Solvang (/ˈsɒlvæŋ/; Danish pronunciation: [ˈsoːlʋɑŋˀ]; Danish for "sunny field") is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. It is located in theSanta Ynez Valley. The population was 5,245 at the 2010 census, down from 5,332 at the 2000 census. Solvang was incorporated as a city on May 1, 1985.Solvang was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres (3,600 ha) of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant, by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen, as well as one featuring the bust of famed Danish fable writer Hans Christian Andersen. A replica of Copenhagen's Round Tower or Rundetårn in the scale 1:3 was finished in 1991 and can be seen in the town center.Mission Santa Inés, one of the California missions (National Historic Landmark), is located near the center of the town, at the junction of State Route 246 and Alisal Road.
Solvang enjoys sunshine throughout the year with clear, warm days and cool nights. Average temperatures vary between 54 and 76 °F (12 and 24 °C) with highs reaching the upper 80s °F (lower 30s °C) and winter lows in the 40s °F (below 10 °C).
Thanks in large part to its unique half-timbered architecture, Solvang has become a major California tourist attraction, with over one million visitors per year. Tourists were initially attracted to Solvang by the visit of Denmark's Prince Frederik in 1939. But it was in 1947, following a feature article in the Saturday Evening Post, that they began to flock to the town. In particular, today's visitors appreciate the Danish windmills, the statues of Hans Christian Andersen and the Little Mermaid, the half-timbered houses, the Danish rural church, the Round Tower as well as Danish music and folk dancing. In addition, several restaurants and pastry shops serve Danish specialities. A replica of a 19th-century Danish streetcar, the horse-drawn Hønen ("the hen"), takes visitors on sightseeing tours around downtown Solvang. Partly as a result of the 2004 filmSideways, which was set in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley, the number of wine-related businesses in Solvang has increased appreciably, attracting oenophiles to the downtown area.
Imitation Danish costumes on sale in Solvang
Since 1936, Solvang has celebrated Danish folk traditions at its annual "Danish Days" event, usually held during the third weekend in September. Led by a "Danish Maid," the program consists of æbleskiver eating competitions, music, dancing, and processions through the downtown area with floats, marching groups, marching bands, folk dancers and singers. A Danish Days breakfast on Sunday morning features medisterpølser, a spiced pork sausage recipe of Danish origins, and æbleskiver.
One of Solvang's attractions is the 700-seat open-air Festival Theater, which was built in 1974 following the success of a makeshift performance of Hamlet in 1971 in the town park. Strong support from the local business community, Donovan Marley (director of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts), and Earl Petersen (a local architect), allowed the structure to be completed in record time. Recent productions have included West Side Story and Les Misérables. The style of the exterior is reminiscent of both Danish and Elizabethan architecture.