15 Best Things To Do In Santa Ana (CA)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The city of Santa Ana in Orange County, California is a beautiful city that is located next to the Santa Ana River and just ten miles from the Californian coast. The climate in Santa Ana is ideal, with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. The warm summers mean a lot of outdoors activities take place as the people make the most of the beautiful scenery that Orange County has to offer.

The city itself is very densely populated, with the downtown area being the main arts and entertainment hub. Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Santa Ana.

1. Get Hands On With Science At Discovery Cube Orange County

The Discovery CubeSource: LunaseeStudios / shutterstock
The Discovery Cube

If your children love science then this is the perfect place for them to come and visit. The Discovery Cube Orange County has more than 100 science exhibits that children can touch and interact with. The center has a ten storey cube that is covered in solar panels so you certainly know that you have arrived at the right place when you get here. There are various themed areas to be explored including: Air and Space, Dynamic Earth, Quake Zone and Rocket Lab. Children will happily spend hours wandering around and not even realist they are learning because of the fun that they are having.

2. Spend Some Time At Bowers Museum

Bowers MuseumSource: Sandra Foyt / shutterstock
Bowers Museum

Charles Bowers was a land developer who lived in Orange County and before he passed away he donated a plot of land to the city of Santa Ana. In 1931 after his wife had died, a building was constructed on the land and in 1936 the Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum was opened for the first time. Over the decades the museum has had various refurbishments and the museum’s size has increased tenfold. The museum is a great place to take a look at the different cultures in the world and there are over 100,000 items to peruse.

3. Visit Santa Ana Zoo

Santa Ana ZooSource: Orange Grove / shutterstock
Santa Ana Zoo

In Prentice Park in Santa Ani is Santa Ana Zoo. The zoo sits on land that was donated to the city by Joseph Prentice. When he donated the land he had one stipulation, there must be at least 50 monkeys in the zoo at all times. The zoo has its focus set on Recreation, education and conservation and these are the main areas by which the zoo operates. Each year more than a quarter of a million people visit the zoo and one of the most popular attractions is the Zoofari Express which takes the children on a 560m journey through the zoo.

4. Step Inside Old Orange County Courthouse

Old Orange County CourthouseSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Old Orange County Courthouse

Previously Old Orange County Courthouse was known as Santa Ana County Courthouse. The courthouse was opened in 1901 and sits in the Historic Downtown District, the courthouse has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a recognised Californian Historical Landmark. The building is now a museum that has also appeared in many TV series and movies, most notably as Briarcliff Manor in the movie: American Horror Story: Asylum.

5. Take A Cooking Lesson At Hipcooks

Cooking LessonsSource: Denis Kolomeitsev / shutterstock
Cooking Lessons

If you want to brush up on your cooking skills or have no idea where to begin, a lesson at Hipcooks Orange County might just help you out. Hipcooks provide cooking classes that are completely hands-on and designed for any skill level. There is no measuring of ingredients allowed and the whole process is about finding your inner chef and working out what flavours work well together. Each lesson ends with a dinner party where you will eat your creations, wine will also be supplied for the tasting session.

6. See The Intricate Details of The Kellogg House

Kellogg House, Heritage Museum of Orange CountySource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Kellogg House, Heritage Museum of Orange County

Hiram Clay Kellogg was born in California in 1855. Several years later in 1869 he moved to a ranch in Anaheim and shortly afterwards he began his degree in civil engineering. Kellogg had a knack for this and in 1883 he was awarded a contract to survey and lay out an entire town and news of his skills quickly spread. In 1898 Kellogg designed The Kellogg House and every detail has been carefully thought through. The centre piece of the entire building is a three story spiral staircase that has carvings of ships that were sailing the seas in the late 1800’s. The house is closed on Monday’s and Tuesday’s but a trip around this beautiful artwork is well worth your time.

7. Look Back On World War II At Lyon Air Museum

Lyon Air MuseumSource: Denis Blofield / shutterstock
Lyon Air Museum

Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana has a special emphasis on things to do with World War II. The museum is located in the John Wayne Airport and has many items that are worth looking at. There are motorcycles, vehicles used by the military, cars and of course aircraft. Some of the most famous aircraft include a Cessna O-1E Dog ad a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The Lyon Air Museum is an excellent day out for the family and the information next to each exhibit makes for an interesting and educational trip.

