The quiet tourists that normally visit the quaint little Danish town of Solvang were recently displaced by thousands of cheering cycle fans who turned out to witness the return of their national hero Lance Armstrong to the professional cycling circuit during the Amgen Tour of California.
Those who waited hours to see the iconic athlete were not disappointed. As one father of three from San Francisco put it, “It was well worth the long drive down Highway 101 to see the great Lance Armstrong ride again.”
This event has been the biggest boost for the town of Solvang since it was featured in the Academy Award Winning comedy “Sideways” back in 2004. Not that Solvang needs any giant promotional lift to remain a popular tourist attraction. Everyone that visits the tiny Danish town invariably enjoys its old-world friendly warmth and charm.
Those that stayed beyond the cycling event found plenty of family activities to enjoy.
An excellent way to get a quick lay-of-the-land is the short narrated tour of Solvang aboard the Honen (Little Hen), a replica 1915 streetcar pulled by a sturdy pair of Belgian draft horses.
If you have cycling in your blood, you can have a go at an exploratory bicycle tour or a four-wheeled “surrey cycle” ride offered by Wheel Fun Rentals. Solvang is a cycle friendly community, and you can leisurely bike to dozens of antique and curio shops that are housed in buildings constructed in the traditional Danish style of architecture.
There are many other family fun activities available in and around Solvang -too long a list for our brief article, but they include boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, golfing, etc., etc… If you care to just relax and enjoy a leisurely picnic, vineyards and scenic parks are ready for your pleasure. Solvang has it all!
Depending upon your mood and tastes, there are over 30 dining options that include California America cuisine, French, Italian, Mexican, and of course – Danish. If you crave Danish pastries and baking, this place is to die for. Drive a few miles west on Highway 246 and you can also enjoy a delectable bowl of pea soup at the world-famous Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurant in Buellton.
The town of Solvang is nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley with easy access to over 60 acclaimed wineries and vineyards, many of which are small family run operations. The region is especially known for its outstanding chardonnay, pinot noir, and syrah offerings.
The east-west orientation of the local mountain range forms valleys that are open to the Pacific Ocean. This distinctive topography allows fog and sea breezes to create microclimates that are ideal for growing classic grape varietals.
There are many fine hotels in and around Solvang. We were lucky to have reservations at the centrally located Wine Valley Inn, in downtown Solvang. We are happy to recommend this delightful boutique hotel, which has excellent guest rooms to suit every taste and budget, private courtyards and gardens, and even a Koi pond.
Solvang is conveniently located 5 hours south of San Francisco and 2 hours north of Los Angeles, just off scenic Highway 101 on Highway 246. The next time you are in the vicinity, stop by and pay a visit. You will not be disappointed.