What’s New at The Lark in 2015

Living Room

First up, a fresh coat of pale, pale blue for the walls, new sofa and bench and a new rug in a beachy chevron.

livingroom_before_after

I love the Rowe sleeper ordered from local business Manteo Furniture. It’s in a durable Sunbrella fabric, perfect for rental wear and tear.

sofa_before_after

Dining Area

Noticed the mural in that last photo, huh? Let’s take a closer look.

dining_before_after

Inspired by this wall from Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, I liked how it’s evocative of the ocean while helping to draw my various color choices together.

Fireplace

Goodbye, 80’s gold! A can of Rustoleum heat resistant paint transformed the whole look of the fireplace. The paintings on the mantle got moved to a hallway in exchange for this mirror I bought on Craigslist and painted white.
fireplace_before_after

These mason jars left behind by a guest and Dollar Tree vases also got upcycled to help aid with our cool coastal theme.

vase_before_after

Second Bedroom

Our favorite update – the Queen bedroom. Photos don’t do it justice, likely because I’m a terrible photographer. This went from perfectly usable, but bland to a peaceful and calming retreat thanks to new paint in ocean colors, Stella bedding from West Elm and local photography by Eve Turek, owner of Yellowhouse Gallery in Nags Head.
second_bedroom_before_after

second_bedroom2

Kitchen

My biggest complaint about vacation rentals are DULL KNIVES. I recently discovered Mercer knives at A Culinary Affair in Outer Banks Mall. Mercer supplies all the cooking schools and offer good quality at affordable prices. They actually aren’t pictured here. The new knives are on a simple, clean magnetic strip on the wall. Also not pictured: a new sink faucet and a fabulous new washer dryer unit.
SHARP Mercer knives and a well appointed kitchen with new appliances

The Lark awarded 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Image

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, has awarded The Lark a 2014 Certificate of Excellence. This prestigious award recognizes businesses that consistently earn top ratings from TripAdvisor travelers as well as exceeding other hospitality measures. Out of more than 3,500 vacation rentals in the Northern Coast and Outer Banks, only a small percentage will earn this distinction.

The pillow top king bed promises a good night's rest

Many guests comment on the comfort of the beds at The Lark

“TripAdvisor is pleased to honor exceptional hospitality businesses for consistent excellence,” said Marc Charron, president of TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award gives top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most – their customers. From Australia to Zimbabwe, we want to applaud exceptional hospitality businesses for offering TripAdvisor travelers a great customer experience.”

Tim and I are proud to receive this award because it demonstrates the high regards and opinions of our guests, whom we love and appreciate.

Guest photos

A guest-provided photo of their pups enjoying the view

2013 FlipKey Top Vacation Rental Bronze AwardThis is the second year The Lark has been recognized for stellar hospitality. In 2013, our first year of operation, we received a FlipKey bronze Top Vacation Rental award.

Read the reviews that made the award possible on FlipKey and VRBO.

Kid-Friendly Amenities and Activities

U.S. News & World Report recently named the Outer Banks the top family beach vacation in the USA, beating out more exotic locales of Maui and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The magazine lauded the OBX’s “consistent-yet-manageable waves and beautiful natural landscape,” also giving a nod to its historical charm and rugged sense of adventure.

“A cottage or condo rental will give you more space for family time and prime beach access.” -U.S. News & World Report.

Vacationing with children at OBX is a joy at any time of year. Here’s our list of recommendations.

For the wee ones

  • A child plays with a shovel and sand bucket as the sun sets across the SoundSound side beach. A favorite among locals is behind Jockey’s Ridge where the kids can play in the water with no waves. It’s around milepost 12 on Soundside Rd. — take a right at the Nags Head church. The entrance is down the road on the right. Here’s a map from the condo.
  • Coquina Beach. This one is nice because it has wide beaches and a bath house with restrooms and changing stations. Our son was terrified of the ocean until he was about 3 so having a wide stretch between the sand and the waves was a big plus.
  • Playgrounds. Hayman Park at MP 5.5 is the one we normally hit when we go down there. Perfect for the 1-3 year olds, the park set is set in the residential west side and surrounded by live oaks. Bonus: it’s not well known to tourists.
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial. Lots of open space for the little ones to wear out. Be sure to keep to the trails and not the grass, which is full of prickly pears. Don’t miss the photo ops near the interactive sculpture of the first flight and at the top of the memorial!
  • NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier (http://www.ncaquariums.com/). Be sure to check out the historic Roanoke Island waterfront after visiting the sharks!
  • Pirates & Pixies toy shop. You’ll find tons of fun, well crafted gifts and the owner is usually the one behind the counters.
  • Duck Soundside Boardwalk. An easy, picturesque walk lined with shops and restaurants.
  • Outer Banks Children’s Museum. The museum recently re-opened in the Buccaneer’s Walk Center, expanding the already great play/learning space.
  • Bouncing off the Walls. Inflatable bounce houses and other fun for children under 12.

