If you’re looking for a special way to spend Christmas this year, the Outer Banks is a magical place to make Christmas memories. The weather is temperate, with average highs of 55 degrees and lows of 37 degrees, so there’s just enough chill in the air to let you know the holidays have arrived. Beach rentals are a great value, and there are no crowds or traffic to interrupt your tranquility.
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
Most evenings in December you can enjoy a lighted stroll through the beautiful Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo. The gardens will be decorated for the holiday season, and visitors will enjoy music, lights, and an open-air fire on the Great Lawn. Adult tickets are $11; youth 6 to 17 are $9; and children 5 and under are $6.
Poulos Family Christmas Lights
No visit to the Outer Banks at Christmas would be complete without a pilgrimage to see the Poulos Family Christmas Lights. Every year the Poulos family, long-time residents of Kill Devil Hills, spend 12 weeks setting up an enormous holiday lights display outside their home. After the sun goes down, thousands of visitors stop by to marvel at this delightful island tradition. There are so many lights that the family’s energy bill in December is typically over $3,500.
You can see the “Outer Banks Christmas House” display now through December 31. The home is just outside the entrance to Nags Head Woods — you can’t miss it.
Shoppers will find great deals during December in the Outer Banks. Many shops drastically reduce prices on 2017 stock as they prepare to close down until spring.
December is an excellent time to visit the Outer Banks. People who spend the holidays on the Outer Banks claim that there’s no more peaceful or relaxing way to spend quality time together. Not only are there plenty of holiday events to enjoy, the serenity of the barrier islands is the perfect place to spend quiet time with friends and family.