a car, a dad, and 3,000 miles

Every summer, my dad and I take a father-daughter trip.  Since I discovered my love for hiking about six years ago, we’ve gone hiking in a different spot each summer.  This year, it was time to pack the car and take a 3000-mile road trip across the midwest to Colorado and Wyoming!  This trip was absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to show you guys all the fun we had along the way!

dates of my trip: July 23rd-30th, 2017

DAY ONE – July 23rd

We set off from Cincinnati at about 9 am, destined for Kansas City, Missouri.  To break up the monotony of Kansas, we spent a lot of time beforehand researching the quirky roadside attractions along our route – hence the reason for our first stop in Vandalia, Illinois.  After lunch at Subway, we found the Kaskaskia Dragon!  For a dollar, you can buy a “dragon coin” from the liquor store next door and insert your coin to make the dragon breathe fire.  My dad and I both agreed – it was pretty awesome.

After our first magical encounter, we hit the road again until we reached St. Louis.  Crossing the Mississippi River marked the first of 6 new states for both my dad and myself, and we were excited to start off Missouri right with a visit to the top of the Gateway Arch.

The Arch experience was, to be quite honest, bizarre.  You climb into little (I mean little – I wouldn’t advise doing this if you’re claustrophobic) capsules that feel like they came straight out of The Hunger Games and take off up the side of the arch.  The top is crowded and it was hard to find an open window at first, but once we found a spot, the view was amazing!  I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Once we came down from our perch high above St. Louis, it was back in the car and on the way to Kansas City.  As avid barbecue lovers, we booked it to Jack Stack Barbecue in the Crossroads Arts District to try some authentic Kansas City barbecue.  Although they were out of pulled pork, we definitely enjoyed the burnt ends and onion rings and left totally satisfied.  We then rushed up to Grand Boulevard to catch Kansas City’s streetcar, an identical streetcar to the one we just opened at home in Cincinnati.  After one loop, we headed to our hotel (a Hilton Garden Inn that we booked while waiting to go up the arch) on the Kansas side of Kansas City (another new state!) and crashed.

DAY TWO – July 24th

We woke up early the next morning, excited to get to Denver (and the mountains!) by the end of the day.  After grabbing a coffee for me and a hot chocolate for my dad at Splitlog Coffee, we headed back to Missouri for breakfast at an adorable neighborhood spot called Succotash.  If I’m ever in Kansas City again I plan to go back!  Then itwas time to hit the road.

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This little guy was all over at Succotash – so cute!

My dad and I are also huge college basketball fans, so we felt we had to exit the highway in Lawrence, Kansas to visit the University of Kansas’s Allen Fieldhouse.  After a quick look around, it was time to begin the long trek across the Sunflower State.  Now, friends, you have probably been told that Kansas is long, boring, and flat.  BUT NO!  Kansas isn’t flat, and I found the rolling fields to be absolutely beautiful.  Yes, we saw more cows than people (Kansas is a great place to play the car game My Cows), but I loved spotting wind farms off in the distance and guessing how far it was to the next exit.

We had lunch at Bogey’s in Salina, KS (not the greatest, but there weren’t a lot of options and the yummy milkshake redeemed my bleh chicken sandwich) and continued right along.  Sadly, we found out that the World’s Largest Prairie Dog was closed, so we stayed on the highway until Denver.  We checked into the La Quinta in Cherry Creek (not such a great hotel – definitely would not recommend it, but it worked) before heading to Esters Neighborhood Pub a few blocks away.  This place was the highlight of the day!  The berry salad and mushroom pizza was absolutely delicious.  Then it was back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest.

DAY THREE – July 25th

Our first day in Denver served one purpose: acclimate to the altitude.  But we also wanted to have fun!  We woke up and walked about a mile to the west to the University of Denver, where we grabbed some tea, coffee, and scones at LostCoffee (mega shout out to the barista – he was super friendly and gave us several recommendations for things to do in Denver and hikes in the surrounding area!).  We then walked through the university to get to the light rail station, where we bought tickets and climbed on the train to downtown.  On the way, we were treated to a harmonica concert by an extremely kind man.  He played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the little girl across the aisle over and over, and their happy little interaction totally warmed my heart.

Once we arrived at Union Station, we grabbed coffee and hot chocolate again at the coffee shop inside the station, then walked over to Coors Field for a moment before heading down to Confluence Park while we waited for the museums to open.  I couldn’t help but be jealous of the wonderful running paths along Cherry Creek – I wished I had my running shoes!  Then we trekked back up to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which, while interesting, was not quite my taste in contemporary art.  I’d love to go back and see some different exhibits, and the rooftop garden and cafe were very cute, but unfortunately the portfolios on display were not my favorites.

