Travel Review: Visiting Solvang, California with Kids

December 2, 2020millionmilermom

This post may contain affiliate links. My stay at the Vinland Hotel & Lounge was paid for by myself.

As we continue our exploration of California in 2020, we decided to head down to the desert but, to break up the journey, we decided to stop in Solvang, California for a few nights. We lucked out with incredible weather, witnessing a SpaceX rocket launch and exploring the local area that was absolutely gorgeous. Read on for all the tips for planning a visit to Solvang, California.

The Details:

When we went: November 2020

Ages of kids at time of travel: 7, 5 and 2

Where we stayed: Vinland Hotel & Lounge, Solvang, California

One of the iconic spots in Solvang (corner of Alisal Rd & Mariposa Dr)

We loved our stay at the Vinland Hotel & Lounge. Check out the Wine Country Loft room which can accommodate up to 6 people. As part of our package, we were given a voucher for breakfast at Olsen’s Bakery each morning. The breakfast was comprised of a Danish (so many to choose from!), a hard roll with spreads, orange juice and tea or coffee. We did get food and drinks from the lounge one evening and everything was delicious. In non-covid times, they even have a cold brew bar in the lobby for guests (in the meantime, there is a coffee maker in each guest room).

What To Expect:

Solvang is a city in Santa Barbara County, California, established by a group of Danish settlers in 1911. The main street in town (Mission Drive/Highway 246) and a few adjacent streets boast a plethora of dining, shopping and accommodations. Around every corner is an authentic Danish bakery where you can grab a delicious pastry or even an Aebleskiver (similar to a doughnut hole). While it is very touristy, it does have a lot of charm and can feel like a mini vacation to Europe.

Transport-wise, if you plan to just stay in town, you can walk pretty much everywhere but, if you want to explore wine country or the beach, you will need to have transportation.

Things To Keep in Mind:

Despite going in November, we had absolutely beautiful weather. Solvang is tucked inland and protected from the ocean breezes by a mountain range so we generally had a very mild temperature. If you visit in wintertime, pack layers so you’re prepared for the weather shifts (early morning and later evenings will be cooler). For summertime, expect sunshine and warmer evenings.

Traveling with kids? This city is a great spot for families! With plenty of family-friendly dining options and an abundance of parks and green space, we were able to occupy the kids with just a little effort. Our favorite spots were Hans Christian Andersen Park and Sunny Fields Park. Both were quite empty, had clean bathrooms and plenty of parking.

What Else To Do in the Area:

Feeding ostriches at Ostrichland USA in nearby Buellton.

While you can spend plenty of time exploring Solvang, there is quite a bit to do in the vicinity. Some ideas:

  • Ostrichland USA – just down the road from Solvang on Highway 246. Open 9am-5pm daily. $5 for adults and $2 per child (12 & under). You can get a bowl of food to feed one of the friendly ostriches or emus for $1/bowl.
  • Drive around the quaint towns – one afternoon after a park picnic, we drove around the towns of Santa Ynez and Los Olivos. While they both cater more towards adults (primarily wine tasting), it is a gorgeous drive and loops right back into Solvang via US-101. Want to book a private wine tasting experience? Check out AirBnB experiences starting at $30/person.
  • Gaviota State Beach & Campground – we did a beach afternoon one day and Gaviota was the perfect spot. It was only a 15-20 minute drive from Solvang, had ample parking, bathrooms and a nice, clean beach with moderate waves. And, for parents, no steps down to the beach and a very short walk from the car to the sand! $10 per car parking.
  • Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara is about a 45 minute drive and boasts more beaches, plenty of dining and the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Dining Recommendations:

We got takeout or did outdoor dining for all our meals! From our time there, we would recommend:

  • Industrial Eats (Buellton) – this is in the next town over but we actually grabbed food from here twice. The first time, we did their wood-fired pizza (delicious!) and then we did sandwiches the next time (good but not our favorite meal). It is a busy spot so order ahead on their website and take it to go.
  • Silk Road’s Kitchen (Solvang) – we got falafel and gyro wraps from here one night and they were both very good.
  • California Tacos (Solvang) – generous portions and tasty food. Located down the street from Sunny Fields Park so a great spot to grab takeout and have a picnic.
  • Paula’s Pancake House (Solvang) – fairly standard spot with lots of breakfast & lunch choices, including Danish pancakes.
  • Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor (Solvang) – probably our favorite spot with delicious ice cream, house-made waffle cones and treats like affogato. Serving McConnell’s ice cream with a variety of unique flavors and old favorites.

What to Pack:

We actually didn’t need too much extra for this portion of our trip. We packed:

  • Casual clothes for daytime and evening; dressier if you plan to do any nicer dining or wine tasting
  • A jacket for cooler morning and evenings
  • Comfortable walking shoe for around town, sandal/flip flop for the beach
  • Water bottles to refill
  • Blanket for picnics at the park or beach
  • Sand toys for the beach

Notes on COVID precautions in the Region:

As of the time this blog was published, Santa Barbara County was permitting outdoor dining and takeout. Masks were required inside all places and most people were also wearing them outdoors. At parks and the beach, there was signage that everyone should wear a mask and there was nearly 100% compliance when social distancing was not possible.

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