I’ve driven thru North Carolina a dozen times on road-trips up and down the east coast. My family and I recently had the chance to spend a weekend in Chapel Hill, one of the state’s most exciting destinations. I’ve always been curious about Chapel Hill. And I’m happy to share my family’s weekend with you!
Chapel Hill is well known for its charm, wonderful parks, fantastic restaurants, college sports and live music. It’s neighboring town of Carrboro is a free-spirited place with the oldest local farmer’s market and has amazing parks and unique attractions. Although slightly different from each other, the two destinations are perfect to visit within the same vacation.
The flight from DC is only an hour away and the drive is around four hours. With rain in the forecast, we weren’t sure what to expect the entire weekend. But, the weather turned out to be absolutely beautiful—even with a small amount of rain. And the attractions were so compelling, that we hardly even noticed when it was and wasn’t raining outside.
Sometimes it’s challenging to take a breather and just relax and enjoy the time you have with your family. Chapel Hill is a town that can give you that feeling of time slowing down, so that when you go back home you will feel rejuvenated and restored. Here is the way we spent our weekend.
Lunch at Sandwhich
Located on the famous Franklin street among a ton of other options, Sandwhich is the right choice for a casual, quick and tasty lunch. The name of the restaurant speaks for itself. The large variety of sandwiches means there’s something for everyone. They have everything you could want for lunch: sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, milkshakes and more. They even have my favorite beverage there: Orangina!
Carolina Basketball Museum
The museum has interactive exhibits replaying great moments in the program’s history and a compelling collection of Tar Heel memorabilia, including the late Coach Dean Smith’s typewritten notes suggesting areas for improvement to a player named Michael Jordan, then an undergraduate at Chapel Hill. Under the mentorship of Smith, Jordan would become a two-time first-team All-American and lead the Tar Heels to the 1982 title.
Get your souvenir shopping done early at this huge emporium of local and imported goods. A food lover’s paradise with exciting and innovative products from both local and international vendors, Southern Season offers over 70,000 items sold in-store and online. With a belief in southern hospitality and a passion for the art of entertaining, Southern Season prides itself upon great tasting and distinctive products offered by knowledgeable and friendly staff ready to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
The store features specialty food products, chocolate and candy, wine & beer, coffee & tea, prepared foods from the deli & salad bar, kitchen tools, home items, gifts and much more.
Southern Season also features Weathervane Restaurant and Patio— a full-service indoor/outdoor restaurant showcasing a menu of creative, seasonal fare that highlights local ingredients also available in the store.
Dinner at Pazzo
Italian Restaurant in Southern Village. Pazzo is both a pizzeria and a casually upscale sit-down restaurant. The pizzeria makes good pizzas, authentic Italian entrees and delicious salads. The service is impeccable and the atmosphere is romantic and great for date night as well as family gatherings.
Brunch or Lunch at Elmo’s Diner in Carrboro
Looking for vegan, vegetarian or gluten free options? This restaurant has you covered. They also offer breakfast all day long. A local favorite.
Mid Morning Shopping at Carrboro Farmers Market
This is the oldest and largest market in the county. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market celebrates its 39th year in 2017. The Market is comprised of over 75 Market members who sell their locally produced goods each week directly to Market shoppers. Located in the Carrboro Town Commons on 301 West Main Street, vendors sell a wide selection of the highest quality locally grown produce, pasture raised meats, eggs, cheeses, breads, pastries, woodwork, metalwork, pottery, woven rugs, baskets, and much more.
College Football season is in full swing. Be sure to look up the home games schedule!
Horace Williams House
Built in 1854 and once the home of much admired Professor Horace Williams, the Horace Williams House, operated and maintained by Preservation Chapel Hill as an example of “adaptive reuse,” is the only historic house in Chapel Hill that is open to the public. Today, the Horace Williams House serves as the headquarters of Preservation Chapel Hill and as a cultural center for the community. Free admission.
