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10 Ways to Get Out and About in Elizabeth City, NC

Elizabeth City is a 'Harbor of Hospitality' and life in this town is swimming with opportunity.

By Jessica Walker Boehm on August 19, 2019

Elizabeth City, NC Museums
Elizabeth City / Nathan Lambrecht

If you’re looking for fun, entertainment and excitement, you’re in luck: Downtown Elizabeth City has plenty. As the district continues to grow and evolve, it’s only getting better. You’ll find shopping, dining, arts, culture and historic attractions, plus annual festivals and events for the whole family to enjoy.

“Elizabeth City has a classic downtown that’s right on the Pasquotank River, so there’s an incredible mix of natural beauty and historic architecture,†says Corrina Ferguson, executive director of Visit Elizabeth City. “We also have a diverse selection of locally owned and operated restaurants and retail businesses, plus can’t-miss attractions like Arts of the Albemarle. All of these things are within about eight blocks of each other and the weather is almost always beautiful, so it’s easy to walk and take in everything the district has to offer. I’d say it’s as close to perfect as a place can be.”

1. Harbor of Hospitality

Elizabeth City is nicknamed the Harbor of Hospitality, and for good reason. Because it’s located at a narrowed bend of the Pasquotank River and serves as home to the largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the nation, the community is regularly welcoming newcomers – and its downtown happens to be adjacent to the waterfront, making it a great place to take in the beautiful scenery or enjoy water-centric activities like canoeing, kayaking and paddle- boarding.

Elizabeth City
Courtesy of Liza Franco - Potato Festival

2. Festivals

Connect with the community by attending downtown Elizabeth City’s many annual festivals and special events. For example, there’s the Mariners’ Wharf Film Festival at Mariners’ Wharf Park during the months of June and July. Catch the Downtown Waterfront Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June through August, as well as Music on the Green concerts at Mariners’ Wharf Park on Tuesday nights in August and September. The district also hosts the North Carolina Potato Festival, Artigras, River City Rhythm & Brews and the Downtown Elizabeth City Holiday Celebration and Grand Illumination.

3. Historic Walking Tour

Filled with historic structures and architecture, downtown Elizabeth City is a history buff’s dream. Take a self-guided walking tour of the district’s historic parks, monuments, buildings and homes by picking up a guidebook at the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce or the Elizabeth City Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Elizabeth City, NC Arts
Elizabeth City / Nathan Lambrecht

4. First Friday Art Walk

Taking place the first Friday evening of every month in downtown Elizabeth City, the First Friday Art Walk gives attendees the opportunity to visit participating galleries, restaurants and other businesses to admire original artwork. The event, free and open to the public, also features area artists sharing their musical, literary, culinary and decorative talents.

5. Delicious Dining

Hungry? Downtown Elizabeth City has you covered. Get your fill at favorite restaurants and eateries like The Mills Downtown Bistro, Cypress Creek Grill, Toyama Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Hoppin’ Johnz, The Flour Girls Cafe & Bakery, Muddy Waters Coffeehouse and Paradiso Roma Ristorante.

Discover the Excitement of Elizabeth City

6. Shop Local 

Explore downtown Elizabeth City’s diverse mix of locally owned shops such as Lazzy Frog, which features casual clothing, accessories and unique gifts for women, men and children, as well as spots like The Bag NC, Eclectic Jewelry Designs and Albemarle Floral.

7. Arts of the Albemarle

Located in the recently renovated historical Lowry-Chesson Building, now called The Center, Arts of the Albemarle is home to a gallery showcasing the works of more than 250 artists, craftsmen and photographers. The venue also lays claim to The Maguire Theatre, a 230-seat performance space that hosts local, regional and national acts.

Elizabeth City, NC Museums
Elizabeth City / Nathan Lambrecht

8. Museum of the Albemarle 

Free and open to the public, the Museum of the Albemarle interprets and celebrates the cultural history of the Albemarle, an area spanning 13 counties across northeastern North Carolina. The museum has a mix of long-term installations – like Our Story: Life in the Albemarle that explores how local communities have adapted to the area’s challenges and opportunities – and short-term exhibits that often include one-of-a-kind documents, maps, photographs and other media.

9. Pailin’s Alley

Discover historic Pailin’s Alley, which has recently been renovated and includes must-visit destinations like Ghost Harbor Brewing Company and Hoppin’ Johnz, a restaurant serving up new southern cuisine and traditional cocktails. Pailin’s Alley is known for its special events, too, including the Wailin’ Wednesdays concert series.

Eastern North Carolina is a Locality with Vitality

10. Port Discover

Bring the kids to Port Discover, a hands-on science center open Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The family-friendly destination has engaging exhibits like Forces, Fun and Flight – complete with a flight simulator – and From Sea to Sink, which features an interactive water table, plus a variety of camps, classes and special events.

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