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Charleston SC Museums



Charleston SC is one of America's most historic cities and home to antebellum mansions, colonial churches, and one of the oldest museums in the United States. 


Learn about the city's rich past by visiting one of the many Charleston SC Museums. Discover maritime history aboard a WWII aircraft carrier at Patriots Point, experience Charleston's rich history through paintings and sculptures at The Gibbes Museum of Art, or learn more about the Civil War at the Charleston Museum. 


Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum


Patriots Point
40 Patriots Point
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 884-2727

The USS Yorktown at Patriots Point is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world and one of my favorite places to visit. The USS Yorktown was the tenth air craft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. The carrier was commissioned in 1943 and participated significantly in the Pacific offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. YORKTOWN received the Presidential Unit Citation, and earned 11 battle stars for service in World War II. The Carrier was later used off Vietnam and then recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule before being decommissioned in 1970. Just about the entire ship is open for you to tour. You can walk up to the top and see the huge flight deck and then you can go down and sit in the captain’s chair. There are lots of pictures and exhibits that will give you a true glimpse into what life was like on the ship. There are also several other small planes and a submarine for you to tour. You should expect to spend about 3-4 hours to tour everything and you should also plan to do a lot of walking and climbing steep stairs. Hot lunch is served in the aircraft carrier's C.P.O. Mess Hall and there are also two snack bars. Admission is $22 for adults and $14 for children. Free parking is provided at Patriots Point.

Highlights of Patriots Point

  • One of the largest museums of its kind in the world
  • The tenth air craft carrier to serve in the United States Navy
  • Used in World War II and used to retrieve the Apollo 8 capsule
  • Allow 3-4 hours and expect a lot of climbing steep stairs
  • Also tour a destroyer, a submarine and Medal of Honor Museum
  • Hot lunch is served in the aircraft carrier's C.P.O. Mess Hall and there are two snack bars
  • Admission is $22 for adults and $14 for children

Gibbes Museum of Art



Gibbes Museum
135 Meeting St
Charleston SC 29401

The Gibbes Museum of Art, located in Charleston’s historic district at 135 Meeting St, opened its doors to the public in 1905. You can explore Charleston through paintings, sculptures, photographs, and miniature portraits. The museum houses over 10,000 works of art and presents special exhibitions annually. Admission to the museum is $12 and with the paid admission you get a complimentary cell phone audio tour. You should allow about two hours to tour the entire museum. Parking is not available at the museum but on-street metered parking is offered throughout downtown. You can also park in the parking decks on Cumberland St and Queen St for a fee.

Highlights of the Gibbs Museum of Art

  • Located in Charleston’s historic district
  • The museum opened in 1905
  • Museum houses over 10,000 works of art
  • Admission to the museum is $12
  • Complimentary cell phone audio tour
  • Allow about two hours to tour the museum
  • Parking is not available at museum but on-street metered parking is available and there are two parking decks within walking distance

The Charleston Museum



The Charleston Museum
360 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29403

The Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 and is America’s first museum. The Museum tells the history of Charleston and the Lowcountry by showcasing hundreds of items ranging from ancient fossils to Civil War artifacts. The museum also owns two historic houses, the Joseph Manigault House and the Heyward Washington House, that are open to the public. Admission for each is $12 and you can save money by purchasing combo tickets. Free parking is available on a first come first serve basis and paid public parking is available across the street. You should allow approximately 2 hours to tour the entire museum.

Highlights of The Charleston Museum

  • America’s first museum founded in 1773
  • Tells history of Charleston and the Lowcountry
  • Hundreds of items from fossils to Civil War artifacts
  • Museum also owns two historic houses
  • Admission $12 for each - save money by purchasing combo tickets
  • Free parking on first come first serve basis



Karpeles Manuscript Museum



The Karpeles Manuscript Museum
68 Spring St
Charleston, SC 29403

The Karpeles Manuscript Museum has the largest private collection of original documents and manuscripts. Over 1 million documents  are rotated between 13 libraries across the country. The exhibits change four times a year so check the libraries website to see what is currently being displayed. The library is located on the outskirts of the historic district and offers free on site parking. The library offers free admission and is not as crowded as other museums and attractions in Charleston. If you are a history buff then you will really enjoy this library but I do not recommend it for young children.

Highlights of The Karpeles Manuscript Museum

  • Largest private collection of original documents and manuscripts
  • 1 million documents rotated between 13 libraries
  • Exhibits change 4 times a year - See website for current exhibits
  • Located on the outskirts of the historic district
  • Free admission and free parking
  • Not recommended for young children

Old Slave Mart Museum



The Old Slave Mart Museum
6 Chalmers St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Unites States Constitution had a provision that banned the import of African slaves after 1808. Since slaves could no longer be brought in, a domestic slave trading system was organized and Charleston was a major slave collecting and reselling center. The Old Slave Mart Museum is likely the only building still in existence in South Carolina that was used for slave auctioning. The museum has photos, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that recounts Charleston’s role in this inter-state slave trade. The museum is located on a cobblestone street a few blocks from the battery and admission is $7. You should allow about an hour to tour the museum depending on the crowds and how much reading you do. On street metered parking is available and there are several parking decks within walking distance that charge a fee.

