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The 6 Best Museums to Check Out in Orange County

Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture garden was built to symbolize the California landscape
Isamu Noguchi’s sculpture garden was built to symbolize the California landscape | © dailymatador / Flickr
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.

Orange County Museum of Art

Art Museum
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The exterior of OCMA.
The exterior of OCMA in Newport Beach | © David Eppstein / WikiCommons
The Orange County Museum of Art was founded by 13 women with a shared vision in 1962 as the Balboa Pavilion Gallery. It changed names several times over the years before becoming the Orange County Museum of Art in 1997. Today, OCMA houses more than 3,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art—including painting, sculpture, photography, and video—with a focus on California art from the early 20th century.
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Wed - Thu:
11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri:
11:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sat - Sun:
11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Bowers Museum

Art Museum
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The Bowers art museum in Santa Ana.
The Bowers art museum in Santa Ana | © Eric Stoner (Bowers Museum) / WikiCommons
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.
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Tue - Sun:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Accessible (Wheelchair), Family Friendly

International Surfing Museum

History Museum
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The International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach tells the history of the sport.
The International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach tells the history of the sport | © Alanraywiki / WikiCommons
Though small, the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach has iconic surfing items on display, including a surfboard owned by Duke Kahanamoku, who is considered to be the father of modern surfing. Even those who don’t surf will find the museum entertaining. The museum’s founder—Natalie Kotsch—never surfed but found herself drawn to surf culture when she moved to the U.S. from Canada and created the museum to preserve its history.
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Heritage Museum of Orange County

History Museum
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The Heritage Museum's Kellogg House was built in 1898.
The Heritage Museum's Kellogg House was built in 1898 | © Kyle Gittens / Courtesy of The Heritage Museum
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.
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Fri:
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Sun:
11:00 am - 3:00 pm

Discovery Cube Orange County

Science Museum
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The Discovery Cube OC's iconic cube.
The Discovery Cube OC's iconic cube | © Buchanan-Hermit / WikiCommons
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.
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Mon - Sun:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly, Accessible (Wheelchair), Accessible (Blind), Accessible (Deaf)

Noguchi Garden

Museum
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The Noguchi Garden is tucked away in an unassuming Costa Mesa plaza.
The Noguchi Garden is tucked away in an unassuming Costa Mesa plaza | © dailymatador / Flickr
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.”
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