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Explore Art and Culture in Dana Point

A History of Authenticity

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Not high brow. Just high value.
The Coolest Art and Museums in Orange County

When it comes to cool art and unique museums, Dana Point and Orange County are hard to beat. Art has a slightly different meaning here. We appreciate the art of crafting a surfboard that has been passed down for more than a century. We long for public art that’s accessible—not locked on a vault or lofty museum.

Art museums in southern California

Our history is rugged, rich, and eclectic, as is reflected in the nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano. We offer art and museum experiences that you can only have right here in Dana Point.

Museums in Orange County

Clicking through the pages of this website, you’ve probably found one thing to be extraordinarily true about Dana Point: We love surfing. A lot. So, naturally, we are proud to be home to the Surf Heritage and Culture Center–likened to the Smithsonian of surfing history. With four boards surfed by the Duke himself, it’s not just a museum for California surf culture. The Duke, or Duke Kahanamoku, is credited with popularizing the ancient Hawaiian sport. He’s kind of a big deal and some of his boards are part of the largest collection of surf memorabilia in the world at the Surf Heritage and Culture Center.

Its current location is just outside our city limits in San Clemente, but with the Dana Point Harbor renovation, this nationally-recognized museum will move to the waterfront, the proper place to honor California’s official sport.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

If you’re interested in local history, Mission San Juan Capistrano–a 245-year-old Spanish mission is a great activity away from the beach. As the birthplace of Orange County’s and its most historic landmark, it is a resource of historical, cultural and religious significance, as well as a place of inspiration and education.

Mission San Juan Capistrano known as the “Jewel of the Missions” and the annual Return of the Swallows, Mission San Juan Capistrano is a monument to California’s multi-cultural history and displays a permanent collection of artifacts that embrace the heritages of the Spanish Padres, Native Americans, Mexican and Europeans while highlighting the Mission as a self sufficient community and its historical significance as a center of agriculture, industry, education and religion as well as its role in California becoming a state. 

That’s not to mention the stunning gardens, Native American exhibits and other historical treasures that fill every nook and cranny of the Mission. Some of these artifacts date back to Father Serra in November of 1776, to President Lincoln, to the Present Day. Part monument and part art exhibit, Mission San Juan Capistrano is a can’t-miss attraction. While visiting the Mission, check out the oldest established neighborhood in California, Los Rios District and enjoy the charming downtown area. All within a few miles of Dana Point. 

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Orange County Art Experiences

To encourage art, The City of Dana Point started the Art in Public Places program to incorporate art into new developments. For more than 20 years, this Orange County art program has been in effect to enhance the cultural and aesthetic environment of Dana Point, and to encourage creativity, education, and an appreciation of the arts and our cultural heritage.

The bronze statue known as The Hide Drogher depicts the history of Dana Point and Orange County. It is located at Bluff Top Trail between Amber Lantern and Violet Lantern, the life-sized sculpture, depicts one of the 19th-century sailors who used to toss local cowhides from the cliffs to trade for goods with the ships below.

When you visit Strands Vista Park, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find stunning mosaic-type designs on the sidewalks depicting fish and other marine life in stunning color. Looking for the many works of public art is a great way to explore Dana Point on foot.

Surfing may have started in Hawaii but the surf industry started here in Dana Point. 

Dana Point’s surf culture has been the backbone of Dana Point culture. Surfer Magazine and Killer Dana were created here. From the Beach Boys to Hobie manufacturing his first foam surfboard, the surfing pioneers of the 50’s and 60’s caught waves at the legendary surf break of Killer Dana and Doheny State Beach. Dana Point’s laidback lifestyle is embedded in our surf culture and is portrayed in the cult classic, The Endless Summer, by filmmaker Bruce Brown who opened up his offices here in Dana Point where he produced the film that depicted the surf culture in the 1960’s. Take a walking history stroll at Waterman’s Plaza and learn more about Dana Point’s Surf History.

Waterman’s Plaza

The Meet the Masters of Surf at Waterman’s Plaza pays tribute to Filmmakers, Industry Moguls, and Pioneers of the Surf Industry, and captures the sport of Surfing and its timeless legends from Hobie Alter, Phil Edwards, Filmmaker Bruce Brown, Joyce Hoffman, John Serverson, and Tandem Surfers, Barrie and Steve Boehne along with the tile mosaics of The Endless Summer, The Pilgrim, Whales, and visitors of Dana Point from the 1920’s. Located next to the pedestrian bridge on Pacific Coast Highway and Dana Point Harbor Drive. For more information about Waterman’s Plaza check out it’s page.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Dana Point during the annual Dana Point ArtFest, you can stroll through the Lantern District and shop 80+ local artists, listen to live music, and watch live art performances. It’s a stunning display of Orange County art right in the center of Dana Point.

Dana Point also features REDO Vintage and Maker’s Market twice a year, this event is a curation of vintage and local artisans of California or stroll through the beautiful variety of exhibits at Dana Bay Gallery. These are stunning displays of Orange County Art right in the center of Dana Point.