Visit Elizabeth City | Tourism for Elizabeth City, NC | Media | Elizabeth City Travel Backgrounder Arrivalist
Search Elizabeth City Search Elizabeth City HarborCam HarborCam Subscribe Today Email Sign-Up Holidays Holidays

Elizabeth City Travel Backgrounder

Set Your Sights on Elizabeth City, N.C.

(Elizabeth City, N.C., 2014) — Whether you're looking for a carefree weekend getaway or a fun little spot that's part of a larger itinerary, Elizabeth City is the place to be. Centrally located in northeastern North Carolina, the "Harbor of Hospitality" dates to 1663 when the Lords Proprietors of Carolina laid out the Albemarle area with Pasquotank County right in the center.

Bounded by the Dismal Swamp to the north and the Pasquotank River to the southeast, Elizabeth City is first and foremost a waterfront town. Founded in 1793, it was once a major seaport where four-masted sailing ships carried goods along the eastern seaboard. That same year, construction began on the Dismal Swamp Canal, providing an important commercial trade route linking Virginia with northeastern North Carolina.

Needless to say, Elizabeth City is big on history, with Underground Railroad sites, Civil War trails and walking tours that offer sidewalk views of handsome historic homes. It's packed with sites that educate, such as the Museum of the Albemarle, with displays that take visitors through 400 years-plus of Albemarle area history, or Port Discover Hands-on Science Center, where kids are encouraged to dig in to the science around them. The city has an artsy side too. On most weekends, there are art walks, gallery openings, outdoor films, theatrical performances and homegrown music played at local venues, or by the water's edge. And, Elizabeth City is a patriotic town. It is proud to serve as home to Support Station Elizabeth City, one of the largest U.S. Coast Guard air stations in the Continental United States.

An Accommodating Destination

Featured in the book The 100 Best Small Towns in America by Norman Crampton, Elizabeth City has all of the charm and hospitality one would expect to find in a genuine southern town. Accommodations range from cozy B&Bs and small inns to recognized hotel chains and locally-owned and operated motels.

For lunch and dinner, Elizabeth City restaurants serve up everything from Tex-Mex to Sushi, as well as ample portions of fresh-caught seafood. Most are independently owned and operated—a refreshing change from chain restaurants.

Shopping? Elizabeth City has that covered too. One-of-a-kind shops and department stores dot the downtown waterfront, where you can browse for books, art, home décor, jewelry or a treasure to take home.

As the largest city in northeastern North Carolina, Elizabeth City is an ideal meeting site, offering a beautiful waterfront and a convenient, centralized location. The city offers 651 hotel rooms and more than 30 venues throughout the community to accommodate groups, business conferences and events for 10 to 450 people that include society, military, education, religious and fraternal organizational meetings.

There are such interesting places to explore in Elizabeth City—and plenty reasons why it's known as the "Harbor of Hospitality." So what are you waiting for? Come for the day or stay for the weekend! This welcoming destination will be sure to save you a place.

For travel information and suggested itineraries, call Visit Elizabeth City at (252) 335-5330 or go to

Main Attractions

Museum of the Albemarle | Focused on telling Albemarle region’s story, this is a great place to begin your Elizabeth City area tour. The museum's Our Story exhibit chronicles the lives of American Indians, colonists, privateers, farmers, watermen, Civil War soldiers, lifesavers and history makers. Kids will love the hands-on Discovery Room, and be sure to check the schedule for special exhibits, lectures and workshops. Admission is free.

Port Discover Hands-on Science Center | If you're traveling with children, head to Port Discover where kids can explore their curiosity! Learn about becoming a doctor or dig in the "Kids Grow" garden (all in the name of science, of course). Ask about the special Saturday programs, Thursday toddler programs and summer camps, and check out the Getting off the Ground aviation-themed exhibit. Admission is free; fees for some programs.

The Center at Arts of the Albemarle | The focal point for a vibrant visual and performing arts scene, The Center at Arts of the Albemarle presents a full schedule of art exhibitions, concerts, plays, workshops, classes and children's performances featuring the Center Players. Don't miss the First Friday ArtWalk series, held the first Friday of every month. Admission is free; fees for ticketed events.

Self-guided Tours and Trails

Civil War Trails | Part of the national Civil War Trails program, the "Civil War Trails in Elizabeth City" self-guided tour weaves together the history of Union occupation in Elizabeth City through real-life accounts of arson, ambush, guerilla warfare—and the tragic tale of a family murdered on a trip to town. Download a tour brochure at or drop by the Visitors Bureau for a free copy.

Elizabeth City and the Underground Railroad | More than 200 years ago, African American freedom seekers used the Pasquotank River, and the Great Dismal Swamp nearby, as routes to escape slavery. The National Park Service designated the Pasquotank River site at Waterfront Park as part of its National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. Stop by the Visitors Bureau to request a copy of its "Freedom Seekers Trail" itinerary, which links regional sites from Elizabeth City to the Outer Banks and beyond.

Elizabeth City Historic Walking Tours | There are six National Register historic districts in Elizabeth City, and therefore, many opportunities for seeing historic homes, tree-lined streets and stately government structures. At the Visitor's Center, ask for the "Elizabeth City Historic Walking Tour" guides, published by the Elizabeth City Historic Neighborhood Association. The free guides cover practically every corner of the city, from Main Street to Riverside.

Unexpected Experiences

The "Rose Buddies" Tradition at Mariners' Wharf | Elizabeth City's location on the Pasquotank River and Intracoastal Waterway and its reputation as a "Harbor of Hospitality," makes it a popular stop for recreational boaters from around the world. There's even a famous welcoming crew to greet these wayfaring travelers. Known as the "Rose Buddies," these volunteers greet Elizabeth City's boaters with fresh-cut roses for the ladies and an informal wine-and-cheese party for all when five or more boats are docked at Mariners' Wharf.

