What’s fun about a unscheduled road trip type of vacation is the flexibility to see what we want without the worry of having to be somewhere at a specific time. Most of the time, an unscheduled vacation works out pretty well. Occasionally it doesn’t, like the time our family recently drove through Solvang, California at 5 pm on the way to San Simeon, California.
Solvang is a charming Danish colony slightly north of Santa Barbara. Settled in 1911, this tiny community offers visitors a “taste of Denmark” with its Danish styled architecture, half timbered houses, Danish bakeries, and Danish music and folk dances. Our family thought it would be fun to detour off Highway 1 for a couple of hours for a few hours of sightseeing in Solvang. It wasn’t until driving into town that we discovered that Solvang pretty much rolls up the sidewalks at 5 pm leaving us with not much to do.
If your visit to Solvang is “after hours” like ours was, you aren’t entirely out of luck. While we missed out on the shops, trolleys, wine tastings and other attractions, there were plenty of other things to explore.
Solvang is a very walkable town and even though the stores might be closed, it’s still fun to park the car and walk around town for a bit of sightseeing. Along with half timbered shops and thatched roofed buildings, we found several windmills, a clock tower, public art (including a mermaid statue), several small plazas, and ornamental iron storks perched on the roofs of many of the buildings. After-hour visitors to Solvang can download a walking tour at Solvangusa.com.
Danish pastry shops
We were excited to discover that several of the pastry shops in Solvang were open until 7 pm (Olson’s closes at 6 pm) which all offer a fantastic selection of Danish Pastries. During the summer, the temperatures are warm enough that it’s fun to eat your pastry at an outdoor table and take in the ambiance.
St. Ines Mission
Towards the east of Solvang is the Old Mission Santa Ines, the 19th of 21 California missions established by Franciscan priests from 1769 to 1823. The mission was closed by the time we arrived in Solvang though we stilled enjoyed driving around the grounds and viewing the mission from the outside.
Solvang is really a charming town and one that we could have easily spent a full day in sightseeing had we arrived at 9:00 in the morning. If your road trip takes through Solvang after hours like ours did, we still recommend parking the car and exploring this charming village on foot for an hour or so.