Costa Mesa Theater & Arts District: The district’s centerpiece is the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, known for its striking architecture and superb acoustics. The Center presents the world’s finest ballet companies, Broadway shows, concerts by renowned orchestras and chamber ensembles, jazz and cabaret artists, and family entertainment in its three theatres. The Concert Hall is the primary venue for the Pacific Symphony, the Pacific Chorale and the Philharmonic Society—all purveyors of quality musical experiences. The venues are joined together by an outdoor plaza and dramatic pieces of public art can be found throughout the complex and surrounding neighborhood. Orange County’s Tony-Award winning regional theatre, South Coast Repertory, stands adjacent to the Center.
World Cultures: Head to Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum to see some of the world’s great cultural treasures on exhibit, or join in one of the many cultural festivals the museum hosts throughout the year. You can always count on the San Juan Capistrano Library’s Multicultural Arts Series, the Philharmonic Society and the Irvine Barclay Theatre for strong programming featuring performing artists from many cultural traditions around the globe. And OC’s balmy September nights sizzle when The Barclay hosts its fiery Flamenco Festival. OC is home to a rich tapestry of cultures--check the OC Signature Events calendar for the many cultural festivals and celebrations that take place here throughout the year.
Film: Each April, the Newport Beach Film Festival claims its own piece of Hollywood in a setting reminiscent of the Cannes Film Festival, with galas, premieres and yacht parties, plus opportunities to meet the most-talked-about directors, screenwriters and cinematographers behind the work.
Laguna Beach: Artists have been the heartbeat of Laguna for over a century, attracted by OC’s most dramatically beautiful stretch of coast. Check out the Laguna Art Museum, founded by those early artists. Enjoy the three lively summer art festivals—Festival of Arts, Art-A-Fair, and Sawdust Festival. Wander through the many galleries or join in the festive 1st Thursdays Art Walk. Take a self-guided tour of the public art pieces installed around town. Check out a production at the venerable Laguna Playhouse, or enjoy a concert offered by Laguna Live! If the creative bug strikes, sign up for one of Sawdust Festival’s two-hour Studio Art Classes and create a masterpiece of your own.
Santa Ana Artists Village: Located in the heart of Santa Ana’s historic downtown, the Santa Ana Artists Village features over 50 galleries, along with restaurants and small theatres—all tucked inside beautiful historic buildings. Artist Village Open Houses take place on the 1st Saturday of every month. Or belly up to the Art Bar just about any day of the week if you’re itching to try something creative.
Dance: The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is the place to go for world-class ballet. The Irvine Barclay Theatre offers a great contemporary dance series and presents Festival Ballet’s popular Nutcracker during the holidays. The Laguna Beach Dance Festival brings great companies and performers into town for a week-long celebration in the fall and spring. And the National Choreographer’s Initiative (July) is a fabulous opportunity to see new work take shape in the hands of talented guest choreographers.
California Art—Then & Now: You can explore the full spectrum of California art at these OC museums and galleries: The Irvine Museum specializes in California art of the Impressionist period (1890-1930); Laguna Art Museum, founded by the county’s earliest artists, exhibits the full spectrum of California art; Orange County Museum of Art specializes in post-war contemporary art including new media; and you can look to the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Grand Central Art Center and UCI’s Beall Gallery for Art & Technology for contemporary offerings.
Theater: OC has theater to suit every taste. If it’s Broadway shows you’re after, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is your place. If it’s well-produced regional theater: South Coast Repertory, OC’s home-grown regional theater, is nationally-renowned for the quality of its work and its new play development program. The Laguna Playhouse has been entertaining OC residents and visitors since 1920. And a theater that has risen rapidly from storefront to national recognition: The Chance Theater, in Anaheim Hills, is definitely one to keep an eye on. There’s also an exciting storefront theater scene developing in two historic downtowns: Santa Ana and Fullerton.
Jazz, Pop & Rock: When the mega-artists come to town, you’ll see them indoors at the Honda Center (Anaheim) or in one of OC’s two outdoor amphitheatres: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (Irvine) or Pacific Amphitheater on the OC Fairgrounds (Costa Mesa). The Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents major jazz, Broadway and cabaret artists; the Pacific Symphony features major pop performers on its Pops Series. The more intimate venues for pop, rock and jazz include: the venerable Coach House (San Juan Capistrano), Galaxy Concert Theatre (Santa Ana), Grove of Anaheim, house of Blues Anaheim, and for different flavors of jazz, try Steamers Jazz Club and Café (Fullerton) and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen (Anaheim).
Art Walks & Open Studios: These are fun and festive opportunities to browse local galleries, enjoy the food and music, and talk with local artists. Art Walks happen every month throughout the year in Laguna Beach (1st Thursdays), Fullerton (1st Fridays), Santa Ana (1st Saturdays), Huntington Beach (3rd Wednesdays) and the Santiago Art District, Santa Ana (3rd Saturdays). Laguna’s Open Artist Studios event takes place from October through March on the 1st Saturday.
Summer-Only Pleasures: Longing for entertainment under the stars? It’s one of the true pleasures of OC’s balmy summer evenings. For the classically-inclined, enjoy a Shakespeare OC production al fresco, or take a picnic and bottle of wine to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre where Pacific Symphony presents its summer season. At the OC Great Park, you can take a picnic and lawnchair to enjoy a great, free Saturday night concert, or kick up your heels at a lively Friday night dance party. Or head to Laguna’s Festival of Arts’ grounds to take in the Pageant of the Masters, a uniquely-OC experience, where great works of art come to life.
Public Art: Little pieces of OC’s story and personality ooze out of the public art pieces that are sprinkled around the county—inviting exploration. In Costa Mesa’s Theater & Arts District, don’t miss Isamu Noguchi’s amazing California Scenario, Richard Lippold’s dramatic Fire Bird, Richard Serra’s Connector and many more. OC’s art colony, Laguna Beach bursts with public art on benches, murals, banners and park installations. Brea’s public art inhabits both public and corporate spaces. Huntington Beach celebrates its surfing culture with downtown public art around City Beach and Pier Plaza. A huge bronze John Wayne statue greets you at the airport that bears his name. Another bronze statue commemorates the county’s vibrant Vietnamese community and the shared sacrifice of both cultures at Vietnam War Memorial in Westminster. And Maya Lin, the designer of the starkly-beautiful national Vietnam War Memorial, designed UC Irvine’s contemplative Arts Plaza.
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