One of the best parts of vacationing on Kiawah or Seabrook Island is proximity to downtown Charleston, SC. This is especially beneficial on rainy days that limit the availability of outdoor activities. Thankfully, dark clouds don’t have to put a damper on your Charleston vacation. Instead, they are the perfect excuse to explore the many wonderful museums in Charleston. Filled with unique artifacts, fascinating heritage, and plenty of local flair, you will love exploring these interesting places. Whether you have always been intrigued by the Holy City’s rich history, or you are just interested in learning something new, these museums in Charleston are the best places to spend a rainy day.
Learn more about other great things to do in the Holy City with our Charleston area guide. It’s full of information on the best things to do in the area.
Charleston’s Museum Mile
Many of the best museums in Charleston are conveniently located close to each other on a 1-mile section of Meeting Street. This area is called the Charleston Museum Mile and it is home to 6 museums, plus 5 historic homes, 4 scenic parks, a Revolutionary War powder magazine, and an array of historic houses of worship and public buildings. Here are the museums you will find, as well as the beautiful historic homes we couldn’t help but mention!
1. The Charleston Museum
The first stop on any tour of the museums in Charleston has to be The Charleston Museum. The museum was founded in 1773 and is commonly regarded as “America’s First Museum.” It offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the natural and cultural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry from its founding to present day.
2. The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
If you’re exploring the museums in Charleston with young children in tow, visit The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. Kids of all ages are encouraged to broaden their horizons, learn something new, spark their creativity, and interact with their environment at the hands-on, play-based museum exhibits.
3. The Gibbes Museum of Art
Art enthusiasts can spend hours getting lost in the permanent collection at The Gibbes Museum of Art. The museum features incredible artwork spanning four centuries of American history from the colonial era to the present.
4. Confederate Museum
When first-time visitors walk through the historic Charleston City Market, they often overlook the Confederate Museum at the top of the stairs above the market entrance. This small museum opened in 1899 and has remained in its current position ever since. Civil War buffs will note the museum’s impressive, original architecture and enjoy their fill of Civil War artifacts!
5. Old Slave Mart Museum
Charleston’s involvement in slave trade is a very real part of our city’s history. The Old Slave Mart Museum tells the story of Charleston’s role in the interstate slave trade. Inside the building, which was built in 1859, you’ll find an array of informative displays and several historic objects.
6. Postal Museum
Did you know that Charleston’s Post Office building is the oldest continuously operated post office in the Carolinas? You can learn all about this exceptional building at the Postal Museum located just inside the post office at Broad and Meeting Streets. Built in 1896, this historic space feels nothing like a traditional post office. Instead, it’s filled with rich architecture, interesting post office memorabilia, and important newspaper clippings highlighting the CPO’s significant moments history.
7. The Historic Homes on the Mile
You can’t devote a day to learning more about Charleston’s history without visiting at least one of the city’s striking historic homes. On the Charleston Museum Mile, you will find these 5 beautiful options to explore:
- Aiken-Rhett House Museum
- Edmondston-Alston House
- Heyward-Washington House
- Joseph Manigault House
- Nathaniel Russell House Museum
Other Museums in Charleston to Visit
Charleston’s Museum Mile is just the beginning. There are many other great museums in Charleston to discover. Some of the most popular places to visit include the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, the North Charleston Fire Museum, and Patriots Point.
8. Karpeles Manuscript Museum
The Karpeles Manuscript Museum in Charleston is one of a series of 8 libraries around the country that display the world’s largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents. Each quarter, fascinating exhibits that include documents like the original draft of the Bill of Rights of the United States, Einstein’s famous E=Mc2 formula, and the original manuscript of The Wedding March rotate between these 8 libraries.
9. The North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Education Center
If you make the short drive to North Charleston, you will find a unique museum that gives visitors a glimpse into the life of a firefighter. A great museum for children, the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Education Center features hands-on activities, antique firefighting gear, and plenty of great educational resources.
10. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
Just over Charleston’s famous Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Mount Pleasant, SC, you’ll find Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. The popular Charleston Harbor attraction features a World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships, aircraft, a Cold War Memorial, and the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S. In addition, Patriots Point is also home to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s official Medal of Honor Museum.
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Looking for more fun things to do in Charleston? Read our blog! It’s filled with great information about Charleston restaurants, attractions, shopping, events, and more!
Photo credit: Getty Images / MarKord