Did you know American museums are visited approximately 850 million times each year? While technology has changed how people share information and view art, including online opportunities to visit the world’s museums, visiting them in person is where the magic happens. Here are a few of the unique museums in Orange County, California that should be on your list of things to do and see.

One of the most popular museums in Southern California is the Discovery Cube OC. For nearly four decades, the Discovery Science Foundation has funded this hands-on educational experience for millions of chil­­dren. It encourages STEM proficiency, teaches little ones how to become good stewards of the environment, and the museum is full of sights and displays that are fascinating for kids of all ages. This museum also offers field trips to visit exhibits that are outside, such as hiking trails,and it works to provide additional activities for schools interested in quality educational programs.

The Orange County Museum of Art or OCMA is an inspiring space offering modern and contemporary art exhibitions. Among its current exhibitions is the California-Pacific Triennial collection. It presents a unique approach to architecture and its influences on a global level. At any given time, there are likely more than 3,000 pieces being exhibited.

The Heritage Museum of Orange County proudly exhibits collections exclusive to Orange County. It’s home to both H.Clay Kellogg House and John Maag Farmhouse. The staff is dedicated to honoring Orange County’s past and ensuring it’s preserved in a way that inspires future generations. Visitors can also reserve the grounds for weddings or other events.

Irvine, one of Orange County’s largest cities, is home to Pretend City Children’s Museum. This 5,000-sq. ft. of space houses several interactive exhibits. Part of the fascination is that Pretend City allows kids to choose their profession, do their jobs, and even conduct their shopping and run errands – the museum itself is interactive. It’s a smart way to prepare children for life as an adult and is one of the most popular museums in Orange County.

Finally, for those who love to be a bit closer to nature, the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, which is part of California State University, has acted as a nature sanctuary since 1929. With various platforms for those who love to watch local wildlife or enjoy the many walking trails, picnic areas, and observation platforms where more than 85 bird species can be observed. This is an exciting place for families and kids of all ages.

Orange County, California is also home to the International Surfing Museum, founded by a woman who had never surfed, but believed there was a place for a museum that memorialized the popular sport. For all those auto enthusiasts, be sure to visit the Marconi Automotive Museum. Here, visitors discover some of the most recognized cars in history, including Indy 500 cars, and cars made famous in movies and television shows.

Museums offer opportunities for all of us to learn, ponder, and question what we see and what we know about the world around us. For those living in Southern California, the museums open entirely new worlds for visitors of all ages.