After lunch at Illegal Burger in Larimer Square, we walked up the 16th Street Mall to the Clyfford Still Museum.  My dad, being an architect and art lover, had to go, and I figured it would be okay.  I definitely didn’t expect this to be my favorite museum of the day!  I found Still’s art to be very beautiful and interesting (I was especially captivated by his choices to remove paint in certain areas to leave the canvas completely bare), and the architecture of the museum was also exquisite.  I can definitely say I’m a Clyfford Still fan now!

After we finished there, we walked next door to the Denver Art Museum.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the whole museum before it closed for the day, but I enjoyed some of their contemporary art (especially the exhibit of Hispanic artists) and the exhibits of Native American artwork, both old and new.  I was disappointed to be escorted out of the building at closing time.

Now that it was time for dinner, it started to pour, so we hopped on the 16th Street Mall shuttle and rode all the way to the bottom, hiding out in Union Station while we decided to walk or find an Uber.  Eventually, it lightened up, and we across the river on foot to the Highlands neighborhood, excited for dinner at Linger.  They squeezed us in at a community table, and we were en route to a divine meal.

Linger, an old mortuary, is now arguably Denver’s hippest restaurant.  They serve small plates filled with cuisine from around the world, and we quickly dove into our menus, trying to decide which delicious food to try first.  I can honestly say that our beet falafel, Korean barbecue tacos, and lemongrass dumplings were all so good that I still don’t know which was my favorite, and the dessert trio was absolutely delicious, too.  I had to save room, though, because next door to Linger is Little Man Ice Cream.  Sold out of a giant cream can, this ice cream is super creamy and super yummy!  We had a great time sitting in an old-fashioned glider and watching the kids run around while the shop celebrated Christmas in July, equipped with Santa in a Hawaiian Shirt.  After taking in the beautiful evening, it was time to head back to Union Station to catch the train back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

 

DAY FOUR – July 26th

Day four was the day to start hiking!  My nature-loving self was itching to get into the mountains, so after a yummy breakfast at Caitlin’s, a local spot with southwest-inspired breakfast, we headed north toward Eldorado Canyon State Park, a spot about 10 miles south of Boulder recommended to me by a friend.

This canyon was beautiful!  Rising up out of the plains, it’s a common spot for rock climbers, and we had fun picking out their bright shirts on the canyon walls as we trekked from the canyon floor up to the overlooks along the Rattlesnake Gulch trail.  It was a fun little hike, about 3.7 miles, and we got to explore the ruins of a hotel that burned down in 1912, do a little rock climbing of our own to a secluded viewpoint, and see a train barreling down the cliffside as we descended from the top.  It was a great warmup hike, and it felt good to stick my sweaty feet into the creek once we returned to the canyon floor.

After cleaning up a bit with the wet wipes in the car, we headed into Boulder to find some lunch, even though it was already mid-afternoon.  Eureka!, a burger place, definitely filled us up, and we were ready to return to Denver for showers and some chill time.  We battled the rush hour traffic back, cleaned up, and returned to Esters (it was nearby and easy) for dinner.  Though significantly more crowded than it was when we first visited, we enjoyed dinner just as much and crashed as soon as we got back to the hotel.

DAY FIVE – July 27th

We checked out of our hotel around 9 am, then headed back towards the University of Denver for breakfast at a cute place called Jelly, which had several locations across the city.  I filled up on cinnamon sugar donut bites before my meal even came, but that didn’t stop me from devouring my lemon blueberry pancakes too!  I loved this place, especially because they had free stickers at the checkout counter, and I’m a sucker for stickers.

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View from Rainbow Curve – Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

After breakfast, we headed north to Rocky Mountain National Park (my fifth National Park).  After stopping to shop and buying some t-shirts at the entrance station, my dad and I wound our way up to an elevation over two miles above sea level!  We were both astonished at the beauty of the park, and we decided as we left that we’d have to return some time to do some hiking there.  For now, it was time to head north to Wyoming, but only after we stopped at Freddy’s in Loveland, CO for lunch and frozen custard (this was my first time trying frozen custard and HOLY. COW.  It’s so good).

After lunch, we hopped back on the highway towards Wyoming.  As soon as we crossed the border into our fourth new state of the trip, my dad officially won My Cows after he saw four camels on the side of the road.  Camels.  Camels.  In Wyoming.  What even?  We probably laughed for two whole miles.  Then it was time to find our way to Curt Gowdy State Park for the hike of the day.

