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The California Danish town made by Danes for Danes | A Bartell's Backroads Pit Stop

Just 35 miles from Santa Barbara, Solvang is a throwback to historic Denmark.

SOLVANG, Calif. — Located 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley you find yourself middle of a place that looks an awful lot like Denmark.

When you enter the town of Solvang, Calif., everything has a Danish feel to it. The buildings look Danish, the food tastes Danish and even the people dress like the Danes. The best way to see it all is to catch a ride the Solvang Moke Experience.

A Moke is actually a British car, not Danish, but don’t let that ruin your experience. The rentable electric car allows you to zip around Solvang quickly. 

The first thing you will notice is the Danish style windmills built throughout the city. Town historian Ester Bates is with the director of the Elverjoh Museum. She says the architecture is as close to authentic as it can be. 

“So, why is Solvang, Solvang? Well, it’s a Danish town built by Danes for Danes,” said Bates.

Back in 1911, some adventurous Danish-Americans crossed the plains from Iowa to establish a settlement of their own. They landed on 9,000 acres in current day Santa Barbara County with one goal in mind: preserve Danish culture.

Solvang really pumped up the town's Danish charm after it was featured in a 1940s issue of Saturday Evening Post. The town started building Danish churches, bakeries, hotels, and enough windmills to attract real Danish tourists. 

“It’s a little bit of a history snapshot for them because Denmark does not look like this anymore,” said Bates.

The Danish traditions are most notable in September when the town puts on their clogs for the annual Danish Days -- a 72-hour long celebration of everything Danish. Then in October, the clogs come off for the grape stomp festival. 

No matter what time of year the windmills always make for a great selfie. 

“Our photo perfect spot in Solvang,” says Bates.

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