Culture & Arts
The museums you’ll find in the Carolinas are treasures houses of history, technology, plants, animals, entertainment (and entertainers) and artists through the ages. There are great children’s museums that are award-winning and the youngsters learn with delight.
We’ll be featuring new museums every month, so check back often. And if you’re headed for a Carolinas vacation destination let us know if we can help you pinpoint an afternoon of good times for all.
EdVenture Children’s Museum | Columbia, SC
North Carolina Maritime Museum | Southport, NC
Airborne and Special Operations Museum | Fayetteville, NC
Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum | Little Washington, NC
Hickory Ridge Living History Museum | Boone, NC
Patriots Point | Mt. Pleasant, SC
Marbles Kids Museum | Raleigh, NC
Wheels through Time | Maggie Valley, NC
NC Transportation Museum | Spencer, NC
Greenville Museum of Art | Greenville, SC
EdVenture Children’s Museum
So much more than History
Eddie will stop you in your tracks! The ten-year-old boy is 40 feet tall and weighs more than 17 tons. He welcomes children into the museum so expect to see your little ones run into the cavernous openings on multiple levels. Once inside, the possibilities are endless. With a vision of creating new generations of lifelong learners, the exhibits are creative, entertaining and a whole lot of fun. At Flight, visitors get a pilot’s eye view from a real Boeing 757 classic cockpit. There’s a flight simulator, zone to build a paper airplane, robotics, and chance to feel what it’s like inside a wind tunnel. And that’s just one of many exhibits.
A personal favorite is the Wags and Whiskers exhibit, which teaches health and wellness through the care and feeding of pets. There’s a pet clinic, area to diagnose pet problems, and learn about proper care. Leave Fido at home, please.
The Cooking Lab teaches young chefs about healthy cooking, recipe preparation and nutrition. Snacks will never be the same after this fun learning experience. A real chef helps out.
More exhibits feature the world of work, inventions, manufacturing, journalism and the great outdoors. Great for all ages, with a super gift shop for souvenirs. It’s a perfect vacation destination for children and parents who want to keep the creativity flowing for their little ones during the summer months (or any time).
Learn more: edventure.org
North Carolina Maritime Museum
Our Storied Past
Southport is a charming coastal village that’s well worth a visit. While you’re there enjoying the historic homes, coastal scenery, super seafood and eclectic shops, carve out time to visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum. (There are three such museums sponsored by the state, and this one explores the maritime history of the lower Cape Fear River, near Wilmington).
We promise, you’ll be fascinated by the stories of shipwrecks, pirates who roamed and pillaged and hid in the area, and hurricanes that made landfall near here.
• The periscope from a retired research sub that you can use to check out the port. Everyone loves it!
• Photos from past weather events, including Hurricane Hazel – a monster storm that hit near the border between NC and SC in 1954, and caused much death and destruction. The photos are mesmerizing.
• Kids’ Adventure: Little ones are sent on a scavenger hunt for various items, and if successful, they can pick a gift from the “treasure chest.”
• The Museum Shop has a good collection of books of local interest.
• Shipwrecks, particularly the 1878 sinking of the City of Houston. View artifacts, including Christmas gifts and belongings of immigrants on their way from New York to Galveston.
Other NC maritime museums are found in Hatteras and Beaufort, NC.
Learn more: ncmaritimemuseumsouthport.com
We Honor Them
For nearly 20 years, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum has honored the airborne and special operations troops who have contributed so much to defending our nation’s interests. From the early days of the Parachute Test Platoon to the ongoing War on Terrorism, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum recounts the actions of heroic soldiers.
The main exhibit gallery houses displays of America’s involvement in World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Videos throughout the gallery show original newsreel footage and other scenes of American troops in action. Walk through a replica a French village from the Normandy Invasion of June 1944, or view a completely restored WACO CG-4A war glider, one of the finest examples in existence.
Experience the museum in a peaceful way, with the multiple gardens around the building. The Reflection Garden and the Sunken Garden are serene locations where everything, even the stone walkways etched with the names of soldiers, contribute to tell the story of America’s history. Visit the Liberty Tree, located in the central garden, where local patriots pledged their lives and fortunes to the Continental Congress in 1775.
In Army On the Move, the 24-seat simulator provides visitors with an extreme taste of what the Army’s finest are trained to do. The Vista-Dome Motion Simulator adds another dimension by physically moving a specially designed seating area up to 18 degrees in concert with the film. It’s an educational and emotional visit for all ages.
Hint: Some exhibits are temporary. Tickets for the simulators must be purchased in the museum gift shop. The simulators are open from 10am to 4:30pm.
Read more: www.asomf.org
Written by Tyria Goines
Little Washington, NC
Have you been to “Little” Washington?
