An Outer Banks Evening

If there is such a thing as magic in life it is sitting on the beach on a perfect summerâåÛåªs night and watching our nation celebrate its birthday. It would be difficult to find a better setting to watch 4th of July fireworks than on the sand in Nags Head. The beauty of the Outer Banks is never more apparent than at this time–for 15 or 20 minutes the sky is painted with pinpoints of intense color followed by the boom of exploding skyrockets. The sand where weâåÛåªre sitting is warm and everywhere around us there are families . . . children with glow sticks, dadâåÛåªs setting off occasional bottle rockets and roman candles, laughter and quiet talks that kids and parents have when theyâåÛåªre content.

When the real show begins, the night becomes ablaze in glory–red, white and blue rings of light drift slowly seaward with the breeze. Rockets trail white light as they shoot into the sky to explode in shades of green and blue and copper. Everyone knows the finale is coming yet when it begins there is a collective gasp, a childlike glee at the sheer magnitude of patterns at the end of Nags Head Pier.

There is a certain contentment at the end of it, as though there is a shared experience and an anticipation of next year and the next magic show.

Independence Day Outer Banks Style


The 4th of July on the Outer Banks is about as all-American as it gets . . . at least one great parade, all day celebrations and lots of fireworks.

The parade? The Duck Independence Day Parade, one of the wackiest, most fun parades ever seen. About a mile long, it starts at 9 in the morning and weaves through some of the back streets of Duck finishing on NC 12, so either plan on watching or avoid the village until 11 or 11:30. The parade is followed by some great entertainment at the town’s amphitheater.

To make the Fourth an all day affair, check out either the Whalehead Club in Corolla or the town of Manteo. Lots happening all day at both places, definitely family and kid friendly with spectacular fireworks in the evening. The setting at the Whalehead Club, in particular, is spectacular.

The town of Nags Head also lights the sky with a fireworks display at the Nags Head Pier. There is something magical about sitting on the beach on a warm summer evening with the sound of the surf a backdrop to fireworks painting the sky.

For a little bit different experience, park at either the main Kitty Hawk Kites store in Nags Head or Jockey’s Ridge State Park and watch the fireworks from the top of Jockey’s Ridge. Both Manteo and Nags Head are easily seen, although they are a bit distant.

No matter what, plenty to do on the Fourth on the Outer Banks. Have fun and celebrate our nations birthday.

Peter Rabbit at Elizabethan Gardens

I admit it, I love childrenâåÛåªs books, and even as an adult, I still think Beatrix PotterâåÛåªs Peter Rabbit is magic. So when I heard the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo was going to do an original production based on the play a jumped at the chance to go.

The play is only about 30 minutes long and it would be hard to imagine a better production for children. Great songs, wonderful set design and the two actors playing Mr. MacGregor and Peter the Rabbit were naturals at relating to kids.

ThereâåÛåªs lots of audience participation, which makes the play even more fun, especially for the moms and dads in the audience. There is something magical about hearing 25 or 30 young voices trying to tell Mr. MacGregor that Peter is hiding behind the plants in the shed. Or the sea of hands that shoot into the air when Mr. MacGregor asks who would like to hold the markers for the beans, carrots and other vegetables.

TheyâåÛåªre putting the play on every Wednesday and Thursday through August 15, although there will not be a performance on July 4. A ticket to the play is included in the admission price to the Gardens.

And after the play, donâåÛåªt forget to wander through the Gardens. The Outer Banks is truly beautiful at this time of the year and wandering through Elizabethan Gardens is a great way to experience it.

An Outer Banks Anniversary


If there is such a thing as a first family of Outer Banks retailers it’s got to be the Grays, who own Grays Department Stores. They just celebrated their 65th year in business, and I can’t think of any other family run business on the Outer Banks that has been around as long as they have.

Certainly there are other Outer Banks families that have owned businesses even longer, but I’m not aware of anyone who has maintained the same kind of business for so long.

