Solvang: Travel to Denmark without leaving Southern California

Traveling, as fun as it is, takes one heck of a hit to your wallet. Which in turn leaves us in this constant state of “you only live once, but I also have to pay my bills.” But what if could satisfy your travel bug on a budget? Not only is California a great travel destination in general. It also has tons of opportunities to step into other countries without an expensive plane ticket. Solvang, a Danish village, is a great way to feel line you are traveling onto Denmark without leaving Southern California.

Solvang, California. Morstensen's Danish Bakery.

More about this city that looks like Denmark

Solvang is a charming city located in Santa Barbara County, California, United States. It is situated in the Santa Ynez Valley, approximately 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara. Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish immigrants seeking to create a community reminiscent of their homeland.

The city’s name “Solvang” translates to “sunny fields” in Danish, and it has maintained a strong Danish influence in its architecture, culture, and traditions. This has earned Solvang the nickname “Danish Capital of America.” The town’s unique and picturesque Danish-style buildings make it a popular tourist destination and a delightful place to explore.

What to do in Solvang, California

Solvang, California is a small town. You can walk around the entirety of it and not even break a sweat. That being said, the things to do in Solvang are rather limited. A two-night stay here is plenty to relax and explore this city. But be warned! Because it is a small town, things close pretty early. Keep that in mind as you plan your day.

Feeding the ostriches at Ostrichland in Solvang


Located on the edge of the city, Ostrichland is probably the only real “activity” in Solvang, California. Book your reservation time slot online. From the time that this blog was written in September 2023, adult admission costs $7, military is $5, and child prices are $3. Even better is that you can feed the ostriches and emus while you are there! A feeding tray costs $1, and my husband and I got 3 of them when we went. For us, three was the perfect amount. But be aware that sometimes they will pause public feeding to ensure that their animals are not overeating.

Bottomless mimosas for $23

Ready to really take your small time fun to the next level? Then stop by Coast Range for bottomless mimosas for $23 per person! This restaurant is located right on the main road into Solvang. This restaurant is open Wednesday to Monday, with brunch being 10am to 4pm. One thing to note is that the bottomless mimosas are not on an unlimited timer. You will have 90 minutes to enjoy your bottomless mimosas.

High Roller Tiki Lounge interior decor in Solvang

High Roller Tiki Lounge in Solvang, California

This bar was a little out of place in such a small town. But I love tiki bars so I was excited to see one in Solvang! The High Roller Tiki Lounge has such a fun atmosphere and the drinks are amazing. They even host live music on some nights.

Hans Christian Anderson Museum

Stop by The Book Loft and head upstairs to this tiny museum. It features books and exhibits about the legendary Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. Open from 10am to 5pm, this museum is free to the public. You can even walk across the street to visit Solvang’s very own Little Mermaid Fountain statue!

Overall, Solvang, California is a place you can visit for a short trip. But I wouldn’t plan an entire vacation around staying here for the sole fact that there just isn’t a whole lot to do. It is in the Santa Barbara County though so if you plan on vacationing in the Santa Barbara area, definitely give this small Danish town a looksee!

Little Mermaid Fountain statue in Danish capital of America
Wine Valley Inn courtyard clock tower
Iconic windmill photo opportunity in small Danish town

Staying Safe on Girls Night Out

There is nothing as fun as going out with your girlfriends for a night on the town. Whether you are having dinner or drinks, being able to let your hair down can be much needed. A girls night out can be just what the doctor ordered, but it can come with some stress. Staying safe on a night with the girls is just as important as enjoying the night itself. So to ensure your safety, here are the top tips to staying safe. Some are a good reminder, and other tips could be something you haven’t considered yet!

1. Bring friends everywhere during Girls Night Out

To the bar, to the food joint, to the bathroom, do not go anywhere alone. You and your friends have to travel in a pack to stay safe. It’s important to do that to reduce your risk of having your drink spiked or being targeted by those who have a poor agenda. 

Girls waiting outside of a bar for an uber

2. Use Uber or other ride-sharing services

You should be able to avoid needing the help of the best DUI attorney, and to think about not driving if possible. Other than staying sober and being the DD yourself, your only option for safe girls night out travel is to travel by ride-sharing services. Uber is a great way to travel and ensure that you are able to stay in the group when you travel. It may cost a little extra to go all out. It’s always good to take public transport, but again, don’t travel alone. Also when your Uber arrives, make sure that the driver is the one that asks for YOUR name. Do not approach a vehicle and ask “are you my Uber?” or “are you [insert driver’s name here]?” This could very well open the door to a predator saying yes for the simple act of getting you in their car.

