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12 Best Things to Do in Santa Ana, California

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Santa Ana is a large city centrally located in Orange County, California. With a community rich in Hispanic and Latino culture, the art and music scene is an eclectic blend of funk and folk.

The restaurant scene is award-winning; from the best tacos in Orange County to plant-based vegan spots and fresh sushi, Santa Ana dining has something for every taste bud, craving, and palette.

For the kids, there’s a myriad of sources of entertainment; from the museums and parks to the Zoo and Discovery Science Center, your kids will be enthralled by all the activities and interesting landmarks in the area.

Santa Ana is a quick drive to Newport Beach and other south Orange County cities, about 80 miles from San Diego. If you’re planning a trip to the area, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive list of the best attractions, activities, parks, and more.

Whether you’re here with family, traveling alone for business or pleasure, or on vacation with friends, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Santa Ana, California, without breaking the bank. Here are some of the best things to do in Santa Ana and the surrounding cities.


  • Most significant landmark – Lyon Air Museum
  • Park to visit – Peters Canyon Regional Park
  • Free activity – Old Orange County Courthouse
  • Activity for kids – Santa Ana Zoo
  • Activity for adults – Heritage Museum of Orange County
  • Place to eat – Blinking Owl Distillery
  • Nightlife – Yost Theater
  • For foodies – 4th Street Market Food Hall & Event Space

Things to Do in Santa Ana, California

1. Santa Ana Zoo

Scarlet ibis in Santa Ana Zoo

Address: 1801 E Chestnut Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92701, United States

With exhibits like a live butterfly encounter, a jaguar exploration outpost, and Amazon’s Edge, the Santa Ana Zoo is a hidden gem in Orange County for families and children of all ages.

Your kids will enjoy a ride on the zoo’s Express Train, featuring six train cars and a six-minute zoo tour, or they can ride the Ferris Wheel and the Conservation Carousel.

Be sure to stop at Crean Family Farm, where you can learn about life on an Orange County farm featuring turkeys, pigs, donkeys, and many other animals.

Visit the Amazon Aviary and experience a slew of exotic birds with free range in the enclosure. You’ll see a variety of South American birds at the Santa Ana Zoo, including the white-bellied caique, scarlet ibis, emerald toucanet, blue-crowned motmot, and many more.

For adventure seekers, the Rainforest Adventure Maze is a fun way to explore the zoo’s rainforest, with four interactive stations and games that lead you deeper into the maze and back out again.

Finally, head to the Safari Playground to take a break from walking and refuel with snacks or lunch at the many eateries in the Santa Ana Zoo.

Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, the Santa Ana Zoo is a great place for families to spend the day, exercise, and experience the great outdoors in Orange County. We highly recommend adding it to your list of must-see Santa Ana attractions.

Want to visit more zoos in California? Visit the San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles Aquarium of the Pacific.

2. 4th Street Market

Stores in 4th Street Market
image by LnS2004/TripAdvisor

Address: 201 E 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701, United States

For the interactive and entertaining experience of a modern food hall, 4th Street Market will exceed your expectations.

A culinary hub with chefs, food artisans, and local small businesses, 4th Street Market features an impressive spread of cuisines, including burritos, hot fried chicken, seafood, burgers, vegan pizza, and Thai street food; there’s a vendor for every taste bud.

Open daily from 9 am to 9 pm, 4th Street Market is located in downtown Santa Ana and brings in droves of people each day, both locals and tourists alike.

Featuring indoor and outdoor seating and takeout options, the market can house both large parties and small tables. The dining hall features local events and music on particular nights throughout the month for diners to enjoy.

See Related: Things to Do in Riverside

3. Lyon Air Museum

Lyon Air Museum Exhibit
image by Ducatipierre is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Address: 19300 Ike Jones Rd, Santa Ana, CA 92707, United States

Lyon Air Museum is located on the west side of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Founded by General William Lyon (USAF), Lyon Air Museum features authentic aircraft, rare military vehicles, and historical memorabilia about the World War II era.

Enjoy a docent-led tour for a walk through history as you see and touch the historic aircraft that helped shape the 20th century. Featuring aircraft including the Cessna Birddog, Boeing B-17, and the North American AT-6/SNJ-6, there is much to learn and appreciate in the aircraft exhibit at Lyon Air Museum.

Other exhibits offer a unique look into automobiles from the 1930s and 40s, military motorcycles, including America’s oldest motorcycle brand, and a Japanese sidecar motorcycle. Get a glimpse of some military Jeeps and other vehicles used in WWII.

