Learn About History, Gaze at the Stars and Crawl Through a Giant Boy at Columbia’s Museums

By:Kerry Egan


As the state capital, and the home of University of South Carolina and Fort Jackson, with a rich history and culture, Columbia is blessed by more than a dozen museums. Whether you're interested in natural history, the Civil War, fine art or creating memories for children, Columbia has a museum for you.

The South Carolina State Museum offers four floors of exhibits that are all about South Carolina, ranging from history to technology to science and natural history, from dinosaurs to the Revolutionary War to airplanes. It also features an incredible planetarium and observatory that lets you safely look right into the sun.

The Columbia Museum of Art's permanent collection includes precious pieces from around the world, including the only fresco by Renaissance artist Botticelli outside of Italy and a spectacular Dale Chihuly glass sculpture that hangs over you as you enter the museum. The CMA also hosts an impressive array of visiting exhibits, adding to the depth and breadth of their already impressive collection. And lest you think an art museum is only for grown-ups, the CMA has wonderful programming for kids and families, too.

Columbia's historic house museums give visitors the chance to understand what life was like in Columbia long ago. The properties, lovingly restored and maintained by the Historic Columbia Foundation, include antebellum mansions, a freedman and freedwoman's cottage, and the modest boyhood home of a U.S. president.

The Columbia Fire Museum traces the history of the state capital's heroic firefighters. Located in the Columbia Fire Department's headquarters and close to the historic house museums, the museum features firefighting equipment from the last century and a half, including a 1929 fire engine, and horse drawn pumps and hoses. It's sure to charm any firefighter-loving kid (or adult.)

The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum preserves South Carolina's military history, from the Revolutionary War through today. It has a large collection of weapons, uniforms and battle flags, including the Army of Northern Virginia Confederate battle flag that was removed from the S.C. State House grounds in June of 2015.

EdVenture is the largest children's museum in the Southeast. It's home to Eddie, the biggest kid in the world, a 40-foot tall sculpture of a child that little ones can crawl through to learn about the human body. Bigger kids can create, tinker and invent at Maker Works, while younger kids can play make-believe in a vet's office, a grocery store and so much more. Everyone can enjoy the butterfly garden.

The Lexington County Museum is a history museum that allows visitors to be immersed in the past, showing what life was like in the late 18th century through the Civil War. The centerpiece of the museum is the 19th century John Fox house.

The McKissick Museum, on the beautiful and historic Horseshoe of the University of South Carolina, is a charming hodgepodge of history, art and natural history. The exhibits aim to show the many facets of South Carolina.

Museums at Fort Jackson

Fort Jackson, the largest army base in the US, is also home to several museums: the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum, Finance Corps Museum, Adjutant Museum and the Chaplain Museum. Each museum is open to civilians, as well as military, and explores aspects of military life.

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