Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style, and of course, content. Museum subjects vary greatly from city to city, and can range from firefighter's museums to fine art, to sports. If you need help making a selection, our 10Best list highlights the top spots to visit in Columbia.


The United States Army-Fort Jackson museum focuses on the 200 years of South Carolina's military history. With more than 4,000 historic items, including weapons, uniforms and even vehicles, this is a fascinating glimpse at military life and development. Andrew Jackson – the fort's namesake – is featured prominently.

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This museum's exhibits lead you on a historical and cultural tour of life in this region from the18th century – when the area was known as "the back country" – to the present. Exhibits cover a variety of topics, including agriculture, Native American culture, commercial development, and daily life in Colonial times.

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Lexington County Museum

This museum's unique tour is led by guides garbed in authentic 19th century dress. They'll take you through 15 historic buildings full of antebellum arts, crafts and exhibits depicting daily life. See handcrafted furnishings and art from the pre-Civil War period.

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At Columbia's EdVenture you'll meet the 40-foot tall Eddie, who lives in the atrium across from the entrance. Through a series of tunnels and slides, kids can explore inside Eddie and discover just how amazing the human body is. The fun doesn't stop with Eddie – there are more hands-on exhibits here than most youngsters could appreciate in one visit. The communication exhibit includes a pneumatic tube (just like at the bank drive-thru), and there's a wonderful art room as well. Outside is a fascinating water fixture – dam it up, create a maze for your boat, and see how high you can make the water spout go! It's all good, clean, (educational) fun!

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University Of South Carolina

Run by the College of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina and located on the historic Horseshoe, this museum hosts an impressive permanent exhibit of minerals, gemstones, and 18th century silver. The displays focus on the history, life, and natural environment of the Southeastern US. Exhibits range from 20th century watercolors to pottery created by American slaves to a recent exploration of the development of regional stew recipes. You're sure to find something fascinating and surprising at this eclectic museum.

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South Carolina's largest fine arts museum, this facility houses the impressive Samuel H. Kress collection of baroque and Renaissance pieces, as well as a wide array of European and American fine art. Traveling exhibits present works from a variety of time periods and in many styles. The museum shop is a great place to pick up a gift or a souvenir. Admission is free on Saturdays courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield. The first Friday of every month the museum stays open until 8:00 pm.

Read more about Columbia Museum of Art →

Housed inside the fire department's main headquarters, this museum traces the history of firefighting in Columbia from the mid-1800s to the present. The state's largest fire department has a colorful history, and the artifacts on exhibit – including a 1929 American LaFrance fire engine, historic photographs and antique equipment – bring that past to life.

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This collection focuses on Civil War artifacts but also exhibits an overview of regional history from colonial years up through the modern era. See military garb, weapons, and portraits and learn about military figures like Robert E. Lee, Francis Marion and Wade Hampton. Books and records allow visitors to look up any ancestors that served in the military. Joint tickets for the S.C. State Museum and Confederate Relic Room are available for $6.00 each. A joint ticket allows you to visit both museums once within a 7 day period. First Sunday of each month admission is $1.00 for ages 21 and up.

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South Carolina's historical records dating back to 1671 can be viewed in these extensive archives. A changing but always fascinating schedule of exhibits delves deeper into the state's rich past.

Read more about South Carolina Department of Archives and History →

South Carolina State Museum

Inside a century-old textile mill, this museum presents a comprehensive collection of art, history and science exhibits depicting South Carolina's past, present and future. From natural history to technology to fine arts, this museum has informative permanent displays and temporary shows that delve into a broad range of cultural topics. Highlights of their collection include a giant white shark model, a Blue Sky mural, dinosaur fossils, and a gorgeous iron gate by Lowcountry artist Philip Simmons.

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