Top 10 Best Things to Do in Santa Ana in 2024

Santa Ana, California, is a vibrant city located in Orange County. Known for its rich history, diverse culture, and endless entertainment options, Santa Ana is a must-visit destination for adventure seekers and entertainment enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking to explore historical landmarks, indulge in thrilling outdoor activities, shop till you drop, or enjoy a night out on the town, Santa Ana has something for everyone. In this article, we will delve into the various attractions and activities that make Santa Ana a truly unforgettable destination.

Top 10 Things to Do in Santa Ana California

When it comes to the bustling metropolitan area of Los Angeles, Santa Ana often gets overlooked in favor of its larger and more famous neighbors like Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Long Beach. However, this vibrant city in Orange County has its own unique charm and plenty of things to offer visitors. From its rich history to its thriving arts scene and abundance of outdoor activities, Santa Ana has something for everyone. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore 20 things to do in Santa Ana that will make your visit truly memorable.

1. Learn About History At The Heritage Museum Of Orange County

Heritage Museum Of Orange County

Start your journey in Santa Ana by immersing yourself in the region’s history at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. This museum features a collection of perfectly restored 1890s buildings, including a picturesque farmhouse surrounded by vibrant floral gardens. Step back in time and experience how people lived and worked in this part of the world more than a century ago. Heritage Museum Of Orange County is at 3101 West Harvard Street, Santa Ana, 92704.

2. Appreciate Local Art At The Grand Central Art Center

The Grand Central Art Center, managed by the California State University Fullerton College Of The Arts, houses several galleries and a theater. Here, you can immerse yourself in a diverse range of artistic disciplines such as dance, drama, music, and various physical arts. It serves as a platform for emerging talents in the area, allowing them to refine their skills and showcase their abilities.

By attending a show at this center, not only can you experience exceptional entertainment but also contribute to the growth of the local arts community. Perhaps, you might even witness the rise of the next big star before they achieve fame.
With its commitment to nurturing young performers, the Grand Central Art Center is a hub of creativity and innovation. By providing a space for emerging talents to flourish, it fosters a vibrant arts scene that enriches the local community. So, don’t miss the opportunity to support these aspiring artists and be part of their journey towards success.  Grand Central Art Center is at 125 North Broadway, Santa Ana, 92701.

3. Embrace Nature At The Santa Ana Zoo

The Santa Ana Zoo

The Santa Ana Zoo spans across 20 acres (8 ha) and houses over 350 animals representing 48 species, including 18 distinct primate species. From apes, monkeys, birds, reptiles, and amphibians to mammals and a barnyard section where children can interact with less exotic animals, this zoo is a delightful destination for animal enthusiasts exploring the area.
Visitors can also enjoy various educational programs and events offered by the zoo, such as animal feedings, keeper talks, and behind-the-scenes tours.

Additionally, the Santa Ana Zoo is committed to conservation efforts and participates in breeding programs for endangered species, contributing to the preservation of wildlife. With its diverse range of animals and dedication to education and conservation, the Santa Ana Zoo is a must-visit attraction for both locals and tourists alike. Santa Ana Zoo is at 1801 East Chestnut Avenue, Santa Ana, 92701.

4. Marvel At The Architecture Of The Old Orange County Courthouse

The Old Orange County Courthouse

Constructed in 1901, the Old Orange County Courthouse Building is a significant California Historical Landmark that exemplifies the Romanesque Revival architectural style. Initially functioning as a courthouse, it served the community for nearly seven decades before relocating to a more spacious location in 1969.

Consequently, this historic landmark underwent a transformation and was adapted into a captivating museum. With its assortment of permanent and rotating exhibits centered around California law and past legal proceedings, history enthusiasts will find themselves engrossed. Additionally, the building’s stunning interiors and iconic exterior will delight architecture and design enthusiasts alike.
Visitors to the Old Orange County Courthouse Building can explore the rich history of California law through its collection of permanent and temporary exhibits.

From landmark cases to the evolution of the legal system, the museum offers a captivating journey through time. Whether you’re a history buff or an architecture enthusiast, this iconic landmark is a must-visit destination in Orange County. Old Orange County Courthouse Building is at 211 West Santa Ana Boulevard, Santa Ana, 92701.

