A long-standing Outer Banks tradition, the annual Dare Day Festival is a fun-filled family event always held on the first Saturday in June.

Started in 1976, the Dare Day festival is sponsored jointly with the County of Dare and the Town of Manteo, and is considered by most locals as the unofficial kickoff of summer. Located on the waterfront in downtown Manteo, this outdoor festival is full of festivities the whole family will enjoy. Streets are blocked off as throngs of visitors flock to Roanoke Island and the quaint coastal town to enjoy music, food, crafts, and entertainment.

With a beautiful weekend in the forecast, I decided to take my two little ones and check it out. The festival starts at 9am, but we arrived around 10am – and still managed to find on-street parking (a feat in itself)! After a short walk, we found ourselves directly across from the Manteo waterfront and right in the heart of all the action.

After a quick stroll to take it all in, we decided to seek out the bouncy houses. As the mother of two young children, bouncy houses are a popular topic of conversation around our house. It wasn’t long before we stumbled upon them, bought our $10 jump-all-you-want wristbands, and we were on our way to jumping heaven. To add icing to the cake, included in the wristband action was an inflatable rock climbing wall. Just like a traditional rock wall, but inflated, this attraction was a big hit with the older kids (including my son).

Next, we found ourselves a nice cool shady spot under some nearby trees – right next to an adorable petting zoo brought by Zoo to You. For $5, your child could enter the fenced-in area and play with baby goats and ducks, a chicken, a pig, and even a llama.

In between the bouncy houses and petting zoo, we found ourselves walking along the beautiful Manteo waterfront – checking out the wares of more than 100 vendors offering furniture, toys, carvings, clothing, jewelry, birdhouses, paintings, wind chimes and photography and more.

Not far away, the aroma of delicious food filled the air. From traditional festival food like funnel cakes, cotton candy, and popcorn to crab cakes, polish sausages, hamburgers and hotdogs – there was something for everyone. (Plenty of cold beverages, including fresh squeezed lemonade, slushes, and all kinds of soft drinks, were also offered.) With all that bouncing around and walking, my clan had worked up quite an appetite – so we rested a bit while we shared a delicious funnel cake.

After a bit more wandering – including catching a cool tap dancing show – it was time for my promise of snow cones and face painting. In the end, my son opted to try the “strong man” contest vs. a Spiderman-esque face, but my daughter was over the moon for her “sparkly unicorn.” And for $5, it was just what the doctor ordered for the day’s final festivities.

Although the 2014 Dare Day Festival is over, if you’re looking for something fun to do with your little ones next summer, I highly suggest heading over the Washington Baum bridge to downtown Manteo. Not only will your kids have a blast, but you’ll delight in all the small town charms that Manteo has to offer.