Now, usually, I pride myself on being able to navigate for my parents when they’re driving in an unfamiliar place.  But this time I failed.  We ended up driving 15 miles over a washed-out, bumpy-as-all-getout dirt road to get to the park.  Even though we finally made it, we had to dodge cows and count to see if all our teeth were still in place when we finally reached pavement again.  Then it was time to find Hidden Falls.

This hike was a lovely little hike for a driving day.  Although it was a little hard to navigate the trails since we didn’t have a trail map, the trail was relatively level and scenery along the way was just gorgeous.  The rock formations in the area looked like they were blocks that a child had stacked up like Legos.  I especially got a kick out of how the aptly-named Chameleon!  Before too long, we reached Hidden Falls, and although I decided not to soak myself in the waterfall, it was nice to strip off my shoes and socks and stick my toes in the water.  The location was beautiful and it was amazing to sit there and feel so small in this giant world.  I love hiking locations that really give you perspective, and this secluded area was surely one of those.

The serenity ended when we realized that a storm was rolling in.  As we tried to scramble back to the car before it rained, we laughed and laughed at our craziness, and it was totally therapeutic and hilarious.  It was getting late by the time we got back, and we decided we’d better get going so we could find some dinner.  Right as we got to the highway, we found the giant Abe Lincoln head that towered above the interstate.

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Baberaham Lincoln! – Laramie, WY

After a quick photo op, we realized that check-in at our hotel ended at 9, and it was 8:15. We were 40 miles away, so it was time to book it across southeastern Wyoming.

Thankfully, we made it to the Old Corral Steakhouse and Hotel in Centennial, Wyoming (population 270) with about five minutes to spare.  The steakhouse stopped seating at 9, and we snuck in at about 8:58 (we weren’t the last people to be seated, though)!  After treating ourselves to a steak dinner, we headed up to our room to get a good night’s rest before our big hike the next day.  Unfortunately, the room was about 100 degrees because it faced west and there was no air conditioning, but that was this hotel’s only shortcoming.  It was far better than the place in Denver, and we were excited to get a good night’s sleep.  We made use of the comfy beds in no time.

DAY SIX – July 28th

We were up early today to get a head start on the big hike of the trip: summiting Medicine Bow Peak, the highest peak in southeastern Wyoming.  We got a quick breakfast at the coffee shop in the hotel, loaded up our packs with supplies, and headed out to the trailhead to start the trek.

Usually, my dad and I get stuck in a rain storm on our hikes.  When we climbed Mt. Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi, we couldn’t see more than 50 feet because of the thick fog.  Finally, finally, Medicine Bow was not the case!  We had the most gorgeous weather for the entire hike, and it made for absolutely spectacular views.

The route we took followed the ridgeline along a series of smaller peaks, and from the minute we reached the first, I knew it would be magnificent hike.  With breathtaking views to the south and east, overlooking the shimmering alpine lakes below, I was in awe of the scenery.  I can’t tell you how many times I sucked in my breath and whispered “wow,” my words taken away by the whipping wind.

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View from the top of Medicine Bow Peak, WY

Finally, we scrambled up the rock pile to the top of Medicine Bow Peak.  At 12,016 feet, it was the highest elevation that my dad and I had ever hiked to.  You could see for miles in every direction; we could make out the town of Laramie 45 miles away, but that, besides the road, was the only manmade object in view.  I shed a few tears because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty.

On the way down, we got to hike down a snow field (it hadn’t melted yet!) and then descended quickly to the base of the ridge.  We continued back to the car along a trail that led us past the beautiful, crystal-clear alpine lakes, the imposing mountains looming over our head.  And, although I was relieved to see bathrooms when we returned to the trailhead, I knew that this was a hike that I’d never forget.

After cleaning up back at the hotel, we drove into Laramie for dinner at Corona Village, a Mexican restaurant recommended to us by a kind lady we passed on the trail in Curt Gowdy State Park the day before.  The enchiladas hit the spot, and it was back to the hotel to put our feet up and go to bed.

DAY SEVEN – July 29th

It was time to head home :(.  We got up and had a delicious breakfast made with local ingredients at the Mountain View Cafe, then hit the road, headed for Omaha, Nebraska.  There weren’t many places of interest between Centennial and Lincoln, Nebraska, so we kept moving, stopping for lunch at Qdoba in North Platte, NE but otherwise trucking on through our fifth new state of the trip.

