Visiting the South Carolina State Museum: everything to know

Everything to know about the South Carolina State Museum

The South Carolina State Museum is the state’s premier educational museum focusing on natural history, science & technology, local art and cultural history.

Located inside the former Columbia Mills textile mill, the building itself is a piece of history. The museum is packed full of fun and educational exhibits for kids and adults alike. The exhibits are located on three floors within the museum.

We hope this post gives you all the information you need to know about SC State Museum and inspires a visit of your own!

SC State Museum Map

Below you’ll find a map of the first level of the SC State Museum. You can check out the full map on the official SC State Museum website but this gives you an idea of what you’ll see when you arrive.

map of the first floor of the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC

SC State Museum Exhibit Overview

You’ll enter the museum on the ground floor level in the Atrium where you will find ticketing and the museum store. To find the museum exhibits, you will walk up the stairs in front of the ticketing counter. Before entering the exhibit area you will see Crescent Cafe and the museum’s 4D Theater.

1st Floor: Ticketing and Gift Shop

When you walk into the museum (which, by the way is just beautiful!!), you’ll enter into a large area where you can buy tickets and visit the gift shop. There are also restrooms and a few galleries on the first floor.

The Cotton Mill Exchange gift shop is a great place to purchase South Carolina souvenirs. They have commemorative posters, ornaments, books, toys, collectibles, jewelry, puzzles and a ton of other great finds representing the palmetto state.

2nd Floor: 4D theater, Crescent Cafe and Dinosaurs

Onto the second floor (where the exhibits start!) As you enter the museum exhibit area on the second floor, you will be greeted by a life-size prehistoric megalodon shark hanging overhead. It will stop you in your tracks!

On this floor, you’ll see the natural history area with exhibits ranging from real-life dinosaur fossils to life-size replicas of a mastodon and glyptodont (which looks like a giant armadillo!) The natural history area has educational information about biology and geology for everyone to learn something.

You’ll also find the 4D Theater on this floor as well as the museum’s Crescent Cafe. The museum’s 4D theater is the only of its kind in the state! Showing change regularly but you are sure to find something for the whole family.

3rd Floor: Science and Technology

You can take the elevator or stairs to the third floor. You will arrive in the science and technology exhibits, starting with an old steam train where kids can climb aboard.

The third floor has all manner of exhibits showing the history of technological advancements with great hands-on activities for kids. They even have a space exploration exhibit where you can climb on a lunar rover replica and check out real-life space suits.

4th Floor: History of SC

On the top floor of the exhibit area, you walk through the history of South Carolina from Native American settlements through colonial explorers, the revolutionary and civil wars all the way through present-day.

The rural life exhibit is a kid-favorite. This is where you can see inside an old general store and walk into a one-room schoolhouse. It’s such a fun experience for all.

On the far end of the fourth floor you will find an amazing collection of antique telescopes right next to the working observatory telescope. Even if you are not into telescopes, the collection of telescopes feels like an art exhibit.

Other attractions at the SC State Museum

In addition to the main exhibits, the museum has several attractions to offer.

  • Planetarium: the 55-foot digital dome planetarium shows journeys through space as well as entertainment programs. Check the museum’s website to see what is currently playing.
  • 4D Theater: the 4D interactive theater combines 3D film with real-life sensations of smells and vibrations. Check the schedule to see what is currently playing!
  • Observatory: guests are welcome to visit the observatory during scheduled viewing sessions.

SC State Museum Admission

There are plenty of great options for admission to the SC State Museum. We try to give you an overview below so that you can make a choice based on whether you are local or just visiting. Be sure to check out the SC State Museum Hours and Admission page for the latest options and offers!

General Public Admission

Admission tickets for the general public are available with ticket pricing dependent on age. Adult admission is $8.95, Senior (ages 62+) is 7.95 and Children (ages 3-12) are $6.95. Make sure you check pricing on their websites as they do run promotional pricing at times.

You can also purchase tickets to the museum with show add-ons. These tickets include passes to shows at the planetarium or 4D movie theater.

Member Admission

For those who plan to visit the SC State Museum on a regular basis, an annual membership might be a good option. Admission to the museum is free for all ages with the membership and there are reduced prices for planetarium and 4D movie theater shows.

There are several membership levels available for joining ranging from $49 for an individual membership to $300 for the Director’s Guild Membership. As an example, the annual Family BASIC membership is $99. You can check out all the membership levels here!

First Sunday Admission

Another great option is the First Sunday Admission, which as you would expect is the first Sunday of each month. While it’s not quite free admission, at $1 admission for all ages, it’s pretty close. It’s a great time to check out the museum if you are not ready to commit to full ticket prices or a membership.

Museums for All Admission

The SC State Museum participates in the Museums For All program providing reduced admission pricing for guests receiving SNAP, EBT, WIC and/or Medicaid benefits. You can learn more about the Museums For All program here.

Host an Event at the SC Museum

This is pretty cool and worth mentioning– you can rent the museum! You can find out more on their site, but it’s a great place to host a seated dinner or a wedding reception. Choose from renting the main lobby, second level mezzanine overlooking the lobby, the planetarium lobby or one of their many meeting rooms.

Parking at the SC State Museum

One thing that there is definitely no shortage of at the SC State Museum is parking. Their large parking lot is located directly in front of the Columbia Mills Building on Gervais Street. It is shared with EdVenture Children’s Museum.

SC State Museum FAQs

Is there a free admission day at the SC State Museum?

While there is no free day, admission to the museum is only $1 on the first Sunday of each month.

Is the SC State Museum good for kids?

The SC State Museum is a great place for kids to learn and explore with engaging exhibits and hands-on experiences. Our kids love to learn while exploring every corner of the museum and always leave happy.


Disclaimer: Hours, pricing, menus, etc. may have changed since we last updated this post, so make sure to confirm all of this directly prior to visiting any business or attraction listed on our site. All opinions are our own. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.