Elizabeth City earned it's moniker "Harbor of Hospitality" in part because of the free 48-hour dockage it offers boaters traveling the Intracoastal Waterway. Park yourself on a bench at Mariners Wharf and admire the visiting boats, which can range from tiny sailboats to luxury yachts. If you travel down the Great Dismal Swamp Canal or come upriver from the Coinjock Cut by boat and make a stop in Elizabeth City, odds are good you'll be greeted by one of Elizabeth City's famed Rose Buddies. (http://www.elizcity.com/rose/)
Visitors to Elizabeth City's downtown area can visit the Museum of the Albemarle #http://www.museumofthealbemarle.com/#. The huge museum with its bright green roof is at the south end of Water Street, facing the Pasquotank River, and is impossible to miss. The museum's exhibits will tell the story of the 13 counties that make up the Albemarle region. The museum's gift shop is definitely worth a stop, as are featured exhibits, some on loan from other museums. The museum also hosts educational programs for children and adults. See the museum's website for hours and exhibit information.
Another downtown spot for learning something new is Port Discover, Northeastern North Carolina's Center for Hands-On Science #http://www.portdiscover.org/#. Tucked into a storefront at 613 East Main St., next the Arts of the Albemarle Gallery, the science center is a little harder to spot than the big museum, but well worth a visit. In addition to displays and exhibits that allow kids and adults to check out the world of science all around them, the center offers programs for toddlers, elementary school-age children, and special monthly offerings like "Make it and Take It" programs, which allow visitors to create something to take home, while learning about a specific science concept.
Next door to Port Discover, the Arts of the Albemarle exhibits the best work of painters, photographers, sculptors, woodcarvers, potters and other craftsmen who call northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia home. Paintings and drawings featuring beach scenes, wildlife, historic and scenic sites in northeastern North Carolina share space with modern art created by some of the state's most accomplished artists. All of the work in the gallery is for sale, including hand carved decoys and shorebirds, hand-painted furniture, jewelry, decorative glassware, stained glass, needlework and ceramics.
Elizabeth City's "streetscape" project has created a pedestrian friendly downtown area with wide sidewalks, marked crosswalks and period streetlamps. The historic downtown area features an assortment of architectural styles, including the Italianate Revival style Lowry Building, c. 1897, which is undergoing renovations to become the Arts of the Albemarle Visual and Performing Arts Center.
You won't find any fast food restaurants in downtown EC (head over to Ehringhaus Street or U.S. 17 north of town for those), but there are several good places to eat, with offerings that range from an inexpensive burger or sandwich to a full-course gourmet meal. Need suggestions? Just ask a local. You can get a good cup of coffee as well; Muddy Waters, at the intersection of Main and Road streets, offers coffee and tea, along with dozens of coffee concoctions in a funky, homelike atmosphere. For dinner and a movie, check out the Carolina Theatre and Grill, where you can enjoy both at the same time in the refurbished 1940s-era theater.
Elizabeth City has six historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can take a virtual walking tour #http://www.historicelizabethcity.org/tour/index.html#H10# of the downtown historic district. In addition to the Lowry Building, highlights of the tour include the 1927 Virginia Dare Hotel, with its two-story sky-lighted arcade, and the Gothic Revival-style brick and brownstone Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1856.