During Black History month, consider a visit to Little Washington, NC, a fascinating small town with lots to do and see. Take some time exploring downtown through their Historical Walking Tour. Then, stop in at the Washington waterfront Underground Railroad Museum to learn about how the destination served as one of the main stops on the Underground Railroad.
Learn more about what to do in Little Washington.
The Way We Were
It’s next door to the Horn of the West drama, in Boone, NC and as one Trip Advisor reviewer put it, “My son loved the hatchet throwers and it was a great attraction before the performance began.”
With guides in period dress, and demonstrations of the way folks used to make what they needed to survive and thrive, it’s a great experience for all ages. Cabins have been furnished authentically. Try to visit on a day with lots happening.
Read more about The Hickory Ridge Living History Museum.
Horn in the West is the nation’s oldest Revolutionary War drama, and portrays the life of Daniel Boone and other settles of this region before and during the War for Independence.
from our Carolina Adventures series:
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
Mt. Pleasant, SC
The USS YORKTOWN began as an Essex-class aircraft carrier, serving as a proud symbol of our nation’s unyielding patriotism. By the 1970s, she was decommissioned and became the center of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, educating the public to the extensive history surrounding the U.S. Navy. She was soon joined by two additional historic vessels, Vietnam Naval Support Base, Cold War Memorial, and the National Congressional Medal of Honor headquarters and museum. Now, some 300,000 visitors come to Patriots Point each year and, to meet their evolving interests, the Museum has begun integrating more interactive exhibits and technologically cutting-edge components to become an even more compelling attraction for new and repeat visitors.
Launched in October 2013, The USS LAFFEY Mount 53 Experience is the first of many virtual reality enhancements at the Museum. This new exhibit allows all generations to experience what is was like for the brave men serving inside the gun mount of the ship during a devastating, historical kamikaze attack through sounds, video and vibrations. A visit is guaranteed to stir our souls with renewed patriotism, and light our imaginations.
Read more in Carolina Adventures.
Please, Take the Children
It’s the perfect destination for little ones (ten and under) and the adults who love them. The museum is hands-on, minds-on and offers that rare combination of play and learning that makes everyone happy. It’s been recognized nationally for creative exhibits and bold approaches to play-based learning. There are themed exhibits, summer camps, and daily programs, plus IMAX educational and feature films, and dozens of special events. Perfect.
Read more in Carolina Adventures.
Maggie Valley, NC
Get your Motor Running
Full disclosure. I am not a motorcycle mama. I’ve ridden them, and they’re lots of fun, but it’s not my life’s passion, if you know what I mean. That said, the Wheels through Time Museum is home to arguably the world’s finest collection of rare American vintage motorcycles.
Here’s how one visitor described her experience on Trip Advisor: “an amazing (and huge) collection and we are so glad we went there. You don’t have to be a motorcycle expert to love it, either – we were just three 22-year-old girls on a road trip that went through Maggie Valley. Will definitely be back some day.” And that’s not the only rave review. Tour groups come from Italy, France, all over. The museum has been lauded in magazines worldwide. It is clearly something special.
Read more in Carolina Adventures.
Located conveniently between Charlotte and Greensboro, just a few short miles from Salisbury is a remarkable destination for a Carolina Adventure. The North Carolina Transportation Museum is situated on 57 acres, with four large exhibit buildings and special events for all ages. Train enthusiasts will love the railroad history and massive machines on display. Barber Junction Visitor Center, a real railroad depot, was moved to the museum in 1980 and stills serves as a passenger depot for departing on-site train rides.
The fully-restored 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse, is the jewel in the transportation museum’s crown, housing a large collection of restored steam and diesel locomotives, cabooses, private rail cars, a U.S. Army hospital car and more. The Roundhouse also houses a large aviation exhibit, including a replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer.
Read more in Carolina Adventures
“Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.” Jasper Johns
When I first turned a corner in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and came upon “Christina’s World,” arguably Andrew Wyeth’s most famous painting, it literally stopped me cold. This visual artist became one of the best known U.S. artists in the 20th Century, with his focus on the countryside and romance. The Greenville County Museum of Art (GCMA) is home to the largest collection in the world of his watercolors, and although you’ll still have to travel to Manhattan to visit Christina, there are magnificent paintings to be found here.
An impressive collection of the work of Jasper Johns is also on display. Born in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in Allendale, SC, the artist began painting at an early age, and attended the University of South Carolina for several semesters before moving to New York, at the encouragement of several professors. During his 50-year career, he created his own style, evolving and enjoying meteoric success.
That’s two of more than a hundred artists showcased at GCMA, including a number with strong Southern roots. Entering the museum, a vast skylit area showcases the award-winning architecture and two expansive galleries.
Read more in Carolina Adventures.