8. Get Arty At CSUF Grand Central Art Center

CSUF Grand Central Art CenterSource: JoeInSouthernCA / Flickr | CC BY-ND
CSUF Grand Central Art Center

The California State University Fullerton Grand Central Art Center is an extraordinary place that spans an entire city block in length and covers three levels in height. The center is a total of 45,000 square feet that is dedicated to studio spaces for visual arts students. If you are enrolled into the University Arts Program you will rent an apartment and have a studio assigned to you for your use. The building also has an area where international artists can hold exhibitions, these exhibitions focus on the education process and its direct focus.

9. Come And See Santiago Creek

Santiago CreekSource: Steve Cukrov / shutterstock
Santiago Creek

When the water flows down the Santa Ana Mountains most of the water goes into the Santiago Creek. The creek is 34 miles long and is a tributary to the Santa Ana River, there are a total of 10 major tributaries running of the Santiago Creek. Along the Santiago river is Lake Irvine where you can openly fish without a license. The reservoir was first stocked with fish in the 1930’s and still get restocked on a weekly basis.

10. Drinks Galore At The Copper Door

BarSource: AboutLife / shutterstock

Sitting underneath the Pacific Building on Broadway and 3rd is an underground bar called The Copper Door. The building was inspired by the speakeasy culture and it is a cool, trendy place to hang out. There is a 30 foot communal table in the bar that was carved out of a single 400 year old pine tree that naturally fell. People flock from all over to try the 20 different craft beers and 8 moonshine cocktails that are served on tap. Live entertainment and special events are regularly held here and there are two tables for those that want to play billiards.

11. Take A Helicopter Ride With OC Helicopters

Aerial view of Santa AnaSource: Matt Gush / shutterstock
Aerial view of Santa Ana


For those that like to do something a bit different, and have the money to splurge a helicopter ride of the area is a great one of experience you will love. Operating out of Santa Ana and the surrounding areas are OC Helicopters. You can start with a short ten minute journey that will take you to the OC coast and back or you can make your own custom package that lasts longer and costs more. This is an excellent way to see the city and surrounding costs line, it is also a great idea for a proposal or when you have something to celebrate.

12. Enjoy Live Music At The Observatory OC

The Observatory OCSource: Harmony Gerber / shutterstock
The Observatory OC

If you want to catch some live music whilst in Santa Ana then the Observatory OC is as good a place as any. Many small and mid-sized bands play shows here and there is a constantly changing line up of bands to choose from. The venue is quite small and intimate which always adds to the atmosphere. A knowledgeable crowd can be found at the shows and the various bars sell reasonably priced drinks.

13. Grab Something To Eat At The Playground

Playground, Santa AnaSource: The Image Party / shutterstock
Playground, Santa Ana

If you are looking for a great place to have something to eat then turning up at The Playground is a great idea. The restaurant is owned by the same people who own the Lime Truck gourmet food truck. At The Playground you will find a mixture of craft beers, excellent food and a team of staff that are buzzing with energy. The food is all made with fresh ingredients that have been prepared with skill, passion and love. This is a business that has expanded at a pace that is staggering and after just one trip here you will understand why.

14. Join The Outpost Fest

FestivalSource: Melinda Nagy / shutterstock

For one day only the streets of Downtown Santa Ana turn into a music, art and cultural festival. The idea of the festival is that it is a “no fluff and no fillers” festival, meaning that there are only bands that people love and that the atmosphere reflects the vibe of the music, arts and craftsmen. There is an outdoor stage set up that people can gather around and listen to the various bands that play throughout the day. There are various food trucks at the event serving up fresh classics such as monster burgers.

15. Play A Round At River View Golf Course

GolfSource: Kati Finell / shutterstock

River View golf course in Santa Ana has an extra challenge that no other golf course in Orange County has. There is a seasonal Santa Ana River that runs across or adjacent to many holes on the course giving you that extra obstacle to avoid whilst playing your shots. If you try to overpower the river you are going to be in for an expensive round so use your cunning to play around and your score card should look a lot healthier.

15 Best Things To Do In Santa Ana (CA):

  • Get Hands On With Science At Discovery Cube Orange County
  • Spend Some Time At Bowers Museum
  • Visit Santa Ana Zoo
  • Step Inside Old Orange County Courthouse
  • Take A Cooking Lesson At Hipcooks
  • See The Intricate Details of The Kellogg House
  • Look Back On World War II At Lyon Air Museum
  • Get Arty At CSUF Grand Central Art Center
  • Come And See Santiago Creek
  • Drinks Galore At The Copper Door
  • Take A Helicopter Ride With OC Helicopters
  • Enjoy Live Music At The Observatory OC
  • Grab Something To Eat At The Playground
  • Join The Outpost Fest
  • Play A Round At River View Golf Course