As our plane followed the coastline up from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, the aerial views made my heart skip a beat: it was all sparkling blue Pacific ocean lined with golden sand and white surf, leading up to hills tinged bright pink in the light of the setting sun. Flying over sailboats, palm trees, and the Santa Barbara pier gave me such a sense of happiness. And the views just kept getting sweeter, with the city piled into the hills as a backdrop to the ocean-front cliffs of The Mesa, tumbling right into the sea. California is definitely my kind of paradise. Moreover, I stepped off the plane to a balmy, sunny day—this is why I love California Christmases so much!
This December I’m taking a much welcomed break from all the year’s wonderful (and exhausting) adventures to enjoy a slice of the quiet life in my home town on the central coast of California. I grew up in Santa Barbara and later near Solvang, and coming home for the holidays is the perfect end to a super busy year of embracing the global nomad lifestyle, that is, moving endlessly from place to place, and sleeping in so many hotels it makes me dizzy to even think about it. The timing couldn’t have been better either: the travel fatigue was massively settling in, to the point that sleep had become useless as a means of rejuvenation. When you’re fatigued to the core, at some point, sleep just doesn’t refresh you anymore.
Sleeping in late and getting into the holiday swing (spending time with family and friends, decorating the Christmas tree, drinking peppermint hot chocolate, hanging holiday lights, baking sugar cookies in pajamas, and wrapping gifts) is the perfect cure to homesickness.
Christmas in Solvang, California: A Grand Affair
Solvang is the perfect place to spend Christmas. This Danish village, with its large population of transplants from Denmark and Scandinavia, is festive year round with its traditional Danish architecture, illuminated lights at night, abundant wine tasting opportunities, and eateries serving top notch Danish treats.
In fact, Solvang is so authentic that my travel photos from the several months I spent in Scandinavia this year are almost indistinguishable from the ones I shot in Solvang! For instance, the same stacked wooden roof shingles and traditional thatched roofs abound here. Storks and stork nests, a symbol of good luck, are perched on rooftops here just as they are in Europe. The same golden pretzels, a universal symbol of bakeries across Scandinavia, hang in front of all Solvang’s bakeries, entwined in the same fancy wrought iron I saw everywhere in my scandinavian travels. Horse-drawn carriages, large windmills, wooden clogs, traditional costumes—all present here.
Still, things here get stepped up another notch just for Christmas. This means an extra round of Christmas lights. Giant gingerbread houses. Individually-themed live Christmas trees in front of every shop. Gløgg (Danish mulled wine). Plus there are Julefest, (Christmas party) festivities, resulting in an overall explosion of holiday spirit.
Solvang is definitely one of the most fun and unique places to spend the holidays in the United States. Just have a look for yourself…