Charleston SC Museums


Charleston SC Museums

Charleston is one of America's most historic cities. 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 Naval and Maritime Museum Charleston SC
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. The Yorktown was the tenth aircraft 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 to the public. Tour the huge flight deck and then go down and sit in the captain’s chair. Pictures and exhibits give a true glimpse into what life was like on the ship. After the tour, enjoy a hot lunch in the aircraft carrier's C.P.O. mess hall or grab something at one of the two snack bars. In addition to the Yorktown, there are also several other small planes and a submarine to tour. Expect to spend about 3-4 hours to see everything and plan to do a lot of walking and climbing steep stairs. Admission is $24 for adults and $16 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 aircraft 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 $24 for adults and $16 for children

The Charleston Museum



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 or save money by purchasing combo tickets. Limited free parking is available and paid public parking is available across the street. Allow approximately 2 hours to tour the entire museum.

Highlights of The Charleston Museum

  • America’s first museum founded in 1773
  • Tells the 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
  • Limited free parking is available 



Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon



Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon Charleston SC
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 has a museum on the top two floors and the dungeon in the basement. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

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 for adults and $5 for children
  • Allow an hour and a half to tour the museum and take the dungeon tour

Friends of the Hunley



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

The Hunley was a Confederate submarine and 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 then sank again two months later, killing eight more crew members. On Feb 17, 1864 the Hunley rammed a spar with an attached torpedo into the USS Housatonic, a Union ship in the Charleston Harbor. The Housatonic sank in about five minutes killing 5 of its 155 crewmen. Damage from the torpedo explosion also caused damage to the Hunley, causing it to sink and killing all eight crew members on board. The sub was lost for 136 years and was not recovered until 2000. 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, but quickly sell out so buying tickets online in advance is highly recommended. 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 and was lost for 136 years
  • 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



Old Slave Mart Museum



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

The United 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 interstate slave trade. The museum is located on a cobblestone street a few blocks from the battery. Admission is $7 and it normally takes about an hour to tour the museum depending on the crowds. On-street metered parking is available and several public parking decks that charge a fee are located within walking distance.

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 interstate 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 Confederate Museum



The Confederate Museum Charleston SC
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 admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Street Parking is available around 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 for adults and $3 for children
  • Park on the street or take the free downtown trolley

Children's Museum of the Lowcountry



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

The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry will be closed for renovation January 7, 2019 - March 1, 2019.

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 $10 for South Carolina residents and $12 for non-residents. Allow about two hours to explore all the exhibits in the museum. Guests can either use metered parking around the museum or park in one of the two parking decks on either side of the museum for a fee. 

Highlights of 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 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

Gibbes Museum of Art



Gibbes Museum of Art Charleston SC
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. 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 $15 for adults and $6 for children and each paid admission receives a complimentary cell phone audio tour. Allow 1 1/2 - 2 hours to tour the entire museum depending on the number of visitors at the time.  Parking is not available at the museum but on-street metered parking is offered throughout downtown. Parking is also available in the parking deck 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 $15 for adults and $6 for children
  • Complimentary cell phone audio tour with each paid admission
  • Allow 1 1/2 - 2 hours to tour the museum
  • Parking is not available at the museum but on-street metered parking is available and two public parking decks are within walking distance

The Powder Magazine



The Powder Magazine Charleston SC
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 exhibits are informative and well presented by a friendly and helpful staff. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children. Visitors should allow about 30 minutes to tour the museum and gift shop and can park along the street or 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
  • Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children
  • Allow 30 minutes to tour museum and gift shop
  • Metered street parking available or park in parking decks for a fee

Mace Brown Museum of Natural History



Mace Brown Museum of Natural History Charleston SC
Mace Brown Museum of Natural History
202 Calhoun St
Charleston, SC 29401

The Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences on the College of Charleston campus is home to the museum that displays almost 1,000 fossils.  The displays includes: dinosaur bones, crinoids, Oligocene mammals of North America, mosasaurs, cave bears, Pleistocene mammals of the Carolinas, ocean life through time and fossil plants. A favorite exhibit for many is the reconstructed jaw which houses real teeth from the giant extinct shark Megalodon. The museum is open to the public and manned by geology undergraduates who work as student docents. Admission is free but donations are welcome. Visitors are also asked to remember that classes take place immediately next door to the museum so please be respectful and remain as quiet as possible.

Highlights of The Mace Brown Museum of Natural History

  • Located on the college of Charleston campus
  • Home to almost 1,000 fossils
  • Open to the public and manned by geology undergraduates
  • Admission is free but donations are welcome
  • Classes are in session next to the museum so be be respectful

Postal Museum



Postal Museum Charleston SC
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 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 one room museum is free and can be toured in 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

South Carolina Historical Society Museum



South Carolina Historical Society Museum
South Carolina Historical Society Museum
100 Meeting St
Charleston, SC 29401

An architectural treasure in its own right, the South Carolina Historical Society Museum is housed in a National Historic Landmark building and features interactive exhibits on the people, places, and movements that shaped the state and nation. Pairing personal manuscripts, maps, and artifacts with innovative technology, visitors experience illuminating moments in our country’s past. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for children and tickets are valid for two consecutive days. The museum has metered street parking and is close to nearby public parking garages.

Highlights of The South Carolina Historical Society Museum

  • Features interactive exhibits on the people, places, and movements that shaped the state and the nation
  • Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for children
  • Tickets are valid for two consecutive days
  • Museum has metered street parking and is close to nearby public parking garages

Karpeles Manuscript Museum



Karpeles Manuscript Museum Charleston SC
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 has free on site parking. The library offers free admission and is less crowded compared to other museums and attractions in Charleston. This museum is really enjoyable for history buffs but not recommended 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

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art



Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art Charleston SC
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
161 Calhoun St
Charleston, SC 29424

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is a non-profit, non-collecting contemporary art institute within the School of the Arts at the College of Charleston. The HICA presents contemporary art exhibitions by emerging or mid-career artists. The Halsey is housed in the Marion and Wayland H. Cato Jr. Center for the Arts at 161 Calhoun Street, in the heart of downtown Charleston. The Halsey features two gallery spaces, the Deborah A. Chalsty Gallery and the South Gallery, which include a total 3,000 sq. feet of exhibition space. The vision of the HICA is to provide a comprehensive contemporary-art program that is committed to providing a direct experience with artworks in various media, in an environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and learning. Check the gallery's website for current exhibitions. 

Highlights of The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

  • The HICA is a non-profit, non-collecting contemporary art institute
  • Located within the School of Arts on the College of Charleston campus
  • The Hasley features two gallery spaces
  • Free admission

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