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The Top 3 Things to Do in Solvang (Other Than Eat Strudel)

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Many SoCal travelers know Solvang, the Danish hamlet tucked into a verdant part of Santa Barbara County just off Highway 101, as the place to detour for a hearty, Danish waffle-laden breakfast on the way to points north. Maybe they make a quick road trip pit stop on Mission Drive, the main drag, for a delicious coffee break with an almond kringle. Some may think of it as just a tourist town, with little more to offer than a Thomas Kinkade gallery, gift shops chock full of tchotchkes, and a photo opp with an ersatz windmill. But visitors with a little time and mobility will find that there is more to do in Solvang than just shopping and strudel.

Located in Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a prime hub for wine tasting enthusiasts, situated about 25 miles from many of the well-known vineyards in Los Olivos and Lompoc. A handful of taxi companies specializing in transportation for wine tasters service the area, with some even venturing nearly 40 miles north to Santa Maria. To take the burden off the passengers to have their drinks and plan them, too, many companies offer set itineraries, but tours are also often customizable and can be taken with other people or made private. While the wineries mostly close by early evening (and, despite the tourist influx to the area, many are not open on holidays), never fear: local blends are served in Solvang's bars and restaurants through the night.

For visitors who may be into sites more adorable than alcoholic, just a few miles from the center of town lies Quicksilver Ranch, a miniature horse farm. The ranch has been a Solvang fixture for over three decades and breeds more than 20 foals a year. Free to visit and open six days a week (a working farm as well as a private home, Quicksilver closes on Sundays), the ranch offers an opportunity to get a close look at these pint-sized specimens. While petting or feeding the horses is discouraged, guests can watch the minis as they hold dominion in their vast pastures grazing, napping, and nuzzling one another (and just when you thought they couldn't get cuter).

But if real animal interaction is what you need to cap off your Solvang sojourn, OstrichLand USA has it covered. All day, every day, for a nominal fee, visitors to this outdoor sanctuary get a chance not only to come face to face with the ostriches and emus, but even hand to mouth: brave guests can feed the big birds pans of pellets. The emus tend to be laid back, but the ostriches can be aggressive (tip: hold tight to those food pans, lest they disappear into the bird pens) and active; while they don't typically show off their status as land's fastest bird, single-file laps around the property aren't uncommon.

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