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Top 20 Things to Do in Solvang with Kids (+ Itinerary)
By Kristy Esparza, April 2, 2021
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if you purchase through our links. All ideas and opinions are my own.
If you are looking for things to do in Solvang with kids, you have plenty of options to choose from! Known as the “Danish Capital of America,” this charming little town will delight at first sight with it’s Danish architecture, authentic Danish bakeries, and even family friendly wine tasting options for mom and dad.
Solvang was established in 1911 when a group of Danish-Americans decided to trade in the midwestern winter for sunny California. A few decades later, inspiration struck to make Solvang look and feel like an authentic Danish village. Today that decision is a main draw for thousands of visitors who love the beautiful setting and quaint building facades.
If you’re planning a weekend getaway to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo, Solvang makes for a great day trip. Situated in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley near California’s Central Coast, Solvang is a popular attraction for those looking to explore all that the central coast has to offer.
While the town of Solvang has plenty to do on its own, it’s also surrounded by several idyllic towns in the Santa Ynez Valley that are also fun to explore if you have extra time.
If you’re considering a visit to Solvang or the Santa Ynez Valley, read on for the best things to do in Solvang as a family plus some great places to stay and eat. I’ve also added a sample three-day itinerary for a visit to Solvang with Kids, should all these options feel like too much to piece together!
Things to Do in Solvang with Kids
Start with a Wander through Solvang Village
There are many fun ways to wander through Solvang Village. It’s not large and it’s easy to navigate, making for a perfect stroll. Mission Drive is the main street that runs through the center of the village. It offers plenty of side streets, walkways and pedestrian-friendly nooks to explore.
When traveling with kids, it can be fun to add in a novel, or even silly, option for exploring a town center. Try something a little different like renting a family-sized surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals. If you want a bit more guidance, enjoy a narrated tour on the historic horse-drawn Solvang Trolley.
Stop to sample traditional Danish baked goods at Solvang’s Danish Mill Bakery. (Chris Putnam via Canva)
There are plenty of photo opps in Solvang Village!
Study California-Style Danish Architecture
The architecture in Solvang Village provides endless photo opportunities. From colorful facades to giant windmills, a visit to Solvang is a unique experience.
In 1928, Bethania Lutheran Church was one of the first buildings designed to have a Danish appearance. The famous Solvang windmills followed in the 1940s, with residents modifying or building their homes thereafter.
On a visit to Solvang Village today, you’ll find several windmills and the large clocktower in the heart of the village that plays seasonal tunes. There’s nowhere else in California quite like it!
Search for Iconic Signs of Denmark in Solvang
How much do you know about Denmark? While wandering the village, keep your eyes peeled for hidden icons showcasing Solvang’s Danish heritage.
Some, like the Round Tower of Solvang which is modeled after Copenhagen’s Rundetaarn, are hidden in plain sight. Others, like the Little Mermaid statue and the large red clog outside of Solvang Shoe Store, are sure to stand out!
Browse for Danish Toys and Books
I know this may come as a surprise, but kids don’t always appreciate architecture and cultural iconography as much as their parents. One thing that my boys always seem to enjoy, however, is a souvenir shopping stop.
There are over 150 shops in Solvang Village, so you can spend a good while treasure hunting through many of the kitschy local shops. Be sure to make time for Solvang Toyland and The Book Loft where you can pick up a classic by Hans Christian Anderson.
Yum!! (Chuck Place, Getty Images via Canva)
Sample Delicious Danish Baked Goods
A highlight of any Solvang visit is sampling the baked goods from the Village’s authentic Danish bakeries. Enjoy traditional butter cookies, aebleskivers, Danish waffles and more. Taste your way through town and then bring home some butter cookies as a way to remember your delicious Solvang visit.
You may encounter a long line or two, but they tend to move quickly. There are fewer crowds in the mornings, if you’d prefer to try an authentic danish with your coffee for breakfast. Yum!
Celebrate Christmas Year Round at Jule Hus
Solvang is famous for its Christmas celebrations, so it should come as no surprise that one of visitors’ favorite shops is the beautiful Jule Hus (Christmas House). If you need a dose of Christmas in July, you’ll love the feeling of browsing through nutcrackers, angels, and Santas among the twinkling lights at this festive store.
Check Out a Local Museum
If you’d like to immerse yourselves further in the unique culture and character of Solvang, consider a visit to one of the town’s museums.
Fans of The Little Mermaid will want to stop by the Hans Christian Andersen Museum to learn more about the life and work of this celebrated Danish author. The museum is conveniently located above The Book Loft if you’d like to pick up a story on your way out.
