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Best Museums in Orange County

By: Cityseeker
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Orange County Center for Contemporary Art

The Orange County Center For Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is run entirely by artists and showcases art by both emerging and established artists. The emphasis is on local artists. It also features lectures on various subjects, performance art and musical concerts, and participates in public outreach programs that are committed to cultural diversity. The main purpose is the pursuit of freedom of expression in the arts and to provide a forum to explore and develop ideas in contemporary art.

Santa Ana, CA, United States
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Irvine Museum

This museum was founded in 1992 and has been committed to the art of the California impressionist period ever since. Along with preserving some of the best art from the era, the museum is also dedicated to educating the public about the state of the environment in California. The museum has taken particular interest in collecting or exhibiting art that portrays the landscape of Southern California. Featured artists include Franz Bischoff, Joseph Kleitsch, Edgar Payne, Guy Rose and William Wendt. The museum offers docent-guided tours, rental of the museum for special meetings and educational programs for schoolchildren. Admission is free.

Irvine, CA, United States
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Bowers Museum of Cultural Art

Founded in 1932, this is likely the best all-around museum in Orange County. The complex has particularly come into its own since its re-opening in 1992 with expanded and improved exhibition spaces. Created with funds donated by Charles Bowers, the complex was built in the style of the California Missions, and is adorned with murals honoring that motif. Originally intended by Mr. Bowers to focus on local history, the museum has since enlarged its focus to incorporate artifacts from the cultures of Southeast Asia, Oceania, Mexico and Native America.

Santa Ana, CA, United States
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Lyon Air Museum

No one can deny the massive influence that World War II had on the history of the United States. As the war waged on, it spurned a remarkable growth in the aviation and automotive industries, leading to advances and discoveries that forever changed how the world viewed these man-made wonders. The Lyon Air Museum at Santa Ana seeks to pay homage to these mechanical beasts and the indisputable role they played during the 20th Century. The museum is home to a fantastic collection of exceedingly rare operational aircrafts, vehicles and related items from this era, including military motorcycles and vehicles, automobiles and airplanes. Docent-led tours of the museum and exhibits are available throughout working hours, however groups of 10 or more are required to provide prior notice so that tours may be customized to suit the group's interest. The venue is also available on hire for private events, providing a unique and unforgettable location that is perfect for any occasion.

Santa Ana, CA, United States
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Discovery Cube Orange County

Imaginations turn, twist and fly through 120 exciting hands-on exhibits at Discovery Cube Orange County. The park, which was formerly called the Discovery Science Center, is located in Santa Ana and has been inspiring kids of all ages for years. Experience science in the museum's themed areas, which include Quake Zone, Techno Arts, Discovery Stadium, Perception, Dynamic Earth, Air & Space, Kids Station and Dino Quest. Kids and adults alike are given a chance to lie on a bed of needles, run with dinosaurs, and dive to the depths of the ocean, all in one building! The establishment also hosts educational programs throughout the year.

Santa Ana, CA, United States
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Orange County Museum of Art

If you are driving south along the coast for the day from L.A., this gallery is ideally situated near the popular Fashion Island shopping center, not even a mile from the Pacific Coast Highway. The subject of much controversy among Orange County's art crowd over the past few years, the museum expanded to almost double its original size when the Newport Harbor Art Museum (same location) and the Laguna Art Museum consolidated to form this larger complex, scandalizing the art-loving Laguna Beach community. The permanent collection focuses on late 20th-century and California art, but the museum enjoys exhibitions that have included works from artists such as Rico Lebrun and Pablo Picasso. The Plein Air Café serves lunch, and a meal will earn you free admission to the museum.

Newport Beach, CA, United States
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Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center

Housed in the only remaining Carnegie Library building in Anaheim, this museum deals both with the rich cultural history of Anaheim and of the world. The volunteers who work there value educating the younger generation about their fine city, which was founded in the mid-1850s by German winemakers who wanted to sell their product to citizens of Los Angeles. Muzeo also features rotating strange and wonderful exhibits that make this a truly fascinating museum.

Anaheim, CA, United States
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International Surfing Museum

Huntington Beach does indeed live up to its "Surf City" title as the most surfed beach in the west. Appropriately enough, this is a shrine to all those who have mastered the long board. Surfboards, surfing films, surfing music and plenty of memorabilia can be found here. The main attractions, however, are the items related to the great Duke Kahanamoku. This Olympic swimmer popularized surfing back in the 1920s, and both a bronze bust and one of his original hardwood boards can be found in the museum.

Huntington Beach, CA, United States
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Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Opening its doors in 1990, this complex was established to celebrate former President Nixon's accomplishments as a peacemaker and an international statesman. From the humble farmhouse built by his father in 1912, to priceless gifts from heads of state, to the peaceful memorials of the President and Mrs. Nixon, the museum and its beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens trace the long road from Richard Nixon's past. In addition to the 22 permanent galleries, the museum has expanded adding the Katherine B. Loker Center and Annenberg Court. At the center of the 47,000 square-foot expansion is a full-size replica of the elegant White House East Room.

Yorba Linda, CA, United States
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