Of course the original Nags Head store is long gone–it’s now Sea Green Gallery, but the same commitment to the community still remains.

Walter and Estelle Gray moved to the Outer Banks soon after WWII and quickly saw an opportunity where no one else saw one. I never had a chance to meet Estelle, but if ever there was a man who never met a stranger, it was Walter.

Walter passed away in 2004, and three of his five kids–Larry, Ronnie and Julie–run the business today.

The 65th Anniversary Celebration was held at their main store in Kitty Hawk. There are also stores in Duck and Corolla.

Art and Coffee on the Outer Banks

Meg Rubino is a small woman but a powerhouse of an artist. She has a unique style but within her style she keeps working with different materials and different perspectives so her paintings always seems fresh and each work a little different.

SheâåÛåªs been getting some good press lately–well deserved–and more and more folks are taking note of what she is doing. The latest accolades come courtesy of Necla Rader, who just opened Outer Banks Juice and Java in the Dunes Shops in Kitty Hawk.

NeclaâåÛåªs plan is to feature a different Outer Banks artist every month, and Meg got to kick things off in June.

A great turn out, really nice music from Matt Hoggard and Gary Rader (yes, that is NeclaâåÛåªs husband), amazing food from Seaside Gourmet and fantastic art.

The Dunes Shops are almost on the at MP5 on the Bypass on the ocean side of the road. If you get a chance, stop in and check out MeganâåÛåªs artwork, and get a great cup of cappuccino.

An Outer Banks Saturday

Ok, I admit it. Sometimes IâåÛåªm not half as smart as I should be.

IâåÛåªve lived on the Outer Banks for almost 20 years and I should certainly know by this time that between the hours of 12 and 5:00 in the afternoon, I should not be going out because all IâåÛåªll be doing is adding to the traffic woes. So at 3:00 oâåÛåªclock in the afternoon, there I was on the Bypass, crawling along, wondering, âåÛåÏWhat was I thinking?âåÛå

Which is a round about way of saying, you donâåÛåªt have to show up on the Outer Banks immediately at 4:00 p.m.–which is a pretty standard check-in time.

There is nothing to stop a family from crossing the Wright Memorial Bridge at noon and spending a few hours at the beach. Or shopping–the real crush in the grocery stores begins about 5:30, just about the time folks get to their homes, see what they need and head back out.

Just a thought, but what would it be like to go shopping first, pick up the keys, get to the house, unpack the car and have the evening to do nothing but relax?

So, for your next visit to the Outer Banks, think about how you can rearrange your time a bit and be a little more relaxed when you dig your toes into the sand.

The Tranquil Coquina Beach

Just south of Nags Head's southern most border and barely north of Oregon Inlet sits Coquina Beach. The short drive south of “town” can offer a great deal of tranquility and relaxation. Coquina Beach's beauty and tranquility is derived from the fact that it often remains uncrowded on even the most crowded Outer Banks summer days. When relaxing on Coquina Beach, if one were to look north toward Nags Head, they would see only cottages off in the distance. Similarly, if one were to look south while on Coquina Beach, the only things in sight would be the rare Oregon Inlet 4X4 driver (with $50, 7 day permits or $120, annual permits now required to drive on Oregon Inlet's Beaches) and fishing boats coming out of the inlet itself. It is the lack of establishments and seemingly endless sand dunes in this area that give Coquina Beach the vintage Outer Banks feel of decades past.

Coquina Beach gets its name from the thousands of coquina shells that can be seen along the waters edge. Birds often feed on coquina at the waters edge as the shells find a home in the sand with every rise and fall of the tide. According to a coquina shell is defined as a “small wedge-shaped clam (Donax variabilis) used for broth or chowder and occurring in the intertidal zone of sandy Atlantic beaches from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Coquina Beach was recently named one of America's 10 Best Family Beaches by ABC News.

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