The 2014 Outer Banks Wedding Expo came and went over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. It’s a popular event because destination weddings have become such a large part of the Outer Banks scene. Actually, it’s not just weddings any more. Increasingly local businesses that started in the wedding business are branching out to include event planning for large family reunions, team building seminars and corporate retreats. The real story here is what keeps bringing couples, families and businesses to our area, but first a few highlights about this year’s expo.
The Wedding Expo is fun . . . especially if you’re not getting married, with two days of meetings and important decisions hanging in the balance. But judging from the smiling attendees, I imagine even the couples and families in this position find the event enjoyable.
The first thing to know about the Wedding Expo is that it’s possible to eat yourself into oblivion at this show. Events are a large business segment for area caterers and restaurants, so they pull out all the stops. Personally, I can’t point to any particular restaurant that served anything besides excellent fare. It is clear that everyone knows how to cook southern barbecue, and there is not a bad way to prepare shrimp and grits. I will say the duck comfit from the Sea Ranch stood out simply because it was so different, and Steve Mace from the Good Life in Kitty Hawk created an amazingly colorful display with fresh fruit and vegetables on skewers.
Good eating aside, the Expo is about matching couples planning weddings with the vendors and services they will need. With approximately 180 vendors spread across two showrooms in First Flight High School and First Flight Middle School, there was a lot of walking and information gathering.
Talking to these local vendors, an extraordinary diversity of life experience and expertise unfolds. These are creative people with a strong vision of what’s possible in our unique coastal environment. When the Outer Banks first emerged as a wedding destination, the initial businesses formed an organization to market the area as a premiere coastal wedding destination. That organization, the Outer Banks Wedding Association, is the group that sponsors the annual Wedding Expos.
As the market has evolved to include business events, videographers have become a part of the mix. And as the need for large yet intimate settings emerged, property management companies worked with homeowners and contractors to design and build event homes to comfortably accommodate larger groups.
None of this would have happened if the popularity of the Outer Banks as an event destination was not so strong. This is due in part to our central location. About 25% of the United States population is located within a day’s drive. Ultimately, though, what the Outer Banks offers is an extraordinary array of beauty, from exquisite sunsets on any of the sounds to the romance of a beach wedding. These are, in fact, the exact qualities that make families and couples return to the Outer Banks year after year.
Over a month ago I received an email from a local community college, College of the Albemarle (COA), asking me about the process for printing a magazine. COA, it seems, has a very active English Department, and the students and teachers had printed a magazine of their work last year and were hoping to do so again.
After a series of emails with a student, we agreed to meet at Outer Bank’s Juice and Java in Kitty Hawk. In our emails, it was apparent the student’s name was not typical of American or English culture, but the well written emails were from someone in command of the English language so I didn’t think much of it. In meeting her, it was clear that she hailed from an Eastern European nation, and I asked where she was from. Moscow, as it turns out . . . actually a suburb of Moscow.
It struck me how remarkable it was to be having coffee with a student from Russia in a business owned by Gary and Necla Rader, since Necla, who became a U.S. citizen about four years ago, is from Turkey and the young lady helping in the coffee shop that day was from the Ukraine.
It should not be surprising, because like the rest of the country, the Outer Banks is quintessentially American in its fascinating mix of thoughts, ideals and people. During the busy summer months, exchange students from around the world come here to work for three to four months.
I find it remarkable talking to these kids and getting their observations on life in America. Typically they describe Americans as friendly, outgoing and inquisitive. Of course, they are seeing families at their relaxed best since they’re on vacation, but the consistency of the observation seems at odds with how we often see ourselves – and there may be a lesson in that.
The range of countries that these kids come from is quite varied. The majority are Eastern European, although there are always a few kids from Turkey tossed into the mix and occasionally a student from France or England will arrive. This past summer I had a chance to talk to a young lady from Mongolia–who may have been one of the most intelligent and adaptive people I’ve ever met.
It’s interesting, though, how many of these kids go back to their native countries and then come back to the Outer Banks as a student. We don’t typically think of a community college as an educational draw, but for a few dozen kids every year, that seems to be the case.
The resounding reason for their return is the range of opportunity available to them. I remember talking to a young woman from Moldova who told me in her country she was studying to be an electric engineer because that was where her best opportunity was to secure a good paying job. She didn’t particularly care for the subject, so it was a relief for her to study in America, where she saw so many more opportunities ahead of her.
Endless Possibilities is located on Budleigh Street, just a bit up from the waterfront. It’s hard to miss. Two huge picture windows shine light into a store that is filled with color, looms and weavers.
