A Savory Sojourn to Solvang and The Landsby Hotel

The Landsby Hotel boasts boutique luxury with a hint of traditional Scandinavian aesthetic. Photos by Greg ARAGON



As the road wound through rolling hills and a ranch full of playful ostriches, we knew something special was waiting. And when we passed a pasture of grazing horses and entered a tiny village of windmills and half-timbered buildings with gabled roofs, our suspicions were confirmed: we were going to have a memorable time in Solvang. 

Our getaway to the small Danish-inspired town began at The Landsby Hotel (www.thelandsby.com), a contemporary boutique hotel with 51 rooms, all finished with blonde woods, brushed brass accents, unique animal paintings and elegant hand-crafted furnishings. Here we checked into a beautiful suite, overlooking a serene courtyard with trees, benches, firepits and walkways. 

Our room at The Landsby came with a comfy, four poster king bed, 47” inch flat-screen TV, mini bar, office desk and an elegant Scandinavian design feel. The room was highlighted by a unique painting of a fluffy alpaca, leather accents on the furniture and lots of windows looking over the courtyard. 

Rooms at The Landsby are unique and elegant.

Once settled in our room, we explored town. Named by Sunset Magazine as one of the “10 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the Western United States,” Solvang’s rich history dates back to 1911 when adventurous Danish-Americans traveled across the plains from Iowa to establish a colony and escape harsh Midwestern winters. Since then the city has retained its heritage with numerous Danish-styled structures with windmills and pitched roofs.

One of the great things about Solvang is that it is very walkable. From our room at The Landsby we explored all the sites by strolling up and down Mission Drive, the town’s main street. 

Danish Americans helped establish Solvang in 1911.

Our first stop was Ingeborg’s Danish Chocolate Factory (www.ingeborgs.com), which was opened in 1961 by Ingeborg Larsen, who prior to moving to Solvang ran her own chocolate shop in Copenhagen, Denmark. When she came to America, she brought with her many original recipes, some of which are now over 70 years old and still popular today.

At Ingeborg’s I felt like a kid in a candy store – an actual candy store! I was surrounded by swirls of pure chocolate, chocolate-covered marshmallows, nut & truffle creations, chocolate-covered fruit-filled marzipan, crunchy peppermint, orange sticks and award-winning butterscotch sea salt to name a few. The place also has an old-fashioned malt shop. 

A horse-drawn carriage is a great way to see Solvang.

After sampling an assortment of hand-made chocolates, we boarded a horse-drawn carriage pulled by two huge Belgian draft horses. As we clip-clopped through town, the driver/guide, who was dressed in traditional Danish garb, gave everyone on board a fun history lesson on Solvang. He also made an exciting U-turn on a small side street, which was quite a feat for a long carriage being pulled by massive horses.

During the ride we waved to tourists as we drove past a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen as well as a large bust of Danish fable writer Hans Christian Andersen. We also past the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, one of the few museums outside of Denmark devoted to Danish culture and the Danish-American experience. Another unique sight during our horse carriage tour was the eMoke car (www.myevxperience.com), a little open-air electric vehicle that looks like an old Jeep. Made for sight-seeing, these small cars are currently very popular in Solvang.

After the carriage ride, we headed back to The Landsby for dinner at the hotel’s signature Mad & Vin restaurant. Specializing in delicious wine country-inspired cuisine, Mad & Vin serves fresh dishes with seasonal ingredients from California’s central coast. They also boast traditional and craft cocktails, specialty shrubs, beer, and acclaimed, locally produced wine.

Mad & Vin serves gourmet dishes such as golden-fried calamari with lemon, peppers, sweet onions and a succulent dipping sauce.

Our dinner at Mad & Vin began with delicious shrimp ceviche, with citrus-cured wild red shrimp, avocado, onions, tomato, cilantro, house-made hot sauce. We followed this with an incredible plate or golden-fried calamari with lemon, peppers, sweet onions and a succulent dipping sauce. 

For the main course at Mad & Vin we split a memorable filet mignon that was grilled to perfection and served with gorgonzola, bacon-whipped potatoes, baby arugula and a green peppercorn reduction. For dessert we devoured a tantalizing creme brulee and a heavenly flourless chocolate molten cake with cherry port wine sauce, McConnell’s vanilla bean ice cream, fresh berries and whipped cream.

The next morning we drove a couple of miles to Ostrichland USA (www.ostrichlandusa.com) to feed the world’s largest birds. Located along Highway 246, the 33-acre ranch is home to about one hundred giant ostriches and a few emus, all roaming freely behind fences. The friendly birds are raised onsite and love to be fed by visitors. For $1, guests can get a bowl full of bird food and walk up to the fence and feed the birds. But as I quickly learned, you must hold the bowls very tight or the ostriches will pull them from your hand with their powerful beaks. 

Ostrichland USA is a unique and fun adventure for the whole family.

Ostrichland USA is so popular it’s been in numerous TV shows, including an episode of The Simpsons entitled, “How Munched is That Birdie in the Window?” For this episode, artists from The Simpsons visited the farm in 2010 to draw inspiration. 

Besides ostriches and emus, Ostrichland USA features a unique gift shop with T-shirts, ostrich socks, fresh ostrich eggs and more. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for kids under 12. 

Back at The Landsby Hotel, we had lunch at Mad & Vin Restaurant and sipped local CARR cabernet franc red wine from Santa Ynez Valley. And speaking of wine, Solvang and The Landsby Hotel are located in the heart of beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, one of California’s most productive wine regions. From the hotel, guests can catch a shuttle to numerous award-winning wineries, located only a few miles away. 

For more information on staying at The Landsby Hotel and visiting Solvang, visit www.thelandsby.com or call (805) 688-3121.