Planning for your vacation sets the stage for getting the most out of your vacation, even if your plan is to be as lazy as you can be.
When my family vacations we tend to plan in two stages. The first stage is all about thinking ahead to: what will we need for the trip and what will we need when we get there. The second stage is all about what are we going to do when we get there (activities).
The Outer Banks offer a variety of Christmas activities throughout the month of December. Events range from nostalgic to whimsical, and are fun for the whole family. One of the best parts of spending Christmas in the Outer Banks is the ability to become a temporary local. Join in the holiday fun at traditional seaside celebrations, and you’ll truly feel that you’re part of the community.
Ready to head for the islands at Christmas? Here are some annual favorite holiday events the locals love:
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Holiday Climb
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the United States. Climbing the lighthouse when it’s open has become a rite of passage for Outer Banks guests. This year the lighthouse will be open for a self-guided winter climb from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, December 9. The lighthouse has 268 steps that span the 208 feet from foundation to light, but the panoramic views from the top of the lighthouse are unforgettable and well worth the effort. The climb is free, but climbers must be at least 42 inches tall, able to climb all steps on their own, and must be 16 or older or accompanied by an adult.
Make an Elizabethan Ornament
Stop over at the Roanoke Island Festival Park any Friday in December at 11 a.m. and learn to make a 16th century Elizabethan-style Christmas ornament. Roanoke Island settlers in period costume will help kids (and adults) of all ages make a lovely Christmas keepsake. This family-friendly activity is included in the price of park admission.
Manteo Christmas Tree Lighting
Take part in a long-standing family tradition as Manteo residents and visitors get together on the first Friday night in December for the Lighting of the Town Tree. This event takes place downtown on the Manteo Waterfront on Queen Elizabeth Street in front of the courthouse. The evening is festive and convivial, and the lighting is topped off with traditional Christmas carols and free hot chocolate for everyone.
Dare County Annual Holiday Small Works Show
From December 1 through January 10, the Dare County Arts Council hosts the Annual Holiday Small Works Show at the DCAC Gallery in downtown Manteo. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the art lover in your life, or for yourself, this event offers small original works of art created by local Outer Banks artists.
Winter Lights at Elizabeth Gardens
You don’t need much in the way of equipment — a rod and reel. The tackle shops in the Outer Banks sell rod and reel combinations so you don’t have to figure out the rod and reel separately. These combinations are sold in different weights and lengths. An eight to nine foot rod is the best size to buy.
When you’re surf fishing, make sure you have a sand pipe so you can put the end of the rod in it. This sand pipe can be a piece of PVC pipe stuck in the sand. You won’t want to put the rod in the sand because a reel can get ruined.
Depending upon the season, the bait will vary. The local tackle shops can help you figure out which bait you need. Whatever bait you buy, make sure you keep it in a cooler so it stays fresh. The fish bite better when the bait smells good and is fresh.
You might also want to have artificial lures to attract the fish. Some fish like a lure better than bait. Just make sure the lure is shiny and pick one that is heavy enough to cast out into the ocean and also make sure you have extras in case the fishing line breaks.
North Carolina Fishing License
A fishing license is required to surf fish. You can get that license through any of the tackle shops in the Outer Banks or through the N.C. Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website.
Beach Driving Permit
During the off-season, you can drive your four-wheel drive vehicle on the beach in a few places, such as Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Hatteras Island. You may need a permit to drive on the beach in some of these areas.
Best Place to Fish
The best place to surf fish in the Outer Banks is Cape Point. This point is where the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current come together. The Diamond Shoals are located off of Cape Hatteras and are sandbars that shift with the currents. You can find plenty of fish between the two currents and the Diamond Shoals.
Cape Point can be crowded with fishermen from all over. The most popular times are the months of September and October. You can catch such fish as sea mullets, trouts, mackerels, bluefish, and croakers.
Surf fishing is done at any time of the year in the Outer Banks. However, the best time is in the fall when the hot temperatures are gone and some of the fish are migrating during the off-season, providing plenty of fish to catch.
What I have put together is a list of what I believe to be the 5 most important tips you’ll ever need. With all the other tips out there, which can still be useful, I believe these are the core of a great vacation; the best vacation tips ever!
1. Turn Off The Devices!
Vacation is a great time for families to bond, but you can’t if everyone is glued to their smart phone, TV, tablets, and video games. Everyone is looking to escape on their vacation and sometimes these devices help, but make sure you set aside time every day to unplug.