The space, though, is more than a store with unique merchandise and a different look. It was created around the concept that scraps of material could be woven into something new and something that would create the possibility of hope. The proceeds for the sale of these rewoven handbags, rag carpets and hats are given to Outer Banks Hotline to rebuild lives damaged and in crisis.
Outer Banks Hotline is a human services organization that provides crisis intervention, temporary shelter, advocacy and education services to women and children who are victims of domestic violence, with a goal of promoting a safe and compassionate society.
In 2002, Rabiah Hodges was teaching a weaving class in downtown Manteo. At the time the Outer Banks Hotline store was located next door to her studio. As she readied her merchandise for sale, she noticed there were lots of material scraps at Hotline that could not be sold. She knew once these scraps were cleaned, they could be woven into something new. The scraps became something new, and that something new was sold with proceeds given to Outer Banks Hotline.
The Manteo Hotline store has since relocated. As a matter of fact, there are now four stores from Rodanthe to Kitty Hawk. Rabiah is now the owner of Chameleon Clogs in Nags Head, but Endless Possibilities is still a part of downtown Manteo and generates almost $100,000 every year for the Outer Banks Hotline.
As a quick side note–Chameleon Clogs is very much worth a visit. This shop showcases a lot of creative skill and technique to create each pair, and Rabiah is a lot of fun to meet.
At Endless Possibilities, weaving classes are still offered. As they point out on their website, the basics of weaving are easy to master and weaving on a loom seems to have a calming, therapeutic quality.
The recreated product is still sold for the benefit of Outer Banks Hotline, but the store has become more than a place to buy a handbag or take a class. Step inside and it’s apparent it is a unique gathering place, a place of sanctuary from a world racing outside their doors.
Most activities are unannounced, spontaneous; on First Fridays a drumming circle often forms inside the store; or women gather to exchange the latest news about Outer Banks happenings. It seems this is a place to feel safe and rested–a place to come, take a deep breath and remember the possibilities of the world.
In the Outer Banks, the spring and summer seasons are the perfect time to partake in some adventurous and exciting water sports. There’s plenty of variety when it comes to choosing your adventure. Whether you’re new to water sports or you think that you live on the water, there is something for everyone in the Outer Banks. There are a ton of places around the area where anyone from nervous beginners to seasoned experts can have a good time. While you’re staying in one of our Outer Banks rentals, take advantage of the perfect weather and spend some quality time out there on the sound or on the ocean.
Kayaking- Whether you want to do a bit of paddling around the sound or the ocean, you’re guaranteed to find some great sights and get a fantastic arm and core workout while you’re at it! Rent a kayak and venture out with a friend (after reviewing all safety procedures of course) or take a guided eco- tour through some of the wildlife refuges in the OBX! No experience necessary! Try Coastal Kayak Touring Company or Kitty Hawk Kayaks. Duck Village Outfitters is one of my personal favorites.
Surfing- One of the most popular recreational activities in the OBX, surfing can be a great workout and stress reliever. Take a lesson with one of our experienced and passionate local surf gurus, or rent out a board and take to the waves yourself. Either way, you’ll soon become addicted to this awesome water sport. Surfs up! Check out Corolla Surf Shop for a lesson and all of your equipment and board rental needs.
Parasailing- For a view of the Outer Banks that can’t be beat, take a chance and soar above the sound while parasailing. The bird’s eye view from a couple hundred feet will take your breath away. Dramatic views from the sound to the ocean capture the beauty and vulnerability of the area. In Nags Head, turn to OBX Water Works. With 20 years of experience, Captain Bruce is U.S.C.G. licensed and has the largest boat on the beach. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Wind Surfing- Try your hand at one of the most thrilling of all watersports that combines the best of the surfing and sailing worlds. Never been before? No worries. Kitty Hawk Water Sports gives safe and affordable lessons to complete beginners as well!
Kite boarding – Let the wind carry you over rippling waves! Kite boarding is another choice for those bold and daring adventure-seekers. Outer Banks Kiting and Real Watersports in Cape Hatteras have several fun lessons and camps geared towards getting you out there and kite boarding with the best of ‘em
Jet Skiing- Speed across the water on your own personal jet ski. In Corolla, rent a wave runner at Corolla Water Sports and cruise around the sound. Planning a family outing? Ride single, double or triple and have fun speeding over the waves together. Be prepared to get wet!
Diving- Take a class and learn how to dive. Or, build upon your existing diving experience. Feeling daring? Explore one of frequently visited wrecks of the Outer Banks. Take a class and learn more about diving with Outer Banks Dive Center in Nags Head.