When we reached Lincoln, we decided to visit Memorial Stadium at the University of Nebraska – on game days, the stadium is the second largest city in Nebraska!  Slightly delusional from our long drive, we had a photoshoot with a mastodon statue on campus and then drove to the state capitol building before getting back on the highway to Omaha.

Then, as we crested a hill somewhere between Lincoln and Omaha, my dad spotted a beautiful church shining in the sun.  He was sure it was designed by Fay Jones, a well-known architect, and we immediately exited the highway for a visit.  After bumping along some backroads, we finally came to the church, and we spent a few minutes taking pictures from afar because it was closed and we didn’t want to trespass.  Although we lated discovered that the Holy Family Shrine may or may not have been designed by Jones, it was breathtaking and worth a visit.

Not long after, we arrived at the DoubleTree in southwest Omaha, dropped our belongings in the room, and headed downtown to the Old Market area for dinner at Upstream Brewing Company.  I gobbled down their mac and cheese, swearing that I was too full for dessert.  Then, as we walked around the Old Market, enjoying the music carried on the evening air, I spotted a sign in the window of Dolci, an ice cream shop.  They had spaghettieis!  Four years ago, my German teacher told our class about a German dessert called spaghettieis, where vanilla ice cream is made to look like noodles, then topped with strawberry sauce.  I had always wanted to try it, but I thought it didn’t exist in the United States.  But there, in Omaha, Nebraska, I found it!  Even though I was about to burst from dinner, I immediately ordered some and devoured it, happy.  After a late night drive through some Omaha neighborhoods and Creighton University, we headed back to the hotel for the night.

DAY EIGHT – July 30th

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Volkswagen Beetle Spider – Avoca, IA

Our last day on the road began early, as we had a long drive back to Cincinnati ahead of us.  After picking up smoothies and scones from Crane Coffee, we were headed into Iowa, the sixth and last new state.  In Avoca, IA, we got off the highway to find the Volkswagen Beetle Spider – pretty cool!  Then it was on across the state.

Since we were trying to get home at a reasonable hour, we didn’t stop much except for lunch at Culver’s (I needed more frozen custard!) in Coralville, IA and dinner at McAlister’s Deli in Indianapolis, IN.  When we arrived home at 9:30 pm, we concluded one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken.

I highly recommend taking a road trip!  It’s a great way to get to know your companions and see the country up close and personal.  You’ll eat good food and bad food, interact with different people, and experiences a different culture at every stop.  Plus, there are fun things to do along the way, and some of the quirky stops we made were highlights of the trip in my opinion!  What a wonderful way to spend a week.

 

 

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spring break 2017

Ahhh…. sorry!  Long time no post, I know.  My life has been a whirlwind these past few months, and with AP tests coming up soon, I thought I should sit down and write a little something before I totally forget.

So, anyway, I have the trip of a lifetime to write about!  For spring break this year, my school’s entire music department took a trip to the Bahamas and to Disney World!  We drove 24 hours on a bus to Miami (yikes…. not so fun), then took a 3 day cruise to the Bahamas with Royal Caribbean, before returning to Florida and exploring Disney World for 2 days.  It was fantastic!  I had the best time!

To make sure I hit all the highlights, I’m going to blog about individual pieces of the trip in their own separate posts.  Then, I’ll link those posts below.  Happy reading!

24 hours in: nashville, tn

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view of the gulch from above

Last weekend my mom and I took a one night trip to Nashville, Tennessee so that I could tour Vanderbilt University (AHHHH! COLLEGE! I’m terrified).  Having never been there before, I was definitely excited!  We crammed a lot into our short stay, and I thought it’d be fun to share!

Dates of my trip: January 20th and 21st, 2017

To begin with, Nashville is about four hours from my hometown of Cincinnati.  On the way, there is a return outlet for Amazon and Zappos, and naturally, being the shopaholics we are, my mom and I made a beeline for it!  Everything in the store is at least 50%, and I picked up three very cute pairs of shoes!

 

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Best milkshake ever!

Continuing on to Nashville, we found our hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn near Vanderbilt) and walked to dinner in Nashville’s trendy new area, the Gulch, called such because it sits down below the rest of the city in an old rail yard. Afterimg_6593 a delicious dinner at Burger Republic (420 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203), we went and did some shopping down the street at a cute store called e. Allen before finding these gorgeous wings painted on a nearby building!  Of course, I had to stop for a picture.

