We made a full day of Patriots Point plus the boat ride out to Fort Sumter. It's very convenient to park once and take in both attractions. This is VERY close to Charleston -- right across the river, and about a 5 minute drive across the bridge. This really should be included when you do a TripAdvisor search of attractions in Charleston!
Anyway -- the self-guided tours of the aircraft carrier are well done. Most things are well-explained by the many signs along the walk. The medical and dental areas are interesting -- you can relate to being treated with all of this antique dental equipment! There is great access to the boiler room and engine room, but there were very few signs down there. Bring a Navy vet to explain stuff down there. The highlights for most people will be all of the great aircraft. There's an amazing variety -- from pre-WWII right up to the current day F18 Hornet. They show some old newsreel footage that is very interesting -- do that first to get a better idea about what really happened to the ship. With limited time, we skipped a couple of the self-guided routes, the flight simulator, and (regrettably) the Medal of Honor museum.
Price of admission includes the carrier, destroyer, submarine, and a 'Vietnam Supply Base'. The submarine was interesting, but FAR SMALLER than the carrier tour. There is one passage way, from bow to stern, with fewer explanatory signs to stop you. Still, it is fascinating to see how small the spaces were. We skipped the destroyer because we were pressed for time. We walked through the Vietnam Supply Base. That looks like a work-in-progress. There was very little signage, and the buildings are very light on interesting content.
Practicalities: Lots of steep stairs. Low overheads. Some of the tours won't be accessible to the handicapped. Bathrooms are fine. Lunch aboard the ship and in the entry area have the same menu -- very basic, high-fat, hot dogs, sausage, pretzels, popcorn, etc. About $9 per person, with drink. Stay away from the Pulled Pork Sandwich! My wife ordered that. It was hard to tell that it was actually pork. You can come back all day on the same ticket, so I would suggest that you leave the site and go to any of the restaurants that are very nearby.
Although very convenient, it is a little bit of a stretch to do both Patriots Point and Fort Sumter in one day.
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