Nestled in the banks of 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 mesmerising river, majestic hills, and aesthetically pleasing architecture. Whether you’re looking for thrilling adventure or a relaxing vacation, Santa Ana 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 / Shutterstock.com

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 ride, 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. The museum aims to make the learning process more fun and interesting and helps ignite curiosity among children. It has both permanent as well as rotating exhibits. Established in 1998, this place attracts more than 400,000 patrons every year. It is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm.

Encounter exotic animals at Santa Ana Zoo

Santa Ana Zoo
LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com

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

The Conservation Education theatre features a stage made of nearly 8000 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.

Check out historic aircrafts at Lyon Air Museum

Lyon Air Museum
SunflowerMomma / Shutterstock.com

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.

The museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Admission fee ranges from USD 6 to USD 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.

Appreciate nature’s beauty at Irvine Regional Park

Irvine Regional Park
Arne Beruldsen / Shutterstock.com

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 the Irvine lake by paddle boating. Hop on a train from the station located in the park 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. 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 the mundane life and escape into nature.  Rental bikes and paddle boats are available on the site. The park timings are from 6 am to 6pm in winter and fall and from 6am to 9pm in summer and spring.

Explore inspiring art at Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum
Sandra Foyt / Shutterstock.com

Established in 1936, this renowned museum has been voted “Best Museum in Orange County” consistently for over 25 years. Its permanent collection features over 90,000 historical artifacts and artistic works that highlight the history of Orange County, culture of Southern California, 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. A multitude of events and programs are organised 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 emphasises on art and archaeology. Bowers museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission fee ranges from USD 10 to USD 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.

Trip to Disneyland

Disneyland 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 favourite Disney characters, enjoy a multitude of exhilarating rides, watch colourful parades and live stage shows, and gorge on mouth-watering food.

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 theatres, 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 knight at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. 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.

Be a pilot for a day and explore the skies

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 aircrafts till date.  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 / Shutterstock.com

This is an internationally acclaimed contemporary visual arts museum located in Santa Ana that was founded in 1962. It emphasises on regional and local art and its permanent collection features over 3500 artistic works including paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and more 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.

Check out cool cars at Marconi Automotive Museum

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 USD 5 and all the collections are donated to children’s charities. Kids under the age of 12 can enter for free.

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 public on all weekdays from 10 am to 3 pm and is a 12 minutes’ drive from Santa Ana.

Picnicking in Mile Square Regional Park

Mile Square Regional Park
jdo83 / Shutterstock.com

Encompassing over 600 acres, this park features two mesmerising fishing lakes, picnic areas, multiple sports fields, 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 fishes. 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 daily mundane routine and spend a relaxing day here.

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 race, 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. Admission to the park ranges between USD 17.95 to USD 21.95 depending on your age.

Explore Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

Santa Ana Historic District
Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com

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 which features the City Hall building, a public library, Old Orange County Courthouse, Mexican Consulate, other government offices, and more. You can find a broad array of cafés, diners, bars, theatres, jewellery stores, hair dressers on Fourth Street. The Artists Village located in 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.

Pet animals at Orange County Zoo

Orange County Zoo
Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

Located in Irvine Regional Park, this zoo exhibits 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. Admission fee is USD 2 per person. Children below the age of 3 can enter for free. The zoo is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 3.30 pm.

Hiking in Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Santiago Oaks Regional Park
Arne Beruldsen / Shutterstock.com

Nestled on the banks of Santiago Creek, this 1269-acres park features sprawling greenery, dense foliage, miles of nature trails, a mesmerising 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 to spectacular, panaromic views of vast spreading forests and gorgeous rolling hills.

Owing to its picturesque views and tranquil atmosphere, this also happens to be a popular wedding destination. You can find outrageously coloured wildflowers spread throughout the area and spot mountain lions and rattlesnakes. Visit this park to escape into nature and appreciate beauty.

Tour the Old Orange County Courthouse

Old Orange County Courthouse
LunaseeStudios / Shutterstock.com

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 is currently a museum that emphasises on local and regional history. The interiors of the building have been maintained to accurately represent how it looked like during the previous century. It displays various historical artifacts and local memorabilia that attracts 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.

More California

Best Things to do in San Francisco

Best Things to do in Los Angeles

Best Things to do in San Diego

Best Things to do in San Jose

Best Things to Do in Malibu

Best Things to Do in San Clemente

Best Things to Do in Eureka

Best Things to Do in Capitola

Best Things to Do in Pismo Beach

Best Things to Do in Sausalito

Best Things to Do in Crescent City

Best Things to Do in Solvang

Best Things to Do in Pacific Grove

Best Things to Do in Healdsburg

Best Things to Do in Fremont

Best Things To Do In Oxnard

Best Things to Do in Lancaster

Best Things to Do in Walnut Creek

Best Things to Do in Manhattan Beach

Best Things to Do in Dana Point

Best Things to Do in Davis