3. Book your Uber or taxi in advance

Making sure that you book cars that will take you home and to venues is smart. No reason to be flagging down cabs or accidentally getting in a car that isn’t a cab or Uber. Absolutely never get into a cab that’s unlicensed. So if you have a few extra moments, make sure the car you are getting in to has a license plate. You need to ensure that you aren’t taking risks. Additionally, booking your car in advance will ensure that you aren’t standing outside for an extending period of time waiting for a ride. That’s one sure fire way to kill the mood after a fun girls night out!

Two women enjoying girls night out at the bar

4. Watch your drinks at all times while enjoying girls night out

When you’re in a busy bar or a club, you need to ensure that you aren’t getting your drink spiked at all. That means keeping a hand over your drink at all times and minimizing anyone getting near it. An extra step since completely covering your drink with your hand may not be possible when dancing is to by a drink cover. You may have seen the ones by NightCap that cover your drink but double as a scrunchie too! They have easily become the “girls night out” secret bestie. They may look dumb on your drink. But when you consider the alternatives for having your drink spiked, this is a much better option.

It can be nice to be offered a drink, but turn down any drinks that you don’t see being poured and handed directly to you so that no one can add anything. Additionally, if you lose sight of your drink for even a couple of minute, air on the side of caution and get a new one.

A group of women staying safe on girls night out

5. Always keep to well-lit areas

Stay out of the shadows as much as you can. And that often means staying in the crowds and where people can see you. Dark alleyways? No way! Shortcut to the car? Absolutely not! You need to be safe on girls night out and planning your routes and staying out of the shadowed areas keeps you very safe. Avoid walking alone down secluded routes, and make a point of being with your friends wherever you go.

6. Have fun but remember to stay alert

With every one of these tips, you will still need to stay vigilant. Be aware of your girls and make sure that the group stays together. When you are in the Uber or Lyft, make sure the driver is following the directions correctly. If you feel like someone at the bar is invading your space, find security. And if you need someone to walk you to your car, again ask security! I know that many people tend to not ask security at a bar for help in these situations. But I promise you, they are aware that they may be called upon to walk people to their car that do not feel comfortable doing so alone.

Your safety is so important on your girls night out so that you can enjoy every second of your time! As much as these tips sound over-the-top, they ensure your safety from people who look to take advantage of others. If you have an iPhone make sure someone has your location. And call a friend if you don’t feel comfortable driving on your own, in an Uber, or if you just need someone to talk to on your walk to the car. All of this and more will protect you and keep you safe!

Dinner for Two at the Largest Hell’s Kitchen

California has long been known for its diverse culinary scene. But there’s one dining experience that recently made its debut in the Golden State that’s been causing quite a stir. Nestled in the heart of Valley Center, Harrah’s Resort Southern California boasts the largest Hell’s Kitchen restaurant to date, and my husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing it on a recent date night.

A jaw-dropping interior

Walking through the entrance of Hell’s Kitchen, we were immediately struck by the sophisticated and stylish decor. The restaurant exudes a modern yet cozy atmosphere with its dark wood accents, elegant lighting, and an open kitchen that allows you to catch glimpses of the culinary magic happening behind the scenes.

The wine cellar on the right as you walk in to the dining area is one of the most impressive things about this space. It’s great for pictures and the employees are always willing to take your picture inside of it – just ask!

Wine cellar at the largest Hell's Kitchen

A devilishly delicious menu

The menu is inspired and curated by Gordon Ramsay himself. From appetizers to desserts, there was an array of options to choose from. We started with the Wagyu Meatballs and Pan Seared Scallops. The Wagyu Meatballs were a delightful surprise, with their melt-in-your-mouth texture and rich, savory flavors. And the definitely were a big serving for being an appetizer! The Pan Seared Scallops, served with a perfectly balanced sauce, were a true testament to the culinary expertise of the Hell’s Kitchen team.

For our main courses, we got the Beef Wellington and Filet Mignon with a lobster tail. The Beef Wellington was incredible, encased in a perfectly flaky pastry shell and cooked to perfection. The flavors were divine, and it’s understandable why this dish is a Hell’s Kitchen signature. However, our excitement was slightly dampened when the Filet Mignon arrived. Unfortunately at Hell’s Kitchen, you cannot alter the way the items are cooked. But for a filet, I would imagine it would always be served medium-rare. This was not the case. The steak was well done and almost burnt at the ends. It was the only hiccup in an otherwise flawless dining experience.

To accompany our main dishes, we ordered a side of Wild Mushrooms and Baked Macaroni and Cheese. The wild mushrooms were magnificent. The macaroni and cheese was a comforting and indulgent treat, far surpassing our expectations. You might even be thinking to yourself “who goes to an award-winning restaurant such as this and orders mac n cheese?” Well when Gordon Ramsay himself curates the menu, you order whatever you want. And again for being a side, there was definitely a hardy helping of this dish.

