Winter Wonderlands: Solvang, California

Martha Stewart Living, December 2002

Many places take pains to preserve their ethnic roots and showcase them during the holidays, but Solvang celebrates its heritage year-round. Settled by Danish immigrants in 1911, this little town -- just 2 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles -- has cobblestone streets, four bakeries, and an old windmill. Today, this walkable village calls itself the Danish capital of America.

Come Thanksgiving, clear white twinkle lights outline Scandinavian-style facades, some of which are topped with thatched or tiled roofs. Each holiday season, Olsen's Bakery builds an 8-foot-tall gingerbread house that sits in the lobby of the Royal Scandinavian Hotel. The bakery also offers stollen and Christmas cookies. The Elverhoj Museum mounts crafts demonstrations, including a display of traditional paper cutouts. And the town stages a live Nativity pageant featuring burros, baby goats, llamas, cows, and ponies. It is narrated by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

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