5. Be Amazed By The Exhibits At The Orange County Museum Of Art

The Orange County Museum Of Art

The Orange County Museum Of Art showcases both permanent and temporary displays that encompass various styles of modern and contemporary art.

With a collection featuring works by renowned artists from all over the United States and a range of guided tours and educational events, this gallery undoubtedly stands as the ultimate destination in Orange County for art enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in the vibrant art scene during their visit.
The museum’s permanent exhibits showcase a diverse range of artistic styles, from abstract expressionism to pop art. Visitors can admire works by influential American artists such as Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.

Additionally, the museum’s temporary exhibits offer a dynamic and ever-changing experience, ensuring that there is always something new and exciting to discover for art lovers of all tastes. Orange County Museum Of Art is at 1661 West Sunflower Avenue, Santa Ana, 92704.

6. Explore The Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

Downtown Santa Ana Historic District

The heart of Santa Ana is home to the Downtown Santa Ana Historic District, spanning 24.5 acres (9.9 ha). This area is a vibrant hub of the city’s oldest and most iconic buildings.

Within this district, you can find a plethora of Art Deco buildings, including historic movie houses, theaters, museums, and homes. Notably, the courthouse building is a prominent feature. Since 1984, the entire district has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For those with an interest in architecture or history, a leisurely stroll through this site is a must-do during their visit.
Immerse yourself in the rich history and architectural beauty of the Downtown Santa Ana Historic District.

As you explore the area, you’ll be captivated by the intricate details and timeless charm of the Art Deco buildings. From the grandeur of the historic movie houses to the cultural significance of the museums, every corner of this district tells a story. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the courthouse building, a true testament to the district’s historical importance. Downtown Santa Ana Historic District is in Santa Ana, 92701.

7. Explore The Bowers Museum

The Bowers Museum is an exquisite art museum that will delight art enthusiasts inside and outside its premises. Its architectural style follows the Mission Revival design, paying homage to the earliest structures in California. Moreover, the museum boasts a vast permanent collection of over 100,000 artifacts and artworks from various parts of the world, allowing visitors to witness history firsthand.

Notably, the museum showcases significant pieces from African, Asian, Californian, Native American, Oceanian, and pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures. Additionally, the museum offers lectures for avid attendees and features a children’s museum to engage young art enthusiasts.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage and artistic expressions of diverse civilizations. The museum’s commitment to education is evident through its engaging lectures, providing deeper insights into the showcased artworks. For younger visitors, the children’s museum offers interactive exhibits and activities, fostering a love for art from an early age. Bowers Museum is at 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, 92706.

8. Go Climbing At Sender One Climbing & Sender City

The indoor climbing facility called Sender One Climbing & Sender City in southeast Santa Ana offers a variety of climbing walls, each approximately 50 feet (15 m) tall, with diverse terrains for practice. Whether you’re seeking enjoyment, testing your physical capabilities, or honing skills for outdoor climbing adventures in California, this center is an ideal choice.

Additionally, the center boasts an exceptional children’s play area, ensuring that everyone in your group, including the younger members, can have a memorable and enjoyable experience.
The climbing walls at Sender One Climbing & Sender City are designed to cater to climbers of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced. With routes that vary in difficulty, climbers can challenge themselves and improve their technique. The center also offers classes and workshops for those looking to learn or enhance their climbing skills. Sender One Climbing & Sender City is at 1441 Village Way, Santa Ana, 92705.

9. Combine Education And Entertainment At The Discovery Cube Orange County

Discovery Cube Orange County is a captivating destination that aims to provide children with an enjoyable experience. The vibrant and distinctive structure houses over 100 interactive exhibits, all meticulously crafted to facilitate hands-on learning for children. In addition, the attraction offers various special programs to further engage and excite young minds.

This remarkable establishment successfully amalgamates education and entertainment, making it a truly exceptional and enriching experience for children.
The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from science and technology to ecology and the environment.

