5 of the Best Free Museums in Charleston, SC

If you are planning a trip to one of the South’s most historic cities, you are in for a very special treat. Charleston has a rich and fascinating past that dates back hundreds of years. The city is filled with art galleries, beautiful historic sites, and a variety of museums that are just waiting to be explored. The best part? Many of these must-see attractions are free and open to the public. We’ve put together a list of the best free museums in Charleston, SC, to help you plan your next vacation. Check it out and get ready for an unforgettable trip to the Holy City.

If you plan to explore these free museums in Charleston, SC, be sure to download our complimentary Vacation Guide. The guides are full of local tips about the best places to eat, attractions to see, and things to do during your stay with Pam Harrington Exclusives.


Top 5 Free Museums in Charleston, SC

Take an exciting journey back in time with a visit to the Holy City. Whether you are interested in Southern culture, contemporary art, or prehistoric fossils, there is something for everyone. Here are some of our favorite Charleston sites and attractions that are completely free of charge.

1. Mace Brown Museum of Natural History

When it comes to fun and free things to do in Charleston, the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History should be at the top of your list. This paleontology museum is hosted by the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at the College of Charleston. When you visit, you’ll find dinosaur bones, crinoids, cave bears, fossils, extinct mammals native to the Carolinas, and more.

Don’t miss the Megalodon display, which features an enormous jaw with real teeth from the extinct shark. The museum is open daily from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. except for Wednesdays. While this museum is free, donations are always appreciated.

2. Karpeles Manuscript Museum

Located in an 1856 Methodist Church, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum’s architecture is just as impressive as the exhibits inside. If you are interested in original manuscripts and documents, then you must plan a visit. The museum hosts two permanent displays and several rotating exhibits throughout the year. Visitors can view everything from the first message sent in Morse code to Egyptian sandstone carvings.

There is even a photo gallery that shows the construction process of Charleston’s famous Arthur Ravenel Bridge. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

3. Charleston Postal Museum

Come take a step back in time at the Charleston Postal Museum. The museum is located on the corner of Broad and Meeting streets and is dedicated to preserving the Holy City’s postal history.

As you browse through the memorabilia, original stamps, and old newspaper clippings, it’s easy to imagine that you have time-traveled to a previous era. The Charleston Postal Museum is open from Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

4. City Gallery at Waterfront Park

If you have an appreciation for fine artwork, then you must stop by the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. You’ll discover a wide range of inspiring masterpieces from local, regional, national, and international artists.

Although the gallery is temporarily closed, they are reopening January 20th, 2018 with their newest exhibit, “On the Edge: A Portrait of the Coast of South Carolina.” The gallery is typically open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

5. Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Named the “Best Art Gallery” by the Charleston City Paper for several consecutive years, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is one stop you won’t want to miss. Located at the College of Charleston, the institute is home to two galleries filled with thought-provoking pieces, a media room, and a library. The exhibits change frequently, so there is always something new to discover.

The Halsey Institute also hosts a variety of special events, lectures, panels, screenings, and discussions year-round. It’s open Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. On Thursdays, the institute stays open until 7 p.m.

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