Whether you’re a first timer to the Outer Banks or a seasoned pro, if you’re a mom like me, you’re always looking for what the local moms like to do with their kids when you’re on vacation-something you didn’t plan on. Sure the Outer Banks is alive with all sorts of watersports activities, biking, and sightseeing, but what do you do when you’ve had enough sun and are looking for something to keep your kids entertained? Here’s a little smattering of ideas from South to North that I thought you may want to have up your sleeve.
Head south of the Outlet Malls and you will find so many new fun things for your family to try. Roanoke Island Festival Park is centrally located in downtown Manteo, where you can enjoy some amazing ice cream, visit Charis Coffee Co. and enjoy some really great Mexican cuisine at Ortega’z. During the summer months, the park offers some great live entertainment shows geared for kids of all ages. Stories like Cinderella and Charlotte’s Web, redone with live actors (there is even a Bathtub Pirates show). It’s a quaint little theater and tickets are just $5 per show (children under 2 are free). Check out their schedule here. Don’t forget to take the interactive museum tour, and plan to tour The Elizabeth II while you’re there.
First Fridays street fair in Manteo is a great way to experience the local culture, arts and activities for kids, all beginning around 5 PM, with live music from 6-8 PM. You can visit the townofmanteo.com for more information. The Manteo Waterfront is also home to their Farmer’s Market, which takes place each Saturday morning- crafts, produce and treats, all in a beautiful, laid back setting.
Kids need to get some energy out and you’re ready to stay cool? Then you will want to check out Jumpmasters, the Outer Banks’ first trampoline park. Jumping activities for toddlers on up-including toddler time, open jump and even dodgeball. An air-conditioned answer to mom’s prayers.
When you’re heading back from Manteo, be sure to check out my kids’ favorite toy store, Pirates & Pixies! They have 2 locations, one at Whalebone Junction (where you turn south to head to Hatteras Island) and one in Nags Head, next to Tropical Smoothie (our other favorite go-to before dance class). Sara and company have mastered the art of hands-on shopping, with an ever-changing environment of the sweetest toy offerings- and so many things that are fun for boys too! You can check them out on Facebook and also on their website.
Have you been to Nags Head lately? Then you already know about Dowdy Park. If you haven’t, then you need to check it out. A great wide open space for kids to play and for adults to relax. They even have a local Farmer’s Market the second Thursday of each month from 9 AM to 2 PM, complete with local artists. A fantastic way to wear them out and enjoy some shopping.
No visit to Nags Head is complete without a stop to Surfin Spoon, a local fro-yo hangout run by professional surfer Jesse and his wife Whitney. This homey little frozen yogurt bar offers something for everyone, even allergen friendly ice cream sandwiches and popsicles. The vibe inside will give everyone time to chill. Don’t forget to peek around the side and take a cute picture of them with the Surfin Spoon photo prop! Oh, and make sure you check out Seagreen Art Gallery next door! A must! (Side note just because we love it- Red Drum Taphouse next to Surfin Spoon is a great family friendly restaurant with something for everyone and reasonable prices).
KILL DEVIL HILLS:
Now you’re surrounded by locals! This is one of the towns where a lot of local activity happens. If your kids have had enough swimming (is that possible?) and still have energy to burn, consider visiting our local Recreation Park (located near our library). Coastal Soccer School offers daily soccer camp with drop-ins welcome. Ages beginner to advanced from 5 years up. You can pay by the day (just $10 for 1.5 hours or $15 for all 3) or by the week-they give you a little break for siblings too. This is a great way to grab some breakfast with your hubby or have a little girls’ shopping time, while the kids are getting worn out. And you will LOVE the coaches. It’s run by Coach Steve, one of our school PE coaches and Director of Coaching for the OBX Storm travel soccer league. He and his son Graham are amazing with the kiddos-and boy, do the kids love them! Visit them at www.obxsoccer.com and check out all their camps (they even have a multi-sport camp). A great way to have a trusted sitter without knowing anyone on the beach!
Speaking of the Library, our Story Time go to is Mrs. Donna and she has a packed calendar of events for kids in July and August, with visits from magicians, the aquarium, rocks & fossils, scavenger hunts, art & STEM activities and visits from the Lost Colony. She offers programs for kids ages 2 and up. She is a Theater major and has such a great way of interacting with the kids. She has special programs for tweens/teens too! Check it all out here.
The Outer Banks Brewing Station is bringing back their Brew & Arts Mondays throughout the summer. Beginning at 5:30 PM, they have live music, local art & great food! Their big fenced in back yard, complete with pirate ship for the kids to climb on is a relaxing way to end the day with something cool to drink and something for everyone to do- shop, eat, chill- all while the kids run around and play.
While you’re still in locals’ territory, be sure not to miss Mom’s Sweet Shop– your kids will thank you and you may even enjoy a yummy acai bowl, or one of the best milkshakes or smoothies on the beach. (And for goodness sake, take a few truffles home for later). Mom’s is a great little shop with a fun vintage vibe. Jars of candy, wonderful little pots of lip balms, jewelry, skate boards and so much more. Not to mention, Tarheel Too, our locals’ favorite produce stand is in the same parking lot, so you won’t leave feeling too guilty. Mr. Ed is our go to for avoiding the store on weekends!
