Named by Sunset magazine as one of the "10 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the Western United States," Solvang's rich heritage dates back to 1911 when adventurous Danish-Americans traversed the plains from Iowa to establish a settlement in the golden state of California. They purchased 9,000 sun-drenched acres of the former Rancho San Carlos de Jonata and situated their new community adjacent to the historic Old Mission Santa Inés. To preserve and promote Danish culture, the founders constructed a Danish folk school and church (the building now houses Bit O'Denmark Restaurant, 473 Alisal Road); then built Atterdag College, which opened in 1914 and educated through 1970 (now the site of Solvang Lutheran Home, 636 Atterdag Road).
Founded by Danish immigrants in 1911, Solvang boasts authentic architecture, thatched roofs, old-world craftsmanship and traditional windmills. Over 1 million visitors come each year to experience the northern European culture, cuisine and unique boutique shopping. The pedestrian-friendly village hosts three museums, 15 inns and hotels, a full-service guest ranch, meeting facilities, 30+ restaurants and bakeries, 150 retail shops and the Solvang Theaterfest, an alfresco 700-seat theatre.
The Santa Ynez Valley is a small, close-knit community with just one public high school. When our students graduate from the eighth grade, they proceed on to Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.
Solvang-- the name is a Danish word meaning "sunny field"-- was founded in 1911 on 9,000 acres of former Spanish land grant. To the small group of Danish settlers, refugees from Midwestern winters, the area must have looked like heaven. It was a group of Danish educators who founded Solvang and they immediately went to work building a Danish folk school.
In 1914 the school moved to newly constructed Atterdag College, where students learned the basics and a love of Danish culture. Atterdag College is gone, but it's spirit still infuses the town.
In 1936, on Solvang's 25th birthday, the future Danish king and queen visited, sparking interest in the local colony and the local annual festival known as Danish Days.
When The Saturday Evening Post featured Solvang in a 1946 article, tourists came, attracted by the setting, the customs, and the idyllic life.
Shops, galleries, restaurants, and hotels soon sprouted, each reflecting the area's Danish architectural heritage. And Solvang evolved into the jewel it is today: a charming town with roots planted firmly in Danish tradition.
Although Solvang has developed into a major tourist mecca, its many Danish-American residents continue to perpetuate their Danish heritage. Danish and Danish-American fraternal and social organizations are active in Solvang, including Danish Brotherhood and Sisterhood Lodges, Dania Men's and Ladies Lodges and a Solvang chapter of the Rebild National Park Society. Other ties with Denmark are evident too. Some members of the community are members of the Royal Order of Dannebrog in recognition of their contributions towards strengthening the bonds between the United States and Denmark. "In addition, Solvang and Aalborg in Denmark are sister cities".
Danish Days, celebrated annually in September, is an important time of year in Solvang. This is when Solvang invites the public to share a celebration of the town's Danish heritage. The good life and simple pleasures are remembered with old world customs and pageantry. Danish folk dancing, entertainment, music, parades, displays and food are presented all weekend.