The Insider’s Guide to Orange County’s Most Historic Sights
Check out the five best museums in Orange County’s Santa Ana that you’ve never heard of! Great for history buffs, families and urban adventurers who want a little culture followed by a foodie funfest – from art to firetrucks to beautiful gardens surrounding a Victorian-style house – don’t miss these museums during your staycation or weekend fun in Orange County.
Built in 1899, the Heritage Museum is a hub of local cultural and natural history. Visitors to the 12-acre site featuring a blacksmith shop, produce farm, hydroponics and aquaponics garden can churn butter, sit in on a blacksmith class and explore extensive floral gardens, citrus groves and several buildings that date back to the 1890s. Most notable is the Kellogg House, which we shared in Family-Friendly Spots in Santa Ana. The museum is open to the public Fridays through Sundays, however we recommend visiting the first Sunday of the month when admission is free with proof of California residency!
Address: 3101 W Harvard St., Santa Ana, CA
Hours: Friday – Sunday (Hours vary daily) | Check online for today’s hours: http://heritagemuseumoc.org/home-3/visit-us/
Admission: $7 for Adults, $5 for Children ages 3 to 12 and Seniors 60+ (Children under 3 are free)
The Dr. Howe-Waffle House is the oldest museum on our list, dating back to 1889, the same year as the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, the oldest Santa Ana building still in use today. The Victorian-style home was built by Dr. Alvin Howe and his wife, Dr. Willella Howe, one of Orange County’s first female physicians, and has been restored as a medical museum showcasing authentic surgical instruments from the late 1800s. The house is open for tours on the first Saturday of every even month (Feb., April, June, Aug., Oct. and Dec). Check out upcoming events here.
Address: 120 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, CA
Hours: 11AM to 3PM, Six days a year
Admission: $5 for Adults, $4 for Seniors 60+ or SAHPS Members and $3 for students
Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), maintained by California State University, Fullerton’s College of the Arts, is the result of an exceptional alliance between the University and the City of Santa Ana. Built in 1922 as a market for independent grocers and merchants, the space is now dedicated to the open exploration of contemporary art and visual culture through collaborations between artists, students, and the community. GCAC presents exhibitions, installations and performances on socially relevant topics by local, regional, national, and international artists. Visitors can explore three dedicated galleries, a video project gallery, and a programmable project wall; current immersive exhibits include Outside the Length of a Room | OR | Diving Into the Blue Sun by Kim Zumpfe and Nuevo Dragon City by Sergio De La Torre. Admission is free and open to the public.
Address: 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA
Hours: Monday: Closed | Tuesday – Thursday: 11AM to 4PM | Friday/Saturday: 11AM to 5PM | Sunday: 11AM to 3PM
One of the first museums in Santa Ana’s Artist Village, opened in 1980, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is an uncensored, community gallery that encourages artists to think, develop and bring to life their ideas and exhibitions. OCCCA has showcased the work of more than 1,000 artists and curators including Slator Barron and George Herms. Artists from around the world apply to OCCCA’s legendary open calls, often flying in from great distances to attend opening night festivities. What’s better for visitors, general admission is free except for certain special events. Currently on view are Rome Revisited by Carolyn Yarnell and It’s Time by Anuradha Vikram.
Address: 117 North Sycamore St., Santa Ana, CA
Hours: Thursday – Sunday: 12PM to 5PM
*Closed during installation of new exhibitions
Where else would you expect to find a fire department museum than in a working fire station? Visitors to Santa Ana Fire Station #75, also known as the Santa Ana Fire Department Museum, can compare vintage equipment and memorabilia dating to the late 1800s with the latest, state-of-the-art fire trucks serving residents today. Kids of all ages will love the hands-on, fully restored 1921 Seagrave fire engine. Operating days are limited, so check http://santaanahistory.com/articles/fire-dept-history.html or email firstname.lastname@example.org before you visit.
Address: Fire Station #75, 120 W Walnut St., Santa Ana, CA
Dates: Current open houses in 2018 are Saturday, July 14, September 22 and November 10.
Admission: $5 for Adults, $4 for Seniors (60+) and Members, and $3 for Students K-12