Solvang – a Danish town in California
Solvang is a town in the Santa Barbara County in the Santa Ynez Valley in Centralcalifornia.
In Danish Solvang means “sunny field”.
The town was founded in 1911 by a Danish group of educationists on a former Spanish Mission.
Many people from Denmark came to the USA between 1850 and 1930 because of poverty in their country. Most of the Danish people went to Utah, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Solvang in California was the last place where a Danish school was opened. The school was teaching after the N.F.S. Grundtvig, a Danish philosopher. The so-called Folkeskole brought a new approach of education in the niches freedom, literature and disciplined creativity.
Due to the increasing Danish influence and the continuous Danish frame house-style , Solvang became a famous tourist attraction.
There are real Danish bakeries, restaurants and shops with European gifts. The town is also called “The Danish capital of California”.
The most famous sightseeing spots are a copy of the “Little Mermaid Statue” from Copenhagen as well as a replica of the “Cogenhagen Round Tower” and many, many windmills all around.
Prince Frederik from Denmark even visited Solvang once in 1939 and princess Margarethe from Denmark came in 1930 and 1976 as queen of Denmark with her husband Prince Henrik. Shortly after her second visit Ferdinand Sorensen, the founder of Solvang, was awarded the “Dannebrogordenen”. This medal is giving to servants of the Danish state for civil and military services. It strengthened the relationship between Denmark and the USA. Solvang is twinned with the Danish town Aalborg.
The Danish carriage “Hønen” offers sightseeing tours around downtown.
Since 1936 there are “Danish Days” that are celebrated every third weekend in September.
Lead by a Danish maid the program includes the æbleskiver (traditional pancake puffs with apples, which they sometimes eat as a competition), Danish music and dancing and a parade through the streets of downtown. A Danish breakfast on Sunday morning with medisterpølser (sausage) and æbleskiver.
On the outskirts of Solvang, Santa Ynez Mission is located which was founded as the 19th Californian mission in 1804. Nowadays it is a historical landmark and it was completely renovated in the 20th century. Santa Ynez is a church, museum and garden you can take tours in.
Solvang became famous through its appearance in the Oscar-winning movie “Sideways”.
Close to Solvang are many vineyards and the Michel Jackson Neverland-Ranch, the home of Michael Jackson, is located close by.
Especially when you come from Europe yourself this place is so worth seeing! It feels awesome to see stuff you know from home while living or vacationing on the other side of the world, on a different continent. Despite its Danish influence, all German stuff can be found here.
Also I would write down some stuff you should definitely visit in this town but to be honest this town is really small and all you should really do is take some time to walk through the streets, drink a coffee in one of the cafés and visit the stores. Just enjoy this place and maybe learn something new about the Danish culture and Denmark itself.
I can warmly recommend a visit and that not only when you’re from Europe! It is really interesting to see an obviously different town on the west coast.