From Denmark with love:
Traditional folk dancing
is one way the Danish
of Solvang, Calif., keep
their native culture alive.
In an old Steve Martin
routine, the comedian talked about the importance of
having reasonable goals. His own goal: “to be the all-being master
of time, space and dimension. Then,” he’d add, “I want to go to
That second goal has become somewhat
more difficult to accomplish of late, for private citizens (however
witty) and the meetings industry alike. While many planners
doubtless would like to organize events in faraway locales, the
reality of tightening budgets and the falling dollar likely is
keeping them closer to home.
But that needn’t interfere with
attendees’ taste for the exotic -- we’ve got plenty of that in our
own backyard. Consider these cultural enclaves for a taste of
foreign culture on domestic soil.
In 1910, Danish pioneers seeking to
escape the harsh winters of their earlier settlements in the
Midwest purchased nearly 10,000 acres of fertile land in the
rolling hills of California’s Santa Ynez Valley and began the
village of Solvang (Danish for “sunny fields”). Today, the
community, in the heart of Santa Barbara County’s wine country,
succeeds in preserving the cherished traditions of the original
Danish bakeries, restaurants, specialty
boutiques and hotels, all housed in distinctly Scandinavian
architecture, comprise the four square blocks of Solvang’s center.
Windmills, horse-drawn carriages and statues of storks nesting on
the rooftops of buildings (meant to ward off bad luck) populate the
Charming accommodations within walking
distance of the heart of town include the 39-room Petersen Village
Inn (800-321-8985; www.peterseninn.com), which offers five meetings rooms
seating up to 100, and the stately, 133-room Royal Scandinavian Inn
(800-624-5572; www.royalscandinavianinn.com), featuring
approximately 4,000 square feet of meeting space. A five-minute
walk from the Inn will land you at the Elverhoj Museum
(805-686-1211; www.elverhoj.org), where exhibitions celebrate
Danish-American history and culture. The museum offers its gardens
and galleries to groups of 15 to 150 people.
The 24-room Solvang Gardens Lodge
(805-688-4404; www.solvanggardens.com) caters to smaller groups.
Several of its rooms, all bearing the style of a classic Danish
farmhouse, open onto a private garden area that can seat about 40
or accommodate up to 100 for a reception. Alternatively, the
wide-open spaces of the 73-unit Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort
(805-688-6411; www.alisal.com) lie just two miles down the road. This
working cattle ranch, on a 10,000-acre spread of trails, golf
courses and private lakes, is an option for team-building
activities and corporate retreats.