The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature builds from the area’s natural beauty. It aims to educate and inspire visitors to take an active interest in nature and wilderness conservation. The museum is known for its large wall mural featuring the area’s gorgeous oak trees. Families will enjoy the museum’s art stations where you can make your own works of art in the galleries while inspired by the art that surrounds you.
The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum showcases 95 rare vintage motorcycles and racing bikes. The bikes are not cordoned off behind a rope so that visitors can take a rare closer look!
Last, but not least, The Elverhøj Museum of History & Art is housed in a building designed to mirror the traditional farmhouses in 18th century Denmark. Visitors will learn about Solvang’s history and Danish heritage through the museum’s collection of photographs and artifacts.
Explore the Local Parks
If the kids are feeling restless after a day of sweets and shopping, head to one of Solvang’s charming parks where parents can stretch out and relax while the kids run around.
Hans Christian Andersen Park is located within walking distance to the center of Solvang Village. Enter through the castle arch and let the kiddos enjoy the playground’s tall slides. The park also features a music-making station, and a rock-climbing wall. Plenty of trees and picnic tables are scattered throughout the park.
Sunny Fields Park is a great spot to pair with a visit to nearby Quicksilver Ranch. Kids will love to spend the afternoon playing in the whimsical wooden play structures. Fun fact: Solvang is Danish for “sunny fields.”
Located in the heart of the village, Solvang Park has a grassy area with picnic tables and public restrooms. It’s a lovely place to take a rest, and is also the center of action for many of Solvang’s popular events and seasonal festivals.
S. Greg Panosian from Getty Images via Canva
Tour Mission Santa Ines
If you enjoy California history, and especially if you have a 4th grader working on a mission project, you’ll want to add a visit to Mission Santa Ines to your list of things to do in Solvang!
Mission Santa Ines is one of 21 missions throughout California built by the Franciscan missionaries. Founded in 1804, Mission Santa Ines looks over the lovely Santa Ynez River valley and the San Rafael mountain range. It functions as an active church today.
Visitors can explore the museum which houses artifacts, artwork, manuscripts, and historic bells. The oldest bell on display dates back to the mission’s founding in 1804. The church was restored in 2007, but retained the mission-style pews inside.
You can browse the mission grounds and gardens on a self-guided tour, or join a docent-led program to have all of your questions about this historic complex answered.
Sip Delicious Wines in Stress-Free Family-Friendly Tasting Rooms
While we don’t usually visit in-town tasting rooms with the kids, the Carivintas Winery in Solvang Village intentionally welcomes families. Their goal is to create an unpretentious environment where you can simply relax and taste some great wines. Kids are not only welcome, they can sit down at the kids’ table and play with toys, Duplo blocks, and books while you enjoy a tasting.
Buttonwood Farm Winery is just outside of Solvang Village. It’s tasting room is surrounded by peach, persimmon, pomegranate, almond, and pear orchards. Families will enjoy wandering along the walkways to the pond and vegetable gardens. Parents can pick a spot to set up a picnic and relax with a glass in the gardens while the kids run around and explore the grounds nearby.
Attend an Outdoor Performance
Solvang’s summer visitors can enjoy an outdoor play or concert in the 700-person Solvang Festival Theater. This unique venue was built by the local community in 1974 and has hosted more than 200 productions in the years since. Don’t forget to see who’s performing in town before your trip!
Just five minutes outside of Solvang Village is Ostrichland USA. A one-of-a-kind destination, Ostrichland houses over 100 ostriches and emus.
Visitors can get up close to feed them or watch them roam. The large enclosure allows the birds to get up to impressive speeds.
In the summer months, lucky visitors may even get a glimpse at the ostrich chicks who hatched in the spring.
Playing with Ostriches at Ostrichland USA.
Meet Some Special Horses (and Donkeys)
If you are visiting Solvang with an animal-lover, a quick stop at the Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch will be worth your while. You’ll join the ranks of Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, who both have stopped by to get a close look at the “minis.” Tours are available by appointment.
If you have a little one hoping to go on a ride, Seein Spots Farm is on a mission to educate the public about miniature donkeys. Located about 10 minutes from downtown Solvang, the farm offers kiddie rides to small children. All are welcome to meet the donkeys and the many other animals on this one of a kind rescue farm.
Just five minutes outside Solvang Village in the other direction is Flag Is Up Farms. This is the home of Monty Roberts, “the man who listens to horses.” Visitors are welcome to see the facilities and observe their unique training methods in action.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly trail ride, check out The Little Big Riding School which provides instruction and leads rides for families with kids that are 5 and up.
