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Santa Ana, California – Main Street

Main Streets 2017 – California

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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.

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Richmond, California – Macdonald Avenue

Main Streets 2016: California

From hosting the largest shipbuilders on the West Coast during World War II to its current campaign to become a pedestrian-friendly “urban village,” Macdonald Avenue  has lived through some powerful changes.

Today, the Richmond Main Street Initiative is a certified program of Main Street America that’s taking an interlinked, multi-front approach to redeveloping downtown as a safe and thriving destination for businesses, entertainment and the arts. Running from the Richmond Parkway to I-80, Macdonald Avenue is the primary east-west connector in the heart of downtown Richmond, in the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay area.

This is part of the area known as The Iron Triangle, so-called because it was bounded by railroad tracks, which have since been covered over with asphalt. In recent years, the area became known as a high-crime district — but the work to build a new, positive direction was uplifted by the opening in 2011 of the new East Bay Center for the Performing Arts at Macdonald and 11th Street. The East Bay Center has been in operation since 1968, and has given over 50,000 student artists a chance to develop themselves and their work. The Center’s new facility includes the aptly named Iron Triangle Theater.

The Richmond Chamber of Commerce provides services, resources and advocacy. The Downtown Holiday Festival, Small Business Saturday and the annual Community Fund Golf Tournament are just a few of its activities. The Main Street Initiative is working to attract more people to downtown Richmond, in part by organizing events such as Music on the Main, Art in Windows, and the Spirit and Soul Festival. The Summer Youth Entrepreneurs Program helps youngsters develop business-related skills. Several farmers’ markets, both on and around MacDonald Avenue, are a strong feature of Richmond, with local produce, fruit, eggs and handmade crafts.

For outdoor activities, the Nevin Center hosts sailing, biking, camping and kayaking. Just to the west of Macdonald Avenue is Point Richmond, where Europeans settled in the mid-1800s. Nearby is the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front, a 145-acre National Historical Park that overlooks the site of the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards, which produced more ships during the war than any other.

Speaking of history, the Richmond Museum on Nevin Street, one block north of Macdonald Avenue, showcases the history of this diverse city. The museum also maintains the SS Red Oak Victory, the “Ship that Rosie Built,” a restored, locally built cargo ship that serves as a monument to the men and women who worked in wartime industries during World War II.

Photo courtesy of Richmond Main Street Initiative

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