From the looks of windmills and half-timbered buildings in Solvang, you might think you've crossed the Atlantic and stepped into Scandinavia. But come here and you'll actually find yourself in the sun-drenched mountains of California's Santa Ynez Valley.
Founded by Danish settlers in 1911, the town is modeled to look like a miniature Denmark -- and succeeds in just about every way. (Fun fact: The Danish royal family has visited on multiple occasions.) And unlike the real Denmark, this replica offers year-round sunshine. Here's a glimpse of the quaint village:
The closest city to Solving is Santa Barbara, just 35 miles away. Otherwise, Solvang is 125 miles south of Los Angeles and 300 miles of San Francisco on Highway 101.
While Solvang is most definitely a small town, its main streets stretch in every direction with a bounty of specialty shops offering artisan fudge, traditional Scandinavian clothing, handmade crafts, and souvenirs.
The town is dotted by tributes to the northern heritage that inspires Solvang. In addition to the array of windmills, visitors will find quirky sights like an oversized clog.
There's even a replica of the Little Mermaid statue, like the one that sits in the Copenhagen Harbor.
Danish culture is essentially celebrated every day here, but if you visit in mid-September, don't miss the Danish Days, a festival. This year, it's taking place September 18-20, complete with a concert, parade, and Viking-themed festivities throughout the weekend.
Hankering to learn more? There are three museums scattered throughout Solvang, including one dedicated to famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.