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Holiday Happenings on the Outer Banks

Holiday Happenings on the Outer Banks

The holiday season is officially upon us, and when it comes to feeling festive, there’s no better place to find a variety of events than the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Regardless of whether you’re a native of the region or a vacationer in search of some holiday spirit, the following activities and attractions should not be missed if you’re planning to spend some time on the Outer Banks this December.

  • Colington Harbour Boat Parade

Nothing says “Christmas on the coast” like sailboats decked out in strands of bright-colored lights and holiday décor as they weave through the waterways on the west side of Kill Devil Hills. Colington Harbour—a scenic waterfront community situated along the edge of the Roanoke Sound on Colington Island—will hold its annual Christmas boat parade this Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at 5 p.m.

During the Colington Harbour Yacht Club’s Christmas Boat Parade, visitors and residents of this community—which comprises a series of meandering canals—will gather at the Colington Harbour marina parking lot (1000 Colington Drive in Kill Devil Hills) for front-row seats to watch the brightly lit boats make their way out of the nearby canals and then circle around the harbor playing Christmas music and waving at the crowd.

Keep an eye out for Santa Claus, who is frequently spotted on one of the boats, and be sure to grab a complimentary cup of hot cocoa to keep warm while you listen to popular Christmas tunes and watch the beautifully decorated boats go by.

  • The Outer Banks Christmas House

The holiday season is not complete with a tour of some of the town’s best Christmas light displays. Because the barrier islands are primarily a vacation destination and the vast majority of homes here are weekly rentals rather than permanent residences, you probably won’t find as many neighborhood light displays when you’re visiting the Outer Banks as you would in your own year-round community. There are, however, several places that put on quite a show each season—and one in particular has truly earned its spot at the top of the “must-see” Outer Banks Christmas lights list.

Featured in years past on both HGTV and NBC’s “Today” show, the Outer Banks Christmas House has become an Outer Banks tradition that locals and visitors alike look forward to all year long. The Poulos family begins setting up their epic holiday attraction a whopping 12 weeks before the first day the array of lights are plugged in for the season and light up their residence on West Ocean Acres Drive in Kill Devil Hills. In addition to taking three months to assemble, the display costs the Poulos family as much as $3,500 in energy bills each month just to transform their property into a winter wonderland. The incredible lights display at the Outer Banks Christmas House can be viewed nightly from Nov. 24, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017.

  • New Year in the New World

Photo: Matt Lusk Photography

The shifting sandbars of the Outer Banks are as famous for their rich history as they are for the sun, surf and sand that have made them into an incredibly popular vacation destination over the past half century—and few parts of the barrier islands have such as storied past as the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first English child, and the site of the infamous Lost Colony that vanished from the island without a trace in the 16th century, Roanoke Island attracts thousands of history buffs to its soundside shorelines and charming downtown area every season.

In honor of the island’s prominent place in history, a brand-new holiday event—“New Year in the New World”—will be held in Manteo this year. Scheduled for 3 p.m. until midnight on Dec. 31, 2017, this inaugural event is designed to be a festive family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration. The roadways throughout downtown Manteo will be closed, and Outer Banks residents and visitors are invited to a street fair featuring live music, shopping, an early ball drop at 8:30 p.m. and events for the kids, and local vendors selling food and drinks—as well as the largest fireworks display in the state of North Carolina, which will also be choregraphed to music. If you’re visiting the Outer Banks for the holidays, you won’t find a better place on the beach to ring in 2018 than New Year in the New World!

Experience a Winter Wonderland at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island

If you’re visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the Christmas season this year, there’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit and start feeling festive than taking a tour of the Winter Lights display at the Elizabethan Gardens.

Photo: North Beach Sun

From November 25, 2017, through January 20, 2018, the hedges, trees and plants that line the series of pathways that wind through this popular attraction on the northern tip of Roanoke Island are covered with string after string of bright and colorful lights, resulting in a spectacular display that every visitor to the barrier islands of the Outer Banks must experience at least once in their lifetime.  

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Situated on the shores of the Roanoke Sound within the confines of the historic town of Manteo, the Elizabethan Gardens first opened to the public on August 18, 1960, the 373rd anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. Since their gates first opened 57 years ago, they have welcome tens of thousands of people vacationing on the Outer Banks each season who year to enjoy more than just the sun, surf and sand during their stay on this slice of island paradise. The gardens—which comprise an area of more than 10 acres—are home to more than 500 different and unique species of plants and flowers that bloom at various times throughout the year, as well as several one-of-a-kind statues, sundials, bird baths, an ancient Italian fountain and so much more.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

Although the Elizabethan Gardens receives the vast majority of its visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when the beaches are busy and tourist season is in full swing, the two months from Thanksgiving to late January each year—when the meandering walkways are decked with holiday décor and loads of spectacular light displays—are a highly anticipated time for locals and vacationers alike.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on select evenings each week, visitors to the Elizabethan Gardens’ Winter Lights display will be greeted by a winter wonderland unlike any they’ve ever witnessed before. The garden pathways that weave through this Outer Banks landmark that has enchanted adults and children alike for more than half a century are illuminated with awe-inspiring lighting that is draped over the hedges and wrapped around the tree trunks, extending out to the tips of their branches. 

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

A fire crackles on the great lawn, marking the perfect spot to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa after touring the gardens and taking in all the scenery during your stroll through along the garden grounds. Holiday décor ranging from child-size gingerbread houses and lighted reindeer displays to colorful candy canes and life-size nutcracker cut-outs can be found along the walkways, providing the perfect opportunity for photos with friends and family, or for simply gazing in awe at the magical world that surrounds you in this stunning scene. 

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Whether you are a local who has lived here for years, a first-time visitor to the area or you’ve been spending the holiday season vacationing on these beautiful barrier islands for decades, the Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens is one winter tradition on the Outer Banks you won’t want to miss this season! For more information on the Winter Lights display or to purchase tickets, visit ElizabethanGardens.org.

 

 

 

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