Most tours are under an hour and provide great insight into World War II’s military strategies and influences. The aircraft and vehicles are all restored to pristine condition, and you can spend several hours wandering the exhibits and learning about the US military from many local veterans.

Lyon Air Museum is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, with general tickets costing $13 and children under 5 for free. Ayres Hotel Costa Mesa – Newport Beach is one of the best hotels near the museum. Purchase museum tickets and learn more here.

4. River View Golf Course

River View Golf Course
image by River View Golf Course/Facebook

Address: 1800 W Santa Clara Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92706, United States

Ready to hit the links on a gorgeous sunny day in Southern California? There’s no better way to get sunshine and fresh air than at River View Golf Course!

The 18-hole golf course features over 6,000 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 70. Enjoy the challenge of a solid game of golf on one of the most picturesque golf courses in the OC.

Enjoy elevated tees, greens, and a night-lit driving range with target greens and pins at 10-300 yards. Didn’t bring your clubs on vacation? No problem. The clubhouse has great options for rentals.

Grab your friends, a golf cart, and some beverages, and enjoy your time on the green. Golfing in Orange County is a must-do if you love the sport and are visiting the area.

If you’re looking for a refresher before you hit the course, River View Golf Course offers golf lessons, clinics, camps, and instructions by PGA Class A golfer Pat Pohlen and many other professional golfers. You’ll be a pro in no time! For tee times and more information, visit their website or call (714) 563-8435 to book.

See Related: Golf Bachelor Party Destinations Ideas

5. Discovery Cube Orange County

Discovery Cube Orange County Architecture

Address: 2500 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92705, United States

Previously known as Discovery Science Center, this tourist attraction is one of the best in Santa Ana, California. Discovery Cube Orange County is a non-profit science center whose mission is to inspire and educate young minds through engaging, interactive science-based programs.

Featuring over 100 hands-on exhibits, Discovery Cube Orange County provides a full day of entertainment, learning, and adventure.

Exhibits include the Physics Lab featuring a race track and toy cars, an Organics Waste Lab to learn about composting, an outdoor dinosaur-themed exhibit, and the Aquavator underwater experience to learn about the science of water.

There’s truly something for everyone (even parents!) to learn and discover. Discovery Cube Orange County also features a two-story tall dinosaur, an Eco Challenge to become a green superhero and a real rocket launch simulator. It’s an exciting place to inspire kids to explore their curiosities, so don’t miss out on this neat place when you’re in Santa Ana.

Designed for children of all ages, Discovery Cube Orange County is a fantastic way to spend a day on your vacation. It is easily one of the best things to do in Santa Ana with kids.

The Discovery Science Center is open from 10 am to 5 pm seven days a week. Tickets for kids 14 and under cost $14.95, and for adults 15 and over, they cost $19.95. For a side quest, you can visit San Francisco on a hop-on hop-off bus tour and Old Town San Diego on a bus tour.

See Related: Things to Do in Los Angeles

6. Featherly Regional Park & Canyon RV Park

RVs in Canyon RV Park
image by Gauwe58/TripAdvisor

Address: 24001 E Santa Ana Canyon Rd, Anaheim, CA 92808, United States

Located in Santa Ana Canyon, Featherly Regional Park is a great place to spend the day with your family. Open seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm, this park is rich in local history.

Purchased by the Irvine Company for cattle ranching, eventually, plans for the park evolved to provide a place for Orange County residents and visitors to use for recreational purposes, and it’s conveniently located near Anaheim.

In the 1960s, locals and tourists used the park’s ideal location along the Santa Ana River bank to have picnics, swim in the river, and spend the day in the sunshine.

Today, Featherly Regional Park is mostly restricted, with the main access point being Canyon RV Park. Canyon RV Park offers RV sites with full hook-ups, small cabins, youth group camping, and areas for group events.

If camping is in your plans while in Orange County, be sure to check out Canyon RV Park for some great views and to unplug from the hustle and bustle of Orange County. You’ll feel removed from the city without traveling far, making it a great overnight or two-day trip. Canyon RV Park’s entrance is at Gypsum Canyon Road and the 91 Freeway.

See Related: How to Rent an RV: Tips for Renting RV for a Road Trip

7. Heritage Museum of Orange County

Heritage Museum of Orange County
image by Perkadventures/TripAdvisor

Address: 3101 W Harvard St, Santa Ana, CA 92704, United States

Interested in learning more about the history of Orange County, its residents, and local buildings and architecture? The Heritage Museum of Orange County preserves, promotes, and restores the heritage and culture of Orange County and its surrounding regions.

