Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Santa Ana, CA

  • Published 2021/11/12

Nestled in the banks of the Santa Ana River, this city is an ideal holiday destination that offers something for everyone.

It is known for its sprawling natural beauty, impressive museums, remarkable art galleries, numerous amusement parks, zoos featuring exotic animals, diverse wildlife, serene lakes, a mesmerizing river, majestic hills, and aesthetically pleasing architecture.

Whether you’re looking for a thrilling adventure or a relaxing vacation, Santa Ana, California has it all.

Here’s an all-in-one list of the best things to do while vacationing here:

Enjoy a Fun-Filled Day at Discovery Cube

Discovery Cube

LunaseeStudios /

This hands-on museum is an amazing place to visit if you’re traveling with kids.

It features over a hundred hands-on exhibits and interactive activities, including dinosaur exhibits, helicopter flight simulator rides, scavenger hunts, Hotwheels, Lego, water gallery, simulated ice hockey area, kids’ supermarket, a kitchen, and several others.

Check out the museum’s highly appreciated architecture that features a large cube made of solar panels.

You can watch fascinating 3D movies at the museum’s theatre.

View of Discovery Cube

User:Spirou, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum aims to make the learning process more fun and interesting and helps ignite curiosity among children.

It has both permanent and rotating exhibits.

Established in 1998, this place attracts more than 400,000 patrons every year.

It is open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm.

View of Discovery Cube

Simone Hogan /

Encounter Exotic Animals at Santa Ana Zoo

Birds at Santa Ana Zoo

Takinzinnia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1952, this zoo is one of the prime tourist attractions of Santa Ana and attracts over 270,000 visitors annually.

The diverse animals at this zoo include golden lion tamarin, ring-tailed lemur, crested capuchin, bald eagles, bactrian camels, scarlet ibis, trumpeter hornbill, striated heron, tarantulas, mallards, and plenty more.

Entrance to the Santa Ana Zoo

TonelsonProductions /

It also features children’s train rides, a Ferris wheel, a carousel, a farm, snack bar, a maze, and more.

The Conservation Education Theater features a stage made of nearly 8,000 recycled milk jugs, and you can get close to the animals and pet them during presentations at this open-air theatre.

Explore the zoo and watch the diverse and exotic animals.

Explore East End Santa Ana’s Shops

Santa Ana’s East End neighborhood is home to various unique boutiques, eccentric local retailers, attractive cafés and galleries, and creative spaces.

There is an abundance of Latino and Hispanic culture in Fiesta Marketplace.

It has since evolved into a popular gathering place for revelers, with a slew of clubs dotting the area.

The East End Promenade is a great place to go if you’re looking for a night of shopping and entertainment.

Check Out the Historic Aircraft at Lyon Air Museum

Lyon Air Museum

SunflowerMomma /

This renowned aerospace museum exhibits US military aircrafts, vehicles, motorcycles, and automobiles belonging to the Second World War.

The seven historic aircrafts displayed at the museum include Douglas A-26 “Invader,” North American B-25 “Mitchell,” Cessna O-1E “Birddog,” and others.

Other displays feature 1939 Mercedes-Benz Model G4 Offener Touring Wagon, 1943 German NSU Kettenkrad HK 101Tracked Motorcycle, 1945 Indian Motorcycle “Chief,” 1939 German VID Tempo Gelaendewagen, and more.

Historic Aircraft at Lyon Air Museum

Denis Blofield /

The museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm.

The admission fee ranges from $6 to $13, depending on your age.

Kids below the age of 5 can enter for free.

Tour the museum and check out the cool and fascinating vintage displays.

Join a Culinary Class at Hipcooks

You can visit Hipcooks Orange County if you’re looking to brush up on your culinary abilities or if you have no clue where to begin.

Hipcooks offers hands-on cooking workshops for people of all skill levels.

Finding your chef within and discovering what flavors go well together is the only way to overcome this challenge.

There will be a dinner party at the end of each class, where you may eat your food and drink your wine.

