It’s been more than a decade since Sideways put Solvang—the Danish-style town where many of the 2004 film’s memorable scenes were shot—on every oenophile’s radar, but it’s a great place to explore this winter and spring whether or not you’re into vino: The weather is temperate, the Copenhagen-meets-California architecture is distinctive, and you won’t have to wait behind a crowd in the tasting rooms.
Food and (the aforementioned) wine should factor into a visit to the area (about a three-hour drive from L.A.), and you might want to plan your trip around Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week (Jan 21–27), when dozens of restaurants offer three-course tasting menus for $20.18. For something less structured, Taste of Solvang (Mar 14–18) enables you to sample delectable creations from local chefs, bakers, winemakers and other culinary artisans.
If you spend the night, the Landsby—a modern respite from the kitschy hotels in town—provides sleek yet hygge guest rooms, a delicious restaurant and a chic Scandinavian aesthetic that makes it popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s just steps away from the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, where you can discover the the author’s dark original tales— before they were Disneyfied.
It’s also worth checking out nearby Los Olivos, Solvang’s less touristy sister. Sunstone Winery boasts gorgeous views and tasting rooms in a pretty Provençal-inspired villa, and the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe touts scrumptious eats at the site of Paul Giamatti’s Sideways declaration: “I am not drinking any fucking merlot!” Finally, don’t let the relaxed atmosphere fool you—the perpetually packed Sides Hardware and Shoes serves some seriously good food; mouthwatering burgers, carefully chosen wines and house-cured bacon so thick it’s called steak prove that you don’t need a fancy backdrop for an excellent meal.