Blimps Are a Sight to See in Elizabeth City | Residents have long been accustomed to seeing airships in the skies over Elizabeth City. In 1942, from two enormous hangars in neighboring Weeksville, the U.S. Navy began launching airships, or blimps, that were instrumental in combating enemy submarines that lurked off the North Carolina Coast during World War II. Known as the "Shepherds of the Fleets," the Navy "K" airships were ideally suited for spotting the German U-boats that devastated the Outer Banks and gave it the moniker "Torpedo Junction." Today, TCOM, L.P., an international supplier of tethered aerostats and airship blimp envelopes, operates at the Weeksville site. If you drive by, you can see one of the historic hangars and the remnants of a second hangar that burned in a fire. If you're lucky, you might just spy a blimp aloft.

Keeping America's Shores Safe | Just north of Elizabeth City, on a sprawling 800-acre base, U.S. Coast Guard aircrews depart Air Station Elizabeth City daily for search-and-rescue missions that take them as far away as the Azores, Greenland and the Caribbean. To keep the aircraft flying, employees of the Aviation Logistics Center work to overhaul and modify the aircraft, while the Aviation Technical Training Center turns out hundreds of students per year in aviation maintenance, avionics electrical and aviation survival technicians programs. These men and women report to work at one of the U.S. Coast Guard's busiest bases – Support Center Elizabeth City, home to five commands that represent the Coast Guard in northeastern North Carolina.

Signature Events

First Friday Art Walks, Monthly | Showcasing local visual artists and venues the first Friday of each month, Elizabeth City's First Friday ArtWalk makes for a pedestrian-friendly good time! The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. with a featured artist's exhibition at The Center on Main Street, then stroll to neighboring galleries, studios, retail shops and restaurants as the celebration progresses a few blocks here, a few blocks there.

North Carolina Potato Festival, May | What began as a simple tribute to the region's potato farmers has become a popular event that attracts thousands of celebrants annually. Nibble on home-cooked fries, watch the National Potato Peeling Contest competitors peel through bushels of spuds and cheer on the "Little Miss Tater Tot Pageant" contestants! Then shop and dine among arts/crafts and food vendors lining the Main Street thoroughfare. Held the third Saturday in May.

TarWheel Century Ride, April | Bicyclists can choose from 33-, 62- and 100-mile rides along rural roads when they register for the Tarwheel Century Ride, organized by the River City Cycling Club. Starting in Elizabeth City, participants travel the flat course that winds through Pasquotank, Perquimans and Chowan counties, with "support and gear" stops stationed along the way. Takes place in late-April.

Downtown Waterfront Market, May-October | Saturday is market day in Elizabeth City, so head to the Downtown Waterfront Market where you'll discover a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and eggs, originating from local farms. You'll also find herbs, plants, and handcrafted ware, plus live music and entertainment. Open Saturdays from May through October on the green at Mariners' Wharf.

Taste of the Albemarle, June | Over 20 Elizabeth City area restaurants prepare and serve their finest delights at Taste of the Albemarle, held the first Saturday in June. In an alfresco setting along the city's historic Main Street, residents and visitors alike enjoy hors d'oeuvres, along with beverages from the beer and wine garden. Proceeds from the event benefit Arts of the Albemarle, the region's premier non-profit arts organization.

Juneteenth Festival, June | When President Abraham Lincoln signed the "Emancipation Proclamation" Jan. 1, 1863, slaves in Texas did not receive the news until nearly two and-a-half years later, on June 19, 1865. The following year, the first observance of "Juneteenth" took place. In Elizabeth City, the River City Community Development Corporation hosts an annual Juneteenth Celebration in mid-June at Waterfront Park. A featured part of the celebration is the reading of the "Emancipation Proclamation," followed by speeches, songs and fellowship—along with delicious ethnic foods, craft sales, children's activities and entertainment.

Mariners' Wharf Film Festival, June-July | Is there a better way to spend a summer night than watching a classic American film on an outdoor screen? Mariners' Wharf Film Festival presents movies on Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. in June and July along the Elizabeth City Waterfront at Mariners' Wharf. Pack a picnic and bring your lawn chair!

Historic Ghost Walk, October | What do you get when you combine real-life ghost stories, a town full of talented thespians and a handsome array of historic homes? In early October, the Elizabeth City Historic Neighborhood Association stages its Annual Historic Ghost Walk, a lively self-guided tour that leads visitors to homes and buildings listed on the National Register. At each stop, costumed actors, portraying real-life characters, spin their haunted tales. Proceeds benefit historic preservation in Elizabeth City.

Albemarle Craftsman's Fair, October | Bringing together expert craftsmen from North Carolina and Virginia, the fair features authentic reproductions of early crafts for sale and demonstrations at Knobb's Creek Recreation Center. Patrons can choose from jewelry, pottery, fiber arts, ceramics, woodcarving, basketry, stained glass and more. A late-October tradition in Elizabeth City!

Visitor Information

Visit Elizabeth City | We're here to help! Please stop in for travel brochures, self-guided tours, maps and our boaters' book exchange. In addition, we'd be delighted to help you plan your itinerary. Located at 501 South Water St. in the Museum of the Albemarle, the Welcome Center is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (252) 335-5330 or go to

Subscribe to our Monthly e-newsletter | Stay in touch with all things Elizabeth City by subscribing to our monthly e-newsletter by Visit Elizabeth City. Each issue focuses on news, upcoming events and mini-features about the sites and people that make our river-front city such a warm and friendly place to visit. Click the envelope to subscribe!

Download this page in a Word document.

Email Us