Once you leave Santa Barbara Northwest ant take Rt 154 you drive through beautiful rolling hills, some of them overgrown with grapes, some just with grass and an occasional oak tree. After a pass a beautiful blue lake Cachuma captures your sight on the right. There are no good places to stop the car and take some pictures of it. We found a state park but the views were not as good as from the other end of the lake. Very soon you pass Santa Ynez and get to Solvang, all surrounded with vineyards. The very first hotel we stopped was very good: Swensgards Lodge, sounds Scandinavian! the room was spacious, beautiful and had a view towards one of the windmills and downtown, the windows were blocking well the noise from the street, and the breakfast room downstairs was a cozy one with a fireplace.

Solvang is called a Danish capital in the US. It definitely reminds if not particularly Denmark, but surely Europe. I am not sure how many danish people live there and the people I met on a Kopenhagen airplane said it has nothing to do with Denmark, but anyway – it is cute. In winter it becomes very quiet, all the boutiques and little stores close at 5pm. Even the wine tasting places, of which there are plenty, close at that time. Only some restaurants remain open. Solvang resembles a souvenir town all lit with Christmas lights and with several windmills sticking from its landscape . Some say there are 6 , some say there are 7, or maybe more windmills…

Advice: stay in Swensgards Lodge and do some wine tasting. There is another town higher in the mountains, 30 mi from Solvang, called Los Olivos – they also have wine tastings with hors d’ouvres and various events, so it could make a nice holiday weekend even during off season.