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Solvang Parks: Bring Danish Pastries to Hans Christian Andersen Park

Solvang Parks: Bring Danish Pastries to Hans Christian Andersen Park

Solvang parks are not part of my childhood memories of the quaint Danish village north of Santa Barbara. As a kid, I visited at least once a year if not more.  We just stumbled across Hans Christian Andersen Park off Atterdag Road on the west end of town. It was the perfect place to enjoy our Danish pastries and play. The park has a true Santa Barbara County feel to it.

Location: On our trips north, I like to get off the 101  freeway and drive the 154 over the San Marcos Pass. This route takes you past amazing views of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands going up the Pass. Then you get to see Lake Cachuma off to your right as you enter the Santa Ynez Valley. Keep your eyes out for the left turn onto Highway 246/Mission Drive.  You’ll go past wineries and through the Chumash reservation before reaching the village of Solvang. [You can also hop off the 101 freeway in Buellton and drive east into Solvang from the opposite direction).

  • Visiting Solvang. If you want to “do” Solvang first, I recommend parking at the corner of 1st Street and Alisal Road on your left on Alisal just past the Old Mission Santa Ines and next to the Solvang Bakery. The best part about the free parking here is the proximity to the bakery for on your way out. Plus there’s restrooms! MAP to Parking for Solvang Visit
  • Visiting Hans Christian Andersen Park. I’d recommend driving to the park after you’re done visiting town. Just take Mission Drive to a right turn on Atterdag. Turn left on the fourth street to your left. The big white entrance makes it a can’t miss turn. MAP to Hans Christian Andersen Park

Solvang Highlights:

  • We usually park, stroll down Copenhagen Drive until it dead ends, then turn up Atterdag back to Mission Drive. Mission Drive is the “restaurant row” of town. We had a nice, simple lunch at Paula’s Pancake House. The kids loved their Danish pancakes.
  • I’m a fan of the Birkholm’s Solvang Danish Bakery (at 460 Alisal Road, Solvang), which just re-opened after a 11 year hiatus — and their Danish waffles (flaky pastry with buttery cream and jam filling). Get a bucket of Danish butter cookies to go!  Mortensen’s Danish Bakery is another popular bakery at the dead end of Copenhagen Drive.
  • More fresh pastry goodness can be found by getting Arne’s Aebleskivers (round pancakes with filling) from the Solvang Restaurant on Copenhagen Drive.
  • This area of Santa Barbara County is also known for its olives and wine (think about the movie Sideways).
  • For the kids, there are numerous independent toy stores, book shops, the Pebble People/cuckoo clock shop, and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.  Not to mention the little pocket parks throughout the village.
  • Check out Solvang’s TheaterFest for the plays at the outdoor amphitheater.  There are also some pretty big names playing at the Chumash Casino Resort for concerts.

Hans Christian Anderson Park Playground Highlights:

  • Hitting the Hans Christian Andersen Park playground was perfect for the kids who were patient and had fun with all the strolling around town.
  • You enter through a great storybook castle gates. Off to your right is the Solvang Skate Park and an older playground under the oaks.
  • Bear to your left at the fork and you’ll drive around to a parking area next to a grassy meadow. Park anywhere and walk down the steps. Our kids raced to the playground which was perfect for my kids and their cousins (ages 3-8).
  • It had a double slide at the lowest level for younger tots. The next slide up was windy/bumpy – but hot in the afternoon sun. The tunnel slide was by far the most popular.
  • There were lots of interactive play boards (musical, weather, storefront, and telescope).
  • I loved the short loop you could take over the wooden bridges and dry creek — around to the LARGE group picnic area draped with purple wisteria vines.
  • Huge grassy lawn with room for freeze tag and 3 sycamores standing nearby like playground sentries.
  • Picnic tables and grills scattered around the play area.
  • Two bench swings (no baby swings).
  • I was especially enchanted by the lone tree standing on the bluff over the playground. Gave the whole place a peaceful feel.

Be Aware:

  • I might worry about the uppermost ladder for the 2 and under crowd. But if you just play with your kids it would be fine.
  • Also be on the lookout for rattlesnakes during hot summer months. And I definitely spotted poison oak off the trail.

Checklist:

  • Solvang is great for a weekend getaway or a nice stop on a road trip along the 101.  It’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive from central Orange County – so a bit too much for a day trip.  If you stay in Santa Barbara, it’s only 45 minutes from there.
  • FREE parking in the village and at the park
  • Bark play surface at the playground, dirt paths, and nice lawn
  • Picnic tables and grills
  • Drinking fountains around town

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