Once a quiet section of town with numerous abandoned historical buildings, downtown Santa Ana (DST) has undergone an inspiring cultural and economic revival in recent years. Gourmet eateries and artisan shops have popped up at an astounding rate in the Artists Village, Calle Quatro, West End, and East End districts, making the area a popular destination for artists and young adults. But downtown Santa Ana isn’t just for hipsters. Here is a guide to some of the area’s best hotspots and events for locals of all ages.
One of the most popular recurring events in the area is the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk. On the first Saturday evening of every month, over 25 art galleries throw open their doors to visitors, and vendors line the sidewalks with one-of-a-kind works of art and handmade goods. Live music, unique performances, and art workshops attract crowds to the Artists Village Promenade, while Calle Cuatro Plaza gives visitors a chance to enjoy live sets curated by local entertainment collective Konsept, and Spurgeon Paseo offers free salsa dancing lessons in the middle of the street.
While currently held only once a year, Savor Santa Ana has become another wildly popular family-friendly event. For $10 per person, foodies receive 5 food tasting tickets that they can cash in at participating restaurants in the downtown area. Last year over 40 locations were involved, giving attendees an opportunity to taste a variety of cuisines at a reasonable price, all while enjoying live music as they walk or take the free trolley to their next location. This year’s event will be held on October 13th.
Other popular seasonal events in downtown Santa Ana include the Golden Years Vintage Market. For six hours, the 2nd Street Promenade becomes a time machine filled with vintage clothing, antique collectibles, vinyl records, and more from dozens of dedicated vendors. Cultural celebrations also abound throughout the year; downtown Santa Ana is famed for its Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos festivals. November will see the annual Blading Cup return to the area, a professional rollerblading competition that is sure to entertain spectators of all ages. The biannual Patchwork Craft Show appeals to makers and budding craftspeople with a huge collection of local handmade goods and DIY stations. More events pop up regularly throughout the year, so keep and eye on the calendar.
There is almost no end to the incredibly unique selection of cuisine available in just a few short blocks of DST. Whether you’re craving burgers, pho, pasta, tacos, or anything else you can imagine, you can find it here! The streets are lined with OC favorites such as Gypsy Den, Blackmarket Bakery, Wursthaus, and much more.
Families split by a variety of taste preferences might want to try the 4th Street Market, one of the most popular food halls in Orange County. Since its opening in 2016, this culinary hub has housed 15 diverse food vendors, as well as a beer garden, a butcher shop, and 10 commercial rental kitchens for local entrepreneurs to develop their skills in.
Fans of Food Network shows might also catch a glimpse of one of their favorite chefs, or at least a taste of their food. Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped alum Hop Phan serves up insanely yummy Latin Asian fusion dishes at Dos Chinos in the 4th Street Market, while Great Food Truck Race winner Jason Quinn of the Lime Truck welcomes you to enjoy a huge variety of imaginative, hearty fare at his brick-and-mortar location, Playground.
Shopping & Entertainment
While many revitalized downtown centers across the nation have been criticized for gentrification in recent years, Santa Ana has retained its Mexican roots. The downtown area is a stellar shopping destination for quinceanera dresses, bridal gowns, sombreros, Spanish books, and much more. These are also interspersed with small record shops, salons, jewelers, and other ethnic stores, so shoppers can find whatever they’re looking for without going too far.
Fans of both modern indie films and cult classics can find all their favorites at the Frida Cinema. This nonprofit arthouse is the only destination of its kind in Orange County and offers an incredible range of screenings daily. Most films are geared toward adults, but family-friendly options do find their way in several times a month, so keep your eyes peeled!
The legendary Yost Theater is another one of downtown Santa Ana’s unique entertainment venues. Live concerts and stage shows can be seen here, and the theater can also be rented out for weddings and other private events.
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Shea Costales is an old-soul hippie with a passion for outdoor exploring. You can usually find her doing yoga in a local park, grubbing at the newest burger shack, or petting your dog.