What it is: The Outer Banks is one of my favorite places in North Carolina or anywhere. It is technically the series of barrier islands on the coast of NC. There's so much to do, but we'll only focus on a few things that we found fun for families with kids. Our first kid-friendly destination was the Wright Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. I have to say that this wasn't particularly interesting for our younger toddlers. However, kids that are a little older and can really understand what happened there, that the first airplane flew at that location, would find the place fascinating. They have models of the gliders, rocks marking the flight distances, and a hill with a large statue for the kids to play around. The distances are a bit large for toddler feet, so keep that in mind.
Our next stop was the beach! We headed a few miles down the road from The Wright Memorial to the beaches at Nags Head. Even though we went in this fall and the kids couldn't get in the water, they had a great time running around, digging in the sand, picking up the large shells that had drifted ashore, and watching the waves. I loved the fact that since we went in the off-season the beaches were practically deserted!
My ultimate favorite place in the Outer Banks is Jockey Ridge State Park which again was only a few miles away from the Wright Brothers Memorial. It is a beautiful sand dune park that is just breathtaking. It feels like your wandering through the Sahara only without the heat! From the tops of the dunes the views are amazing. Kids can watch the kites soaring, the hang gliders jumping off the dunes (an activity I highly recommend for adults), digging in more sand than they've ever seen, rolling down the dunes, or sledding through the sand. My favorite was watching the kids just run and not having to worry about where they were because the sand just stretched on forever, beautiful!
Another stop on our trip was the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island. This is just across the sound from all of the sights we just mentioned. Since it was off season, we basically had the aquarium all to ourselves and it was great! Plus, since we have an NC Zoo membership, our admission was free! We saw huge sharks, colorful fish, sea horses, moray eels, turtles, otters, and alligators. We were able to touch sea urchins, starfish, and even sting rays. (my three year old felt very brave when he did that.) They also had an outdoor section with beautiful views of the sound.
Outer Banks is known for its lighthouses. We only went to one on this trip, however we've visited others in the past, pre-kids. Our sons just loved looking up at the huge towering structure and hearing about what it was used for. I'm sure kids would like climbing them as well. However, I read that there are some height requirements for climbing them, so make sure to check that out before visiting. There are also wild ponies to spot, delicious laid back, kid-friendly eateries, and much much more to entertain families while at the Outer Banks. I have to say that the Outer Banks Brewing Station was especially fun because they have a pirate ship and fenced in play area in the back so you can sit on a picnic table and enjoy your locally made beer or root beer while your child plays. Their food was delicious and kid-friendly. Plus, it's the only wind-powered brewery that I've ever been to!
If you've been to the Outer Banks and have any fun activities or insights to share please comment and let us know!
What we liked: We loved the laid back feel of the Outer Banks and all the ways to get out and explore the outdoors, and while I'm sure it is great in the summer too we loved going to check it out in the off season when everything was not quite as crowded. Plus, we were able to get there in about 4 hours which is not too far away for a weekend excursion.
What we would change: One of the negatives to going in the off season is that some of the restaurants and attractions are closed. However, we still found plenty to do. In addition, we felt that the Wright Memorial was a bit expensive with admission charged for each person in your car.
Website and other important information:
Jockey Ridge: http://www.jockeysridgestatepark.com/
Wright Memorial: http://www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm
NC Aquarium: http://www.ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island
(Wright Brothers Memorial)
(Beautiful Outer Banks Beaches)
(Jockey Ridge State Park)
(My boy and I running through the dunes and Jockey Ridge)