The Outer Banks is home to some of the most amazing museums anywhere. I know this because as a child my mother would drag us to every museum imaginable–and as a consequence I have become a connoisseur of what it takes for a museum to hold the interest of a child.
Thereâ€™s not a lot of museums on the Outer Banks, so one good rainy day should take care of the whole thing–although something like the Aquarium may be worth spending more time.
The Aquarium actually has two locations on the Outer Banks–the NC Aquarium onRoanoke Island and Jennetteâ€™s Pier.
The Aquarium (Iâ€™m calling it a museum because you go inside and look at exhibits) is relatively small but can easily take an hour and a half to two hours of time. The otters are invariably cute, the alligators endlessly fascinating, the petting pond a thing of wonder and the gigantic aquarium filled with NC sea life is equally as interesting for both children and adults. Especially when the divers are in the tank cleaning it or feeding the sharks.
Easy to find . . . drive through Manteo and look for the Airport sign. Itâ€™s just before the Airport.Â Jennetteâ€™s pier is part of the NC Aquarium system, but weâ€™ll talk about the pier some other time.
Probably the best known museum on the Outer Banks is the Wright Brotherâ€™s Memorial inÂ Kill Devil Hills. The entire grounds actually serve as a museum, and the view from the top of the Memorial is amazing. However, the building that houses the Wright Flyer (Itâ€™s actually an exact replica. The original is in the Smithsonian.) should be on every familyâ€™s list of things to do.
From an adult perspective, what becomes apparent in walking through the museum, is thatÂ Wilbur and Orville Wright were extraordinary scientists and it was no accident that their aircraft flew. From a childâ€™s standpoint the talk that is given in the rotunda that houses the Flyer is fascinating and informative. What is perhaps most unique about the discussion is that, although geared toward elementary school children, it is so filled with interesting facts that adults find it interesting.
Kind of a shame the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education has such a convoluted name for such a wonderful little museum. It contains, among other things, the largest hand carved decoy collection in the world (kids may or may not find that interesting), a diorama of the history and ecology of the Currituck Sound and a 8,000 gallon tank filled with the creatures that live in the sound.Â Figure about 30-45 minutes with kids in the Wildlife Center and then head over to the Lighthouse and climb to the top. Amazing view, worth the effort, kids love it.
Speaking from my childhood experience with my mother, the Whalehead Club may be more of an adult thing. Tours of old houses just donâ€™t seem to hold the fascination for kids that they do for adults