I am a native Californian and only stumbled across hearing about this town in Santa Barbara County while watching the iconic 2004 film, Sideways, by Alexander Payne. A small town with a population of 5,000, Solvang has been known as a “Danish village” because of its distinctive Danish architecture. It is also known for its wineries. Founded in 1911, the town has a museum dedicated to Hans Christen Andersen, the author of The Little Mermaid. Between 1850 and 1930, a considerable number of Danes left Denmark for economic reasons and these Danes who settled across the US were specifically Danish Lutherans. In 1911, Solvang was founded by purchasing 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant.
In the film Sideways, scenes in Solvang are most notable in a restaurant where one of the main characters (played by Paul Giamatti) has a burgeoning relationship with a waitress named Maya, whom he initially looks down upon, but is actually studying horticulture and waitressing on the side, played by Virginia Madsen. The restaurant featured is still open today in the downtown area (aptly named Solvang Restaurant) and you can feel right at home with the completely fascinating world of Sideways. Additionally, in the neighboring town of Buellton, you can stay at the renamed “Sideways Inn” (formerly known as the Windmill Inn which is mentioned in the film). The town is only a 10 minute drive away from Solvang. California is certainly filled with wonderful destinations to serve all tastes and any sort of adventures you seek. I think Solvang is a forgotten treasure and it’s a bit like a real life Disneyland, too.