When visitors step into one of the South's largest children's museums, there's one thought that commonly crosses their minds: That's a big kid. Waiting to greet them is a 40-foot-tall statue of EDDIE, a reinforced, molded-plastic boy who weighs 17.6 tons and—like almost everything at EdVenture Children's Museum—is ready for kids to explore. After they've climbed inside his heart, up to his brain, and slid down his intestines—all while learning about their own bodies—kids race to explore the rest of the museum's more than 350 hands-on activities contained within nine exhibit galleries. As a testament to its attractions, EdVenture Children's Museum received the 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, an honor given to only 10 libraries and museums in the nation.
Past Eddie, EdVenture’s permanent exhibits include the World of Work, where kids climb aboard a John Deere tractor, take the helm of a 24-foot fire truck, and learn the value of money by spending Eddie Bucks on groceries or flooding the market to undermine the local economy. At the Aha Factory, wee ones recycle everyday items into paper snowflakes, pipe-cleaner butterflies, and glitter-encrusted egg cartons. Children 3 and younger, meanwhile, can explore the My Backyard exhibit, an age-appropriate haven of soft surfaces.
Havens Framemakers & Gallery traces its lineage back to 1968, when Robert Havens set up a shop full of handmade, custom-tailored frames. He passed the business to his daughter Betsy in 1985, and she, like a confused track-and-field competitor, handed the torch to current owner Jackie Vazquez. Jackie draws from the Havens family's tradition of expert craftsmanship and her own 20-year stint at the company to surround diplomas, artwork, and keepsakes with a selection of more than 5,000 mouldings collected from a range of vendors. Gilded and hand-carved pieces adorn the gallery’s seven walls, surrounding experienced designers who set to work enshrining 3-D objects in shadowboxes or protecting old photographs and celebrity potato-chip look-alikes within conservation frames.
Though built in 1893 to manufacture textiles, the Columbia Mills? storied stone halls now weave tapestries of knowledge with exhibits on everything from lasers and space travel to South Carolina's role in the Civil War. Boasting accolades by Columbia Metropolitan magazine and the Smithsonian, South Carolina State Museum devotes each of its four floors and part of its fourth dimension to art, cultural history, natural history, and science and technology represented by more than 70,000 artifacts; not including blockbuster exhibits.
Through a series of permanent exhibits, curators lead visitors on a cultural and geological voyage. Guests stroll through years of traditional and contemporary art by state artists, marvel at a 43-foot white shark display and full dinosaur skeletons, or cast imaginations back in exhibits on turn-of-the-century transportation, laser technology, and aviation. The museum also excavates the surrounding landscape to present 14,000 years of local culture in Native American tools and colonial-era lifestyle items.
Five galleries also house changing exhibits and have previously featured artifacts from such entities as the Titanic, Civil War?era Charleston, or the 300 years of American-made telescopes, with each carefully monitored to ensure they contained just the right amount of science. While museum staffers frequently rotate their exhibits, they also host traveling displays and send others on the road through the Traveling Exhibits Program. Various education displays such as interactive children's labs, living-history reenactments, and lectures from visiting scholars further enrich all-ages visitors.
Built in 1772, the Laurence Corley Log House is Lexington's oldest documented abode. It's a logical starting point for visits to Lexington County Museum, a seven-acre village of 36 historic structures that recreate Lexington life from 1770 until the Civil War.
Those buildings include the original Lexington County post office and the Hazelius House, where Charlie D. Tillman composed "Give Me That Old Time Religion." The first Lexington County building included on the National Register of Historic Places, the John Fox House is even outfitted with furnishings the family would have used, such as a pine lazy susan and a mahogany Xbox. Other structures likewise stock authentic 19th century artifacts, such as textiles, pottery, and weapons.
While the exhibited buildings grant a visual glimpse into the past, 13 hands-on activities immerse kids in authentic 19th century experiences. Youngsters can weave on individual lap looms inside the loom house, play with replica toys from the 1800s, or churn butter in the Fox house yard. In the one-room schoolhouse, schoolmasters in period dress teach full lessons to children who must jot down notes with quill pens.
Celebrating its 25th year, the Sumter County Museum immerses visitors of all ages in everyday life from decades past with extensive historical collections and hands-on exhibits. In the handsome Edwardian Williams-Brice house, guests examine artifacts, artwork, and personal effects of Sumter County residents from the early 20th century, while a Carolina Backcountry homestead gives kids and adults alike a taste of life in the early 1800s with a log cabin, blacksmith's shop, and settler's house.
Back in 1972, Pat Koelker and Nancy Wilds founded Aiken Center for the Arts in the hopes that it would become a haven for creatives of all stripes. Far exceeding their expectations, these days the center and studio offers a wide assortment of classes, a juried exhibition for artists of all ages, lectures, and even concerts. Kids' classes foster creativity in a variety of media, ranging from weeklong camps for children aged 4?13, to intensive study for high-school students, to six-week guitar classes for kids as young as 6. Meanwhile, adults can enroll in painting classes or drop in for a wine and canvas class, wherein they're challenged to not drink from the paint-water cup.