Older kids

  • A skim boarder at the beachExtreme sports. Here’s a map showing The Lark in relation to kayaking, parasailing, sandboarding and hangliding locations. We keep a body board at the condo for those who want to enjoy the waves. First Street, our closest public beach access point, is also a historic surf break of the OBX. View the live cam. Kitty Hawk Park also has a 5,000 sq. ft. skate park (and covered picnic areas so you can watch your children under the shade).
  • Mini Golf. These fun themed putt-putt courses are all throughout the Outer Banks. The closest one being Lost Treasure Golf 1/2 mile from The Lark!
  • First Flight Adventure Park. Hello, ropes, zip lines and obstacle courses 10-50 feet above the Sound!
  • Destination Funplex. Nearby The Lark is an indoor bounce house, arcade, mini golf and laser tag. Great for those rainy days.
  • Arts and crafts. Paint your own pottery at Glazin’ Go Nuts or make jewelry at its sister store, Garden of Beadin’ or Cloud Nine in Pirate’s Quay shopping center. You can also tye dye a shirt at Island Dye.
  • Hair wraps and temporary tattoos.  No trip to the beach is complete unless you come home with your hair in corn rows and your arms covered in temporary tattoos. At least that was me growing up.
  • Off-roading. See the wild horses, take a 4×4 adventure trip or a Segway tour in the Carova Beach region to the north. You can rent your own off-road vehicle or take a guided tour.
  • Take a hike! We love the Nags Head Woods Preserve.
  • Jockey’s Ridge. Climbing the dunes is a must. You may also buy a kite across the street at Kitty Hawk Kites or take a guided sunset tour.
  • The Lost Colony. The historical reenactment is a 2013 Tony recipient for excellence in theatre. Not to mention a lot of fun.
  • YMCA. The Y in OBX has all the regular fitness equipment and group fitness classes for Mom and Dad, as well as pools with a waterslide and a skate park.
  • The Wright Brothers National Memorial. To mark the 99th anniversary of humans’ first flight in 2002, 99 aircraft flew over the memorial and parachuters glided to the earth near the granite statue that marks the location of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight. We likely won’t be treated to another such spectacle for another 100 years, but the memorial is still impressive. You can walk to the memorial from The Lark on the multi-use trail. Go south on the trail for about 1.5 miles and turn into the charming little airport at the rear of the memorial.
  • Ghost Tours. I actually lead ghost tours in my hometown of Harrisonburg, VA, and was excited to find these tours at Whalehead in Historic Corolla. There’s a nighttime and daytime option as well as other tours of the non-spooky variety.

Events

For more ideas and events, check out Outer Banks Child. Around The Lark, you can also make it a family day in by choosing a family-friendly selection from our DVD collection or hanging out by our pool.

Parents’ Night Out

Need a break from the little ones? You can hire a sitter to come to the condo. A quick search for “babysitting Outer Banks” will yield several results. We personally met the owner of At Your Service and found her to be professional and trustworthy.

Family Friendly Restaurants

Truly, though, there are many, many great options. Outer Banks Taco Bar has a box full of toddler toys to keep the littles entertained and Outer Banks Brewing Station has a playground on premises. We also enjoy American Pie, Rundown Cafe and Mama Kwans. If your child is a history buff, check out Black Pelican. The old life saving station is where the Wright Brothers sent their telegraph announcing they had successfully taken the world’s first flight.

Our Child Friendly Amenities

The Lark was designed with young children in mind. We have everything you need for a relaxing vacation.