Wakeboarding/Water Skiing – Skim over the water with a wakeboard, water skis, or tube. Whether you are a beginner or you are a die hard water sports enthusiast, OBX Wakeboard and Waterski in Kitty Hawk will have the boats and equipment that you need!
We don’t expect you to stay inside our Outer Banks rental during your entire vacation, so get out there and get some wind in your hair, sun in your eyes and sand between your toes this vacation. If all this has got you thinking you need a vacation, check out some of our fantastic rentals here.
It’s true that some of our guests arrive on the Outer Banks and are ready for adventure, but many others arrive, unpack and spend their time strolling between their vacation home and our beautiful beaches. Relaxation is their focus and they arrive with no other agenda. If you fall into this category, we offer these suggestions to make the most of your respite.
Escape with a Good Book - Whether you’re an avid reader, or someone who enjoys a good book without the much leisure time, we suggest you pack one or two for your trip. For those who feel out of the loop, here are sites that offer best seller lists with popular options: http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/, http://www.amazon.com/best-sellers-books-Amazon/zgbs/books and http://books.usatoday.com/list/index.
Music Soothes the Soul – Music and the beach are the perfect combination. Remember to pack your favorite CDs or purchase a couple by favorite artists already on your wish list. Bring your ipod or create a great Spotify play list loaded with favorites. Whether relaxing poolside, sipping a beverage from breezy decks or preparing a gourmet meal, a background of inspiring music enhances every experience.
Inspiring Meals – For those who love to cook, preparing creative meals is a relaxing outlet with grateful beneficiaries! If cooking is your form of relaxation, plan ahead by packing a few of your favorite recipes to prepare during your stay. Or, purchase the latest version of the Outer Banks Cookbook and try some local recipes at http://obxcookbook.com/. Fresh seafood, locally grown produce and select cuts of meat are readily available at Outer Banks grocery stores and produce stands.
Friendly Competition – The perfect rainy day activity always includes a deck of cards. Whether you appreciate a quiet game of solitaire or a rambling poker game, remember to include a deck of cards on your packing list. Specialty decks of Uno and Phase 10 are inexpensive and provide exhilarating interaction between parents and children. Popular card games for younger travelers are Old Maid, Go Fish, Spoons, Slapjack or War. Other easy-to-pack games of skill include Pick-up Sticks, A Barrel of Monkeys and Jacks.
Popcorn and Movies – A favorite pastime, movie-watching after a day at the beach is an ideal way to relax. Whether you enjoy Hollywood productions, independent films or documentaries, your vacation allows for time to catch a new film or revisit an old favorite. Many homes provide video libraries, or you can pack a few family favorites to bring along. Winding down with a good movie and your favorite popcorn provide a fulfilling end to a perfect day.
People stay at our charming Outer Banks rentals for more than just one reason. They know that our Outer Banks rentals are beautiful, luxurious and packed with all the amenities that you’d need for a vacation home away from home. However, visitors also choose to rent from us because of the fantastic location! Whether you’re looking for a place to bring the entire family, the perfect spot for a romantic getaway, or a weekender spot for friends to reunite, the Outer Banks is a favorite vacation haven for people across the nation and all over the world.
There are many reasons why visitors and residents fall in love with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For example, most people who come here already know about the natural beauty of Jockey’s Ridge in Nags Head or the historic Lost Colony in Manteo. They also know that they should visit the grandiose Cape Hatteras lighthouse and take the time to witness the wild freedom of the horses in Corolla. However, there are tons of places that aren’t as well known—places that tourists might not know about! Luckily for you, we’re going to share some of these hidden gems with you. What are some of the Outer Banks “hidden treasures” that visitors should check out while staying in their Outer Banks rentals?
The Island Farm in Manteo Visit a living history site that interprets daily life on Roanoke Island in the mid-1800s and spend the day immersed in the island’s rich history. There you can find the Etheridge farmstead, which is the oldest period restoration of a house on Roanoke Island. There are almost a dozen buildings to explore, such as the farmhouse, a reconstructed slave cabin, outhouse, cookhouse, smokehouse, dairy, barns, chicken coop, blacksmith shop and more. Kids will be delighted to see the chickens that roam freely on the grounds, as well as the sheep, ponies, an ox and a cow.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Maritime Museum At this Hatteras museum, come find out why the coasts of the Outer Banks have been nicknamed “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.” The museum is one of the finest, most innovative maritime facilities in the nation. Stop by to hear the chilling stories of the several historical shipwrecks that have dotted our coasts, and try to solve the mystery of the Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals.
Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve- Because these woods are shielded from ocean winds by the sandy dunes, the Nags Head Woods feature a diversity of plant and animal life that is quite unusual to find on a barrier island. Bird lovers will be amazed that over 100 species of birds have been seen in these woods, and nature lovers will appreciate the grandeur of the oaks, hickories and beech trees; some of which are hundreds of years old. Keep your eyes out for 15 species of amphibians and 28 species of reptiles. Make sure that you don’t leave your camera behind at one of our Outer banks rentals- you’ll want to capture every detail of this outing.
North Carolina Roanoke Island Aquarium Tucked away in small town Manteo is the Roanoke Island Aquarium which boasts the largest collection of sharks in the state! Bring along the whole family and spend the entire day interacting with scuba divers, touching an alligator and feeding the sting rays. There’s always something new to see and do here, so it’s a good idea to plan your visit ahead of time before staying at one of our Outer Banks rentals.
It’s always a treat to happen upon one of the less-popular locales or hidden spots of the Outer Banks. There are many more treasured spots left for you to discover while staying in one of our Outer Banks rentals. A good way to find out about other hidden gems is to keep posted on our blog often and we’ll update you with the locals’ favorite (and secret!) places as well as other fun activities in the OBX that you may not have heard about yet. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding things to do while staying in one of our spacious Outer Banks rentals—that is, unless you’re simply having trouble deciding which ones to pick!
The Outer Banks has a remarkably active arts community, and the evidence is everywhere. There are the innumerable galleries–all of them with unique art, amazing musicians and the Icarus horses — dating from the 100th Anniversary of Flight — that seem to pop up in the most surprising places. It’s also true that art can also be found in some of the most unlikely places. So we thought it would be fun to take a day trip to explore some of those “unlikely places” on the northern Outer Banks.
NORTH CAROLINA AQUARIUM, 374 Airport Rd, Manteo (252) 473-3494: Just across from the gift shop at the Aquarium is a rotating exhibit of art depicting nature. Kitty Dough, who is the Media Technician at the Roanoke Island Aquarium, who is an amazing artist in her own right is the curator for the exhibitions and her knowledge of local artists has created some truly wonderful art shows. Although the art exhibit is a great reason to stop by, the Aquarium itself is worth a visit.
NAGS HEAD TOWN HALL, Town Hall Road, Nags Head: Since 1997 the Nags Head Town Council has been supporting local and regional artists through the purchase of art. As a result, the town has one of the largest art collections on the Outer Banks. Works of art are hung throughout the municipal buildings, which are located between the Beach Road and Bypass, right across from the fire station. A self guided tour brochure is available on the second floor of the municipal building.
BAD BEAN AND BAJA GRILL, Seagate North Shopping Plaza, Kill Devil Hills (252) 261-1300: Chef and owner, Rob Robertson, is a classically trained chef with a penchant for California/Mexican cuisine. That alone is a great reason to stop in, but another reason for visiting is the artwork on the walls. A Ben Morris mural fills the dining room wall, showcasing his linear interpretation of waves. There is art everywhere, but the real pièce de résistance is the 8’ hand-carved shrimp on the wall across from the bar. Created by Callie Pruitt, one of the bartenders, it is a wonderful piece of art.
HOLY REDEEMER CATHOLIC CHURCH, 301 W Kitty Hawk Rd Kitty Hawk (252) 261-4700: This may be the highlight of the tour. Glenn Eure is a remarkable artist with a penchant for mixed media art and bad jokes. When the Holy Redeemer Church decided to purchase the stations of the cross, Glenn said he would craft the stations for free. What he created is a life-sized hand-carved rendering of the Via Crucis that is at once modern, yet very true to its traditional roots.
ELIZABETH’S CAFE, Scarborough Fair, Duck (252) 261-6145: Brad Price, the chef at Elizabeth’s Cafe, is an artist in the kitchen, but he may be even better with canvas and paint. A full range of his work is on display at the restaurant.
OUTER BANKS CENTER FOR WILDLIFE EDUCATION, Currituck Heritage Park, Corolla (252) 453-0221: Don’t let the name fool you–this is actually one of the most interesting small museums you will ever encounter. One of the most remarkable exhibits featured is what may be the largest hand-carved decoy collection in the world.
Less than an hour’s drive from Duck, Pea Island is a reminder of what the Outer Banks was before the modern age of development. Beginning at the south end of the Bonner Bridge, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is little more than a thin strip of sand separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Pamlico Sound. It is a unique environment–a true example of a barrier island, although even here the hand of mankind is evident.
