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Museums in Orange County

A complete list of all the Orange County museums you shouldn’t miss from art and historical to children’s and special Interest museums we have you covered.

Orange County has more to offer than miles of sand and sea. There is a tremendous amount of diversity and culture. There’s an appreciation for art, history, and performance in Orange County that is reflected in the many museums and historic locations throughout the area. Here are a few Orange County museums you shouldn’t miss.

Check out all the free museum days in Southern California and how to get free and discounted museum admission.

Museums In Orange County

Bowers Museum and Kidseum

2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana
Open Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

There are over 120,000 works of art in the Bowers Museum Collection. The permanent collection includes art and artifacts from regions all over the world, as well as Orange County. View collections from Native Americans, the Pacific Islands, Africa, South America, Asia, and more. In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are also several visiting and special exhibits that vary in subject. Collections include exhibits about the First Americans, Art of the Pacific Islands, Pre-Columbian Art, and California History. Bowers offers educational programs, school tours, and community days with a variety of activities from arts and crafts to archaeological digs. **Kidseum is currently under renovation but all family programs will be offered at Bowers.

Free Museum Days:

At Bowers Museum, kids under 12 are always free. All visitors receive free admission to the Key Courtyard for Family Festivals the first Sunday of the month. Santa Ana residents also receive free general admission on Family Festival Sundays.

Active Duty Military with a valid ID receive year-round free general admission. Veterans receive free general admission the Sunday before Veterans Day. Bowers Participates in the Blue Star Museums Program from August 1 – September 1.

Laguna Art Museum

307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach

The Laguna Art Museum specializes in the art of California. There are over 3,500 pieces in the museum’s collection and all work comes from California artists, or is a work that represents life in or the history of the state of California. The museum often shows films about art, hosts lectures and live music nights, and offers other educational programs and special events like the celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday. The third Sunday of the month from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. the Laguna Art Museum hosts the Family Art Studio. The museum provides all materials for families to gather and create works of art together. Admission to the event is free for children. Summer camps for children, school tours, and docent programs are also available at the Laguna Art Museum.

Free Museum Days:

Laguna Art Museum offers free admission during the First Thursdays ArtWalk on the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 9 PM. Admission is always free for visitors 17 and under.

Laguna Art Museum participates in the Blue Star Museums Program and offers free admission to military members and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Orange County Museum of Art

3333 Avenue Of The Arts, Costa Mesa

The Orange County Museum of Art features over 3,000 works of art. The museum focuses on California and international pieces that include sculptures, paintings, and multi media works. OCMA provides an extensive list of curriculum and educational material on the website for parents and educators to use alongside a visit to the museum creating an educational experience that engages and inspires elementary, middle, and high school students. The OCMA calendar isn’t as full as other museums, but they do have special events like family day, and host film presentations and lectures from time to time.

Free Museum Days:

OCMA offers free admission every day.

Marconi Automotive Museum

1302 Industrial Drive, Tustin

The Marconi Automotive Museum houses a collection of vehicles worth $30-million. One of the Marconi’s primary goals is to support the Marconi Foundation for Kids, an advocacy group that helps at risk youth through a variety of programs and financial support. They contribute regularly to local at-risk youth homes like Olive Crest, Orangewood, Covenant House, and more. Visitors to the Marconi will see an extensive collection of vehicles including sleek motorcycles, shiny race cars, and historic vehicles like classic muscle cars and a vintage 1937 fire engine. No touching is allowed here, but older kids and car enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Marconi. Kids 12 and under are free. Admission is $20 per person ages 13 and up, $15 for seniors, military, and first responders, and $10 for students.

Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum

18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda

The Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum preserves and displays an extensive collection of documents, audiovisual material, and memorabilia from Richard Nixon’s life and presidency. Visitors can view 22 unique spaces in the museum that inform and educate about the life and times of Richard Nixon before, during, and after the presidency, including a replica of Nixon’s Oval Office, an exhibit about the Vietnam War, a dedicated space about First Lady Pat Nixon, the house where President Nixon was born. Visitors can also step inside Army One, the helicopter used by Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, and Ford. The Library and Museum is located on the land that was owned by the Nixon Family. Nixon’s mother ran a citrus ranch here until the family moved to Whittier in 1922.

Free Museum Days:

The Nixon Library offers free admission every day to Active Military Members and children 4 and under.

The International Surfing Museum

411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach

The International Surfing Museum is in Huntington Beach just off the main drag of popular Main Street in downtown Huntington. The museum is small, but there is a lot of memorabilia packed into the limited space. Admission is $2 and it’s worth checking out. The museum features a good selection of surfboards, and the Surf 2 Skate exhibit shows off how surfing influenced movement on land with skates, skateboards, and scooters. The International Surfing Museum occasionally hosts events and fundraisers. One to look for is the Surfin’ Sundays Concert Series where they host concerts at Pier Plaza by the Huntington Beach pier complete with food and vendors.

Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center (SHACC)

110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente

A list of Orange County museums wouldn’t be complete without the surfing heritage museum. There are actually two surf museums in Orange County – the Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center in San Clemente and the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach, mentioned above. The SHCC offers visitors a chance to view artifacts, memorabilia, films, and other surf-focused material related to a variety of topics like the origins of surfing, women in surfing, skateboarding, the evolution of surfboards, and important figures in surf history like Bruce Brown, the filmmaker who brought us The Endless Summer in 1964.

Free Museum Days:

Admission to SHCC is free. Please consider purchasing a membership or making a donation.

List of All Museums & Historic Sites in Orange County

Art & Culture Museums

Automotive & Air Museums

Children’s Museums


Historic Sites

Childrens Museums in Orange County
Historic Sites In Orange County
Nature Centers In Orange County

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Heidi Deal
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights. When she's not writing you can find her solo hiking and going on new adventures with her kids and pup.