Do you have some creative little ones in your family, or are you looking for a way to spend some one on one time with one of your kiddos? Then you must learn about Mrs. Morgan (she should be a Ms., because she is so young and vibrant!), our kids’ favorite art teacher. And Morgan doesn’t just teach “art,” she does a lot of mixed media classes, sewing, dollhouse creation and activities that she makes sure the boys in your crew can join in on. Morgan runs Little Wildflowers Art Studio. She has a True Colors empowerment camp for girls ages 9-12 the week of July 16th, a doll/treehouse camp for boys & girls ages 5 and up the week of August 6th, a unicorns/fairies/mermaids camp ages 5-10 July 9th-11th, and an ocean art camp July 30th & 31st. for an adult/child combo (geared towards kids ages 3-5). You can find her art studio on Facebook or reach her at (252) 207-6914. Your kids will LOVE her! Promise! An added bonus-Outer Bean Cafe, the little coffee/juice bar next door is a great place to act local!
You may already know, but Scarborough Faire is a great little collection of shops to mill around during your vacation. If you’re looking for a place where the kids can find something fun to do for an afternoon, then check them out on Wednesdays for their “Faire Days Festival,” from 1-5 pm from June through the end of August. Kids will enjoy face painting, crafts (think spin art and sun catchers), a magician and even bouncing activities. Our local Children at Play Children’s Museum will even have their Gem Mining activities on hand. Moms & Dads will love the live music while you enjoy food, wine and a little shopping.
The Town of Duck. What’s more to say? They have really turned the green park space into a hubbub of Duck activity. You’ll find the Children’s Interactive Theater (with visitors from the NC Aquarium and the Lost Colony) every Tuesday morning from June-August 7th, a Family Magician on Wednesday mornings from June 20-August 15th, a Hula Hoop & Play Session Thursday mornings from June 21-August 16th, and Story Time Friday mornings from July 6th-September 7th. Families, don’t miss the activity on Thursday evenings when the town comes alive with Concerts on the Green. Visit the town website for all the details. It’s such a beautiful piece of our paradise to bring the whole family to!
If you’re staying in Corolla, you know that you’re at the end of the beaten path so to speak, but there are plenty of things to do. Local Color, located just at the entrance to the Currituck Club, offers painting parties for all ages and skill levels-you can even bring whatever you’d like to snack on or drink while you create. Check out their classes at localcolorobx.com and walk away with something fun to hang on your walls to remember your vacation.
Michael’s Gems & Glass is a little shop in Timbuck II with findings like stones, marbles, jewelry and geodes. A fun place for small hands to explore and take a beach treasure home.
If you’re interested in activity, then you know that the Currituck Lighthouse offers a 220 step workout, rewarded by an unmatched panoramic view of the Currituck Sound, Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Outer Banks. If you’re on the adventurous side, then you’ll want to take the older kids to Corolla Adventure Park, located just ½ mile north of the lighthouse. This obstacle and climbing course offers something exciting for kids ages 4 and up. You can book online as well.
Once you’ve visited the Outer Banks, you know that we have a special place in our hearts for the wild horses. One of the most memorable activities is to pile the whole family into one of their 4 wheel drive vehicles and head out for a sightseeing spectacle! It goes without saying that you’ll want to bring the good camera-these horse tours are unmatched. Check out Corolla Outback Adventures.
It goes with out saying that most kids want to learn how to surf when they visit the beach. Check out IslandRevolution.com where you can reserve your time slot for a ‘rad’ surf lesson with a certified instructor- all skill levels are welcome! Oh, and of course you’ll need to visit a local surf shop, right? Well, Island Revolution, located just across from the entrance to the Whalehead Club (by the Currituck Lighthouse)-has everything they could dream of, from surf and skate boards to Sun Bum and Sanuk. This Corolla surf shop has a great selection of clothes and jewelry for mom too! Go see Stella and she will fill your dressing room with a relaxed style all your own. She’s a hoot!
Maybe Mom had too much fun shopping for herself at Island Revolution? Not to worry, just turn right out the front door and visit our friends at Flying Smiles Kites. No visit to the Outer Banks is complete without a kite…right? Cath and Eliot are super knowledgeable and just LOVE to interact with the kids. We left with not one, but 3 harmonicas during our last trip. Stimulating brain games and puzzles, fun souvenirs and of course, kites! Don’t miss it!
What to eat after a long day? This is a super fun break for mom! Outer Banks Boil Company will bring the most amazing meal and steam it right at your house! Complete with tablecloths and clean up service, this is an experience the kids will love! Check out their website because you’ll want to reserve your day ahead of time.
If you happen to be coming to the Outer Banks the week of June 23rd, then you will definitely not want to miss an amazing Waterfront Concert with TobyMac! General admission tickets are just $25 and kids 3 and under are free. IF you have a group of 20 or more, your tickets are just $ 20! Make sure you snag your tickets in advance at hisgen.org because all ticket prices increase at the door. There will be a multitude of amazing food vendors (think fish tacos!) and a beautiful wide open green space for the kids to play on. One of our favorite non-profits, His Generation, brings events like these to the Outer Banks every June, so go ahead and follow them on Facebook.
Okay okay, this goes without saying, but make sure you capture some truly unique family photos during your stay. There are some talented photographers here on the Outer Banks, and with so many great backdrops, you’ll have your Christmas card photo covered. Dad friend, Nathan Lawrenson has such a tender spirit and is amazing with children. Eric Murrill has an incredible gift for the scenic Outer Banks, and mom friend, Elizabeth Neal has a beautiful artistic eye. Whatever you do Mom, make sure you’re in at least one photo!
I hope you’ve enjoyed a litle smattering of things we like do amidst in-season ‘busy’ life on the Northern Outer Banks. We would love to hear what new things you tried during your visit and what your kids loved the most!
Life’s a little sweeter by the sea!