Open most weekends from 11 am to 3 pm, the museum sits on 12 acres in Santa Ana and features several buildings from the 1890s.

Set amongst the citrus trees and flower gardens, Heritage Museum’s most popular landmark is the Kellogg House, one of the first Neo-classical Victorian-style homes in Orange County.

Be sure to stop at the Gospel Swamp Farm and Natural Area at the Heritage Museum, which local high school students maintain. Take the kids to explore the grounds and learn some interesting facts about Santa Ana and its original residents.

Along with its rich history, the Heritage Museum is also home to many local community educational programs and events throughout the year. These include markets selling handmade goods and local art, music festivals, ghost tours, and more.

Spending the day in the historic Orange County district at the Heritage Museum will give you a taste of the area’s rich beginnings and how it became what it is today.

See Related: Things to Do in Orange County, CA

8. Blinking Owl Distillery

Blinking Owl Distillery Bra Stool Chairs
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 802 E Washington Ave, Santa Ana, CA 92701, United States

Need a night out with your partner or friends? Leave the kids at home and head to Blinking Owl Distillery for a night of craft cocktails, tasty bites, and great energy. Husband and wife team Brian and Robin took over the Blinking Owl Distillery a few years ago and restored it to its former glory with a few custom updates and unique flair.

The first of its kind in Orange County, Blinking Owl holds a special craft liquor license that allows them to operate its tasting room and sell its products on-site.

Blinking Owl is a 100% California product company, meaning all the grains used in their distilling are organic and from only California farms.

Featuring cocktails with artsy names like Spicy Aqua-Vita-Rita, Dirty Bird Martini, and the Jungle Owl, you’re sure to have a good time when you visit.

They have a full bistro menu if you’re hungry, including tasty treats like smoked salmon deviled eggs, pizza, skirt steak, and more. Come for the food and drinks, but stay for the atmosphere.

If it’s the distillery process you’re interested in, Blinking Owl offers behind-the-scenes tasting tours to witness firsthand the elaborate process of distilling whiskey, vodka, and gin. Leave the kids home and have a great night in Santa Ana.

See Related: Free California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

9. Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum

Address: 2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706, United States

Bowers Museum is a must-add to your Santa Ana itinerary, as it’s one of the most important landmarks in the area. Opened in 1936, Bowers Museum is a local gem situated in the heart of Santa Ana. Its mission is simple — preserve the culture and history of Orange County with galleries, exhibits, and a wide breadth of information for interested visitors and locals who are eager to learn.

The exhibits, artifacts, and galleries at Bowers Museum focus on Santa Ana and Southern California as a whole, with over 90,000 artifacts and works of art open to the public.

Recent exhibits include Terra Cotta Warriors, Mummies: Treasures from the British Museum, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond, and Inside the Walt Disney Archives.

The museum is a local hot spot for art, music, workshops, film viewings, and more. There are dedicated events and programs for children, including story time, art classes, and music lessons.

Bowers Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. There’s also a restaurant on site, the award-winning Patina Restaurant, Tangata.

During your visit, be sure to make a stop at the Gallery Store, where you can browse through exhibit-related books, apparel, jewelry, and much more. If you’re looking for accommodation to book in Santa Ana, use and to get the best deals.

See Related: Best Weekend Trips from Orange County, CA: Top Getaways

10. Old Orange County Courthouse

Old Orange County Courthouse Architeture

Address: 211 W Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA 92701, United States

Easily one of the most popular Santa Ana attractions, the Old Orange County Courthouse is located in downtown Santa Ana and has a rich history in the city. It’s Southern California’s oldest court building and has witnessed many important city events over the years.

The courthouse was dedicated in 1901, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a State of California Historic Landmark.

The OC History Center is Located within the courthouse and offers visitors historical programs. Courtroom Number One has appeared in a variety of blockbuster films, including Legally Blonde, Norma Rae, and Catch Me If You Can.

Browse the exhibits, galleries, and displays throughout the old Courthouse for an inside look at regional and local Santa Ana history. The building was restored in 1992 and stands as one of the region’s most historic and impactful structures.

For a free activity in Santa Ana, California, the Old Orange County Courthouse is a great way to spend a few hours. Admission to the Old Orange County Courthouse and museum is free, and the offices and exhibits are open to the public Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.

