The Best Alternative Museums in Orange County, California

Lifting Fog by Guy Rose, The Irvine Museum | © Irvine Museum/WikiCommons
Lifting Fog by Guy Rose, The Irvine Museum | © Irvine Museum/WikiCommons
Photo of Kayelyn Rodriguez
9 February 2017

While LA may be better known for its culture and niche interests, don’t discount the more interesting museums of the OC. Here’s a list of the top five unique museums that stretch beyond your general science and art.

International Surfing Museum

Museum
Map View
Huntington Beach is known as one of the biggest surfing capitals of the world, so it seems more than fitting that such a city would house a surfing museum. Dedicated to preserving the history of surfing, it is a must-see spot for any surfing fanatic. Some of the highlights include George Freeth’s 1919 surfboard – he was the first person to surf Huntington Beach – to the recent addition of the World’s Largest Surf Board, which arrived at the collection on January 22, 2016. And with only a $2 cost of admission, it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy a traditionally expensive area.

Pretend City Children’s Museum

Museum, Post Office, Store
Map View
Located in the suburban utopia of Irvine, the Pretend City Children’s Museum offers a unique approach to educating children about real-world tasks. The inside of the museum consists of nearly 20 exhibits meant to replicate a city on a miniature scale. These include typical city components such as a post office, grocery store and emergency services to the more remarkable such as an amphitheater, marina, and farm. Offering exhibits where children are encouraged to learn through imagination and interactive activities provide education that is crucial to their development while providing an environment that is fun and safe, since everything is tailored to their size. One thing’s for sure: children will love it for the fun while parents admire the education.

Marconi Automotive Museum

Museum
Map View
Serving as a home to historic pieces such as the 1929 Ford Model A, 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, and the 1973 Porsche Interscope Indy Car to the multiple Ferraris and Lamborghinis, this museum is sure to attract any car or racing enthusiast, as well as history lovers. The walls of the Marconi Automotive Museum house street and race cars and even some motorcycles, with every vehicle kept in a lustrous and shining condition – evidence into preserving these pieces of history. Best of all, the museum donates profits to help at-risk children. What better way to enjoy the community than to know you’re giving back as well.

Fullerton Arboretum

Building, Museum, University
Map View
While there are small museums located on the premises, the main attraction is the vast array of flora and fauna that is a cultural treasure in and of itself. Located on the California State University Fullerton’s campus, three main plant habitats of Woodlands, Mediterranean, and Desert combine to create a vast garden of lush wildlife sure to provide relief to those tired of the concrete and browned plants indicative of city living. With such an array of habitats, the arboretum is a natural attraction for wildlife, particularly birds, making this a nature lover’s paradise. And if you’re still looking for a museum building to visit, there is a small one located on-site with rotating exhibits related to nature as well as a heritage house that displays information related to medical practices and life in Orange County during the late 1800s, as it belonged to Dr George Crook Clark back in 1894.

Institute and Museum of California Art

Museum
Map View
M0063 - Redmond - Transparency
Granville Redmond, California Landscape with Flowers, circa 1931, Oil on canvas, 32 x 80 1/4 in. | © The Irvine Museum Collection at University of California, Irvine
For those interested in both Impressionist art and the beauty of Southern California, the Institute and Museum of California Art presents a unique niche of paintings to fit this mold. Through the showcasing of these paintings, the museum hopes to inspire a love of nature as well as raise environmental awareness. One such example is their exhibit featuring California paintings that emphasize water in order to bring attention to the drought and how devastating it is to lose such a beautiful natural resource. These beautiful landscapes provide a look into times past and hope that it inspires us to preserve what is left for times in the future.

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