Solvang : California


What It Is Like to Retire in Solvang

Solvang is a small town of about 14,000 people in the Santa Ynez mountains of Southern California. Solvang, which is Danish for "Sunny fields", is about 35 minutes inland from coastal Santa Barbara. Nearby towns include Lompoc, Buellton, Ballard, and Los Olivos.  The area  was made famous when “Sideways”, a dark movie about 2 wine-loving bad boys, was filmed here.  Several local wineries and restaurants were depicted  in the movie. The town itself was founded by Danish settlers; today in its Centennial (the King of Denmark came to help townspeople celebrate). Solvang has a kitschy Denmark meets Heidelberg feel, but the overall effect is pleasant and upscale.There are plenty of faux-windmills in town, along with a multitude of ginger-breaded homes.  Solvang is a very successful tourist town that burst to overflowing on summer weekends. There are all kinds of interesting shops, Danish bakeries, and restaurants.  Some of the local activities include biking, horse back riding, golf, and wine tasting, all of which can be done either in the town or the surrounding countryside. Some of the leading vineyards and wineries include Lincourt, Sanford, and Gainey. Numerous B & Bs and inns  including the Ballard Inn help make this a popular weekend retreat.

The scenery in and around Solvang is breathtaking California, with pale yellow grassy mountainsides set against green oaks, along with vineyards and orchards. The area is very upscale. Check out our short Solvang video on this list.

Where to Retire in Solvang and Home Prices

Real estate in and around Solvang is very expensive, being a close neighbor of pricey Santa Barbara.  Small condos sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and larger properties typically cost in the millions.  Although there are some nursing homes in the vicinity there do not appear to be any 55+ developments. You can live in town in several attractive neighborhoods or in the surrounding countryside.  Real estate is not for the faint of heart: according to Zillow, the median home value was $1,382,625 in mid-2022, up about 28% over the past year.


What Is Special about Solvang

Mission Santa Ines is the oldest building in town and an interesting and beautiful place to visit. Nearby Lake Cachuma offers an outstanding recreational opportunity. The region’s wineries attract tourists and clubs who come for the tastings.  The upscale shops and restaurants make it a great place to visit.  There are a number of horse farms, including one for miniature horses that welcomes visitors. There are several golf courses including the River Course at the Alisal in downtown Solvang. The scenery is exceptional. Cycling is enormously popular on the many bike trails and wide shoulders of local roads.

What Is Not Special about Solvang

Real estate is very expensive.  While this is great place for  weekends or a vacation, it might be too small of a world for some people to live here full-time.  Car and pedestrian traffic in downtown Solvang on summer weekends can be overwhelming.

Who Will Like Retirement in Solvang

People who love wine, cycling, horses, and the outdoors will enjoy Solvang.  It is a quiet and peaceful life style. Many people who live here are weekenders from LA or Santa Barbara.

Local Economy Is Driven by

Tourism, wine, and agriculture are the mainstays of the local economy.

Climate and Physical Environment

Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Mountains about 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara.  Winters can be rainy and cool. Summers are dry and can get hot, although it almost always cools off rapidly when the sun starts to go down. It might be in the 50’s in the morning and get into the 80’s during a typical summer day.

Restaurants & Cultural Scene

There are a few small niche museums such as the Vintage Motorcycle Museum or the Hans Christian Anderson Museum. Nearby Los Olivos has a number of nice art galleries. Several restaurants get top reviews such as Dos Carlitos (Mexican) and the Ballard Inn. Wine tasting at the dozens of local wineries is a local cultural endeavor.  There are numerous festivals during the year including the Old Mission Festival and  Danish Days. The Solvang Festival Theater offers several performances during the season, including one celebrating  the work of Hans Christian Anderson.


Crime rate is extremely low (index of 84 vs. national of 319).

Medical Facilities

Nearby Santa Barbara is probably the best bet for any medical concern other than emergency.


There is a small airport at Santa Ynez. There two good roads connecting Solvang with Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara’s convenient airport is being replaced by a modern facility – it has good connections to LA and San Francisco.

Valuable Links

The Wikipedia page for Solvang is quite informative and has other links.

What people are saying about Solvang

Solvang is great for tourists, not for retirement
I have visited a few times and it is charming butI wouldn't live there. There isn't much to do, it is ridiculously expensive, it's a distance to get to a good hospital, and tourism makes traffic and parking challenging. It's fun to visit. One correction for the article: Santa Rosa is 350 miles north, so not quite nearby.
Posted by MarciaK on July 25, 2018

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