Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano is a California icon. Perhaps most famous for visits from its annual guests of honor, the swallows, the Mission means many things to many people. For Californians, it is a powerful symbol of the state's complicated colonial history. For Catholics, it is a profound religious site, indicative of the Church's own complex heritage. History buffs spend hours reveling in the facility's many exhibits and displays, connecting viscerally with the sights, sounds and feelings of generations long past. For visitors of any background, it is an undeniably gorgeous place to spend an afternoon-replete with striking architectural elements and lovingly cared-for gardens.
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.
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.
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.
The Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) is the place to come if you're interested in Latin American art. It displays a number of works which provide a deeper insight into Latin American culture. The museum also provides a wide range of entertainment, hosting rotating exhibitions and cultural events on the premises. Educational programs are also held here.
This is a world-class museum which is home to permanent collections of fine art covering the past 300 years of art history. The museum hosts unique exhibitions that rotate on a quarterly basis, focusing on a variety of art forms ranging from paintings and textiles to sculptures and ceramics.
Marconi Automotive Museum, a part of the Marconi Foundation for Kids, houses a vast array of cars that will delight not only children but also automobile connoisseurs. Visitors can view Foxfire Firetrucks, unusual Ferraris and Jaguars. Do not miss Frank Williams' FX Ferrari and the Top Fuel Dragster designed by Kenny Bernstein. This venue can be hired for weddings, business functions and fundraisers.
Inside California's oldest courthouse, which was built in 1901 in the Romanesque Revival style, guests will find a museum, the O.C. History Center and the library of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society. The museum presents exhibits about local history and the development of Orange County. Much of the building has been restored to its original state, including the original early 20th century courtroom and judge's chamber that are open to the public. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building itself is a true Californian treasure.
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.
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.
Located in Santa Ana, the Heritage Museum of Orange County is 12 acre (4 hectares) complex that features a museum, historic buildings, manicured gardens and citrus grove. Promoting and preserving the history and culture of Orange County, the museum offers unique, educational hands-on programs for both students and visitors. Public tours, fundraisers and themed events such as tea parties and more are offered throughout the year. This beautiful site is also rented out for weddings.