When you think of great family activities with children, you might not think of going to a museum right away.
You might worry that big kids would be bored, little kids baffled, and parents terrified, as they imagine priceless pieces of art destroyed by the sticky embrace of an enthusiastic toddler, or the ceaseless drone of a 10 year-old who would rather be anywhere else.
But South Carolina is blessed with many museums that are fascinating, fun, and appropriate for both kids and parents. From natural history and science, to art, to living history, to dedicated children's museums, South Carolina has a museum for your family.
So let's start with the museums that are most obviously perfect for families: children's' museums. These are not museums as you might have known before, where you stand at a distance and look. Instead, children's museums are places where kids and parents are not just allowed, but invited and encouraged to touch and play and explore the exhibits.
These are museums that are made for playing, and South Carolina is lucky to have six:
, in the state's capital of Columbia
, is the largest children's museum in the southeast. It's also home EDDIE, the world's largest child. He's a huge sculpture of a child that kids can climb through, learning about lungs, kidneys, intestines and other organs as they go.
The museum’s newest exhibit is Maker Works, where inventors, tinkerers, and mini-innovators can create fantastic contraptions. Even a grown woman might find herself entranced while making giant marble runs on a magnetic board. From May through October, Blooming Butterflies fill the outside patio with thousands of gorgeous butterflies. And these are just the start of the exhibits in Edventure.
2. Children's Museum of the Upstate
, in Greenville
, is also a huge museum -- the seventh largest in the United States. What struck us is that, unlike many children's museums that are geared more towards toddlers and preschoolers, TCMU really appeals to older kids as well.
Though the museum states that it is geared for children 12 and younger, I could even see teenagers having a blast here, banging away on the crazy and rare instruments in the Garage Rock exhibit as they visit with their little siblings, or filming themselves in the WTCM studios. My 41 year-old husband certainly had a ball. The little ones will also find plenty to do, from huge water tables to a climbing structure that stretches to the ceiling to plenty of places to play pretened.
3. The Sandbox: An Interactive Children's Museum
, on Hilton Head Island
, is a lovely little museum for younger kids. It's a perfect respite from a sun that is just too hot for little ones, or from rain that threatens to wash out your beach day. Here, kids can literally climb the walls at the Track the T-Rex exhibit or create their own imaginary underwater kingdom at the Loggerhead Sandcastle.
4. Children's Museum of South Carolina
in Myrtle Beach
offers a child-friendly place to take a break from your beach vacation with very little ones, with exhibits like Famous Fraction Pizza Delivery Truck, the Kidz Medical Center and Dr. Molar's Dental Clinic Clinic, or Bubble Mania.
5. Children's Museum of the Lowcountry
welcomes kids to dress up like a Charleston pirate and climb aboard the museum's very own pirate ship. Or, they can travel back even farther and time, and explore the Medieval Creativity Castle, among several other exhibits. A perfect spot for your Charleston family vacation with little ones with active imaginations.
6. Main Street Children's Museum of Rock Hill
is designed for young children, up to age 6. The design of this lovely museum, a place for children to imagine and dream, is inspired by the work of artist Vernon Grant, who lived in Rock Hill
Check back for in-depth reviews as my children and I explore these South Carolina museums made for kids.