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Christmas has always been a special time for me. I am one of those crazy people who puts up a Christmas tree way too early and keeps it up through Valentine’s Day.

The Off Their Jingle Bell Rockers; photo by Robert E. Thomas; photo courtesy of ETG

I bake cookies for my surrounding neighbors and all my writers of both of my websites and members of my holiday singing group – The Off Their Jingle Bell Rockers. The group has been together for over fifteen years. We perform at private parties, and public events. Its so much fun! Christmas carols and the smell of hot spiced apple cider and fresh baked cookies fill the air in my house from late November through December. My husband Rich, who was raised Jewish, has come to appreciate it – or at least he pretends to.

It has become a tradition to put my Christmas tree up on my birthday (mid Nov) to kick off the season, then go to dinner to celebrate. Since the pandemic hindered the last two year’s plans, we decided to go all out this year, and take a trip to Solvang. Founded in 1911 by Dutch immigrants, Solvang (located in Santa Ynez Valley) is known as the Danish Capital of America with its quaint Dutch architecture. Christmas is a big deal in Solvang. It’s always lit up, with lots of Christmas trees and ornaments for sale in almost every store. I was excited!

Solvang local businesses including Bit O’ Denmark Restaurant on right; photo by Kathy Leonardo; courtesy of ETG

We stayed at the Mirabelle Inn (a boutique hotel), and enjoyed a lovely room with a fireplace. CLICK HERE to read my Review in the Destinations Section; Lodging Page; under the U.S. drop-down page. Mirabelle Inn, 409 First Street Solvang, CA 93463; https://mirabelleinn.com/

Rich and I have devised a new strategy when we travel. Based on where we are going, we often plan separate times to enjoy what each of us are passionate about. Rich loves nature and hiking – while I love shopping and wine tasting. We both love to eat, so sharing a romantic meal at the end of the day and recounting the fun we had earlier is something we both look forward to.

First & Oak, an intimate restaurant located in the hotel we stayed at proved to us why it has earned a Michelin Plate in the 2019 Michelin California Guide, This was a decadent meal. CLICK HERE to read my review, or visit the Stories Section; Dining/Drinking page; Reviews drop-down. First & Oak 409 First Street Solvang, CA 93463; https://firstandoak.com/

First & Oak, Filet of Beef (smoked celery root, miso, slow cooked onion); photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

As always, I love to spend time in the town that I am visiting. So as soon as I arrived, I scouted out all the best holiday stores, retail shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Christmas is a revered holiday in Solvang. Several of the boutiques offer Christmas ornaments for sale on a continuous basis. Jules Hus, founded in 1967 is THE Christmas store, filling the town of Solvang with holiday spirit all year round. I had such a great time browsing this charming shop. Needless to say I bought new ornaments, even though I currently have so many ornaments…I couldn’t help myself. These exquisite ornaments come from all over the world. Jules Hus, 1580 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA; At the time of posting the website was not working; https://www.facebook.com/thejulehus/;

Jules Hus Christmas Store; photo by Kathy Leonardo; courtesy of ETG

While I was in Solvang, I wanted to try an authentic Danish meal. Since Rich is not an adventurous eater, I decided to start him off slowly with breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House. Here I indulged in Danish pancakes with warm cinnamon spiced apples and whipped creme and a side of Danish Medisterpølse sausage. When I asked the waitress what the sausage tasted like – she said you will either love it or hate it! I loved it. This was a distinct flavor which featured allspice with a hint of cloves. Of course my husband ordered a nontraditional option – chicken fried steak with biscuits and eggs. That was tasty as well. Paula’s Pancake House, 1531 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463; http://www.paulaspancakehouse.com

I put together a list of Danish Restaurants. CLICK HERE to read, or visit the Destinations Section; Eat/Drink Page; under the Local drop-down.

Paula’s Pancake House, Danish Pancakes (with warm cinnamon spiced apples); photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

If you love sweets, Solvang is the place for you! Nearly everywhere you turn, you will find a bakery! Here are some of my favorites. Rich and I shared a fantastic cream puff at Mortensen’s Bakery (1588 Mission Dr, Solvang, Ca, 93463). Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery (1529 Mission Dr., Solvang, CA 93463) offered delicious butter cookies. A whipped creme puff tempted us at the Danish Mill Bakery & Coffee Shop (1682 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang, CA 93464), while the Solvang Bakery had the most amazing butter ring – so good. The latter was a darling shop in addition to a bakery and had an assortment of home goods, kitchen gadgets, and Christmas ornaments beautifully displayed throughout the store. To find out more about these incredible bakeries, and a few more, CLICK HERE or visit ETG’s Destinations Section; Eat/Drink Page; under the Casual/Kid Friendly drop-down.

Danish Mill Bakery & Coffee Shop; photos by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

I enjoyed another authentic Danish meal at the Solvang Restaurant. There was a line in front early in the day, so we decided to pop in for a late lunch. It was still packed. My husband nervously viewed the menu, telling me…”don’t expect me to get something Danish.” We often share our meals. But this time, I knew I was on my own. I had been ranting the entire previous day that I was not leaving Solvang until I enjoyed Danish classic dish. I love to try indigenous food whenever I travel. The Solvang Restaurant was the perfect place for both of us. I ordered a sausage platter with sauerkraut a cabbage, and Rich indulged in Fried Chicken. CLICK HERE to read my Restaurant Review or head to the Stories Section; Dining/Drinking Page; under the Reviews drop-down.

Sausage Platter; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

Since Solvang is home to so many wineries and tasting rooms, this became both a solo and joint venture with my husband. Rich got a kick out of Dan Cassera of Casa Cassara Winery & Vineyard, and we both enjoyed all his great stories. Dan just happened to be the president of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, so I asked him where we should go for dinner. He recommended Toscana, a local Italian restaurant  which turned out to be great. Casa Cassara Winery & Vineyard, 1607 Mission Drive, Suite 112, Solvang, CA, 93463; https://ccwinery.com/

Rusack Vineyards; Wine Flight; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

Another one of my favorite wine tasting experiences was at Rusack Vineyards. The tasting room was located about ten minutes from town on the vineyard. We enjoyed the beautiful setting surrounding the vineyard, while I embarked on an Old World red wine flight. Rusack Vinyards, 1819, Ballard Canyon Road, Solvang, CA, 93463;  https://www.rusack.com/

CLICK HERE to read my article about the Wines of Solvang, or visit the Stories Section; We Love LA Page; under Weekend Getaways drop-down.

Solvang has a unique history. We had a chance to stop by the beautiful Old Mission Santa Inés. This is literally a few blocks from the town – you can walk to visit it. Read more about the history of Solvang on ETG’s Destination section; Explore Page; under the Historic Sites drop-down. CLICK HERE for the direct link.

Old Mission Santa Inés; photo by Kathy Leonardo; courtesy of ETG

You may want to visit during Julefest – a month long celebration in Solvang which runs from the last week of November to the first week of January. Just be aware it will be more crowded, but that can be fun as well! http://solvangjulefest.org/

If you enjoy the holidays as much as I do, you will fall in love with Solvang. This is a charming town with tons of Christmas cheer!

Stop by the Solvang Visitors Center located at 1637-1639 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA 93463. Visit the official tourism bureau website for more info – https://www.solvangusa.com

Wine Valley Inn & Cottages; photo by Richard Bilow; courtesy of ETG

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