Bring a little Hygge into your holidays with this Danish-style holiday festival.
If you think Solvang, a.k.a. “The Danish Capital of America,” is already Christmas-y most of the year, then just wait until you see it during the Julefest. It’s a month-long celebration where the quaint hamlet is filled with twinkling lights, traditional ornaments, festive treats, and other holiday delights. The season kicks off around November 27, but the beginning of the holiday festival is signified with a dazzling tree lighting ceremony on December 3 and is brought to a close on January 7 with the burning of the tree.
While you could easily take in all the charm of this Danish Provincial-style town in the Santa Ynez Valley in a day, Julefest involves a calendar of special traditions worth returning for. You can spend the afternoons wandering the pristine avenues of half-timbered shops with enchanting window displays of delicious Danish-inspired offerings to marvel at. One window you must stop at is Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, with its 10-foot gingerbread house made from 275 pounds of gingerbread and 175 pounds of powdered sugar.
On December 3 from 5 .p.m. to 6:30 p.m., you can make your way down to First Street and Mission Drive, where a large Christmas tree will be illuminated to mark the beginning of Julefest. There’ll be ballerinas twirling about, carol singing, live performances, and, of course, Mr. Claus will be sleighing in too. After that, you can find him at Santa’s Village from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday leading up to Christmas Day.
The merriness marches straight into the weekend, with performers and participants parading down Mission Drive, Copenhagen Drive and all the adjacent streets. If you’re feeling a little peckish after this but you find the dizzying array of cheeses, cured meats, and pastries difficult to navigate, you can join an epic 4-hour food tour. You’ll basically eat your way through the town, stopping at the most iconic places like Cailloux Cheese Shop, Bit O Denmark, Crawford Family Wines, and Olsen’s Bakery for bites and sips. It’s a foodie’s crash course on Solvang’s Danish legacy, and it takes place every Saturday leading up to Christmas Day.
If you’ve already wolfed down enough aebleskivers to see you through the month, you can skip the food tours and browse incredible handcrafted gifts and wares from local artisans at the Makers Market. It takes place every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p,m. at the Elverhoj Museum. Then spend your Friday and Saturday evenings on an enchanting candlelight tour, where visitors follow a dressed-up guide and discover fascinating Solvang stories while walking through the streets, before meeting Mr. Claus. Saturday tours are already sold out)
If you’re around on the second Saturday of the month, you’ll get to gather on the open lawn for the Solvang Nativity Pageant. A Christmas tale will be brought to life with live music, actors and animals, but you’ll need to book a timeslot here.
Throughout Julefest, you can spend your time tracking the elusive Solvang Nisse (which is effectively the Danish equivalent of Elf-on-a-Shelf). However, despite the beautifully maintained historic buildings, this activity has been adapted for modern-day Nisse seekers. So you’ll be able to use nisseadventure.com to find clues, find the Nisse, and scan the QR code to continue the adventure with the possibility of winning a prize at the end.