Highlights of The Old Slave Mart Museum

  • Charleston was a major slave collecting and reselling center
  • The museum is likely the only building still in existence in South Carolina that was used for slave auctioning
  • Recounts Charleston’s role in the inter-state slave trade
  • Located on a cobblestone street a few blocks from The Battery
  • Admission is $7
  • Allow about an hour depending on the crowds


The Powder Magazine



The Powder Magazine
79 Cumberland St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Powder Magazine is the oldest public building in South Carolina. Built in 1713, the building was used as storage for gunpowder during the colonial days and the American Revolution. The Powder Magazine is the only standing structure of the original fortification that once surrounded Charleston.  The building is now a National Landmark with exhibits that focus on South Carolina’s colonial military history. The building is very small but the exhibits are informative and well presented and the staff is always friendly and helpful. The museum is child friendly and the admission is $5. You should allow about 30 minutes to tour the museum and gift shop. Street parking is available or you can park in one of the nearby parking decks for a fee. The parking decks are located on Cumberland St. and Queen St.

Highlights of The Powder Magazine

  • Oldest public building in South Carolina
  • Built in 1713, the building was used as storage for gunpowder
  • The Powder Magazine is the only standing structure of the original fortification that once surrounded Charleston
  • The museum is child friendly and the admission is $5
  • Allow 30 minutes to tour museum and gift shop
  • Metered street parking available or park in parking decks for a fee

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon



Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
122 East Bay St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Old Exchange was built from 1767-1771 and was originally used as a customs house. Around 1780, the British began using the building as a prison during the Revolutionary War. In later years, the building was the site of the  ratification of the Constitution of 1788 and was also used to host a ball attended by George Washington. The building is now open to the public and you can tour the museum on the top two floors and the dungeon. Admission is $10.

Highlights of The Old Exchange

  • The Old Exchange was originally used as a customs house
  • The British used the building as a prison in the Revolutionary War
  • Used to host a ball attended by George Washington
  • Museum on top two floors and dungeon tour in the basement
  • Admission is $10 
  • Allow an hour and a half to tour the museum and take the dungeon tour

Postal Museum



The Postal Museum
83 Broad St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Postal Museum is a small but interesting museum located in the post office at the corner of Meeting and Broad Streets. In 1896 the post office moved to the new Post Office Building which was erected over the old police station when it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1886. The building is the oldest continuously operated post office in the Carolina’s. The museum tells the areas postal history and how 18th and 19th century mail was handled. The museum is free and since it is only one room,  you should only allow about 20 minutes.

Highlights of The Postal Museum

  • The Museum is located in the post office at the corner of Meeting and Broad Streets
  • The oldest continuously operated post office in the Carolina’s
  • Tells the areas postal history
  • Admission is free
  • You should allow about 20 minutes

The Confederate Museum



The Confederate Museum
188 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Confederate Museum exhibits Confederate memorabilia from the Civil War including uniforms, flags, swords, diaries, and cannons.The museum is located inside Market Hall above the Historic Charleston Market.  The museum is owned and operated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the admission is $5. Street Parking is available and you can also take the free Trolley that stops at the Historic Charleston Market.

Highlights of The Confederate Museum

  • Exhibits Confederate memorabilia from the Civil War including uniforms, flags, swords, diaries and cannons.
  • Located above the Historic Charleston Market
  • Owned and operated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy
  • Admission is $5
  • Park on the street or take the free downtown trolley

Children's Museum of the Lowcountry



Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
25 Ann St
Charleston, SC 29403

The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry has nine different exhibits including a two-story Medieval Castle, a pirate ship and an art room. The museum is self guided and allows children to explore with hands on exhibits. Admission is $12 and you should allow about two hours to explore all the exhibits. Metered parking is available around the museum or you can park in the two parking decks on either side of the museum for a fee.

Highlights of The Childrens Museum of the Lowcountry

  • Has nine different exhibits including a two-story Medieval Castle, a pirate ship and an art room
  • The museum is self guided and offers hands on exhibits
  • Admission is $10 for SC residents and $12 for non SC residents
  • Allow about two hours to explore all the exhibits
  • Metered parking is available or park in the parking deck for a fee

Friends of the Hunley



Friends of the Hunley
1250 Supply St
North Charleston, SC 29405
(843) 722-2333

The Hunley was a Confederate submarine and was the first submarine to sink a warship. The submarine was on one of its first training missions on August 29, 1863 when it sank, killing five crew members. The submarine sank again two months later, killing eight more crew members. On Feb 17, 1864 the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic, a Union ship in the Charleston Harbor. A short time later the submarine sank killing all eight of her crew members. The sub was lost and was not recovered until 2000, 136 years after she sank. The remains of the crew were laid to rest in a large ceremony in 2004. Tours are only offered on Saturday and Sunday so scientists can continue to work on preserving the Hunley during the week. Tickets are available at the entrance on a first come first serve basis, so I highly recommend buying tickets online in advance. Admission is $16, free parking is offered on site, and you should allow about an hour and a half to tour everything.   

Highlights of the Hunley Submarine

  • The Hunley was a Confederate sub and the first to sink a warship
  • Submarine sank killing the entire crew - Was recovered over 100 year later
  • Tours only offered on the weekend so scientist can work on preserving the sub during the week
  • Highly recommend buying advance online tickets
  • Admission is $16
  • Allow about an hour and a half to tour everything



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