The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC is A Must-See

The SC State Museum is not only huge but so entertaining, educational, and fun. Here’s why you should consider a trip to Columbia, SC to explore it.

The South Carolina State Museum has been on my list as a homeschooling parent (actually, before that since my daughter was supposed to go as a third-grader and then the pandemic hit). I had heard it was cool but did not know the extent of exactly how amazing it would be. So I hauled my kids out there for a truly fun day trip. And if you’re a homeschooling parent, read all the way through for a special admission tip.

Shark at the SC State Museum

About the SC State Museum

The museum itself is huge, four floors in total. It has a massive planetarium and dozens of permanent exhibits that cover the history of the state, Native peoples, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the different regions of the state and their unique ecosystems, an observatory, and a 4D movie theater.

The museum also hosts traveling exhibits and changing exhibits. We were able to see a really neat exhibit of quilts made by South Carolina women that certainly inspired my oldest daughter, 11, to try out some new sewing projects. The best thing to do before you go is to check out the changing exhibits page on the website to see what they have.

We enjoyed the SC State Parks exhibit on the first floor. They have pretty replicas of Caesars Head State Park, Landsford Canal, and Huntington Island. Plus, you can take a quiz to see which kind of adventurer you are and which parks you would like best.

There are restrooms on every floor and if you get hungry, a cafe is located right outside the 4D theater on the second floor. I liked that you could explore all of the exhibits, which seemed to go on forever, but you couldn’t really get lost.

Permanent Exhibits

On the second floor is a megalodon shark replica that is suspended between the second and third floors. On that same floor is a neat exhibit showing the different regions of South Carolina, a map of rivers, and what is so unique about each region. There are exhibits showing the coast, the sandhills, the piedmont region, and the blue ridge. Animals and water and trees are shown behind glass that look very real.

If you’re studying plants, geology, or dinosaurs, you’ll love their fossil exhibit, the botany exhibit that shows how plants grow roots and get food and water, and the many precious gems and stones to check out. You’ll see where certain rocks and sandstone are found throughout the state as well as where huge crystals have been discovered.

Native American village at the SC State Musuem

On the third floor is a replica train, schoolhouse, general store, and a massive amount of guns and swords used during the wars in the state. There is an interesting exhibit about the South Carolina textile industry that showed patterns used to weave. My kids really liked that since they were able to practice some of the patterns.

There is just so much stuff to look at that it was overwhelming. My kids, in first and fifth grade, wanted to see everything and see it fast, so I was trying to read everything quickly and call them back for the super cool things, of which were many.

I was just blown away by the details of all the exhibits. The replicas of the buildings and equipment were so real. I was scared a couple of times by the non-living people in the exhibits who moved. Another mom and I were both terrified at the same time by one guy turning a wheel in a replica submarine. Our kids thought it was hilarious.

The Observatory

All the way upstairs on the fourth floor is a giant observatory with a beautiful telescope and wall of fun facts. It’s not as big as the telescope and observatory at the Roper Mountain Science Center but it is certainly worth the trek upstairs.

On the same floor is an entire room dedicated to telescopes. I like telescopes but I felt I needed a whole hour to read everything. My kids weren’t so entertained so we headed out to see another exhibit.

Observatory telescope

The 4D Theater

Luckily a 4D movie (an extra cost in addition to admission) was showing in the theater about 15 minutes after we arrived so that was our first stop and it was so much fun. Neither my kids nor myself had been in a 4D theater before so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We were given 3D glasses before we went in so we knew it would be lifelike but it was more lifelike than I thought it would be!

The show we saw was all about penguins. I love penguins and the penguins we got to see were two kinds – the Emperor Penguins and the Rock Hop Penguins. The show was filmed using fake penguins that basically immersed themselves in each herd, which was hilarious to watch when the penguins got jealous of the robot penguins. The 4D part of the show came in the form of special effects. When we saw the waves crashing against the rock, we got sprayed with water! When the penguins were jumping the rocks and running towards us, the ground shook. Our feet and legs even got whacked with something when a female penguin got jealous of the penguin robot and tried to fight it.

We thought the show was awesome. It was educational, fun, and made us laugh – what more can you ask for? More penguins maybe.

Homeschooling Families Get in Free

If you homeschool your kids, you get in free to the South Carolina State Museum and discounted admission to the shows you want to see. It was $3 for each of us to see the 4D penguin show. We didn’t do the planetarium show but the cost would have been the same. The museum also offers free Homeschool classes on Thursdays.

The free admission is for the homeschool chaperone/teacher/parent and their kids. You must show your membership to a valid SC homeschool association to obtain free admission and discount tickets.

Other things happening at the SC State Museum

The museum offers spring break and summer camps plus lots of other events. See their event calendar to check what’s happening before you come.

The museum is also available for rent for private events.

Visiting the SC State Museum

Admission to the museum is $8.95/adults and $6.95/kids (ages 3-12). Admission with one show add on is $13.95/adult and $11.95/kids. Admission with two shows is $16.95/adults and $14.95/kids.

The museums participate in the program Museums for All, which gives discounted admission to those on SNAP, EBT, WIC, and Medicaid.

If you think you’ll visit more than a couple of times a year, consider a family membership, which starts at $99/year.

There is free parking right outside the museum.

Hours are:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday: Noon – 5 pm

South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29214

Be sure to also read our Kidding Around Greenville Review of Edventure and our list of Mom-Approved Day Trips in South Carolina.

Have you ventured out to the South Carolina State Museum yet?

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