Vacations are not made wonderful just by places you went. They’re made wonderful by the time spent with others. The laughs that were shared, the sand castles that were built together, the experiences that were shared (like someone catching their first fish), and the conversations that shared life.
One night you could have a board game night and pull out the old favorites. If your group is large have multiple games going at the same time. You could go to the beach, leaving your devices at the vacation rental. Try to spend at least 2 hours spending time together without the interruption of devices and you may walk away with a vacation with a family that feels more connected to each other.
2. Take Lots Of Photos.
While it may be fun to take photos to show off to your Facebook friend and Instagram followers don’t forget the take photos just for you. Vacations are an incredible time for making memories and one day you’ll enjoy looking back over these photos. They are the ultimate souvenir.
I’m not saying always have camera or phone out, ready to grab a shot. You want to create memories, but you don’t want to be a constant observer of your family’s memories without ever being a participant. Know when to be behind the camera and to put the camera down. While photos may be the ultimate souvenir, time spend together is more important.
- Take photos when you know you won’t be involved in what is happening, such as when the children are playing without the adults,
- Don’t pose too many of your pictures (although there’s nothing wrong with recreating a moment you barely missed).
- We you do pose be sure to get everyone tightly together. It looks more loving and it can be fun getting everyone to get closer to “look like you love each other.”
- Avoid using a flash. Just because it is dark doesn’t mean you can’t get great pictures that capture the moment. In low light situations a flash often breaks the mood and ends a moment.
Hire a pro for your family photos. While the cost may be $300-$700 it is well worth it to have professional photos of the family.
Don’t forget to share your vacation photos with us.
3. Compare Pricing.
#1 Mile High Hang Gliding
Kitty Hawk Kites has been providing hang gliding on the Outer Banks since 1974. They provide lessons for adults and children off the dunes of Jockey’s Ridge, but they also provide Tandem Hang Gliding on this Currituck mainland that tows you up to 1 mile in the sky (5,280 feet) giving you a bird’s eye view of the coastline above the Currituck Sound as you drift back down to the ground over a roughly 20 minute descent. This is certainly not for those with a fear of heights but it is the perfect unique experience for the adventurer at heart. The best part is this is also a “no experience needed” activities since you are strapped in with an expert to guides the glider for you.
#2 First Flight Adventure Park
First Flight Adventure Park is an aerial obstacle course that goes up to 50 feet high. The course is shaped to resemble outer bands of a hurricane, branching out from the central tower which resembles the eye of the Hurricane.
There are 6 courses total and each course consist of 7 obstacles, and it looks like more challenges are coming this year. The obstacles are designed around a maritime theme using ropes, cables, wood, barrels, stir-ups, a hammock and more. The higher up the central spiral staircase you go, the more difficult the obstacles become. At the end of each course there is a short zip back to the central tower. Have no fear, climbers will be in a harness and attached to a safety device while completing each obstacle, at all times. Climbers take the action into their own hands by choosing to go on easy, intermediate, or advanced courses.
Read about Bill Koebernick’s experience when the park first opened.
The most exciting and thrilling new water sport, kiteboarding, is guaranteed to get your heart pounding, yet it is easy enough for almost anyone to learn! Kiteboarding, or kite-surfing, a synergy of wind and water forces, takes harnessing the wind to the extreme! Learn to kiteboard at Kitty Hawk Kites under the guidance of an expert and certified instructors that have been leading the sport since its conception! It is the hottest new kite sport to sweep the world, and it thrives on pure adrenaline!
This is an aquatic jet pack provided by Kitty Hawk Kites. The rumor is most people can’t handle more than a 30 minute ride at a time due to feeling like you just went on a 30 minute sprint. While that may seem a little intimating, it is also a unique experience that’s hard for the adventurer-at-heart to pass up.
#5 Airplane Tour
To truly appreciate the Outer Banks it takes a unique perspective to this unique place. The Outer Banks is made up of some of the most diverse landscape found anywhere. From the air you can see this incredible area featuring shipwrecks, sand dunes, endless beaches, maritime forests, lighthouses and much, much more.
We highly recommend booking your tour through Above the Coast.
Soar above the water for breath taking views. Parasailing, also known as parakiting, has been around since the mid 80’s. On the Outer Banks you are attached to a parachute that is being towed by a boat anywhere from 600 ft. to 1,200 ft., for approximately 10 minutes.
If you’re staying in the more northern part of the Outer Banks (Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, etc.) you can use Nor’Banks Sailing or Kitty Hawk Kites. If you’re closer to Nags Head/Manteo then
Kitty Hawk Kites
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