Coconut 3 Ways at Hell's Kitchen

Anything but the Sticky Toffee Pudding

No visit to Hell’s Kitchen is complete without indulging in dessert. And while most would flock to the Sticky Toffee Pudding, we decided to mix it up! That isn’t to say that the Sticky Toffee Pudding is bad because that is the furthest thing from the truth. Having had Gordon Ramsay’s Sticky Toffee Pudding many times, I can tell you that it is one of the most delicious things on the menu by far.

For our meal, my husband chose the Salted Peanut Decadence and I got the Coconut 3-Ways. The desserts were a symphony of flavors and textures, ending our meal on a sweet note.

Everything we ate the largest Hell’s Kitchen

Final thoughts about the largest Hell’s Kitchen

The ambiance was captivating, the majority of the dishes were exceptional, and the service was top-notch. The staff was friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable about the menu. It’s clear that the team at Hell’s Kitchen takes pride in delivering a memorable dining experience.

While the overcooked Filet Mignon was a minor disappointment, it did not overshadow the overall enjoyment of our evening. We left with full hearts and satisfied palates. However for the price tag, we probably won’t be back any time soon since the total for all that we ate was around $310.

If you’re in the Valley Center area and looking for a dining experience that combines culinary excellence with a touch of glamour, Hell’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Resort Southern California is undoubtedly worth a visit. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor Gordon Ramsay’s creations in the heart of Southern California.

3 Things To Know Before Visiting The USA

The United States of America has long been a popular destination for holidays. With its diverse culture, array of places to visit, and countless things to do, it’s easy to see why. That doesn’t mean visiting the USA is the easiest thing to do. Outside of the travel arrangements themselves, you’ll need to worry about a few other factors. It’ll be a bit of a culture shock, after all, so you’ll have to know a few things before you go. While some are obvious, a few others wouldn’t be, making them worth looking through.

Visiting The USA: 3 Things To Know

Visiting Route 66 while in the USA

1. You’ll Need Transport

Depending on where you’re visiting in the USA, you could need your own set of wheels when you’re there. Cities like New York have adequate public transport and taxis, but that isn’t the case everywhere else. It could be more difficult to get around than you would’ve thought, even if you’re only staying for a weekend or even going to Disneyland. Make sure you have an international driving license on you for when you get there. While you might not end up needing this, it’s better to have it, just in case you do. Keep the road rules in mind when you’re driving, and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

2. You’ll Have Plenty Of Places To Stay

America is one of the largest countries you can visit, which means there’ll be plenty of places to stay. From apartment rentals to St. Pete’s Beach Resorts, it’s worth looking into your options before you book anything. While that could mean digging around a bit, you could find something truly special to book. It’ll be more than worth the time it took you to find it. It might even mean you’ll end up saving yourself a bit of money once you’ve looked around. With how expensive the rest of your holiday can be, it’s worth saving a little whenever you can while visiting the USA.

While visiting the USA, tipping is expected at restaurants.

3. Tips Are Expected

America’s tipping culture is unlike any other country’s, and you’ll have to be aware of this before getting there. You’ll be expected to tip for practically everything, and it’s seen as rude if you don’t. No matter what kind of service you get, leaving a tip is expected.The only difference is how much of a tip you’ll leave. For a poor service, about 10% to 15% is suggested, with this getting higher and higher for great service. Be prepared to spend a decent bit more than you would’ve thought, especially if you’re eating out a lot.

Visiting The USA: Wrapping Up

Visiting the USA is recommended for quite a few reasons. You’ll take in more than a few sights, get a feel for the country’s diverse culture, and get to grips with countless other things. That doesn’t mean you should just hop on a plane and get going.It’s worth knowing about a few things before you get there, as they can have a large impact on your trip. While that means spending a little extra time looking through things, it’ll impact your vacation and be more than worth it.

Mission Inn Hotel: Escape to Spain without leaving California

Southern California is home to a number of beautiful and unique experiences. It’s easy to see why people flock to this destination no matter what time of year it is. And one of the best hidden gems of Southern California is in Riverside County. The Mission Inn Hotel offers an incredibly unique hotel and spa experience for its guests. The hotel itself resembles a mission that was taken directly out of the hills of Spain. You’ve seen the hype over social media, now it’s time to answer the question: Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Mission Inn Hotel front entrance with bells

More about this Spanish-style hotel in California

You may be thinking to yourself “what’s there to do in Riverside?” Honestly – nothing. It’s one of those places that has a few noteworthy things and that’s about it. But the Mission Inn Hotel calls Riverside home. Part of the Historic Hotels of America, this hotel and spa transports you directly to Spain without leaving California. And sure, you could think to yourself “ok but every hotel claims to transport you somewhere.” And you’re right – it’s an overused sales tactic. But not when it’s completely warranted like in the case of this hotel.