SchraderStock via Canva
Celebrate the Seasons at one of Solvang’s Annual Events
Time your visit to coincide with one of Solvang’s fun seasonal events. September’s Danish Days celebrate’s Danish culture with parades, folk dancing, and music performances throughout town.
Soon after, Solvang celebrates its California heritage with October’s harvest Grape Stomp. If you’ve ever wanted to reenact Lucy and Ethel’s famous scene, you can get your chance in downtown Solvang!
In December, Solvang transforms into one of the “most Christmassy Towns in America” with the month long Julefest. Expect Christmas markets, light shows, a tree lighting, and plenty of other festive holiday events in downtown Solvang. Families will love searching for the mischievous Solvang Nisse (Danish for gnome), and special candlelight tours create a magical ambiance.
Things to Near Solvang with Kids
There are many wonderful things to do around Solvang given its location in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley, home to gorgeous scenery and charming Central Coast towns. If you’re visiting Solvang for the weekend, make sure to spend some time checking out Solvang’s awesome neighbors!
Say Howdy to Santa Ynez
Described as a “sophisticated cowboy town,” Santa Ynez embraces it’s 19th century style with old western building facades, saloons, and feed stores. Modern shops and galleries line streets with horse-shoe embedded crosswalks, and local restaurants serve up a delicious local favorite, waffles.
Kids will enjoy coming across the occasional horse hitched to a post and a visit to the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks-Janeway Carriage House to learn about local history in the form of the largest collection of horse drawn vehicles in the west.
Robbie Kaye via Santa Maria Sun
Be Charmed by Los Olivos
Charming Los Olivos was founded in the 1880s. Its historical Victorian homes and buildings now house art galleries, tasting rooms, and shops, but it retains an unpretentious vibe.
Don’t miss a chance to grab fresh-squeezed lemonade at Los Olivos Lemons, a stand that’s actually shaped like a giant lemon! This town is heaven for foodies, but families can find something everyone will enjoy at Los Olivos Grocery.
Add in a stop at Clairmont Farms, where visitors are welcome to stroll through the fields and picnic at one of California’s most important sources of lavender. Essential oils and other goods can be found in the onsite boutique.
Expect the Unexpected in Buellton
Just across 101 from Solvang, Buellton’s hiking trails, playgrounds, and family-friendly botanical garden make a desirable destination for unique Santa Ynez adventures.
The 0.65 mile round trip trail to Nojoqui Falls is fun for all ages and certainly worth the visit. The trail ends at a viewing platform where you can admire the 80 foot falls. The park is free to enter and offers picnic tables, grills, and a playground so you can enjoy a picnic after your walk.
Buellton is also home to the Santa Ynez Botanic Garden which makes education and family friendly fun a top priority. We love visiting Botanic Gardens with our boys, especially those like this one that offer interactive programs to help families understand and appreciate nature.
Last but not least, families who love a road trip should make an appointment to view the unusual Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps and Petroliana. The museum features one of the largest petroliana collections on the west coast, including gasoline pumps, road signs, race cars, and racing memorabilia. For my family, this would be a must visit destination on a trip with Grandpa!
Enjoy Santa Ynez Valley’s Family Friendly Wineries and Tasting Rooms
In the Old West setting of Santa Ynez, you may be surprised to find the popular Provençal-styled Sunstone Winery. The expansive grounds include several play areas for games like cornhole and croquet. Families can bring their own food for a picnic or buy a boxed lunch at the winery.
Right in downtown Los Olivos you’ll find Saarloos & Sons, which welcomes guests with cupcakes and a photo booth. Nearby Tercero Wines offers young visitors juice, sidewalk chalk, and sometimes even fresh bread baked by the owner himself.
In the Santa Rita Hills, you’ll find the Dierberg & Star Lane tasting room, set in a picture perfect barn. Tastings are offered outdoors, and guests have the option of picnicking onsite. The property also has a beautiful outdoor area with Bocce and other lawn games.
The 4,000 square-foot Standing Sun Wines is located in Buellton, not far from Anderson’s Pea Soup. There’s a large concrete floor for sidewalk art and other chalk art projects that little artists can play with while you taste.
Explore the Great Outdoors at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area
Just twenty minutes from downtown Solvang, outdoorsy families will appreciate a fun day spent at the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. Kiddos over 5 can earn a Junior Ranger badge, explore the Nature Center, and venture onto family-friendly wildlife cruises. There is no swimming at this reservoir, but there are still plenty of options for families to enjoy the outdoors together on or near the water.
Getting to Solvang
Solvang is easily reached by car. It’s located off 101, just 33 miles north of Santa Barbara or 54 miles south of Pismo Beach. The location makes this area a perfect weekend getaway from either the Bay Area or Los Angeles. It’s also an ideal stop on a California road trip.
