From California contemporary art to the history of surfing and a semi-secret sculpture garden, Orange County has a bevy of fascinating museums and cultural spaces. We’ve rounded up six of the best to visit the next time you’re in the OC.
Located in Santa Ana, the Bowers Museum aims to “celebrate world cultures through their arts.” The art museum operates as a cultural center and frequently showcases exhibits from museums around the world. The Bowers Museum has more than 100,000 works of art, with Native American, Pre-Columbian, and Pacific art among their largest collections. They also operate the Kidseum, a children’s museum with a focus on archaeology, located just a few blocks down the street.
Set on 12 acres of luscious grounds, the Heritage Museum of Orange County is popular as a destination for school field trips and weddings. The main draw is a historic plaza with buildings from the 1890s, offering visitors a glimpse of California during that time period. The museum still has an operational blacksmith shop and holds regular classes for members.
The Discovery Cube science museum is geared toward children and features interactive learning activities, including a virtual helicopter tour over Orange County, an earthquake simulator, and a hands-on (healthy) cooking class. The original location in Santa Ana was so popular that museums in Los Angeles and Newport Beach have since opened.
Though not technically a museum, Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture garden, titled “California Scenario,” is definitely worth a visit. Designed to reflect California’s landscape, the garden is tucked into an unassuming commercial plaza in downtown Costa Mesa. Indigenous plants and materials are integrated into sections such as “Desert Land” and “Forest Walk.”