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After walking back to the hotel, we hopped in the car and headed to Parnassus Books, a bookstore that my mom wanted to visit.  They had a dog in the store (*heart eyes*) and plenty of fun books and quirky trinkets to browse.  We returned to our hotel with a few books and some fun socks!

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The next morning, we woke up early and drove over to the east side of the city to meet my friend Alex and her mom, who also happened to be visiting Nashville, for brunch at the Sky Blue Cafe (700 Fatherland St, Nashville, TN 37206).  Located in a cute neighborhood filled with bungalows.  It was a small restaurant, but they served fantastic food!  Unfortunately, the darling home goods shop next door wasn’t open after we finished and we couldn’t stop in :(.

After parting ways with Alex, my mom and I decided to take a quick look around the waterfront and downtown area.  We took a nice walk along the riverfront park before jumping in the car to head back to Vanderbilt for my official tour. Sadly, I was busy during the tour and didn’t take any pictures.

img_6619After touring Vanderbilt, we drove around the campus at nearby Belmont University before stopping at Proper Bagel (2011 Belmont Blvd, Nashville, TN 37212) for lunch.  It was phenomenal.  As a huge fan of bagel sandwiches, I can probably say I’ve never had one better than the smoked turkey blta.  Be sure to grab lunch here if you’re ever nearby!

 

After lunch, our time in Nashville had come to a close.  The city was absolutely wonderful and had everything I could ever want.  I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there!

ocracoke, north carolina

On a couple of recent trips to the Outer Banks, my family has packed up the car, left early in the morning, and headed south on a day trip to the island of Ocracoke, which is the southern tip of the Outer Banks. From our house, it’s usually about an hour and a half drive plus a 45-minute ferry ride.  My mom, my best friend Sydney, her mom, and I had so much fun on the most recent trip and I thought I’d share it with you!

Date of my trip: June 14th, 2016

We left about 9 in the morning, making sure to pack plenty of snacks.  As we drove through Hatteras, we decided to stop and climb the Hatteras Lighthouse.  It’s the tallest lighthouse on the Outer Banks, and the views from the top are spectacular!

 

We then stopped at a farmer’s market to browse, and, of course, upon seeing the fresh peaches, I was obligated to buy some (what’s a southern girl without her peaches??).  This stop was a rookie mistake – when we got to the ferry dock that would take us across to Ocracoke, we were informed that it would take two to three hours.

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View from the ferry

Of course, we had nothing else to do but sit in the car, wander around the parking area, and eat ice cream.  It was a long, tedious wait, but once we loaded onto the little ferry, I was in my element.  The wind in my hair and the open ocean ahead got my heart racing.  I absolutely loved the whole ride.  I love boating, and while a ferry is hardly a speedboat, it was the closest I’d been in a long time. I loved it.

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Ocracoke Lighthouse

Once we arrived on the island of Ocracoke, we sped away from the end of the island where the ferry docks and headed for the town on the opposite end because it was nearly 4pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet.  We chose a sleepy little cafe called Dajio and we not disappointed.  After we finished eating, we hit up a few local shops (Stuff, Ride the Wind Surf Shop, and the Island Ragpicker) before they began closing for the evening.  Next we drove over to the Ocracoke Lighthouse (quite different from the one in Hatteras and unclimbable) before going to look at a historic British cemetery.

img_4893It was getting late, and, expecting a line img_4860on the way back as well, we headed back toward the northern tip of the island.  But we had one last thing we wanted to do: get out at one of the glorious beaches and go swimming!  Since it was late, we elected not to swim, but I waded in pretty far (and got pretty soaked in the process).

 

img_4876When we arrived back at the car line, it was a lot longer than expected.  Sydney and I took a half mile walk to the front of the line and back and got bitten to death by mosquitos. Getting restless, we decided to climb out and back onto the beach to watch the sunset.  It turned out to be a fantastic photo op! The sunset was beautiful and we posed for each other and her mom.

