As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Charleston is known for its deep history. The Charleston Museum, which marquees itself as America’s First Museum, is a great first stop for a broad overview of Charleston’s past, featuring exhibits ranging from Lowcountry dinosaur skeletons to niche Revolutionary War artifacts.
The Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 to document the emerging treasures of the New World. Today, the imposing brick building houses a large collection of Charleston furniture, silver, and Lowcountry textiles, making it a good place to learn about life in the British colonies. In addition, the natural history exhibit has massive skeletons of prehistoric animals and fossils—a hit with kids—and the Kidstory exhibit offers hands-on interactive displays created just for children.
Also on-site are two historic properties: the Heyward-Washington House and the Joseph Manigault House. Each of these sites requires a separate entrance ticket; bundled admission, which includes a tour, is available at a discounted rate. Overall museum admission is free for holders of the Charleston Tour Pass.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Charleston Museum is a must for history buffs, and the kid-friendly exhibits make it popular with families.
- Plan to spend two to three hours exploring the museum.
- The museum is wheelchair accessible. The historic houses offer photographic tours for those who are unable to climb stairs.
- Compact strollers are allowed in the museum and the first floor of the historic houses.
How to Get There
The Charleston Museum is located in the heart of downtown Charleston, just across the street from the Charleston Visitors Center. Walking or taking the free downtown DASH shuttle is recommended, but paid street parking and garages are available nearby for visitors who drive.
When to Get There
The Charleston Museum is open 9am to 5pm Monday through Saturday and 12pm to 5pm on Sunday. The historic homes are open from 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday and 12pm to 5pm on Sunday, with the last tour at 4:30pm every day. Check the museum calendar for special events geared toward kids and students.
More Charleston Museums
There is no shortage of museums in Charleston. If you’re looking for more Charleston history, some of your options include the Old Slave Mart Museum, the Nathaniel Russell House, the Confederate Museum, and the Aiken-Rhett House, all easily accessible downtown.