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Best Museums In Orange County, CA


It's no secret that L.A. has world-class museums. Travel and Leisure ranked Los Angeles 5th for their 20 most cultured cities feature. To experience part 2, venture south for the best museums in Orange County, CA.

Although known for amazing sun and surf, the OC packs a punch. It's also home to some of the best theme parks if one needs to split up activities. 

With vast open space, the museums in Orange County are less congested and easier to explore.

Many of these museums rent space to host weddings, corporate events, or fundraisers. There are many museums in OC with free days for families. Here's our compiled list.


1. Marconi Automotive Museum

View over 75 rare and exotic autos from street to track. From Ferrari to Lamborghini to Formula One racers.

These are the cars you dream about. 

The Marconi hosts corporate events, weddings, and social fundraisers. Verify they're open before making the trek. 

COST: $5 donation requested. It goes to kid's charities. 1302 Industrial Drive,Tustin, CA 92780. Hours: Monday - Friday from 9am to 4:30pm (*except for events).
*NOTE: Check their site before going or tel: 714-258-3001


2. Lyon Air Museum

Explore aviation history inside a 30,000 square foot hangar. View airplanes, automobiles, and motorcycles that defined the 20th century.

Read the stories. Located on the west side of the John Wayne airport, this airplane museum in Orange County offers group tours of 10+. The facility is also available for rent to host birthdays, weddings, and corporate events.

Cost: GA is $12, ages 5 to 7 is $6. Kids under 5 get in free.
19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707. Tel: 714-210-4585. Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM daily.


3. Bowers Museum

Experience a range of rich cultures and learn something new. Voted "The Best Museum in Orange County" by OC Register readers for 16 years in a row. 

They offer exhibitions, lectures, art classes, and education programs for all ages. Still photography and strollers are allowed.

Their current exhibit "mummies of the world" gets high marks by reviewers.Parking is $6 or street for 2 hours. 

Cost: Adults: GA starts at 12 with exhibits from $25 weekdays, weekends, $27. Kids 3-11: $10, under 3 admitted free. Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.
2002 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92706. Tel: 714.567.3600



4. Discovery Cube

Experience science-based programs and exhibits that will enlighten and stimulate your mind. Two floors with inside and outside exhibits.

Discovery Cube is one of the best museums in Orange County for kids, adults, and teachers due to the number of events. There are over 100 interactive events! They host sleepovers and summer camps for kids. 
Cost: GA is $17.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids 3-12, 2 and under get in free. 2500 N Main St, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Hours: 10 am to 5 pm. Tel: 714.542-2823. Parking is $5 (cash).


  • For locals, buy the family membership which pays for itself over the long run

  • Catch Bubblefest which runs March 26 thru April 10.

  • Purchase online for savings

  • Sat, Sun are crowded; come weekdays


5. Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum

The only U.S. President to resign, Nixon was both loathed and celebrated. For history buffs, it's a must visit to gain insight into one of the more complex political figures. 

18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA 92886. Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM, Sundays 11 AM to 5 PM. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, parking is $0. 


Cost: Adults: $16.00, Seniors: $12, Students: $10, Children (7-11): $6.

NOTE: A massive 15 million renovation is underway. Set to reopen October 2016. It will include the Oval Office.

Photo Credit:



View contemporary art on a smaller scale at The Orange County Museum of Art. With greater than 2,500 pieces, it covers early 20th century to present with a focus on California. Visitors estimate about 1.5 hours to take it all in. This is not the LACMA, however, it does offer some exhibits that are locally and internationally significant.

Cost: Adults $10, Students $7.50. FREE on Fridays. 850 San Clemente Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Hours: Wed-Sun: 11:00 am to 5 pm. Extended hours on Friday: 11 am - 8 pm. Closed on Major holidays. Parking is $0 and so is the audio tour!

Mission San Juan Capistrano

7. Mission San Juan Capistrano

Visit the ruins of a Spanish Mission that survived an earthquake in 1812. As one of the many missions established to try and convert the Indians to Christianity, it's rich in history. Learn about the legend of the young lovers who perished in the collapse or the faceless monk said to haunt the corridors.

Explore the peaceful lush garden. Experience the migratory stop for the American Swallow from Argentina (March to October). The Mission is a California landmark and museum providing tours, concerts, and weddings. There is also a store which sells authentic Mexican chocolate.

Cost: Adults: $9, Seniors (60+): $8, kids (4 to 11 years): $6. Kids under 3: Free
Hours: 7 days from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675.

Photo credit: Pamla J. Eisenberg

8. Muckenthaler Cultural Center

The Muckentahler is an 18-room mansion on 8.5 acres built in 1924. Bequeathed to the city of Fullerton, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. The Muck provides an art gallery, classes, festivals, storytellers, and a stage for live performances. The evening gets lively with a wide range of music, dance, and even magic acts. They also hold free family events.

The motor car festival is held in mid May each year and features cars from 1915 to 1978. The Muck is also popular for weddings and corporate events. As one of the best museums in Orange County, they have received numerous awards.

Cost: Free for the art gallery ($5 donations asked). Performances range from $12.50 to $55. Car show is $5 and $10. 1201 West Malvern Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92833. Tel: 714-738-6595

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Resources Online

Visit online to buy tickets or use the trusty map. Far right box will enlarge.

Written by

Nicholas McDonough

Nicholas is a senior contributor to The Hangout Blog living in Southern California.Connect with