We got back onto the ferry around 8:45pm, starting to get hungry for dinner. Sadly, we were pretty much out of luck for the next 45 minutes, having exhausted all our snacks hours earlier. Sydney and I climbed out of the car and stood at the back of the boat, snuggled together in a beach towel to keep warm.  It felt pretty Titanic style to me 🙂 The ferry ride in the dark was beautiful as we watched the warm glow of Hatteras approaching. When we finally arrived back onshore, we rushed into a pizza shop, Rocco’s, for dinner. The owners probably weren’t too pleased with us, as it was 15 minutes before their closing time, but to our ravenous stomachs, the otherwise mediocre pizza tasted heavenly.  We piled back into the car and headed for home, finally getting there after midnight, but filled with happy memories of a crazy day of fun.

the outer banks

One of my favorite places in the world is the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  My family has had a beach house there since before I can remember, and it is, essentially, one of my favorite places in the world.  Sunny skies, sand, long sleeve shirts, seafood, and saltwater are probably the only things I need in life.  The Outer Banks is actually a set of barrier islands, separating mainland North Carolina from the Atlantic Ocean.  In between the islands and the mainland is the “Sound” (its specific name varies in different spots).  The sound is much calmer and much warmer than the ocean, like a lake, and ofimg_4817fers the opportunity to do some other water activities that simply aren’t possible on the rough northern Atlantic.

Dates of my visit: it varies every year, but we usually go in March or April (my spring break) and June

What to do:

  1. Climb a lighthouse!  We stay in the northern part of the island, so every so often we pack up and head north to Corolla to climb the Currituck Lighthouse.
  2. Go shopping!  The town of Duck is a personal favorite.  With a boardwalk connecting its waterfront shops on the sound-side of the island, it’s easy to traverse this little town.  Some of my favorite shops include:
    1. Gray’s – typical souvenirs, various locations
    2. The Farmer’s Daughter – typical souvenirs (including some my favorite pocket tee vendors!), various locations
    3. Kitty Hawk Surf Co. – typical souvenirs, various locations
    4. Islands by Amity – fun, stylish clothing – two locations in the Waterfront Shops
    5. The Christmas Shop – all things christmas!  It’s a little kooky but also tons of fun, various locations
    6. Tanger Outlets – always a fun visit, 7100 S Croatan Hwy #45, Nags Head, NC 27959
  3. Climb Jockey’s Ridge!  This giant sand dune offers tons of fun for all ages.  Bring a sled or even a cardboard box and slide down the hills, then climb back up and start again!  I recommend going on a cool, cloudy day (it gets hot up there!) and wearing flip flops or sandals that you won’t miss should you take them off and lose them.
  4. Visit historic Roanoke Island!  This island is home to America’s first (albeit failed) colony.  You can explore the history park there and see a performance of The Lost Colony, America’s longest running outdoor drama.
  5. Rent a kayak or go parasailing!  The Outer Banks offers plenty of opportunities for water sports.  You can kayak or stand-up paddleboard on the ocean or the sound, and companies will take you parasailing or offer surfing lessons.  Some of my family’s favorite companies are Kitty hawk Kites (various locations) and Ocean Atlantic Rentals (1194 Duck Rd, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949).
  6. Take a day trip to Ocracoke – blog post about this trip here.
  7. If nothing else, take a towel to the beach and relax!  Read a book, go swimming, try your hand at boogie-boarding, or take a nap and work on your tan (with sunscreen, of course!)

Places to eat:

  1. Kill Devil Grill: modern twists on classic American fare and seafood – a family favorite! Be sure to try the key lime pie! (2008 S Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948)
  2. Rundown Cafe: classic American food and seafood (5218 Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949)

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    Smoothie bowl from The Spot

  3. The Spot: smoothie bowls – I LOVE a good smoothie bowl! (805 S Croatan Hwy, Nags Head, NC 27959)
  4. Wave Pizza: pizza, duh. (1190 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949)
  5. Coastal Cravings: a fun lunch spot – delicious North Carolina barbecue! (1209 Duck Rd, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949)
  6. Coastal Cantina: a fun, sound-side dinner option that often has live music! (1236 Duck Rd, Duck, NC 27949)
  7. Tortugas Lie: dive-y burger and seafood joint (3016 S Virginia Dare Trail, Nags Head, NC 27959)
  8. Ortegaz: tex-mex – very yummy! (201 Sir Walter Raleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954)

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    Duck Donuts!!!

  9. Duck Donuts: the best place ever. Period. No arguments. I mean, create-your-own donuts! What could be better?! (various locations – not all of them are in the Outer Banks!)
  10. American Pie: pizza and ice cream, but I personally think that their ice cream is superior to any other (1600 S Virginia Dare Trail, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948)

img_0647Where to stay:

I strongly recommend staying in a beach house rather than a hotel or condo. They add to the beachy feel to the vacation and each house has something different to offer! Many have
private pools and/or hot tubs. In addition, the beaches in residential neighborhoods are far less crowded than the ones near hotels. For less crowded beaches, the towns of Southern Shores, Duck, and Kitty Hawk are a safe bet.