Children can learn about the human body, explore the solar system, or even simulate a space mission. With so much to see and do, Discovery Cube Orange County is the perfect destination for families looking to combine fun and education. Discovery Cube Orange County is at 2500 North Main Street, Santa Ana, 92705.

10. Enjoy A Performance At The Observatory

The Observatory in Santa Ana is a popular open-air music venue known for hosting top-notch music events. It is renowned for its diverse range of genres, including alternative, blues, jazz, and rock. The venue attracts large crowds and offers a delightful atmosphere, complete with food and drink vendors. If you’re a music enthusiast visiting Santa Ana, it’s highly recommended to check out the upcoming events at The Observatory.

Treat yourself to an unforgettable night out filled with excitement.
You won’t be disappointed by the talented artists that grace the stage at The Observatory. From local up-and-comers to internationally acclaimed acts, there’s always something for everyone. So grab your friends, grab a drink, and get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant music scene of Santa Ana. The Observatory is at 3503 South Harbor Boulevard, Santa Ana, 92704.

Historical and cultural attractions in Santa Ana

Santa Ana, located near Santa Ana, is the heart of Orange County and boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage. One of the county’s top attractions is the Lyon Air Museum, which features a collection of historic aircraft and vehicles. The museum offers traveling exhibits with a Southern California focus, providing visitors with unique experiences with a Southern California twist. Another must-visit destination is the Orange County History Center, which houses the Orange County Archives and showcases the county’s first courthouse building in Southern California.

For art and culture enthusiasts, Tangata at Bowers Museum is a popular choice, offering a blend of contemporary and traditional artworks. Visitors can also explore the city’s historical landmarks, such as the historic court building in Southern California, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of orange trees that dot the landscape. Additionally, tourists can immerse themselves in the vibrant downtown Santa Ana scene, with recognized attractions like the Blinking Owl Distillery offering unique experiences.

Santa Ana is steeped in history and boasts a plethora of historical and cultural attractions that are sure to captivate visitors. One such attraction is the Bowers Museum, which houses an impressive collection of art and artifacts from around the world. From ancient Egyptian relics to contemporary masterpieces, the Bowers Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into different cultures and time periods.

Another must-visit historical landmark in Santa Ana is the Old Orange County Courthouse. This stunning architectural gem, built in 1901, is a prime example of Beaux-Arts style and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can explore the courthouse’s grand hallways, visit the museum on the lower level, and even attend a trial in session.

For those interested in the rich Mexican heritage of Santa Ana, a visit to the Heritage Museum of Orange County is a must. The museum showcases the history and culture of the Mexican-American community through exhibits, art, and educational programs. Visitors can learn about the traditions, customs, and contributions of this vibrant community.

Fun things to do in Santa Ana

When visiting Santa Ana, there are plenty of fun things to do in this city located in the heart of Orange County. Known as the capital of Orange County, Santa Ana offers a variety of tourist attractions for visitors to enjoy. One popular attraction is the Discovery Cube OC, which provides educational experiences with a southern twist. For history buffs, a visit to the Howe-Waffle House and Kellogg House, both lovingly restored, is a must.

The city also houses the Orange County History Museum, showcasing the oldest court building in Southern California. Every month during the downtown Santa Ana Artwalk, visitors can discover the best of local art and culture. For adrenaline seekers, the American Ninja Warrior Adventure Park is the perfect place to spend time. Don’t forget to check out the Walt Disney Archives or catch a performance at the Guo Pei Hopper on your trip.

Whether you’re flying into John Wayne Airport or driving on the Garden Grove Freeway, Santa Ana offers something for everyone.

Santa Ana offers a wide range of fun activities that are sure to keep visitors entertained throughout their stay. One popular attraction is the Discovery Cube Orange County, a hands-on science center that offers interactive exhibits and educational programs for all ages. From exploring the wonders of space to learning about the human body, the Discovery Cube is a great place to have fun while gaining knowledge.

Art lovers will be delighted to visit the OC Fair & Event Center, which hosts various art exhibitions, concerts, and cultural events throughout the year. The center is also home to the annual Orange County Fair, where visitors can enjoy thrilling rides, indulge in delicious fair food, and experience live entertainment.