See Related: Best Road Trips in the USA

11. Peters Canyon Regional Park

Trail in Peters Canyon Regional Park
image by by kgroovy is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 10189 Overhill Dr, Santa Ana, CA 92705, United States

Look no further than Peters Canyon Regional Park for an outdoor adventure outside Santa Ana. Open daily from 7 am to sunset, Peters Canyon Regional Park has fantastic trails for walking, running, biking, and horseback riding.

Historically, Peters Canyon Regional Park served as a training area for the U.S. Army during World War II. The land was dedicated in 1992 to become the expansive, beautiful public park it is today.

Pack a lunch, grab the kids, don your hiking shoes, and spend the day surrounded by nature. The park has two picnic areas where you can spend the day with your family comfortably.

Complete with stunning views of Orange and Santa Ana, Peters Canyon Regional Park lets you take a break from the bustling city and get fresh air without traveling very far. If you are searching for ideas on what to do in Santa Ana, you may be surprised by how many local parks are available in the area.

You have your pick of scenic views, hiking trails, picnic spots, birdwatching, and epic bike trails. Peters Canyon Regional Park offers a little bit of everything, making it a must-visit location for families or solo travelers.

See Related: Best Holiday Spots for Couples

12. Yost Theater

Yost Theater Building

Address: 307 N Spurgeon St, Santa Ana, CA 92701, United States

When it first opened in 1913, Yost Theater was known as the Auditorium Theater, and it had several name changes throughout the years before Edward Yost purchased it.

Yost Theater was sold a few times during the 20th century in the heart of downtown Santa Ana. It was finally restored and converted to a live theater in 2007 after years of alterations and defacements by its previous owners.

Today, Yost Theater hosts local events, musicians, DJs, weddings, lectures, concerts, and more. Noted performers throughout the years include Thrice, Sonny & Cher, Alien Ant Farm, and Ike & Tina Turner.

If you’re looking for a night out on the town in Santa Ana and want to experience a historic landmark, make sure to add Yost Theater as one of the top places to visit. Visit the Yost Theater website for information on upcoming events and local happenings.

See Related: Things to Do in Venice Beach

Places to Stay in Santa Ana

1. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Santa Ana - Orange County, an IHG Hotel Top Recommendation

At Holiday Inn Express & Suites Santa Ana - Orange County, guests can enjoy a range of facilities and services including a business center, concierge desk and valet parking. This property features rooms with air conditioning, cable TV with on-demand movies and an en suite bathroom. A hairdryer and ironing facilities are also provided in each room. The hotel has a restaurant and guests can enjoy drinks at the bar/lounge or pub. The hotel offers free WiFi throughout the property.

2. Best Western Plus Orange County Airport North

The Best Western Plus Orange County Airport North is located in California, just 4.8 km from John Wayne Airport and 5 km from the Santa Ana Zoo. This hotel provides free Wi-Fi access throughout to its guests as well as a complimentary breakfast each morning. Guests can relax while drinking coffee or tea on the balcony of their room before heading out to explore the area. Enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool or exercise in the fitness center while on holiday at the Best Western Plus Orange County Airport North.

3. Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Ana/Orange County Airport

Enjoy your stay at Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Ana/Orange County Airport hotel with amenities including an indoor pool, hot tub and on-site dining. The 24-hour business center has fax and photocopy services. Free WiFi is available in every guest room at Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Ana/Orange County Airport. A 32-inch TV is offered in each room. Select rooms include a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. The hotel has 2 meeting rooms for small gatherings or events.

Getting Around Santa Ana, California

As one of Orange County’s most popular cities, Santa Ana is a bustling and energetic city. Whether you’re here with your children, partner, or friends or traveling solo, there are many cost-efficient ways to get around the city and its surrounding areas.

Travel by Rental Car

A rental car is the best option if you’re visiting the Orange County area or staying in Santa Ana with your family. Most landmarks and sites in Santa Ana require driving, particularly those in the nearby cities.

As a city, Santa Ana has great public parking at reasonable rates, so you’ll never struggle to find a spot. You can rent cars on Kayak and For safety, don’t forget to get travel insurance.

See Related: Rental Cars That You Can Take Out of State

Travel by Rideshare

Uber and Lyft operate in Santa Ana, and the ridesharing options are reasonably priced and easy to use. Particularly for nightlife or downtown areas, ridesharing is a more efficient option if you plan to go out for the night or drink alcohol.

Visit Uber or Lyft to check rates or schedule rides in Santa Ana and the surrounding areas.

Travel by Train

Santa Ana is a train stop on the Metrolink that travels between Orange County, Los Angeles, and Riverside County. It’s a great way to get around if you want to see other cities without paying California gas prices or dealing with the traffic.

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