The holidays are almost here and the Southern California city once named the state’s “best” town to visit for Christmas is getting ready for its annual holiday festival.
The town of Solvang, located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County wine country, is preparing for its annual Julefest (Yule-Fest) — a monthlong celebration of the winter holiday season.
The festivities officially begin on Friday when the village begins its nightly light show in the town square. The 10-minute light show will take place on the hour from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., each evening.
Friday also serves as the beginning of Julefest’s “Nisser Adventure,” a citywide scavenger hunt for the mischievous Solvang Nisser (Danish for gnome). Throughout the holiday festival, visitors can stop by the town’s visitor center for clues regarding the hideaways where the Nisser has been known to frequent.
The town’s major productions, however, start in December, including the annual tree lighting ceremony on the evening of Dec. 1, which is followed by the Julefest parade the next morning.
Each year, the parade follows a specific theme. This year’s theme is “My Favorite Christmas Movie.” City officials said you can expect to see plenty of floats honoring the most beloved holiday classics, as well as marching bands, horse troupes and more.
Throughout the monthlong celebration, Solvang visitors will be treated to regular live music performances, nighttime historical tours by candlelight and an immersive village where kids can snag pictures with Santa Claus himself.
The candlelight tours are among the most popular events of Julefest and this year the city is adding extra dates to accommodate demand.
“We’ve added daily elements to this year’s Solvang Julefest for locals and visitors in town midweek, in addition to the weekend festivities throughout Julefest,” said Solvang City Manager Randy Murphy.
The ceremonial bookend of Julefest is the highly anticipated tree burn, where residents of the Santa Ynez Valley can bring their discarded Christmas trees to be set ablaze in a massive fire that serves as both a symbolic introduction to the new year and a safety demonstration for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. That event takes place on Jan. 5, 2024, weather permitting.
Known as the Danish Capital of America, Solvang was named the “Best Small Town” to visit for Christmas in the state of California in 2022.
The town is known for its boutiques that sell traditional Danish items, including clogs and other knickknacks, as well as the world famous aebleskivers — a traditional holiday dessert that falls somewhere between donut hole and pancake ball.
Solvang had lodging options that range between cheap overnight motels or luxurious resorts, but it’s also only about two and a half hours from Los Angeles by car, meaning it can also work as a day trip.
For more about Solvang and its annual Julefest celebration, click here.