On our recent road trip from Florida to Virginia, we stopped in Charleston, South Carolina for a few days. Hubby had visited Charleston before, but Little Dude and I had not. We had a great time exploring this beautiful, historical city together. Charleston is filled with family-friendly attractions where both kids and adults can enjoy a hands-on history lesson. One of our favorite attractions is the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
Patriots Point is home to the decommissioned aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown. This huge ship played a role in World War II and Vietnam, as well as recovering the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule. The carrier also houses the Medal of Honor Museum, which pays tribute to the American military heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Patriots Point is also home to the USS Laffey, a World War II-era destroyer, the USS Clamagore, a Cold War-era submarine, and the Vietnam Experience Exhibit.
We spent the most amount of time on the USS Yorktown, which is truly massive with lots of displays to see. When you first board the ship, you start in the Hangar. There are fighter planes to climb in for a photo op, as well as historical displays and wartime videos playing. There’s also an Apollo 8 mission exhibit that lets you climb in a space capsule and experience what the mission was like for the astronauts. The Medal of Honor Museum is located here as well.
Once you’ve explored the Hangar, you can can take any or all of the 5 self-guided tours that lead you through various parts of the ship. Each tour starts in the Hangar and is clearly marked with signs and yellow arrows on the ground.
Tour 1 is about Living and Working on the carrier. You’ll see various rooms, such as the galley, dental office, laundry, Bakery, and sick bay.
Tour 2 is the Engine and Fire Room.
Tour 3 is the Bridge and Flight Deck. The bridge area has various control and radar rooms, as well as the captain’s bridge. The flight deck has more than a dozen historic aircraft parked on it, which plane-loving kids will really enjoy seeing.
Tour 4 is the World War II Carrier Rooms. This tour mostly consists of historical displays about various naval vessels, as well as naval history. This tour is probably of least interest to younger children, unless they have a particular interest in the subject matter.
Tour 5 is the Wardroom and Brig. You’ll see rooms like the ship’s jail, the print shop, barber shop, and the soda fountain.
We spent over two hours just on the USS Yorktown, but we did every tour and explored the Hangar. You could spend more or less time here, depending on your interests and the ages of your children.
Touring the USS Laffey and USS Clamagore take less time, but they are worth exploring if you can.
Tips for Visiting Patriots Point with Kids
- Consider your children’s ages, as well as the mobility of everyone in your party, before visiting Patriots Point. There are lots of steep stairs and ladders to climb up and down. Everyone should be capable of climbing them independently and be able to hold the handrails. Some of the stair openings are very small, and there are also trip hazards and low overheads in some areas as well. There is limited handicap accessibility to some areas of Tours 1 and 3, as well as the Hangar. But, much of the ship requires good mobility to explore it completely.
- Some areas of the ships and submarine are dark, have loud noises, or are very tight. If anyone in your party has sensory issues or is claustrophobic, be sure to ask the personnel at the Information Desk inside the Hangar at the main entrance to the USS Yorktown for assistance with which areas of the tours to avoid.
- Make sure everyone wears comfortable, closed-toe shoes.
- If visiting on a cooler day, bring a jacket or sweatshirt. You’ll be glad you did, especially when you’re up on the windy flight deck of the USS Yorktown.
- If you’re visiting on a hot day, go first thing in the morning. There is no air conditioning on the ships and submarine, just fans, so you’ll avoid the worst heat in the morning.
- Bring bottled water and snacks with you. There is a cafe and snack bar located in the Hangar of the USS Yorktown, plus a snack bar on land. They are only open limited hours. You’re better off eating a meal before or after your visit, and just having snacks with you in case you or the kids get the munchies.
- Bring a camera. Besides all the cool stuff on the ships and submarine, there’s a gorgeous view of Charleston and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from the flight deck of the USS Yorktown.
- Visit the Information Desk inside the Hangar of the USS Yorktown before you start your tour. Be sure to pick up a Visitors Guide and Map and ask any questions that you may have. The personnel at the desk are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. If you have limited time for your visit, or have people in your party with special interests, they can direct you to the best parts of the ship to visit or even give additional information on the history of the carrier.
- Give yourself plenty of time to explore, especially if it’s the first time your kids have visited an attraction like this. We weren’t sure our son would be interested in seeing all the exhibits, but he was fascinated by everything he saw. He also had a great time directing us around the ship as we followed the signs for each tour. Depending on how fast you tour and what you want to see, plan to stay from 2 to 5 hours.
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
40 Patriots Point Road
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Getting There and Parking
Patriots Point is located on the Charleston Harbor, just 5 minutes from downtown Charleston.
The best way to reach Patriots Point is by car. From downtown, cross the Ravenel Bridge towards Mount Pleasant. At the foot of the bridge, merge right onto Coleman Blvd. At the first traffic light on Coleman, turn right onto Patriots Point Road.
Parking is available for $5.00 per day per vehicle.
You can also reach Patriots Point by water. Charleston Water Taxi runs to and from the museum seasonally. Visit their web site for more information.
Hours and Admission
The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm. It closes early on Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve. It is closed on Christmas Day.
Admission (as of May 2018) costs $24.00 per adult, $16.00 for children ages 6-11, and $19.00 for seniors 62 and older. Children under 6 are free with one paid adult admission. Military in uniform receive free admission. Active duty military with ID receive $5.00 off adult admission.
There are $5.00 off coupons which are often available online or through your hotel. Be sure to check before you visit to save a little money.
I highly suggest that you visit the Patriots Point web site or call (843) 884-2727 for updated information on hours and admission to be sure there are no changes that may affect your visit.
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