History & Culture

Adventure is calling, and the sun is shining in the land of orange trees — Orange County, California! The name speaks for itself. And what better place to visit than historic Santa Ana?

From our humble beginnings as a quiet agricultural town, Santa Ana has become one of Southern California's top cultural destinations. Our city is full of bustling neighborhoods and historical sites offering plenty for you to get to know us better.

Santa Ana’s Roots

Santa Ana's roots date back to the early settlements of the Chumash people, who lived in sprawling communities across much of modern-day Orange County. 

Santa Ana was discovered by the Spanish in the 1700s and was a farm town when William H. Spurgeon came into the picture. He purchased 70 acres of farmland in 1869 with plans to develop and became the city’s founder. Throughout his lifetime, Spurgeon devoted himself to growing Santa Ana into a Southern California hub for banking, business, and transportation. Spurgeon was integral in incorporating the city in 1886 and bringing the first railroad to Santa Ana – Southern Pacific Railroad – in the late 1890s driving a major boom across the city and Orange County. 

Santa Ana was named the county seat in 1889 and has come a long way, often referred to today as the "downtown of Orange County." It's the governmental, financial, and cultural center of O.C. and its second most-populated city. 

Discover Santa Ana Architecture 

As Santaneros, our heritage is essential, and many of our oldest buildings still stand today as historical landmarks and architectural wonders. Head to Downtown Santa Ana, and you'll find the Old Orange County Courthouse, a Romanesque Revival building that now houses a museum dedicated to the region's local history. The Spurgeon Building, named after Santa Ana’s founder William H. Spurgeon, was completed in 1913 and stood tall as the city’s first skyscraper. Today, you can marvel at the preserved structure and its unique clock tower. Many of Downtown Santa Ana’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Our unique architecture is yet another reason to visit Santa Ana. You'll see various examples of Spanish colonial and Victorian-era buildings and houses across our diverse neighborhoods.

Cultural Events in Santa Ana, CA

Our city proudly hosts numerous events throughout the year and many take place downtown, like the annual Fiestas Patrias, which celebrates Latino and Hispanic cultures with live music, food, and more. Every first Saturday of the month, the city puts on its popular Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk, a community arts showcase that features local arts organizations, food, and live performances. 

Other popular Santa Ana events include Dancing in the Streets, the Blading Cup, a skater showcase, and the citywide Day of the Dead celebrations.

Art and Museums in Santa Ana

For art and history, check out the Bowers Museum. The Santa Ana museum features exhibits that explore human cultures through art objects, artifacts, and interactive educational programs for all ages to enjoy. See contemporary art exhibits, installations, and performances at The Grand Central Art Center, which features works from local to international artists. Orange County Center for Contemporary Art hosts solo exhibits and group art shows revolving around music, car culture, and architecture.

Only a few miles south of Downtown Santa Ana, in the neighboring city of Costa Mesa, you'll find the Orange County Museum of Art with galleries and exhibits featuring works from the 20th and 21st centuries. You can enjoy lectures, workshops, performances, and public programming year-round.

It's no secret our city is full of history and culture. With so many cultural attractions and historical landmarks to see and explore, Santa Ana will feel like an old friend in no time!

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