Explore Inspiring Art at Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum

Sandra Foyt /

Established in 1936, this renowned museum has consistently been voted the “Best Museum in Orange County” for over 25 years.

Its permanent collection features over 90,000 historical artifacts and artistic works that highlight the history of Orange County, Southern California culture, Native American art, ancient Chinese art, and art of the indigenous people of Oceania.

The rotating exhibitions present outstanding artistic works from all over the world.

View of Bowers Museum

TonelsonProductions /

A multitude of events and programs are organized here throughout the year, including coffee painting, film screenings, paper painting tutorials, musical performances, book clubs, and more.

Bowers has ties with several internationally acclaimed museums of the world, such as Nanjing Museum, Tokyo National Museum, the British Museum, and many more.

Kidseum is their children’s museum located close by, which emphasizes art and archaeology.

View of Bowers Museum

Mobilisdeus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bowers museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10 am to 4 pm.

The admission fee ranges from $10 to $15, depending on your age and whether you’re visiting on a weekday or during weekend.

Children below the age of 12 can enter for free.

Tour the museum and browse thought-provoking and inspiring artistic creations.

Be a Pilot for a Day at Air Combat USA

Air Combat USA is a renowned air combat school located in Santa Ana.

They have been featured on numerous popular TV shows, such as Good Morning America, The Apprentice, Travel Channel, and others.

Founded in 1988, they train their patrons on how to fly a military aircraft and dog-fight in the air.

Once you get the training, you can fly their SIAI Marchetti SF-260 and explore the skies of Orange County, dog-fight, attack your opponent, and more.

It is an experience of a lifetime that gets your adrenaline pumping.

While flying, you will be accompanied by their experienced, professional pilots who will guide you or take over whenever required.

With more than two decades of experience in this field, tens of thousands of guests have flown their aircraft until the present.

The average duration of this experience is 2.5 to 3 hours.

The entire process involves four steps, including training by pilot instructors and learning about safety measures, selecting a mission suitable for you, flying and attacking, and watching the recorded videos of your flight.

Visit this place and try out this thrilling and unparalleled experience.

Explore Regional Art at Orange County Museum of Art

Orange County Museum of Art

Kelvinkccheng /

This is an internationally acclaimed contemporary visual arts museum located in Santa Ana that was founded in 1962.

It emphasizes regional and local art, and its permanent collection features over 3500 artistic works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and so on, dating back to the 20th century and beyond.

It hosts several rotating exhibitions all year round, displaying works by renowned regional artists.

The museum’s art has been featured in various galleries across the US and Europe.

Visit this place and look at the captivating pieces of regional art.

Explore Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

Santa Ana Historic District

Matt Gush /

Visit the downtown area of Santa Ana to explore the numerous quaint historic buildings, and check out the aesthetically pleasing Art Deco architecture.

Tour the Civic Center area that features the city hall building, a public library, Old Orange County Courthouse, Mexican consulate, other government offices, and more.

View of Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

Matt Gush /

You can find a broad array of cafés, diners, bars, theatres, jewellery stores, and hairdressers on Fourth Street.

The Artists Village, located downtown, is renowned for its remarkable galleries, art studios, boutiques, restaurants, and more.

You can browse regional and local art at these art shops and galleries.

See Local Pieces at CSUF Grand Central Art Center

As a joint venture between the City Government of Santa Ana and California State University, this art center stands in the Downtown National Register District or Artist’s Village.

Forty-five thousand square feet of the center’s total space is devoted to studios for visual arts learners.

If you enroll in the University Arts Program, a studio and an apartment are available for rent, and you will have access to both facilities.

An exhibition space for foreign artists is open in the building, and these displays revolve around the educational process.

Tour the Old Orange County Courthouse

Old Orange County Courthouse

LunaseeStudios /

This historic building dates back to the early 20th century and is one of the oldest buildings of this region.

It boasts Neo-Romanesque architecture and emphasizes local and regional history.

The interiors of the building have been maintained to accurately represent how it looked like during the previous century.

Front View of Old Orange County Courthouse

Steve Cukrov /

It displays various historical artifacts and local memorabilia that attract myriads of visitors.

The quaint building is an amazing backdrop for weddings.

You can visit this place on weekdays between 8 am and 4:30 pm.

Catch Live Performances at Yost Theater

Front View of Yost Theater

TonelsonProductions /

The Yost Theater in Santa Ana is where you can watch a live show.

As well as being a historical site in its own right, it is in the heart of the historic district.

Additionally, it is part of the list of the National Register of Historic Places.

Front View of Yost Theater

NerdyPirateGirl, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since the days of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, it has served as a cinema.

It is now a popular location for concerts and other activities.

Several national and international performers have performed here, and the venue has a long tradition of showcasing world-class talent.

Swing Your Club at River View Golf Course

The River View Golf Course in Santa Ana features a comprehensive practice facility and an 18-hole course.

It is 6,191 yards long, sloped at 120 degrees, and has a par of 70.

However, the property boasts a well-maintained course, a river, and a breathtaking perspective of its environment, so you can feel at ease while you play.

Tour and Try Different Spirits at Blinking Owl Distillery

View of Blinking Owl Distillery

Steve Cukrov /

Craft distillery Blinking Owl Distillery opened in Santa Ana, Orange County, in 2016.

Craft Distillers’ license Type 74 enables the distillery to operate as a tasting room and sell liquor on-site for take-home consumption.

The Blinking Owl Bar in Santa Ana, California, was the inspiration for the bar’s name, a nod to the city’s craft cocktail history.

View of Blinking Owl Distillery

Steve Cukrov /

The distillery produces classic and barrel-aged gin and aquavit and bourbon and rye whiskeys throughout the year.

It also offers guided tours and tastings that provide an in-depth look at the business and allow guests to sample various products.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Hiking in Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Arne Beruldsen /

Nestled on the banks of Santiago Creek, this 1269-acre park features sprawling greenery, dense foliage, miles of nature trails, a mesmerizing creek, scenic vistas of majestic mountains, diverse wildlife, an orange grove, and plenty more.

Enjoy an invigorating hike on the verdant trails that run parallel to the river or explore the area by biking.

Climb to Robbers Peak to feast your eyes on spectacular, panoramic views of vast spreading forests and gorgeous rolling hills.

View of Santiago Oaks Regional Park

gabriel12 /

Owing to its picturesque views and tranquil atmosphere, this also happens to be a popular wedding destination.

You can find outrageously colored wildflowers spread throughout the area and spot mountain lions and rattlesnakes.

Visit this park to escape into nature and appreciate beauty.

Appreciate Nature’s Beauty at Irvine Regional Park

Irvine Regional Park

Arne Beruldsen /

Encompassing over 490 acres, this historic park features a serene lake, diverse wildlife, dense foliage, towering oak and sycamore trees, picnic areas, playgrounds, sports fields, horseshoe pits, a railroad, a scenic overlook, and beautiful hills.

Enjoy an invigorating hike on the miles of verdant trails that meander through the picturesque landscapes of this park.

Try your hand at fishing or explore the cool waters of Irvine lake by paddle boating.

Nature’s Beauty at Irvine Regional Park

Steve Cukrov /

Hop on a train from the station to enjoy a scenic journey through the densely forested landscapes.

Bring along a nice picnic to relish against the stunning backdrops or make some delicious burgers on the grills.

Indulge in a game of softball at the sports fields.

Pony rides are offered at the park on all days except Mondays.

Nature’s Beauty at Irvine Regional Park

Arne Beruldsen /

The Orange County Zoo is also located within the park grounds.

Irvine Park is the oldest park in the county and is a perfect place to take a break from mundane life and escape into nature.

Rental bikes and paddleboats are available on the site.

The park timings are from 6 am to 6 pm in winter and fall, and from 6 am to 9 pm in summer and spring.

Enjoy Thrilling Rides at Adventure City

This popular theme park is a great place to spend a fun-filled and exciting day with your family.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to this park annually.

