This is difficult to admit, but the sun doesn’t shine every day on the Outer Banks. Sometimes it rains . . . same weather systems that the rest of the country experiences. Especially when there’s lightening flashing, it’s probably not the best time to be on the beach. Luckily, there’s plenty to do to fill up a day or two of rainy weather.

Shopping seems to be the number one rainy day activity for most folks, and Outer Banks entrepreneurs seem to understand that sightly different and slightly quirky is a little bit better. Even the shopping centers and plazas are a little bit different–wooden walkways, interconnecting paths, breezeways, but almost nothing is covered.

At the risk of offending hundreds of business owners, I’ll mention a few of the larger and more established businesses by name–but all those quirky little places that are too numerous to name but too much fun to miss, should be on the shopping professional’s list.
The Cotton Gin has four locations, Jarvisburg (on the mainland), Corolla, Duck and Nags Head. The main store is a huge rambling building that has hidden treasures in hard to find nooks and crannies, a massive offering of some very good quality clothing lines and a tasting room for Sanctuary Wines–the wines that come from the vineyards surrounding it.
The other three stores in the chain are remarkably similar in theme and presentation, just not as large or rambling. The Corolla store in Timbuck II Shopping Center probably comes closest.

One of the oldest family businesses on the Outer Banks is Gray’s Department Stores. Great fashion items, a lot of beachy stuff, a few toys, some jewelry. There’s five of them–two in Corolla, two in Duck and the main store in Kitty Hawk. Walter Gray, a truly unique and wonderful person, started the business in 1948. Mr. Gray passed away a few years ago, but the business remains very much a family run enterprise.

The problem with shopping, of course, is kids . . . not that kids are a problem. In fact, in the summer, they’re more than half the fun of being here. However, it’s the rare child that enjoys shopping for clothes and beach items. Dad may not find it all that interesting either, but experience and commonsense has taught him to use his time wisely.

Kitty Hawk Kites, though, may be a store that has something to keep the family happily occupied. With locations from Corolla all the way down to Ocracoke, the stores are an amazing amalgamation of t-shirts, toys, games, jewelry, clothing and kites.

The kite displays are amazing–everything from basic, incredibly easy to fly parafoils, to intricate, very large and very powerful stunt kites that, in a good wind, can drag a full-sized man across the dunes.

The main store in Nags Head and the Corolla Timbuck II location have climbing wall. Kids love it! Climbers are always on a rope, it’s very safe and the sense of accomplishment when the bell is rung at the top is hard to describe.

Don’t limit yourself to just big stores. See what else is out there, have some fun and the sun will shine soon enough again.