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It’s the coziest time of the year. Here’s where to find hygge in California

Tourists visit Solvang, Calif., known as the “Danish Capital of America."
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times; Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and happy Thanksgiving, fellow Escapists. Chances are you’ve heard of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-gah”), a Danish word for “well-being” and “cozy togetherness” that became widely known in the mid-2010s.

At home, embracing hygge often involves lighting candles, bundling up in blankets and enjoying quiet, contented conversation with loved ones.

But what does hygge mean when you’re traveling? To me, it translates to enjoying cold-weather activities such as ice skating and snowshoeing and afterward warming up with a mug of mulled wine or tea.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find a few ways to experience California hygge, a sunshine-soaked spin on the Scandinavian concept.

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Where do you feel coziest in the West? As always, my inbox is open for recommendations.

🚗 Spend a weekend in Solvang

Visiting Solvang, known as the “Danish Capital of America,” is a no-brainer for any travelers seeking a bit of hygge this holiday season.

Although Solvang is more than 5,000 miles from the streets of Copenhagen, its connections to Denmark run deep. According to the Elverhøj Museum, an institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the town’s history and culture, three Danish immigrants founded Solvang in 1911, intending to create a place for their fellow immigrants to settle.

The town’s Danish roots are strong and deep 110 years later.

With its location between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, Solvang is a convenient waypoint on a coastal road trip. Those hoping to spend the night might book a stay at the Landsby, a hygge-forward boutique hotel. In a town known for its kitschy charm, the Landsby stands out for its modern Scandinavian design — think lots of clean lines, blond wood, light knit fabrics and so on. Rooms start at $179 per night, though prices are higher through the holidays.

For a more unconventional stay, it’s hard to beat the Hygge Tower Apartment. According to its Vrbo listing, the accommodation is in a replica of the famous Rundetårn in Copenhagen. The quirky stay, which sleeps up to four guests, can be booked for $695 per night.

A woman in a mask stands behind a glass-front bakery case. A customer in a mask looks at the goods.
Carol Collins, right, manager of Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe, helps a customer.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

♨️ Soak in cozy vibes at hot springs

Southern California thankfully doesn’t get as cold as Denmark, but stopping by hot springs for a day of relaxation is still a worthwhile winter activity.

Glen Ivy Hot Springs made the L.A. Times’ 2021 holiday gift guide (under its experiences list), and it’s easy to see why. Travelers to the Temescal Valley resort are in for a treat, with the chance to slather California red clay on their skin at the resort’s spring water mud pool and soak in the sauna and steam baths.

Those in need of some extra relaxation can book massages and facials; although The Wild newsletter writer Mary Forgione writes that “the grounds alone are reason enough to go.”

One tip: Bring an old swimsuit for the mud pool. The red clay may stain. Basic admission, which includes the “Club Mud” experience and admission to the resort’s various pools, starts at $85 (Monday-Thursday). Make your reservation ahead of time.

At dusk, people float in a pool behind a low building. Large open umbrellas line one side of the pool.
The cabana deck at the Temescal Valley resort.
(Glen Ivy Hot Springs)

⛸️ Practice your triple axel at Dodger Stadium

“In 2021, an ice rink is coming back to Dodger Stadium,” writes L.A. Times sports reporter Bill Shaikin. “This time, you don’t have to be an NHL player to skate there.”

The Kings notably played the Ducks on a rink installed in Dodger Stadium in 2014. Now, the stadium has been transformed into a winter festival, welcoming Angelenos and visitors alike to experience a slice of holiday magic in the same place where Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and other players have hit home runs and stolen bases.

The festival includes ice skating on a rink set up in the outfield, the opportunity to visit Santa in the bullpen, light and music shows and more.

Tickets start at $16 and must be purchased online in advance.

A rendering of an ice rink set up inside a baseball stadium.
A rendering of the Holiday Festival at Dodger Stadium, an event that features ice skating in the outfield.
(Los Angeles Dodgers)

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Trek the ‘Hot Chocolate Trail’

A meandering “hot chocolate trail” with 20-plus types of the beloved winter beverage? It’s an idea so hygge there must be a catch.

Well, there is.

Unfortunately for Californians planning to stay local for the season, this delightful holiday event takes place across the U.S.-Canadian border in Banff, a resort town best known for its proximity to the stunningly Instagrammable waters of Lake Louise.

However, I couldn’t write a hygge-themed edition of Escapes without mentioning the opportunity to try “Chilli Chai Hot Chocolate,” “Peppermint and Lavender Hot Chocolate” and “Espresso Banana Hot Chocolate” all in the same day. (Below I offer ways to explore hot chocolate beverages from the comfort of your home.)

Fully vaccinated U.S. travelers are allowed to enter Canada. (A government official at a visitor’s port of entry has the final say, however, so make sure to plan ahead and bring the necessary travel documents with you.) So if you’re planning an Alberta ski trip this year, I recommend budgeting some extra time to walk the Hot Chocolate Trail, which runs through Jan. 1.

If you’re staying put this December, you can replicate the experience by trying a few of our hot chocolate recipes from around the world:

An illustration of giant hot chocolate spilling through a snowy mountain.
(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Two young men set out to hike America’s three longest trails in less than a year. What could go wrong? Times staffers Faith E. Pinho and Gina Ferazzi cover their journey.
  • Vincent Valencia has lived alone at the top of Mammoth Mountain for much of the past 18 years. Why? He’s one of the rare people with the skills needed to supervise Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s gondola operation, L.A. Times reporter Louis Sahagún reports.
  • Each winter, 100,000 tundra swans fly to Northern California. In the Reno Gazette Journal, Amy Alonzo breaks down where they can be spotted.
  • Lots of people want tattoos — a souvenir that’s difficult to lose — when they visit Joshua Tree National Park. Ashley Harrell reports in SFGate on the booming tattoo business in the Southern California desert.
  • Dream of seeing the northern lights someday? Stephanie Vermillion explains where you can see them in the contiguous U.S. in Condé Nast Traveler.
  • Does Black Friday matter to travelers anymore? Elaine Glusac reports on the deals — or lack thereof — you can expect this year in the New York Times.
Two men hike along a mountain highway in the mist.
Jackson Parell, left, and Sammy Potter, at Etna Summit in Etna, Calif., are the youngest people ever to hike the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trail in one year.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Photo of the week

A small brown building with a fieldstone chimney has a sign that says "Mt. Baldy Lodge Retaurant."
At Mount Baldy Lodge, quaint and cozy cabins start at $125. It’s in the village just as you enter town.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

Song: “Run Rudolph Run” by Norah Jones (I struggle to think of a more hygge artist.)

Favorite lyric: “Santa, make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down.”

Where to listen: Any L.A. freeway — on your way to go ice skating.

An illustration resembles a Polaroid photo of L.A. high-rises, light traffic on the 110 and the words "Run Run Rudolph."
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)


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