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Things to do in Santa Ana

The city of Santa Ana is the second most populous city in Orange County and was incorporated in 1886. There is a lot to offer in the city from the historic downtown area to the many cultural sites and numerous greenspaces. If you’re in the Santa Ana area, here are the places you’ll want to see.

Santa Ana Bucket List

Bowers Museum

The Bowers Museum showcases art and historical artifacts from all over the world along with pieces from local California history. The permanent collection of the museum holds over 100,000 artifacts from Asia, Africa, Oceania, North America, and more. Just down the street is the extension of the museum, the Bowers Kidseum, which includes interactive and artistic exhibits designed for youth (temporarily closed for renovations). A gallery store and restaurant also accompany the main museum campus. Ticket prices range from $10 to $25, with free admission for Santa Ana residents on Sundays. Address: 2002 N Main St Santa Ana, CA 92706


Old OC Courthouse

The oldest courthouse in Southern California, this building was dedicated in 1901 and has been preserved to maintain every year of its history to today as a recognized State of California Historic Landmark. The exhibition spaces inside the beautiful building include galleries from the Old Courthouse Museum, the Orange County Archives, and the library of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. The architecture and vintage charm of the courthouse make it a popular wedding location, and many movies have been filmed here including Catch Me If You Can and Legally Blonde. Admission to the building and exhibits is free to all visitors. Address: 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd. Santa Ana, CA 92701


Santa Ana Zoo

The Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park is a smaller zoo than the LA or San Diego zoos, but still allows for a fun outdoor outing with plenty of wildlife to encounter. Known for their large primate exhibits, the zoo also includes camels, tropical birds, anteaters, cows, donkeys, turkeys, eagles, and more. Kids will also be entertained with the train rides, carousel, Ferris wheel, playground, and maze. The size of the zoo makes for an easy day outing with enough ground to cover to make the affordable ticket price more than worth it, at only $9 for children and $12 for adults. Address: 1801 East Chestnut Avenue Santa Ana, CA 92701


Heritage Museum of Orange County

On the Heritage Museum’s 12-acre historical plaza are several buildings from the 1890s that showcase the history of Santa Ana. The Kellogg house on the property can be toured to see the ornate Victorian décor and architecture of the inside of the building, looking just as it would have in the early 20th century. The grounds make for a scenic afternoon walk location, with many gardens filled with foliage and other old buildings including a farmhouse and blacksmith shop. This is also a popular wedding and special event venue, and holds occasional history-themed events open to the public. Address: 3101 W. Harvard St. Santa Ana, CA 92704


The Frida Cinema

Fans of independent theaters know how rare they’ve become these days, but thankfully one is still operating in downtown Santa Ana. The Frida Cinema is a non-profit art house theater run by true cinema fans, and plays both cult classics and new independent releases. The small, two-screen theater is an intimate venue with showtimes on most evenings. In addition to in-person screenings, Frida Cinema also hosts drive-ins and provides online streaming access to other unique content. Check out their calendar for special screenings, double features, and to see their eclectic line-up of films screening now. Address: 305 E 4th St #100, Santa Ana, CA 92701


4th Street Market

In downtown Santa Ana is the 4th Street Market, a food hall with 15 food vendors that are sure to have something for everyone. With most vendors being open for lunch and dinner, there are options including Thai food, burgers, Mexican food, Hawaiian food, fried chicken, vegan, and more. There is plenty of seating both indoors and out, making this market a perfect place to gather with friends or family where everyone can order their food of choice. Each vendor has different hours, so check their website at 4thstreetmarket.com to see if your favorite choices will be open when you plan to visit. Address: 201 East 4th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701


Yost Theater

The Yost Theater is both a historic space, and a versatile event venue. Part of Santa Ana’s Historic East End District, it is easily spotted with its classic theater marquee. It is known for hosting live music events, movie screenings, and more, and can be rented for weddings or private events. During events there is a full bar, and the location of the theater places you right in downtown amidst plenty of other restaurant options. Events are gradually being added to their calendar, so check theyosttheater.com to see what they have in store for an upcoming night out. Address: 307 N Spurgeon St Santa Ana, CA 92701


Tessmann Planetarium

Part of Santa Ana College, the Tessmann Planetarium has educational programs open to the public to share in the love for astronomy. During the weekdays, the planetarium is reserved for Santa Ana College students and other school groups, but on Saturdays there are interactive planetarium shows that let guests explore the vast reaches of our galaxy. Evening events also showcase the night sky in real time, weather permitting. Tickets for shows range from $6-$7, with free admission for SAC students. Shows have been paused for the time being, so check their website for a current schedule. Address: 1530 W. 17th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706


Centennial Regional Park

This 70-acre park, the largest in Santa Ana, contains plenty of space for relaxing beside the lake, walking the paths, or more active sports as well. The biggest draw here is the Skate Park. There are many other amenities including a baseball diamond, basketball courts, multiple playgrounds, and a picnic area. The park also lays along the edge of the Santa Ana River Bike Trail, providing easy access for those looking for a longer trek from the park. Visitors may notice the abundance of waterfowl, so if you do visit keep an eye out for the many types of birds that call this lake and park home. Address: 3000 W Edinger Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92704


Carl Thornton Park

If you need a quick getaway to enjoy some open space in Santa Ana, Thornton Park is a green, 32-acre park with a large lake and walking paths that is perfect for an easy outing into nature. The mini stream beside the lake and the Kiwanis Barrier Free playground will keep kids entertained, along with the park’s many multi-purpose fields. Address: 1801 W Segerstrom Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92704


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Leilani Reyes is a freelance writer, artist, and all-around creative living in Long Beach, CA. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, now she is in search of her next great life adventure.