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Solvang businesses see increase in tourism ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Posted at 4:14 PM, May 22, 2023

With temperatures on the rise on the Central Coast, businesses in Solvang have started to see an increase in tourism ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Travel experts say due to high plane ticket costs, this summer, more than one in every four vacationers will be driving to their destinations instead of flying.

Patrick Harrigan, a sales representative with Solvang’s Electric Vehicle Experience, says they are in high anticipation of that Memorial Day rush.

“It has been awesome. We have been having a lot of travelers from California, up and down the Coast. People can come here and not have to spend money on air fare,” Harrigan told KSBY. “They can come with just a two- or three-hour drive away, so it makes it easier for families.”

And while domestic airline tickets are almost 1% less expensive than last year’s figures, newlyweds Madde and John Free say they still planned their trips months ahead to guarantee the best deals.

“We looked at what weekend was open in May and a little over six months ago we just booked for our fight and chose days that were a little bit cheaper. We flew in on a Friday night and we are leaving on a Tuesday,” said Madde Free.

“All of our wedding purchases we put on a single credit card so we could get the rewards for miles so that we could do this trip,” John Free added.

Others choosing to take a road trip say they decided on Solvang for their early summer destination to escape the heat of California’s Central Valley.

“High desert, there is no comparison to being out here. High desert is dry and not a lot of green, so we are just kind of really enjoying this,” said Kathy Copeland, who is visiting from Victorville.

And though the Copeland’s stayed clear of high airfare costs by driving to Solvang, they too say they have started budgeting out their vacation plans.

“Back in the day, you never thought about that. But now, when you start your vacation, first you say, 'How much for gas? How far are we going?' And then you add that into the cost of everything. You got to pay attention because sometimes you don’t realize you spent $300 in gas and you weren’t expecting that,” Tracy Copeland said.

Meanwhile, ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Harrigan says the reservations for their sightseeing electric vehicles have already filled up.

“Through all the rains we have had, we didn’t have too much travel here between Solvang, but spring break brought some people back out, but this summer we are looking to really have people come out in droves,” he said.

Other tourists say their early summer trips this week are the first time they are out on vacation since the pandemic, with nationwide air travel this Memorial Day up 10% from a year ago.

Many Memorial Day ceremonies and events are taking place next week. In Solvang, a celebration is happening at Solvang Park on Monday, May 29, at noon.