Tuesday, August 4

travelogue: charleston, south carolina - part 2

Today I wanted to spotlight some of the fun places we visited on our trip to Charleston. The first place we went to see in the city was the South Carolina Aquarium - I'm a life science nerd at heart, and after some online research, it was first on my list of must-see attractions. I was especially excited about the new Madagascar exhibit which included one of my favorite animals - lemurs! Mr. Q and I may have been one of few childless couples at the aquarium, but I have to say I think we enjoyed it as much as any of the kids.

The South Carolina Aquarium is organized by ecosystems, beginning with those close to home for visitors from the Carolinas (and to we Virginians), the Mountain Forest and the Piedmont. The SC Aquarium isn't limited to fish or even just to aquatic creatures - in addition to the aforementioned lemurs, the Mountain Forest exhibit included a Bald Eagle rescued from Florida and river otters (who swam way too fast for me to get a picture!). The next exhibit, the Coastal Plain, featured a huge albino alligator and poisonous snakes.

One of the SC Aquarium's cool features is that many of the exhibits, like the woodland stream and Saltmarsh Aviary, include open tanks so that you can really see the animals from every angle. You can feed a manta ray while also watching birds and turtles.

The Coastal exhibit upstairs featured large tanks with beautiful animals including slightly-creepy lionfish, eels, sharks, and sea turtles. The two-story Ocean tank was probably my favorite exhibit because it included a 220-pound loggerhead sea turtle! Downstairs, there were tanks of jellyfish and animals that live at the bottom of the ocean.  In addition to the impressive tanks, the SC Aquarium offers two touch tanks - upstairs, there's an invertebrate tank with hermit crabs, anemones, and horseshoe crabs native to Carolina tidal pools. Downstairs on the terrace, there's a new exhibit called Shark Shallows that we were really excited about because it's a touch tank with stingrays, cownose rays, and little bonnethead sharks! It requires patience - especially when little kids are splashing in the water or trying to poke the sharks - but eventually we got to pet stingrays (slimy) and a shark (rubbery)!

Since the temperature was going to be under 90 on Saturday, our second full day in Charleston, we decided to make that our beach day. Each of the beaches around the city is said to have its own personality, and I was really interested in checking out Folly Beach, which has a reputation as the "bohemian" beach. On the drive toward Folly, it became clear that we weren't the only ones who thought a beach day was a good idea, and the parking lots around the pier and main strip at the beach were crowded and expensive. We drove away from the pier to find a metered space that wasn't too bad and staked our claim on a stretch of shore. There was plenty of people-watching at Folly Beach, from surfers to cute kiddos, but it was so windy that the ocean was almost too rough to swim. After fighting with the waves for a couple of hours, we decided to get a bite to eat, and since parking was so limited on Folly Beach we headed inland away from the touristy strip (although I'd love to check it out again during the off-season or on a weekday!)

Is it tacky to write about seafood in the same post as an aquarium review? I'm going to say no because the SC Aquarium actually works to educate the public about sustainable eating. We stopped at Roadside Seafood on Folly Road in John's Island, which is a non-touristy area right between the beach and the city. It's a cute, clean diner specializing in fried seafood which was exactly what we wanted. I decided to try she-crab soup since it is such a Charleston culinary staple, and was really impressed by how good Roadside's version was! I also got the crab bites, which are like crab cake hush puppies served with remoulade. Mr. Q got the black fin shark bites with BAM sauce. The service was fast, our waitress was friendly, and we felt like locals.

For my shopping outfit, I paired my favorite LOFT geo print henley 
shell (similarwith a handmade arrow and feather charm necklace, basic khaki shorts, my Old Navy bucket bag (similar) and BareTraps sandals (similar). 
I love having a mix and match wardrobe when traveling.

The low point of our Folly Beach adventure was the ocean stealing Mr. Q's sunglasses, but we decided to make lemonade with a trip to Tanger Outlets, which is probably the prettiest mall I've ever seen. I'm always happy with a shopping trip, especially when it includes stops at LOFT and J. Crew outlets and frozen yogurt afterward!

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