Because most people arrive by car, you’ll find plenty of options for free parking downtown and near most attractions.
Where to Stay in Solvang with Kids
Solvang Vacation Rentals
Vacation rentals are always a comfortable option for family travel. We enjoy being able to make some of our meals at home, and having enough space for the kids to run around while we relax at the end of the day. The following are some of our favorite family-friendly options for your Solvang getaway:
- Located just 7 minutes from downtown Solvang, an airbnb on Ballard Hill Ranch allows your family to stay on a working horse ranch with gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley Views. For an additional fee, guests can enjoy a horseback riding experience on the farm.
- If you prefer to stay somewhere within walking distance to downtown, you’ll love this spacious home located steps away from Mission Drive in a courtyard with other vacation rentals. The private patio has a hot tub and BBQ, a few of the bonus amenities we always look for in vacation rentals!
Enjoy a Dude Ranch Experience 5 Minutes from Downtown Solvang
For a unique Solvang family experience, consider a stay at Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Rates include breakfast and dinner, and families can choose from a range of suite and cottage accommodations. Each room includes a fireplace and features western decor.
Only 6 minutes from downtown Solvang, the ranch feels a world apart given its location on over 10,000 acres of hiking or riding trails. The property also has its own 100-acre spring-fed lake, two golf courses, tennis courts, a pool, and a spa. Visitors will find a range of family-friendly activities to participate in around the ranch.
You are encouraged to reconnect with nature and each other here, so you won’t find much in the way of electronics, tvs, or even cell phone service.
Glamping Ten Minutes from Downtown Solvang
Buellton’s Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground is a great choice for families. Visitors who are not traveling by RV can “glamp” in one of the resort’s safari tents, trailers, cabins, or cottages. Many of the accommodations come with furnished private patios and BBQs.
When you’re not out and about exploring, on-site amenities include a pool, hot tub, a splashground, playground, bocce ball courts, and more. There are scheduled programs for family fun and the Campfire Cafe to keep you comfortable and stocked with all you’ll need during your stay.
The Wine Cottage at Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground (Highway West Vacations)
Family-Friendly Solvang Hotels
If you’re looking forward to leaving your car behind once you arrive, one of these Solvang hotels might be for you:
- The Wine Valley Inn is located in downtown Solvang with plenty of the town’s Danish charm. Amenities include free breakfast, an evening wine bar, and an onsite spa. Families will appreciate the beautiful grounds and range of accommodation options.
- If a central downtown Solvang location with a pool would make your family happy, check out the Hotel Corque. Several rooms feature a patio or balcony where you can enjoy your morning danish outdoors.
Kid-Friendly Eats in Solvang
Traditional Danish Bakeries
The first stop on any Solvang food tour should be to one of Solvang’s delicious local bakeries where you can sample traditional Danish baked goods. There is no easy consensus about which is the best, so you’ll have to decide for yourselves! Mortensen’s Danish Bakery, Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe, Danish Mill Bakery, Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, and The Solvang Bakery should be on your sampling list.
Paula’s Pancake House
Solvang is a great town for folks with a sweet tooth. Families won’t want to miss a breakfast at this local institution featuring traditional Danish pancakes topped with warm cinnamon apples, berries, or chopped pecans. This is also a great spot to sample traditional aebleskivers, which are sort of a hybrid between a pancake and a donut.
Solvang Bakery (Chris Putman)
Copenhagen Sausage Garden
When eating out with kids, we like to find places with a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Copenhagen Sausage Garden has carved out an open space full of picnic tables in downtown Solvang. Everyone will enjoy the delicious sausages and pretzels in a relaxed outdoor setting, with a good beer selection for mom and dad.
Every Californian knows that where you find good wine, you’re going to find great meals. The trick when traveling with kids is how to find the type of place that has amazing food while being low-key enough to actually enjoy with the whole family. Buellton’s Industrial Eats maintains the vibe of a casual eatery and serious culinary reputation at the same time. This is a great spot for sampling some of the Valley’s finest, while your kids munch on (very high quality) pizza.
El Rancho Marketplace
We enjoy staying at vacation rentals, so stocking up on groceries at specialty food markets is one of our favorite ways to get to know our destination’s food scene. El Rancho Marketplace is a great spot to find good local wines, food specialities, or even to grab some delicious takeout for a picnic.
Pea Soup Andersen’s
When I was a kid, Pea Soup Andersen’s was a required stop on the way to Disneyland. Andersen’s and butter cookies were all I knew of the Solvang area back then. Make a stop here and see if you’ll join the pea soup enthusiasts who make Andersen’s a must-stop when passing through the area.
