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Must-See Museums

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Whether they’re checking out the newest restaurants or enjoying a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, contributing writers share their unique insight and stories from exploring the Palmetto State.
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telescope at the South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum has a planetarium, observatory, and 4D theater that families will want to make sure they see.

The long-awaited International African American Museum (IAAM) in Charleston is open to the public, showcasing a poignant collection of exhibits and artifacts that immortalize a complex history of trauma and triumph. The on-site African Ancestors Memorial Garden notes the significance of Gadsden’s Wharf, where an estimated 40% of enslaved Africans entered the country. Along with the permanent collection, see the special exhibit Follow the North Star, on display May 23–Nov. 3, 2024.

With a 4D theater, digital dome planetarium and observatory, plus extensive galleries with permanent and rotating exhibits, the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia brings science, technology, culture and history to life. Also in Columbia, the South Carolina Military Museum chronicles centuries of conflicts, from the founding of Charleston to modern-day deployments. See weapons that date to the 1600s, plus tanks, artillery and personal equipment.

At Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, board an authentic WWII aircraft carrier—the USS Yorktown—and explore the immersive Vietnam Experience Exhibit, which spans more than 2 acres and comes to life in 3D through holograms and a war camp setup. Before leaving, pay your respects to soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice when you explore the interactive exhibits at the on-site Medal of Honor Museum.

For a stroll down musical memory lane, stop into Greenville’s Sigal Music Museum, which houses hundreds of iconic and uncommon instruments—some once played by music legends such as Mozart—plus rare records, sheet music and special performances.

For visual splendor, wander The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, showcasing four centuries of American works, including paintings, miniature portraits, decorative art objects and multimedia installations. Marvel at stunningly realistic botanical paintings at the special exhibit Rory McEwen: A New Perspective on Nature, available to view Jan. 26–Apr. 28, 2024.

To experience art of the automotive variety, ogle rare and exclusive BMWs during a self-guided tour of the museum exhibits at BMW Zentrum in Greer. Then, go on a behind-the-scenes guided plant tour to see how the “Ultimate Driving Machine” is made. At Elloree Heritage Museum & Cultural Center in Elloree, delve into rural living of yesteryear in the recreated buildings, as well as with exploring tools from the era such as horse-drawn plows and an original cotton gin.


SC Stories

Discover hidden stories of the past when you explore uncommon museums throughout South Carolina that offer a glimpse into local history.

mother and daughter looking a horseshoes, Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum
See racing trophies and historic photographs at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.

Aiken has long been a hub of champion horseracing, and the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates this legacy with photographs, trophies and memorabilia. For more fast-paced thrills, visit The National Steeplechase Museum in Camden to learn about steeplechasing, a thoroughbred horse race requiring equestrians to jump over obstacles. See the newest exhibit, Women in Steeplechasing. For a look into the natural world, stroll the 70-acre property at Hilton Head Island’s Coastal Discovery Museum to learn about local plants, wildlife, early residents and modern cultural crafts. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Maritime Museum on the waterfront in Georgetown displays historical photographs, artifacts and model boats to preserve the history of this port town. The town of Mullins was a hub of tobacco farming beginning in 1894, as recounted in its South Carolina Tobacco Museum

Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer
More from "Contributing Writer"
Whether they’re checking out the newest restaurants or enjoying a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, contributing writers share their unique insight and stories from exploring the Palmetto State.