A mild spring afternoon is not only a grand opportunity to stop and sniff Charleston’s flowers. There’s a harbor at the Holy City’s core that also emits pleasant fragrances—those of the Cooper and Ashley rivers meeting ocean saltwater. Both visitors and locals can easily enjoy spring by sticking close to the harbor to revel in weather and water, yet jaunt a block or two to the culinary, marketplace and attractions wonders that abound in the lower peninsula.
Get acclimated to the water quickly with a walk along the Battery, where dolphins can be spotted on occasion. Head down East Bay Street, along Rainbow Row, stopping at Bakehouse to treat that java/pastry fix. Or take your breakfast to Waterfront Park to watch harbor activity from the swings.
Insider Tips: To see the harbor from the water's point of view and get additional chances to see dolphins, hop aboard the Charleston Water Taxi. (It operates only on Saturdays during the winter but resumes daily service March 13.) Other possible spots to grab a quick breakfast near the harbor include The Press at The Vendue Inn or, if starting your day a few blocks farther inland, the Bull Street Gourmet and Market at its King Street or newer Meeting Street locations.
Wind your way through the renovated City Market to find such Holy City essentials as sweetgrass baskets or stone-ground grits. Hop aboard an Old South Carriage ride through charming neighborhoods, or hail a pedicab to see the sea life and animals that call the South Carolina Aquarium home.
Should it be chilly during your day in the Holy City, you can warm up quickly at the aquarium's “Madagascar Journey” exhibit, which is home to ring-tailed lemurs, geckos, chameleons, a Nile crocodile, white spotted bamboo sharks and “Minigascar,” a play area for toddlers. And there are several other aquarium exhibits to explore, including the Great Ocean Tank and all of its creatures, plus sea turtle hospital tours and a 4-D theater with movies. Daily, 9 am-4 pm (5 pm March-August). Tickets from $17.95 (children). 100 Aquarium Wharf, 843.577.FISH
Time to hit the city’s not-to-be-missed culinary scene. Try Blossom, where a new chilled-seafood section of the menu delivers East Coast oysters, yellowfin tuna carpaccio (pictured below), peel-and-eat shrimp and lobster rolls. Under chef Adam Close, Blossom also has updated its lunch/ brunch menu to honor local ingredients. Try buttermilk fried oysters with grilled cornbread and tasso gravy as a starter, portobello mushroom and gouda soup or a Waldorf salad as a second course, seafood chowder with "today's fish" as a small plate and sage- and Parmesan-encrusted pork loin with sweet-potato gratin as an entrée.
Insider Tip: In town for Sunday brunch? Watch as Blossom rolls out such delights as pecan sticky buns, buttermilk and cracked-pepper biscuits, cornmeal-fried catfish, pecan wood-smoked brisket, and chicken and waffles.