Santa Ana, California – Main Street

Main Streets 2017 – California

Primary Chris jepsen e1508876270844
Main Street Eli Pousson
Bowers Museum
Primary Chris jepsen e1508876270844 Main Street Eli Pousson Bowers Museum

Los Angeles is just up I-5 from this Orange County community, and you might think Santa Ana lives in the giant city’s shadow. But Main Street here will quickly set that expectation to rest.

Santa Ana has culture, class and plenty of cool up and down Main Street in both its Midtown and Downtown sections. As the city says on its Downtown Santa Ana website, this is “an independent and unexpected urban center for Orange County where visitors and locals enjoy the cutting edge of our shared culture.”

On the first Saturday of every month, for example, the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk features more than 25 galleries, 40-plus vendors and live performances, with outdoor music a big part of the experience. You’ll find a more traditional approach to the arts at the Bowers Museum, whose permanent collection features more than 100,000 objects and paintings. A couple of blocks away, the Bowers operates the Kidseum, where kids can discover art and archaeology for themselves.

Downtown Santa Ana – or DTSA, if you’re in the know – is also a place to find really great food. A great time to check out local cuisine while enjoying more music is during Savor Santa Ana, a tasting event and walking tour in September, when more than 40 local restaurants open their doors to offer small-bite dishes and fine libations.

Santa Ana is also known for its food halls. In these contemporary takes on the food court, anyone in your group can find something to eat. A couple of popular examples are the 30,000-square-foot 4th Street Market, a block off Main Street, and the McFadden Public Market on Main.

Exploring downtown also opens windows onto Santa Ana’s history. The Old Orange County Courthouse, a lovely 1901 Romanesque Revival building, is a California Historical Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Like the courthouse, the Queen Anne-style Victorian Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle House and Medical Museum is part of the Downtown Santa Ana Historic District, and preserves the look and feel of life here in the early years of the 20th century.

You’ll find a lively take on 21st century science at the Discovery Cube, another museum devoted to engaging young people in science. It’s just another example of how Santa Ana brings the old and the new — art and technology, plus history, science, music and fine dining — together on its vibrant Main Street.

Primary photo taken by Eli Pousson
Supplementary photo taken by Chris Jepsen
Santa Ana, CA is the home of three LifeChangers: 2015-16 winner Beau Menchaca, Victor de los Santos, and Dana Nguyen.