For a unique and immersive experience, the 4th Street Market is a food hall that brings together a diverse array of culinary delights under one roof. From gourmet burgers to artisanal tacos, visitors can indulge in a gastronomic adventure and sample a wide range of cuisines from around the world.

Outdoor activities and natural beauty in Santa Ana

Orange County’s Santa Ana might seem small when compared to its San Diego and LA counterparts, but it still houses over 146 species of animals at the Library of the Pacific Coast. The vibrant culinary scene and pacific coast archaeological society make it a must-visit destination for nature lovers.

Outdoor activities such as obstacle course at the park await visitors, with at least 50 places to see and 100 hands-on exhibits. If adventure is more your style, try soarin through the treetops or testing your skills on the burr obstacle course. The natural beauty of Santa Ana is made even more impressive by the british museum and couture shops that line the streets. Don’t miss out on the chance to explore this hidden gem of Orange County, opened in 1936.

Santa Ana is blessed with natural beauty and offers a multitude of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts. One such gem is the Santiago Oaks Regional Park, which spans over 1,000 acres and features scenic hiking and biking trails. Visitors can immerse themselves in the peaceful surroundings, spot wildlife, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Santa Ana Mountains.

For those seeking a more adrenaline-fueled adventure, the Santa Ana River Trail is perfect for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. With over 30 miles of trails, this expansive recreational area provides ample opportunities to get active and enjoy the great outdoors.

Golf enthusiasts will be pleased to know that Santa Ana is home to several top-notch golf courses. The River View Golf Course, for example, offers stunning views of the Santa Ana River and provides a challenging yet enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels.

Shopping and dining experiences in Santa Ana

Santa Ana offers a plethora of shopping and dining experiences to satisfy even the most discerning of tastes. The South Coast Plaza, one of the largest shopping centers in the United States, is a shopper’s paradise with its impressive lineup of luxury brands, department stores, and boutiques. From high-end fashion to fine jewelry, visitors can indulge in a day of retail therapy at this renowned shopping destination.

Foodies will be delighted by the diverse culinary scene in Santa Ana. The downtown area is home to a wide range of restaurants, cafes, and eateries serving everything from international cuisines to local favorites. Whether you’re in the mood for sushi, tacos, or a gourmet burger, Santa Ana has it all.

For those looking for a more casual dining experience, the city’s food truck scene is thriving, offering a variety of delicious options for those on the go. From gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to Korean BBQ tacos, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

In addition to its shopping and dining options, Santa Ana also has a vibrant arts and culture scene. The city is home to a number of galleries, museums, and theaters, showcasing a diverse range of artistic exhibits and performances. Visitors can explore the rich history and culture of Santa Ana through its many cultural attractions.

Whether you’re looking for a day of shopping, a night out on the town, or a cultural experience, Santa Ana has something to offer everyone. With its diverse range of shopping, dining, and cultural options, this city is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore all that Southern California has to offer.

Family-friendly attractions and entertainment in Santa Ana

Santa Ana is a fantastic destination for families, offering a wide range of attractions and entertainment options that are sure to keep both children and adults entertained. The Santa Ana Zoo is a favorite among families, with its collection of exotic animals, interactive exhibits, and educational programs. Kids can even ride the Zoofari Express train or feed the goats at the barnyard.

Another family-friendly destination is the Santa Ana Zoo is Pretend City Children’s Museum. This interactive museum is designed to stimulate children’s imagination and creativity through hands-on exhibits and activities. From a miniature grocery store to a construction zone, kids can explore various real-world environments and learn through play.

For a dose of adventure and excitement, the Adventure City amusement park is a must-visit. With its thrilling rides, games, and live entertainment, this family-friendly park guarantees a fun-filled day for all.

Nightlife and entertainment options in Santa Ana

When the sun sets, Santa Ana comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. The Yost Theater is a historic landmark that has been transformed into a premier live music venue. From local bands to internationally acclaimed artists, the Yost Theater offers an eclectic lineup of performances that are sure to keep music enthusiasts entertained.

