively affordable hotel rates and minimal crowds (shhh... don't let word get out), there is really never a bad time of year to visit Solvang. That said, if you're looking for something a little "extra," here are four yearly events worth checking out:

Danish Days: Traditionally the third weekend in Sep., this 3-day celebration of all things Danish includes a Viking encampment (with reenactments!), live music and folk dancing, an artisan marketplace, a parade and more.

Solvang Farmer Pumpkin Patch: Sep. 30-Oct. 31, 2021

Scarecrow Fest: From Oct. 1-Oct. 31, more than 100 Scarecrows will populate the Santa Ynez Valley. Can you find them all?

Solvang Julefest: For more than a month each holiday season (late-Nov. through early January), Solvang turns into one of the most "Christmas-y" towns in America.

—Andie Huber

feature image: Alonso Reyes via Unsplash

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