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For this year’s summer vacation, we took the family to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And despite the long journey there and back, we all had a wonderful time.

We’d never been to the Outer Banks before, and that was kind of the point. Courtney mentioned that we have fallen into something of a routine with our trips, going back to the same places time and again. And there’s a reason for that—there are spots we like and family members we regularly want to visit. That will always be the case, but it’s also fun to mix things up and explore new destinations. We’d heard good things about the Outer Banks, so we resolved ourselves to rent a house down there with some friends. (Unfortunately one family had to back out, which meant less little playmates.)

The roughest part of vacationing in the Outer Banks is actually getting there. We decided to drive because even using the nearest airports would still have required legnthy car trips. So we bit the bullet, and left for North Carolina at 3:30 a.m. In the morning.

Yeah. That sucked. There were definitely stretches that felt a lot like this, and I think the next time we want to do a similar vacation, based around a beach and a house rental, we’ll stay closer to home.

That said, we were all thrilled once we got to our destination. The house was beautiful, complete with four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, and a hot tub on the balcony. There was also a pool inside the residential community, and Eli loved going to “the clubhouse” for a swim.

The kids really got a kick out of the beach, which was very different from the one we usually go to. See, we typically frequent North Shore beaches, which—because they’re on the Long Island Sound and not the ocean—don’t offer much in terms of real waves. That’s not always a bad thing, especially when you’ve got small kids. But both Eli and Grace really got a kick out of the tide. Eli loved jumping in, over, and even under the waves, and had his first taste of boogie boarding. Grace was a bit more hesitant, but she liked sitting on the sand as the tide rolled in, and jumping over the waves with a little help from me.

(Yes, we were well aware of the reports of shark sightings in North Carolina, which is why we never ventured too far out into the water and were always extremely vigilant.)

The kids had played mini-golf before, but Eli became borderline obsessed with it this trip. We went to a course by the house, and he immediately wanted to go again. There was another dinosaur-themed course, and with his recent fascination with all things “Jurassic” (which began when he played LEGO Jurassic World at The Ronald McDonald House), stopping there became a must. I also took Eli for his very first non-Mario go-kart ride, which he loved (of course).

There was also an aquarium where we did actually come face-to-face with sharks, as well as some adorable turtles. We went crab fishing, and man, those buggers seem nasty. There was a great deal of ice cream consumed. We climbed 200+ stairs to the top of a lighthouse. Naps were taken by everyone. And I like to think that we all got the relaxing vacation we all needed.

A few miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The waffles at Waffle House are nothing special.
  • There are a lot of people down South who either haven’t got the memo about the Confederate flag, or they just really don’t care.
  • We kept seeing huge signs for a place called Super Wings, which obviously got me very excited, but it turns out it’s just a store for beach and pool supplies and not a restaurant featuring various flavors and styles of buffalo wings. Flagrant false advertising.
  • Apparently OBX is a popular destination for New Jersey residents, as it seemed like 90% of the cars we saw driving around had NJ plates.
  • Waze is a fantastic app, a great time-saver, and a wonderful opportunity to see *real* America, instead of just the view from the highway.