Those looking for a more laid-back evening can head to the Downtown Santa Ana Arts District, where they can explore art galleries, catch a live performance, or simply stroll along the streets lined with colorful murals. The district comes alive on the first Saturday of every month with the Art Walk, where visitors can meet local artists, browse their works, and enjoy live music.

Things to do in Santa Ana at night

Santa Ana offers a plethora of activities to enjoy after dark. For a unique and immersive experience, visitors can try their hand at an escape room at Mission Escape Games. These interactive puzzle-solving experiences are perfect for groups of friends or families looking for a thrilling and challenging adventure.

For a more relaxed evening, the Frida Cinema is a cozy independent movie theater that screens a wide range of films, including classics, foreign films, and documentaries. With its retro ambiance and comfortable seating, the Frida Cinema provides a unique movie-watching experience.

Things to do in Santa Ana for free

Exploring Santa Ana doesn’t have to break the bank, as there are plenty of free activities to enjoy. The Santa Ana Public Library is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon, with its extensive collection of books, magazines, and newspapers. Visitors can also attend free workshops and events, such as author readings and book clubs.

For nature lovers, the Floral Park neighborhood is a hidden gem that offers picturesque streets lined with beautiful historic homes and lush gardens. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll and admire the stunning architecture and vibrant flora.

Events and festivals in Santa Ana

Throughout the year, Santa Ana hosts a variety of events and festivals that showcase the city’s vibrant culture and community spirit. One such event is the Fiestas Patrias, a celebration of Mexican Independence Day that features live music, traditional dance performances, delicious food, and vibrant parades. This festive event attracts thousands of visitors from near and far.

Another popular festival is the Santa Ana Cinco de Mayo Festival, which celebrates Mexican heritage and culture through music, dance, food, and art. Visitors can enjoy live entertainment, browse artisanal crafts, and indulge in mouthwatering Mexican cuisine.

Day trips and excursions from Santa Ana

Santa Ana’s central location makes it an ideal base for day trips and excursions to other nearby attractions. Just a short drive away is the stunning Crystal Cove State Park, where visitors can relax on pristine beaches, hike scenic trails, and admire breathtaking ocean views. The park also offers camping facilities for those looking to spend a night under the stars.

Another popular day trip option is a visit to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, which is only a short drive from Santa Ana. With its iconic rides, magical atmosphere, and beloved Disney characters, Disneyland is a must-visit for children and adults alike.

Accommodation options in Santa Ana

Santa Ana offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts, visitors can find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after a day of exploring. Some popular options include the Westin South Coast Plaza, the DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Ana-Orange County Airport, and the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Ana Orange County.

Should You Rent A Car?

Yes, you should rent a car. especially if you are flying in or really just want to surprise that special someone. Renting a car is an excellent option for getting around the state and exploring its many natural wonders.

Tip: Can be expensive-check out our partners at for the best deals.


Where to find the best deals on flights and hotels

Finding the best deals on flights and hotels can be a challenge. Luckily, we have you covered!

Many travel websites offer discounted rates on flights and hotels, so check out these sites if you’re looking for something specific in Washington state or just want an idea of what’s available. 

Our top two picks are as follow…

  • Expedia: Well known for having good deals
  • WayAway: The option to get cash back, you can learn about the cash back option here.

Conclusion and final thoughts

Santa Ana, California, truly is the ultimate destination for adventure and entertainment. With its rich history, diverse culture, and endless attractions, there is never a dull moment in this vibrant city. Whether you’re exploring historical landmarks, enjoying outdoor activities, indulging in shopping and dining experiences, or immersing yourself in family-friendly entertainment, Santa Ana has something for everyone. Plan your trip today and discover all that Santa Ana has to offer.

Photo of author


I’m Nick — a traveler and photographer with a knack for shooting the world’s most beautiful places. Over the last decade, I’ve circled the globe, visiting countless countries, to bring home photos that cross language barriers. With fluency in five tongues, I believe in the power of communication to unlock culture. My travel blog, Traveling Kangaroo (yes, it’s a real animal!), is here to inspire you to take your own leap around this rock. I’ll continue to post about my journeys as I explore everything our world has to offer — one adventure at a time.