The Bowers Museum is regularly voted the top museum in Orange County by local residents. The California mission-style building in Santa Ana's historic district houses an interesting combination of permanent exhibitions on local history and art and world-class traveling cultural exhibits that support their mission of sharing world cultures through arts.
There is plenty to see at the Bowers Museum, and you could spend the whole day if you read all the descriptive materials, but it's a more manageable size than the LA County Museum of Art or the Getty Center.
Most people can do it justice in half a day or browse the highlights in a couple hours.
If you want to take your time and make a day of it or stick around for an evening program, even this picky eater can recommend the museum's Tangata Restaurant, managed by LA's Patina Restaurant Group.
A separate building a block away houses the Kidseum, which introduces kids to the cultures of the world through specially designed interactive exhibits and workshops. Because all the Kidseum exhibits are temporary, and each exhibit fills the whole museum, the Kidseum closes for installation between exhibits. Check the Kidseum calendar to see if the museum is open or between exhibits and what's on display.
LOCATION - HOURS - ADMISSION - PARKING
2002 N. Main St. (Kidseum is at 1802 N. Main St.), just south of the I-5 freeway.
Santa Ana, Ca 92706
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 4 pm
Admission: Varies, check the website, separate admission for special exhibits.
- Free Family Festivals in the Courtyard the first Sunday of the month (doesn't include museum admission);
- Santa Ana residents free on all Sundays;
- Free admission for active duty military and up to 5 family members from Memorial Day to Labor Day through the Blue Star Museums program.
Parking: for a fee in adjacent lot or across the street
THE PERMANENT COLLECTIONS
First Californians: For those interested in American Indian culture, the Bowers has one of the best Native American collections in Southern California, focused on the artifacts and art of the First Californians, especially those in the LA and Orange County area.
California Missions and Ranchos: This collection tells the story of Orange County and California history under Spanish missionary settlement and Mexican rule. It includes clothing, paintings and daily use objects.
California Art: The Bowers has a collection of paintings by prominent California artists from the 19th and early 20th century. The title and selection of paintings on exhibit any given year may vary, but there is always an exhibit of California art from the permanent collection.
Pre-Columbian Art: The Pre-Columbian collection consists of decorative arts and artifacts from Mexico and Central America. These are primarily ceramics and stone art as well as a replica of the limestone sarcophagus from the Mayan pyramid in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.
Pacific Islands Collection: From long canoes and wood carvings to paintings, artifacts from the Pacific Islands collection are curated into different themed exhibits.
Chinese Art: The museum has ongoing exhibits of the ancient arts of China showing the evolution of Chinese art and culture. Many of the temporary exhibits are also related to Asian art and culture.
Lectures, gallery talks, and tours complement the exhibits. Art workshops, author book signings, films, and concerts fill out the calendar. The Bowers also hosts community cultural festivals in their courtyard celebrating the many cultures and customs of the diverse residents of the area on the first Sunday of the month. Events vary every year and have included Cinco de Mayo and Dia de Los Muertos, Lunar New Year, Narouz Persian New Year, Russian White Nights Festival, Pacific Islands Family Festival and Italian Family Festival, to name just a few.
The Bowers Museum is included in: