The many ways to celebrate Solvang’s Julefest

By Zachary Rosen

Solvang’s selection of Danish-themed stores and culture brings in throngs of tourists throughout the year. However, it’s during the holidays that this town really shines. The city’s annual Julefest (pronounced “yule-fest”) is a month-long holiday celebration where the downtown area and distinctive shops dress up in twinkling lights and Christmas décor. Festive events are held throughout the city, bringing even more charm to this already adorable town.

Everywhere you go during Julefest, you’re sure to spot Christmas trees! Photo by Central Coast Pictures /

In response to the pandemic last year, Julefest was hosted virtually along with a range of safe public events for those visiting in person. As public events are becoming more common, hopefully the city will be able to bring the event back in full. With visitors having varying levels of safety concerns, this upcoming Julefest will feature a variety of events that will cater to different comfort levels of public interaction. While this year’s activities are still being finalized, the 2021 Julefest will be a combination of their traditional events like a holiday parade and Santa’s Village, and those that are more socially-distanced such as themed photo-op spots dotted throughout town. Visitors last year even caught a glimpse of the Danish gnome, Nisse (appropriately named for the word ‘gnome’ in Danish).

Solvang’s iconic architecture really shines during the holidays. Photo by Central Coast Pictures /

The Taste of Solvang holiday gift box introduced in 2020 is filled with goodies, local wines, and artisan wares from Solvang’s characteristic stores. It is perfect for those who would like to enjoy the spirit of Solvang from the comfort and safety of home, or are looking to give a unique gift this holiday season. 

Up for a visit? The Jule House brings the holiday spirit throughout the year with their collection of Old European Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, collectibles, and elaborate holiday decor. The Spice Merchant, located in downtown Solvang, features an extensive selection of premium, exotic spices from around the world. The Copenhagen House is one of the few stores in the state that sells exclusively Danish imports. The stylish shop offers Danish designs with a modern flare, covering everything from furniture and housewares to jewelry and clothing. During the celebration, the area’s local wineries such as Casa Cassara, Lions Peak Vineyard, and Dana V. Wines are festive spots for an evening toast. Cafe Dolce provides some more family friendly beverages, or just a caffeine boost if you’re in need of a holiday shopping pick-me-up.

Elaborate light displays perfect a festive walk through downtown. Photo by Central Coast Pictures /

A Christmas celebration wouldn’t be complete without a parade, and Julefest is a chance for the whole city to celebrate with holiday floats and merriment. Tourists and townsfolk alike line the downtown promenade to join the revelry and enjoy the sights. One of the signature events is the Candlelight Tour, where guests are guided throughout the illuminated town

by a docent, ending with a visit to Santa’s Village for cookies and hot cocoa. This festive space hosts the man himself as well as other activities like gift wrapping stations
and photo opportunities.

As vibrant winter sunsets fade, Solvang explodes with light and color. Photo by Central Coast Pictures /

In 2019, organizers introduced a synchronized drone lightshow that has since become one of their most popular events. The nighttime show features more than 100 autonomous illuminated drones forming Christmas motifs and themes set to choreographed music. There are areas around town where the show is visible for free. However, there is a ticketed grandstand area to see and hear it from the ideal vantage point, and a VIP experience available with a still better view and a visit with the drone pilots. Families can come out with hot cocoa in hand and enjoy this concerted display of dazzling lights.

Whether it is a visit with Santa, enjoying one of the holiday gift boxes, or just strolling the decorated streets at night, there are many ways to celebrate Julefest and experience the Danish heritage and culture of Solvang.