You can enjoy thrilling rides, encounter animals, gorge on delicious food, play fun games at the arcade, and groove to funky beats on the stage.

The various rides here include Ferris wheels, roller coasters, carousels, train rides, balloon races, and plenty more.

Get close to sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs at the petting farm.

This place is known for providing an amazing experience to all visitors at affordable rates.

The admission to the park ranges between $17.95 to $21.95, depending on your age.

Check Out Cool Cars at Marconi Automotive Museum

Cool Cars at Marconi Automotive Museum

ShanHams, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This popular automotive museum features over 70 high-speed cars, motorcycles, and vintage cars, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Ford Thunderbirds, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Ford Mustang, Jaguars, Mercedes, Maserati Bora, and several others.

Entry to the museum is a suggested donation of $5, and all the collections are donated to children’s charities.

Kids under the age of 12 can enter for free.

Cool Cars at Marconi Automotive Museum

Marconi Automotive Museum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the museum and check out the cool and fascinating exhibits.

It attracts thousands of automotive aficionados every year.

The displays are the personal collection of a successful businessman and race car driver named Dick Marconi, who donated all his cars to this museum.

It is open to the public on weekdays from 10 am to 3 pm and is 12 minutes’ drive from Santa Ana.

Picnicking in Mile Square Regional Park

Mile Square Regional Park

jdo83 /

Encompassing over 600 acres, this park features two mesmerizing fishing lakes, picnic areas, multiple sports fields, an archery range, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts, and more.

You can explore the lake waters by paddle boating or enjoy fishing here.

It is an amazing place to take a nice and refreshing walk or play a fun game of tennis or softball.

Enjoy a lovely lakeside picnic here with your loved ones and appreciate the scenic views.

You can spend your day sitting under a tree and reading a good book in the tranquil atmosphere.

The lakes are home to many ducks, geese, pelicans, and fish.

The park is open from 7 am to 6 pm in winter and fall and from 7 am to 9 pm in summer and spring.

Take a break from the mundane daily routine and spend a relaxing day here.

Trip to Disneyland Park

View of Disneyland Park

Boris Dzhingarov, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Disneyland Park in Anaheim is located just 5 miles from Santa Ana.

It offers a broad array of exciting and entertaining things to do, which are fun for the entire family.

It is the first Disney theme park in the world and dates back to 1955.

The lands here include Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Toontown, Adventureland, Critter Country, Main Street, and New Orleans Square.

You can meet your favorite Disney characters, enjoy a multitude of exhilarating rides, watch colorful parades and live stage shows, and gorge on mouth-watering food.

View of Disneyland Park

Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons

The various rides at this park include roller coasters, water rides, carousels, freefalls, dark rides, train journeys, submarine voyages, boat rides, and countless more.

It also features movie theaters, interactive activities, fun games, bakery tours, Tarzan’s treehouse, concerts, dance parties, fireworks, haunted house tours, and numerous places to grab a bite.

Get a makeover and transform into a beautiful Disney princess or a knight at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

View of Disneyland Park

Boris Dzhingarov, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Grab your family and spend a fun-filled and exciting day with your loved ones here.

Create unforgettable happy memories at this place, which is bound to give you an amazing time.

Disneyland is one of the prime attractions of this region and is a must-visit.

Pet Animals at Orange County Zoo

Orange County Zoo

Steve Cukrov /

Located in Irvine Regional Park, this zoo exhibits the native flora and fauna of the region.

It is home to bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, eagles, hawks, vultures, peacocks, lizards, and many more.

You can pet and feed the farm animals at the petting zoo here.

The admission fee is $2 per person. Children below the age of 3 can enter for free.

The zoo is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 3.30 pm.

Final Thoughts

Santa Ana is a fantastic destination for a vacation because of its many attractions and activities.

In order to learn about the city’s history, you’ll have to visit its museums, dine at one of the city’s numerous restaurants, and hop on walking tours.

Check out our list if you need some inspiration for your trip.

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