Patriots Point Charleston SC was established in the 1970s as a naval and maritime museum with the World War II aircraft carrier, USS YORKTOWN as its centerpiece. Today it serves as a “national destination of excellence for the preservation and education of current and future generations about America’s history, traditions and values.” Here you can experience the inner workings of an aircraft carrier, battleship, submarine, as well as immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Vietnam War.
If you find yourself in Charleston, South Carolina, this is one of the very best places to visit. For more information on all the things to do, see, eat, and experience in Charleston SC, be sure to read our Complete Guide to Charleston.
Address: 40 Patriots Point Rd, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Admission: Adults (12 and up) $27; Child (6-11) $16; Seniors (62+) / Active Duty $19; Veterans / 1st Responder / Teacher $21
Featured Exhibits: USS Yorktown II. USS LAFFEY Destroyer. USS CLAMAGORE Submarine. The Vietnam Experience.
The Patriots Point Charleston SC experience is a half-day to a full-day experience. The highlights of the park are the Yorktown II Aircraft Carrier and the Vietnam Experience. Plan on setting aside 2-4 hours for each exhibit.
The battleship and submarine could take anywhere from a few minutes — battleships can lose their impressiveness when stacked next to an aircraft carrier — to an hour or two.
You can spend time in the gift shop, take a guided tour of the Yorktown II (including airplanes on the flight deck), and peruse the Medal of Honor Museum.
Start your Vietnam Experience with the sounds of helicopters swarming your mind. Explore bunkers, gun towers, commissaries, bunk houses, and hospital tents. Everything looks, sounds and feels real.
Climb in the helicopters and stand beside the massive tanks. Grab hold of a large machine gun and hear a hundred imaginary rounds pop off.
My friend took her Vietnam Veteran father here. He said it was like being transported back in time, and he hadn’t felt those feelings in 50 years. She had never seen that look on his face before.
Next, climb in a storage container and watch a jungle ambush video simulation. Hear the rounds whiz past your head. See your tracer rounds disappear in the dark. Watch your battle buddy collapse. Experience a hellcharge of gunfire before the jungle goes silent. Is it over? Are they all dead?
In the corner of the Khe Sahn exhibit a room is showing incredible footage of this infamous battle during the Tet Offensive. Watch documentary film of soldiers flown into the war zone. See their faces moments before they drop into a living hell. Hear their final words above an inferno of bloodshed.
The footage is shocking. I can’t imagine enduring this sort of onslaught.
The Vietnam Experience is one-of-a-kind.
The United States built 24 aircraft carriers during WWII. The fifth assembled, the USS Yorktown, was sunk at the battle of Midway in 1942. Shortly afterward, the previously titled Bon Homme Richard, the 10th carrier constructed, was renamed the USS Yorktown in honor of its predecessor and placed in battle the following year. This Yorktown II would receive the Presidential Unit Citation and earn 11 battle stars for service in World War II.
In the 1950s, the USS Yorktown II was modernized to operate jet aircraft as an attack carrier (CVA). In 1957, she was re-designated an anti-submarine aircraft carrier (CVS), and would later earn 5 battle stars for service off Vietnam (1965-68). The ship also recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule (December 1968). The Yorktown II was decommissioned in 1970 and placed in reserve.
In 1975, this historic ship was towed from Bayonne, NJ to Patriots Point Charleston SC to become the centerpiece of the Naval & Maritime Museum.
The Main Deck of the USS Yorktown II is a museum of wartime relics. Some of the most famous planes are the TF-9J COUGAR, TBM AVENGER, SBD DAUNTLESS (above), FG-1D CORSAIR, AD-4N SKYRAIDER, and F6F HELLCAT.
Apollo 8, which launched on December 21, 1968, was the first mission to take humans to the Moon and back. The escape capsule from this mission is found at the far end of the flight deck, directly beside the open bay view of downtown Charleston. You can climb inside the capsule (I can’t imagine traveling very far in this limited space).
Beside the help desk (directly ahead as you enter) you will find the Medal of Honor Museum and a flight simulator.
Be sure to stop at the help desk to learn about the available tours. There are a series of self-guided ship tours, as well as guided tours. We chose the self-guided tour and found it satisfying.
For some the flight deck will be the highlight of their visit to Patriots Point Charleston SC. It is a thrilling sensation to stand atop a ship this size, the deck measuring over 890′ long, standing 10-stories above the waterline. And the view just couldn’t be better.
The deck is decorated with some incredible aircrafts, which are listed in no particular order:
The self-guided tour eventually leads patrons to the flight deck.
The aircraft carrier is literally a military base on water. In addition to all methods of surveillance and warfare, every component of domestic life has a place on the ship as well. You will find kitchens and dining rooms, laundry rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, medical quarters, and an assortment of engine rooms all along the winding metal hallways of the Yorktown II.
Touring the interior of the ship is interesting. Arrows along the floor will direct you up and down ladders, from one end of the ship to the other. Eventually you will be lead to the captains roost where you will put your commandeering skills to the test.
The USS LAFFEY (DD-724) is the most decorated World War II era US Destroyer still in existence. The DD-724 was named in honor of LAFFEY (DD-459), sunk during the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal (13 November 1942).
The only GUPPY III submarine preserved in the U.S., the USS CLAMAGORE (SS-343) is Patriots Point iconic Cold War submarine. When we visited in Spring 2022 the Clamagore was not open for visitation.
You have a lot of choices for entertainment in Charleston. You can stroll The Battery and Downtown (link), ogle a plantation (link), walk the beach, and eat a handful of tasty meals (link) over a weekend. In our opinion, Patriots Point Charleston SC is the next best thing in town.
Of all the military museums and battlefields we’ve visited in the USA, Patriots Point is up there with Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor. The Vietnam Experience is worth the price of admission alone. If you’re in Charleston, South Carolina and you have the time or interest, we would strongly recommend spending a half-day at this amazing place.
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