The sand dunes on the ocean side are not natural. Created in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), they were an early attempt to stabilize the shoreline. NCDOT continues to put a lot of time and effort into pushing sand off the road and back to the dunes following major storms. About three and a half miles south of the Bonner Bridge is a Visitor’s Center. This building is next to North Pond–an impoundment created by market hunters at the turn of the 20th century to attract migrating waterfowl. The trail along the impoundment is an excellent introduction to the diversity of life that Pea Island supports.
Pea Island has always been a birder’s paradise and there is always diverse species to observe, with fall and winter being the most spectacular seasons. For a different view of Pea Island, a kayak trip into the sound is a treat for people who are a little more active. There are a number of businesses that offer kayak tours, but more experienced kayakers may wish to go out on their own. The put-in launch site is at New Inlet about three miles south of the visitor’s center.
Pea Island is an active part of the Outer Banks shoreline and just south of New Inlet the evidence is clear at a bridge that looks almost like it was built from an erector set. The inlet it spans was formed after Hurricane Irene. There is a parking area to the left (ocean side) just over the bridge. It’s a good place to park and walk to the beach. Pay attention … one of the trails to the beach is next to a piping plover nesting area and access is strictly prohibited. On the beach, looking north at low tide, four wooden pilings pop up from the surf. At one time they held the cistern for the Pea Island Lifesaving Station, an all African-American station that was considered the finest on the coast. The parking lot is a good place to head back home, unless you’re planning to travel on to Hatteras Island–which is a trip for another day.
Important Information: Beach driving at Pea Island is prohibited. Beach driving is allowed in other areas of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but there are severe restrictions on when and where it is permitted and the penalties for violating those restrictions are significant. For information about beach driving, go to http://www.nps.gov/caha/planyourvisit/off-road-vehicle-use.htmm and abide by these regulations.
Blogger’s Tip: Mid-May to mid-September, insect repellent is highly recommended. The US Fish and Wildlife is not permitted to use any chemical means to keep mosquito and biting fly populations under control.
Planning a vacation in the Outer Banks? If your ideal vacation involves soaking up some rich history as well as the sun, consider staying in one of our gorgeous Kill Devil Hills rentals. Just minutes away from the Wright Brother Memorial, you can spend your morning relaxing on the beach with your toes in the sand, and then spend an afternoon delving into the fascinating history of the town.
Kill Devil Hills is the oldest town of the Outer Banks region. The town is named after the 90 foot dune, Big Kill Devil Hill, but there are numerous stories of how that mountain
of sand got its name. Some believe that it comes from a brand of rum called “Kill Devil,” which had been washed ashore during the colonial times. Another story gives credit to the pirates who brewed their own moonshine in the area which they claimed was “strong enough to kill the devil.” A third story blames the rum that had been washed ashore from a shipwreck. Locals drank such a large amount of the powerful stuff that they said it was enough to “kill the devil.”
While the legends and stories of pirates are all in good fun, it is the remarkable story of the first flight that is most noteworthy about the town of Kill Devil Hills, although Kitty Hawk usually gets the credit. On December 17, 1903, above the rolling hills of sand belonging to Kill Devil Hills, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first heavier-than-air powered flight. This 12 second, 120-feet flight then launched the Age of Aviation. The brothers made four successful flights at the base of the big hill that is now part of the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Want to learn more? From any of the Kill Devil Hills rentals, take a short drive to the Visitor Center at milepost 8, where history buffs can feast their eyes on a full-scale reproduction of the Wright 1903 Powered Flyer as well take a look at some interpretive presentations. In the pavilion, visitors can check out a replica of the 1902 Wright Glider as well as other special exhibits. Outside of the center, feel as if you are present during those famous 12 seconds as you make out all the historical markers of each attempted powered flight. Then take a look at the replica camp buildings before you snap a few photographs on top Big Kill Devil Hill, where a 60-foot granite monument honoring the Wright brothers stands tall.
Hungry for more Kill Devil Hills history? Before Orville and Wilbur Wright ever happened upon those fateful dunes, the town boasted a Life Saving Station that had been built in 1878. It was one of 11 stations built along the Outer Banks and was constructed for trained rescue workers. These “surfmen” were there to help with any shipwrecks or maritime disasters. They rescued hapless shipwrecked victims in lifeboats that were brought back to land by the surf.
Other than being a town of full of history, Kill Devil Hills is centrally located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. With beach access only a short walk away, local eateries right down the street, activities and rentals available nearby and unique shops littered up and down the main road, Kill Devil Hills rentals have something to please everyone, be it the passionate shopper or the easy going beach-goer, the fun-loving adventurer or the trivia hungry history buff.