The Best Time to Visit Solvang
One of the best things about Solvang’s location is that there’s really not a bad time to visit. The winters rarely get too cold and the summers aren’t too hot either. It’s truly a great stop any time of the year. The following are some of the things you might get to experience in Solvang each season.
Solvang in Winter
Winter is a magical time to visit Solvang, as it transforms into one of the “most Christmassy Towns in America” through December. Expect lights, Christmas markets, and other festive holiday events throughout the season. Though I’m always one to miss bundling up outdoors in winter, I must admit that candlelight tours are easier to appreciate without shivering hands.
Solvang in Spring
During the spring rains, the brown hillsides surrounding the Santa Ynez Valley transform into a bright green that completely changes the feel of the area. It’s simply gorgeous. Though the weather may be at its most unpredictable, it’s a great time to explore the region’s natural beauty. Warm pastries also taste especially good on a sunny morning when there’s still a slight chill in the air!
Solvang in Summer
Summer in Solvang is prime time for outdoor family fun. Lavender blooms tend to peak in June, so be sure to make time to visit Clairmont Farms in Los Olivos. Then stop at Los Olivos Lemons for some fresh lemonade, of course! After enjoying delicious ice cream in downtown Solvang, take a wildlife cruise at Cachuma Lake. Options for summer family fun are endless.
Solvang in Fall
Aside from the California fire season, fall has always been my favorite time of the year to travel. California tends to stay sunny and warm, though heat and crowds of summer subside. Solvang has fun fall festivals like September’s Danish Days and October’s harvest Grape Stomp. This is a great time to enjoy a picnic at a family friendly winery, where the kids can run around and explore while you enjoy tasting outdoors.
Itinerary: Three Days in Solvang with Kids
Sometimes a place like Solvang and the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley has just too many options to sort through. It can be overwhelming when trying to pick and choose how to structure your time. What to do and what to skip?
With that in mind, I put together a sample itinerary for a three-day weekend in Solvang with kids.
Before You Go
Before we go on any family trip, I try to get the boys excited about what we’re about to do and see by introducing them to some of the interesting aspects of our destination. For a trip to Solvang, this would probably include reading Hans Christian Andersen stories at bedtime and introducing some cool things about Denmark that they might be surprised to find in California.
Friday: Get Settled and Unwind
When we arrive somewhere on a Friday, we try to take it easy. It’s likely been a long week topped off by a long drive, so we focus on switching to the getaway mindset and finding some options for the kids to run around.
- Check in to Flying Flag’s RV Resort and Campground and get settled.
- One parent would likely go to El Rancho Marketplace to stock up on some specialty items for the weekend’s adventures, while the other explored the resort’s playground and splash pad with the kids.
- Pack a picnic and head to Buttonwood Farm Winery. Unwind with a tasting on the outdoor patio and explore the gardens, pathways, and farm animals with the boys.
Saturday: Explore Solvang’s Highlights
There’s too much to do in Solvang and the surrounding area to fit it all into a quick weekend trip, so pick some of the highlights that best match the season and your mood.
- We’d start at Paula’s Pancake House for breakfast and get ready to take a wander through downtown Solvang.
- Play a game in town to see who can recognize signs of Danish architecture and culture while heading to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and Book Loft. Make a stop at Jule Hus on the way to pick up a souvenir Christmas ornament.
- Catch the horse-led trolley to see downtown from a different perspective. Snap photos under the Solvang Windmill, of course.
- Enjoy a relaxing sunshine lunch at the Copenhagen Sausage Garden, and then stroll over to Hans Christian Andersen Park. Consider traveling via surrey rental depending on energy levels.
- Visit Ostrichland USA on the way back to our glampsite. Feed and watch the ostriches and emus in action!
- Finish up the day with a home-cooked BBQ and fun in the pool.
Sunday: Venture through Santa Ynez Valley
After a day in town, I like to add a bit of adventure into our outings. Since Solvang is surrounded by California horse-country, I’d make the area’s cowboy culture a feature of our last day.
- Meet the miniature donkeys and other rescue animals at Seein’ Spots Farm. Enjoy a donkey ride before heading to cowboy country in Santa Ynez.
- Head over to downtown Santa Ynez for lunch and to check out the horse-shoe crosswalks. Look to see if we can find a horse on a hitching post downtown.
- Pay a visit to the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks – Janeway Carriage House to see the largest collection of horse drawn vehicles in the west.
- Enjoy the scenic route through Santa Ynez Valley on our way back home.
Santa Ynez Valley is beautiful to drive through. We couldn’t stop snapping photos while driving through the area.