Day Trip to Solvang: What is so special about this tiny California town?
“Solvang” translates to “sunny fields” in Danish. One look at this city, in the heart of Santa Ynez valley in California’s beautiful wine country, and you will understand why. This city, built by Danish educators in 1911, stands on 9000 acres of sun-kissed land adjacent to the historic Mission of Santa Ines. Built to preserve good old Danish cultures and heritage, it is considered America’s Danish Capital and was named by Sunset magazine as one of the “10 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the Western United States”.
Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I made it an impromptu addition to our road trip itinerary in December and made a day trip to Solvang with Babu, of course. Besides the obvious European flair, turns out that Solvang is incredibly dog friendly and many businesses welcome canines with open paws:-) So without further ado, here is a dog friendly Solvang guide, listing Solvang attractions that welcome dogs, pet friendly hotels, restaurants and wineries.
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Solvang Pet Friendly Hotels
Starting off this dog friendly guide to Solvang with several pet friendly hotel options in and around Solvang. As mentioned before, our’s was a day trip to Solvang from Paso Robles, another fantastic dog friendly town on the central coast. We stayed at Chestnut Charmer, a dog friendly house that we rented via Airbnb (use this link to get $40 in travel credit, pretty please) in downtown Paso Robles. However, Solvang has many dog friendly hotels as well! These include The Landsby, Royal Copenhagen Inn, and Wine Valley Inn.
Dog Friendly Solvang Guide: Things to do
We loved our short stay at Solvang drenched in Christmas festivities (or, Julefest in Danish) and oozing with Scandinavian flair, right from the colorful sleek houses (a la minimalist Danish architecture) to windmills, bakeries selling Danish and other Scandinavian delights and the delightful windmills that added a touch of whimsy and made this place stand out amidst the familiar California landscape.
You can simply Google “Solvang windmill” to take you to the most bustling part of town, aka “the village” where you can park and walk down the main street/Copenhagen drive to take in the sights of the many attractions of Solvang. You will be greeted with rows of colorful European style homes (built in the Danish architectural style of clean, geometric lines), antique stores, clock and watch shops, wine tasting rooms, restaurants and many quirky boutiques. Most of these businesses are dog friendly.
Besides feverishly snapping photos of the several windmills all around, do stop by the Little Mermaid statue (a replica of its famous sister in Copenhagen) and the Hans Christian Andersen museum, arguably Denmark’s most famous literary figure. Known mostly for his fairy tales or fables/short stories for children, this museum atop a bookstore is free to enter and best of all dog friendly!
The museum hosts Andersen’s many memorable literary works like the Snow queen, Little Match girl, Little Mermaid and so on, as well as a replica of his home in Odense, Denmark, his portraits and a bust. Being a big fan of H.C. Andersen’s work (although for children, his stories always had a dark, grim undertone or tragic ending), a visit to this museum was definitely the highlight of our day trip to Solvang.
Want more Dog friendly travel? Read all my guide to pet friendly glamping in a Hobbit cobin here!
Finally, this is something which we totally lucked out on is spotting an ostrich and emu farm as we drove out of the village and where Babu was allowed (they seem to allow small sized dogs in). Essentially the birds roam around in acres of open field behind a sturdy, tall fence and you can buy ostrich food ($1/bowl) to feed them. Ostrich are aggressive and hungry(much like me who is “hangry” most of the time), so it is important to read all posted rules to have a pleasant experience.
Babu was so surprised with this “fowl acquaintance” (pun intended) that he did not know how to react and stood with a puzzled expression on his face on the other side of the fence as we fed the birds. Bottom line is that if you have a small dog who does not get super excited, he/she may be allowed in. It’s always good to ask at the front desk to make sure before you purchase your tickets, much like what we did.
Dog Friendly Solvang Restaurants
Dog friendly Solvang obviously has several dog friendly restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious meal al-fresco with your pooch. We started off with some yummy Danish pastries (not to be confused with the American “Danish”) and coffee from Birkholm’s Danish bakery and cafe that we enjoyed with Babu at their adjacent outdoor seating. We grabbed lunch at Fresco Valley Café, which has a beautiful dog friendly patio.
Judging by the number of dogs there, this dog friendly restaurant seemed to be a great hit with pet parents. Portions are on the larger side, but flavorful and there are several vegetarian options. Finally, they also have a menu exclusively for dogs (how awesome is that?) where the meat is unseasoned for your dog’s safety. We ordered chicken off that menu (came in bite size chunks) and Babu lapped it up! Another dog friendly restaurant with outdoor seating is Chomp Burgers which is right next to the little Mermaid statue.
Dog Friendly Wine Tasting Rooms
Ending this dog friendly Solvang guide with wineries/ wine tasting, because, what good is a trip to California’s Santa Ynez valley without tasting the world famous California grapes? Solvang has a bunch of dog friendly wineries/wine tasting rooms such as Presidio winery, Carivintis winery and the one which we visited, aka Wandering Dog Wine Bar. This tasting room , dedicated to the memory of one of the rescue dogs of the owners, is made for dogs and humans to have a good time. Dogs are welcome inside while humans choose one of several tasting options (I went for a pouring of five red wines for $15).
If you buy one of their bottles, the tasting fee is forfeited. The person behind the counter was incredibly friendly and explained about the grape and its source for every pouring. Since I am the only one who loves a drink in that party of four (no wine was ever offered to Babu except for the odd poser photo, FYI) we did not try out other wine bars to keep my reasonable sobriety intact. For those of you pet parents with several wine lovers in your group (after all, wine is best enjoyed in good company), here is a complete list of other dog friendly wineries by the Solvang Tourism board.
I hope you enjoyed reading this dog friendly Solvang guide and are making plans for your own day trip to Solvang, or even better, an overnight stay with your best friend! Dog or no dog, visiting Solvang should definitely be on your list to partake of Solvang’s charming European ambiance and relish a slice of beautiful Denmark in California, minus the costly trans-Atlantic fight fare. Finally, if you are owned by a dog and are looking for adventures in California with your pooch, I have you covered via my numerous dog friendly travel and hiking posts that are “paw”some!
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