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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
The Bowers Museum and the Kidseum in Santa Ana
The Bowers Museum and its adjoining museum of kids called Kidseum, both located in Santa Ana off the 5 freeway. We also include here a few notes about a great lunch alternative on your home to Greater Los Angeles
Here is the 411 on the Bowers:
The address is 2002 South Main Street in Santa Ana. The address for Kidseum is 1802 North Main St. My advice is to park in the parking lot that is in between the two museums if you plan to visit both. They are just a short walk from one another.
The operating hours for the Bowers museum are
Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
The museum is also open late the fourth Thursday of every month until 8:00 pm. The Bowers is closed on Mondays, and on the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day
The Kidseum has different hours and they are Saturday-Sunday: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.
The ticket prices for the Bowers are as follows:
Adults $13 Tues.-Fri. and $15 Sat.-Sun.
Seniors (age 62 or older) and Students: $10 Tues.-Fri. And $12 Sat.-Sun.
Children under 12: Free
There is a separate admission price for the Kidseum and ticket prices are $6 for ages 3 and up. Children under 3 are free. Also, if you have a Bowers Museum admission stub from that same day then you do not pay for Kidseum.
What this means is that adults already visiting the Bowers that day can visit Kidseum for free. But children under 6 but older than 2 will be charged $6. Parking at both museums is free.
What we recommend always at LAwithKids is to check to see if the museum offers a day each month where the museum has free admission. At the Bowers, Santa Ana residents with proof of residency can come visit for free on the first Sunday and third Tuesdays of every month.
For non Santa Ana residents, Target currently sponsors a free access on the first Sunday of each month which is when we went. The Kidseum is also free that day. Another great incentive to visit on the Target free Sunday is all of the special activities that are held.
Next month's free Sunday, which is March 1st, will include an Italian Family Festival featuring Italian music, dance, stories and traditional Italian treats. There are also art projects for the kids to make and when we went there were hot dogs, chips and cupcakes for sale and they were quite inexpensive. There is also a cafe at the Bowers that we did not eat at and an El Pollo Loco across the street.
So we got to the Bowers at 10:30 and started off by looking at the exhibit Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China. These Chinese artifacts, focusing on the beauty and wealth of the Miao people, were impressively laid out and there was a lot to look at. We saw ornate silver bracelets and necklaces which my kids really liked as well as silk embroidery and textiles woven with metal. We never felt at any time like the museum staff was watching over us, just ready to pounce if our kids touched something. Of course we told them to look but not touch but 3 year-olds can be unpredictable and they were excited to have free space to roam around and point out which paintings or objects interested them the most. After the Asian art we went over to a second temporary exhibit which was American Quilts, 200 years of Tradition which will be here until March 15. The quilts, some from the 18th century, were remarkable. We loved going up to several and pointing out different things like people, animals, household objects as well as the moon and stars. Madison and Logan are too young to understand the complexity of the work involved in quilting but they were definitely interested in finding which quilts they liked the best.
We made our way to the older part of the museum to look at the Native American art which includes such highlights as pottery, jewelry and weapons from the prehistoric to the contemporary. Room and after room is filled with this collection and the rooms themselves, in a Spanish adobe building are quite impressive.
We next made our way to the other temporary exhibit which focuses on images of African ritual practices and is entitles Passages: Photographs in Africa by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher. This exhibit will be at the Bowers until August 16th and it is quite fascinating. My kids loved looking at the photos and watching the videos of all of the rituals: coming of age, marriage, beliefs and worship, and more. The painted faces, dancing, singing, masks, jewelry and more provide a great learning opportunity for kids who are always eager to hear and see things they don't know about. The photos were huge which made them easy to see and as an adult I was really entranced by what we saw and it was quite intense to see many of the startling images.
We left the Bowers after Passages and went over to Kidseum and were delighted with what the children's museum had to offer. The museum which is literally separated by only a city block from the bowers from the outside does not look that incredible. In fact it is an old bank building that has never undergone major renovation both since being a bank on both the inside and outside of the museum. It was what the museum contained however, not the architecture that made this museum great.
There was a huge room with many low tables covered in various objects for the children to play with. One table had maybe 40 different kinds of instruments. Two tables had dozens of ethnic masks for the children to play pretend with. Huge, heavy masks that covered their whole heads were their favorite. While other museums would likely have these masks in inaccessible glass cases or behind rope, at the Kidseum my children were allowed to play with them at will..
There was a puppet theater that they could entertain the adults at as well as a huge dress up area with a stage. The trunks of clothes were filled to the brim and were quite varied. There were also shoes (my favorite were the Scandinavian clogs!), hats and accessories to. My kids loved this area and kept wanting to try different clothes on. They also had an art project that the kids could make and an area with play food with various small tables and chairs. The staff was very hand off, but I found that there clear presence at the museum provide adequate safety for the children and the ability for us to go to them if I wanted. I really loved how the main room was so large and had such a high ceiling. Kidseum has drop in workshop for 2-6 year olds every week and you can also host a birthday party there.
One concern that I think the museum should immediately address is that my husband came in the museum and quickly finished a water bottle only to ask where the recycling bin was. He was told that they don't recycle. Whether the City of Santa Ana has a program for this or not, the Kidseum need to set an example with a recycling container outside of the museum for anyone who might have a bottle or can that need recycling.
On the Sunday we were there the Bowers had a African Cultural Festival which included a couple of neat art projects for kids, drums, dancers, a gospel choir and samples of soul food. All of this for free! I love finding free entertainment on the weekends.