The Mission Inn Hotel is a hidden gem that offers an enchanting escape from the ordinary. Its awe-inspiring architecture, blending Spanish, Mediterranean, Moorish, and Mission Revival styles, creates a unique ambiance that feels like a journey around the world. Lush gardens and courtyards add to the magical atmosphere, making guests feel like they’ve stepped into a secret oasis. With a rich history that has hosted presidents and celebrities, the Mission Inn Hotel is not just a luxurious accommodation but also a captivating landmark worth exploring.

Top view of the Mission Inn Hotel looking in to courtyard

Rooms and amenities at the Mission Inn Hotel

One of the most incredible things about this hotel is that every single room is different from the next. This allows each stay you make here unique from the last. Getting to your room will be quite the journey. Because this hotel is spacious, getting to your room will only spark your interest in wandering throughout the rest of the resort.

The most iconic, Instagram-worthy photo opportunities is the one that overlooks the top floor of the hotel down in to the courtyard that has their main restaurant. The Mission Inn Hotel’s main restaurant is quite picturesque as it looks towards the beautiful architecture and sky. However because it is on property, it is pretty pricey. There are other lounges on property as well to grab a bite and some drinks if this restaurant is too much.

The Mission Inn Hotel is also home to a top notch spa. Because what does every vacation need? Some epic relaxation. You can also catch some rays out by the pool. But the pool isn’t much to write home about. It’s just a normal pool. There are some lounge chairs but because it is a smaller area, there aren’t many.

Mission Inn Hotel main courtyard restaurant

Our (less than) magical experience at Mission Inn

Room #1 – no AC and cold shower

My husband and I stayed at the Mission Inn Hotel as our after-wedding destination. We booked the Mission King room for two nights in late June. Since we arrived around 11pm, the only thing we did was go directly to the room to turn in. Our room was absolutely iconic. I loved the layout, the furniture, and the bathroom. However, the AC didn’t work, the shower was clogged and never went to hot, and there was a bar on the walkway below us that was blasting music and setting off sirens until 2am. To be clear, the bar was not associated with the hotel. However, for a couple that was tired and sweaty from the day’s festivities, this was not ideal. Especially when the days get to about 105 degrees and the nights aren’t much cooler.

We called someone to fix it, they tried and failed so we took a cold shower and went to sleep in a hot room. The next morning, the hotel staff tried again to fix the problems but ultimately were not successful. We asked to change rooms since these things weren’t fixed and they agreed to move us into another room after 3pm when the rooms would be cleaned.

Room #2 – felt like a downgrade

When we got into our second room at the Mission Inn Hotel, it was completely different from our first room. I knew going in to the hotel that every single room is different from one another. And honestly, I LOVE that! That really makes me want to come back for another trip to see what other rooms look like as well. We were told it was the same room type as the one we had booked, but it didn’t feel like it. The ceilings were much shorter. The bathroom was much smaller. And overall, it just seemed a little more outdated than the first. Still a nice room, but I just preferred the first one more.

However, a redeeming quality of this room was that it was not right above that noisy bar. And it also had a lovely outdoor sitting area steps away from our room door. So my husband and I had a great time eating some macarons and enjoying the night outside.

Champagne brought to hotel room bed

Charged for a bottle we didn’t ask for

My husband had also requested/purchased a bottle of champagne be sent to our room for us to celebrate. When it arrived, there was champagne AND a really nice bottle of white wine. Thinking that this bottle of wine was complimentary because we were newlyweds and because of the room fiascos, we drank it. However when we checked out, we noticed that this bottle of wine was also charged to our room. My husband, very kindly, tried to remedy it at the front desk saying that we only ordered the champagne. The front desk apologized, but said that unfortunately they could not do anything for us since we drank it.

It may have been presumptuous of us to assume this bottle was for free. So we will take responsibility for that. We should have asked why this bottle was sent. And we didn’t try fighting it past them apologizing for the mistake. Call it the after-wedding high, but yea we weren’t looking to be a couple of Karens! The only thing I will say is that I do find it a little misleading for them to just be sending bottles of wine that people didn’t ask for. But at the end of the day, no one died and the wine was pretty good.

Mission Inn Hotel at night with the twinkling lights

Honest review of the Mission Inn Hotel

Truthfully despite the downers of our stay, we both still really enjoyed staying at this resort. The staff was friendly. The hotel itself is ginormous and easy to wander around. And I personally loved the parrots that they had on property as a part of their history. I fully expect us to make our way back to the Mission inn Hotel again at some point. Hopefully next time, we won’t have as many hiccups!

Even if you can’t stay the night, you can check out Mission Inn Hotel’s Festival of Lights! It is one of their most popular times of the year. And arguably the most beautiful time to see the hotel.