Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a small city in Santa Barbara County that’s steeped in Danish culture. During the early 20th century, an estimated one in 10 Danes left the poor economic conditions of Denmark, seeking greater opportunities in the United States. Three of these Danish immigrants, Reverend Benedict Nordentoft, Reverend J. M. Gregersen, and Professor P. P. Hornsyld, joined forces to create a Danish colony in 1911, which is what’s known as Solvang today.
“Solvang” means “sunny field” in English, and it very much lived up to its name during its establishment, featuring abundant farms, primarily for dairy farming—work that many Danish immigrants were doing in their home country. As the city expanded and more and more Danes from around the United States established roots in it, Solvang decided to pay homage to Denmark, constructing new buildings and renovating old ones in the Danish provincial style, which features timbers and thatched roofs. The city also constructed a number of windmills to pay tribute to the home country of its immigrants.
The unique-to-the-U.S. half-timbered architecture began to catch the attention of tourists, who were increasingly drawn to the old-world feel of Solvang. As a result, entrepreneurs opened up shops and restaurants that featured authentic Danish garb and food, which spurred tourism even further.
Today, Solvang is a charming, idyllic little city that draws people from all over the country who are eager to get a taste of authentic Danish culture. And one of the events that draws people the most is Danish Days, an annual three-day event established in 1936.
Led by a different Danish Maid each year, Danish Days typically occurs during the third weekend in September, with this year’s event happening from September 20-22. The festival celebrates Solvang’s heritage with authentic Danish food, dancing, music, activities, and attire. The family-friendly event offers all kinds of things to do for adults and children alike. For instance, on the first night there’s a traditional Torchlight Parade where all participants are given candles and invited to walk through the city to celebrate the event’s commencement.
On Saturday and Sunday, you can peruse an Old World Artisans Marketplace, where you’ll find vendors selling traditional fabric art, pottery, and jewelry in addition to woodworking and papercutting demonstrations. And on Saturday, there’s a free Aebleskiver Eating Contest that invites anyone to compete against competitive eater and eating challenge queen, Raina Huang, to eat the most aebleskiver in five minutes. You’ll also find Viking Encampments that feature historical reenactments in addition to daily Kid’s Korners that offer snacks, beverages, and games in a supervised Play & Rest Area.
While your kids are occupied, you can head out to the Viking Beer & Wine Garden for some cold brew and try your hand at axe throwing, check out an aebleskiver cooking demo, or receive a glimpse into your future from a Rune Reader. And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg—there’s also a Sunday Children’s Parade, daily comedy shows, and free concerts each night playing traditional Danish tunes.
Tickets range from $8-$65, with $65 getting you and a friend a “Dane For a Day” VIP package, which includes, viking helmets, aebleskiver breakfast tickets, axe throwing tickets, and Viking Burger tickets, in addition to several other perks. You can check the website to find out anything else you need to know about this historic event, including the best places to stay and a detailed event schedule.