  • Pool located directly across our building with beach and pool toys
  • First Street beach access is a mile down the same road and has a lifeguard station
  • Low profile queen size bed for easy in and out access
  • Sleep sound machines in both bedrooms
  • Outlet covers, child cabinet locks and child proof option on the dishwasher
  • Toys, books and board games
  • Pack N’ Play, travel high chair and baby spoons
  • Potty reducer seat
  • Clutter-free decor! Nothing is more relaxing than chasing your child around putting dusty knick-knacks back in place right? Right? (Not.)
  • Easy wipe furniture, extra towels for accidental spills and lots of soft or rounded furniture edges
  • Open concept design so you can watch the little ones while cooking

The Outer Banks Christmas House

Every time we are in the Outer Banks between Thanksgiving and New Year someone will ask if we’ve been to see the house with all the Christmas lights. “Turn at the Pigman’s BBQ” is the only description we’ve ever received. So tonight, we hopped in the car, made a right at the Pigman’s BBQ on Ocean Acres Drive, then drove until the cars slowed to a crawl and Christmas carols poured in from the open window.

Then we saw this.

Lovingly owned by landscaper Jim Poulos and his wife Ann, the operation of the house’s holiday display is a whole family endeavor. Having been ill-prepared for the wonder appearing before our eyes, we were lucky to have a chance to speak with Jim’s son-in-law. We asked him all sorts of burning questions, and he was kind enough to answer them all. Now that I’m home I can think of several more impertinent things I’d like to ask, but I admit I was distracted by the pretty flashing lights.

Q: How long does it take to set this up?
A: We started in mid-August. The garage takes 30 to 40 days alone.

Q: How much is your electric bill each month?
A: It’s actually not as much as it was! We switched to nearly all LED lights and that helps.

Q: What do the neighbors think?
A: Most of them like Christmas. You’ll notice many put up their own Christmas lights. But really, my father-in-law has been here for 30 years. If you don’t like Christmas, you don’t move to this neighborhood! One lady moved in a few years ago and called the police five times in the first night. The next night she turned around and filed seven more complaints. Finally the police told her, “if you’re calling about the Christmas house again, you can just stop calling. It was there before you were.”

Q: So what will Santa bring you this year?
A: Santa came early this year and dropped off a train set. You see it there by the pond. That was nearly $500 alone. My father-in-law is a landscaper by trade, so next year he’s going to take up the pond and rearrange it. It’s expensive keeping up the house, but the children love it.

Q: This is so much more than we were expecting. Do you get a lot of visitors like us completely in awe?
A: We’re glad we could beat your expectations. It was actually voted best Christmas display by the Today Show in 2005. They never repeated the contest, so we still hold the title!

A. Maze. Ing. We’re probably going to go back tomorrow. And every remaining night of our trip. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos and video. We only had an iPad on us since we were only hoping to capture a picture for our family scrapbook. The best advice I can give you is to come see it for yourself. Just turn at the Pigman’s BBQ.

20131222-215912.jpg

20131222-215657.jpg

20131222-215709.jpg

20131222-215857.jpg

The OBX Stars in Reality TV Episode

Vacation rentals have been gaining popularity among the nation’s travelers. Though slow to follow, the media is starting to pay attention. Last night CNBC’s Mad Money featured an interview with Brian Sharples, CEO of vacation rental search powerhouse HomeAway.

Brian_Sharples_on_MadMoney

Now, the process of selecting and staying in a vacation rental has its own reality tv series on PBS. According to the show’s website, Getting Away Together highlights the “rapidly growing trend of sharing a vacation rental home with friends and family. From girlfriend getaways to family reunions and milestone celebrations, the series shows diverse groups of real travelers vacationing together in some of the most fascinating destinations and staying at spectacular vacation rental properties across America.”

In an age where nothing is official until it’s FBO (that’s Facebook Official, as a teenage friend tells me) and washed out celebrities cleave to the limelight by enrolling in as many reality shows as will accept them, I think that having our own series means that we have arrived in the vacation rental industry!

And of course, since Getting Away Together features some of the most fascinating destinations in the US, the Outer Banks already has an episode. It features a large Greek family that converges on the island for a family reunion. You can watch the full episode here.

Rare White Alligator Comes to Live at the Aquarium

This ultra rare leucistic alligator will appear in the Wetlands on the Edge exhibit. Photo by NC Aquariums.

This ultra rare leucistic alligator is on loan from New Orleans. Photo by NC Aquariums.

Now’s your chance to see a live white alligator! One of the world’s estimated 12 leucistic alligators (even more rare than the albino trait) is on loan from New Orleans at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island. It’s currently in quarantine before being introduced to the Wetlands on the Edge exhibit. Early reports say the resident alligators are green with envy at the new arrival. Read more.