During the off season, in that three to four month window from late fall to early spring, life on the Outer Banks returns to its roots. A bustling resort in the summer months, the winter months are much more akin to everyday life in small town America.
At no time of the year is that more apparent than during the holidays. Rituals that come alive during the Christmas and New Year holidays are steeped in heartwarming tradition. The spirit of the season is a relaxed and joyous time to spend with family and friends. It is also fast becoming a tradition for out of town visitors who rent large vacation homes, escaping hectic schedules to unwind with those they hold near and dear.
If you are one of these visitors or new to our area, here are a few timeless traditions we’d like to share:
Poulos Family Christmas Lights
W. Ocean Acres Dr., Kill Devil Hills, NC
In 2005, Al Roker from the Today Show arrived at the home of Jim and Ann Poulos as they received the honor of being voted the most decorated home for the holidays. The following year it was featured on HGTV’s “Over the Top Holiday” program. This family tradition is in its 32nd year, and it takes about twelve weeks for the Poulos family to fill their large yard with seasonal lights and decorations to show their festive spirit of this holiday season.
To arrive there, take Route 158 to Kill Devil Hills and turn west onto Ocean Acres Drive at Pigman’s Barbecue. When the pavement ends and the street becomes a dirt road, grab the first parking place you can find and walk just over the top of the hill to their residence. Christmas carols are playing, the hot chocolate is free and kids of every age will see Santa at every turn!
Elizabethan Gardens, 1411 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC
A remarkable replica of formal English Gardens, strolling throughout the 10-acre Elizabethan Gardens is a memorable experience any time of the year. It becomes a magical adventure during the holiday season when the gardens are illuminated by the twinkling lights from the trees and plants in search of an enchanting gingerbread house and the warmth of a roaring log fire. Open Wednesdays through Saturdays during the month of December and on Fridays and Saturdays in January, this is an outdoor tour that is subject to weather related cancellations. For your comfort, please dress according to the day’s temperature.
Manteo’s Christmas Tree Lighting
300 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, Manteo, NC
If Norman Rockwell lived today, he would likely paint the Manteo tree lighting ceremony as a way to memorialize the Christmas spirit of small town America. The ceremony is held the first Friday after Thanksgiving at the old Dare County Courthouse, a classic early 20th century structure that now houses the Dare County Arts Council. This is a celebration that would warm the heart of the infamous grouch, Ebenezer Scrooge. This family-friendly event features the burning of a yuletide log while members of community churches hand out complimentary hot chocolate and Brunswick stew. Santa is joined by the Christmas music performed by school choirs, high school bands and performers from the Lost Colony who always stop in to lend their talents. The town’s annual Christmas Parade is held the following Saturday morning.
Duck Yuletide Celebration
1200 Duck Road, Duck, NC
A newer event that’s quickly finding its way into people’s hearts is the Yuletide Celebration at the Town Park in Duck. While most communities celebrate with the lighting of a majestic tree, the residents of the seaside town of Duck light a festive Crab Pot Christmas Tree on the Town Green. A full day of celebration leads up to the event, and in 2015 guests are treated to music by Just Playn’ Dixieland and carolers from the First Flight High School advanced chorus. Santa Claus has a busy schedule this time of year, so he is chauffeured in by a fire truck to greet waiting children. The celebration is held on December 5, 2015 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Light treats are available from Duck businesses with donations accepted to benefit Outer Banks SPCA and Food for Thought. A list of items is on the townofduck.com website.
27th Annual Outer Banks Hotline Festival of Trees – Holiday Bazaar, auction of spectacular decorated trees, live music, children’s train, Santa Claus with proceeds going to Outer Banks Hotline. December 3-5, 2015: Outer Banks Brewing Station, 600 S. Croatan Hwy, Kill Devil Hills, NC
A Dickens Tale – Presented by professional theatrical touring group, Bright Star Touring Theater, this retelling of the literary classic, A Christmas Carol, is a heartwarming favorite.
December 5th at 3:30 pm: Roanoke Island Festival Park, Manteo, NC
Whalehead Club Candlelight Christmas Tour – A guided candlelight tour of the Whalehead Club as community choirs sing Christmas carols accompanied by a Steinway piano. Refreshments follow. December 5, 12 and 19th, 5:00 – 7:00pm: The Whalehead Club, 1100 Club Road, Corolla, NC
Breakfast with Santa – Enjoy a buffet breakfast with Santa with proceeds going to the Women’s Club Angel Gift Fund providing Christmas gifts for children.
December 6th from 9:00am – 1:00pm: Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant, 6708 S. Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC
Cape Hatteras Light Winter Climb – Typically closed during the winter months, the lighthouse opens on this day to offer a free climb of the iconic Cape Hatteras Light.
December 12, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm: 46379 Lighthouse Road, Buxton, NC
Christmas Past at Island Farm – St. Nicholas arrives in an ox-drawn wagon, wagon rides, make a bee’s wax candle and sample 19th century food. A poem reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” at 2:00 pm. December 12, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Island Farm, 1140 N. US Highway 64, Manteo, NC
16th Annual Candybomber Candy Drop – The Berlin Candy Bomber, one of the original C54 aircraft, will fly over the airport dropping 1,000 miniature parachutes with a candy bar attached. Photos with Santa. December 13, 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Dare County Regional Airport, 410 Airport Road, Manteo, NC
112th Annual Celebration of the Wright Brothers First Flight – Daylong annual celebration with a fly-by, renowned historians and speakers.
December 17, 9:30 am: Wright Brothers Monument, 1005 N. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC