The holidays settle like a cozy blanket around the waterfront town of Manteo. Slowly but surely, signs of the coming celebratory days show up. First, the Town puts up the sparkly snowflakes, reindeer, boats and other seasonal images on the streetlight posts. Then, the weekend after Thanksgiving, locals are busy getting their houses and businesses decorated.
And on the first weekend in December, the village really gets into the holiday spirit when townspeople and visitors gather together for the downtown festival on Friday evening, full of music and pageantry and the lighting of the splendid Town Christmas tree. You can warm up by the huge street bonfire, enjoy refreshments and take in the holiday happiness that seems to imbue everyone attending. The celebrations continue on Saturday with the 50th Manteo Christmas Parade featuring local and visiting marching bands, colorful floats sponsored by area businesses, local dancers, church floats, girls riding horses festooned with bells and ribbons, SPCA adoptees strutting their furry stuff and Santa.
Then, as the afternoon begins to wane and the sun begins to dip, the Manteo Preservation Trust’s Holiday Tour of Homes gets underway. This year will be the 15th time that owners have opened their houses and businesses in this small town to interested tour-goers. Manteo Preservation Trust started this tour as a way to open homes and other structures to the public to help underscore the organization’s focus on preserving the island’s architectural and cultural heritage.
Once you step inside these lovely, restored homes and businesses, their beauty and historic significance are clear. But every year, there are also more recently built homes on the tour that show how you can successfully mingle modern aspects with classic design. While the above-stated purpose is certainly the framework for the tour, the decorations and attention to details at each tour stop are imaginative and beautiful and will make you want to take notes for your own place.
This year, the tour features 11 stops, including eight homes, the Starry Banner yacht, Mt. Olivet Methodist Church and the Twiford Building, home to Outer Banks Distillery and Kill Devil Rum (which is where the tour officially starts).
Again this year, Manteo Cyclery will be providing free bikes on a first come, first served basis for anyone who might enjoy the easy and flat riding around town. But the tour route is very enjoyable for strolling too.
Grizelle Fearing, a director of Manteo Preservation Trust for years and one of the lead organizers of the tour since its inception, talked with us about her experience: “One of the things I love about this tour is that we have so many new faces every year, but we also have such loyal visitors, folks I see come back almost every year. That’s a testament, I think, to the variety we have on the tour, but it also speaks to people’s support for protecting and promoting the essence of a place like this. Manteo feels different than any other town on the Outer Banks because we’ve valued and saved so much of what was here 100 years ago. And what we’ve added is very much in keeping with the look of the town. I think, more and more, that experiencing a town that is individual, that’s truly unique, is interesting and fun for people. When you’re in Manteo, it has its own architectural and cultural language, so to speak, that isn’t found anywhere else.”
Jeanne deCamps and her husband, Bill Husted, are co-chairs of this year's tour and have opened their home for a tour in the past. Jeanne describes it as a spectacular day. “Seeing all the locals and meeting people from out of town was a fun experience. Everyone was so interested in talking about the house and asking questions about Manteo in general,” she says.
The tour is visually appealing no matter what time of day you take it, but as twilight falls and the decorative lights twinkle and the candles are lit, the experience becomes enchanting. Wandering Manteo’s safe streets, full of holiday cheer and new decorating ideas, is a splendid way to welcome in the season.
Join the Fun!
Saturday, December 3, 2022
1 to 6 p.m.
Outer Banks Distilling
510 Budleigh Street, Manteo
Manteo Preservation Trust
P.O. Box 234, Manteo