Dinner at Mama Dips Kitchen
Mama Dips is a traditional country cooking restaurant. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. The restaurant opened in November 1976 and is still very popular today. The restaurant has its own free parking lot. If you’re looking for traditional southern staples like fried chicken, Carolina Barbecue, creamy and cheesy macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, and chitlins, look no further than Mama Dips.
Ice Cream at Maple View Farm
Scenic views of open farmland, antique dairy collections, Holstein Cows and our fresh churned Southern Ice Cream. Maple View Ice Cream located in the southern countryside of Hillsborough, North Carolina, has served thousands of people since opening its doors in 2001. Beginning with twelve flavors on opening day, our product line has now expanded to hundreds of delicious and unique ice cream creations. Twelve permanent flavors are accompanied by a plethora of seasonal delicacies and distinctive flavors that offer something for everyone. Autumn yields the famous NC Sweet Potato, Pumpkin Spice, Maple, Brown Sugar Bourbon, Black Walnut ice cream and Rum Raisin. Their holiday line includes Cinnamon, Eggnog, Fruit Cake, Dark Chocolate Peppermint, and Party Peppermint. Spring and summer yield a bounty of seasonal flavors made from fresh local fruits; blueberry, black berry, strawberry, raspberry ruffle ice cream and more. Indulge in the season with coconut lime, pina coloda, refreshing teaberry and delicious fresh sorbets.
Brunch at City Kitchen
City Kitchen introduces a delicious medley of flavors from around the states. Locals and travelers can delight in thecity’s best dishes – without having to travel far to taste them. Don’t let the suburban location fool you. It’s that neighborhood restaurant in Chapel Hill with the comfort and hearty abundance of the kitchen you grew up in.
Kidzu is an interactive, hands-on museum dedicated to inspiring young children to learn through creative play. The museum presents a range of exhibitions that encourage kids to explore and discover new things through play, including the Flexible Forest, which features a large-scale climbing wall, a tree house, and a crow’s nest. The museum also features Farm to Fork, where children can learn about locally grown food and healthy eating habits, and the Forest Theater, a mini performance space that encourages artistic expression and drama.
Kidzu also hosts a full schedule of educational family programming for children of all ages, including Friday Fam Jam, Messy Mornings, Storytimes, and Makery Masterpieces, as well as special events and workshops throughout the year. Sundays are pay what you can day.
North Carolina Botanical Garden
The North Carolina Botanical Garden is part of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is comprised of more than 1,000 acres, including 10 acres of display gardens and several natural areas. Established to inspire an understanding, appreciation, and efforts to conserve local flora, the North Carolina Botanical Garden features several habitat display gardens that interpret the plants and vegetation of North Carolina, nature trails, a Garden of Flowering Plant Families, Display Gardens and the Education Center with numerous educational exhibits.
Ackland Art Museum
Featuring a permanent collection of more than 17,000 works of art, the Museum is home to a significant collection of European masterworks, African and Asian art, twentieth-century and contemporary art, and North Carolina pottery. The Ackland Art Museum presents a variety of traveling and special exhibitions throughout the year, as well as some educational programs for students, children, and families.
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
Ten years after opening, Morehead Planetarium was called to serve not only the people of North Carolina, but also the nation’s burgeoning space program. Astronauts needed training in celestial navigation to ensure that they would be able to pilot their spacecraft if navigational systems failed. Between 1959 and 1975, nearly every astronaut who participated in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs trained at Morehead. While the need for such training ended in 1975 as computer navigation became more reliable, long-time Planetarium Director Tony Jenzano could once claim that, “Carolina is the only university in the country, in fact the world, that can claim all the astronauts as alumni.” There is a small exhibit on the Morehead’s involvement with the early NASA program, downstairs.
Coker Arboretum (next door to the Planetarium)
Located next to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center on the UNC campus, the Arboretum is open dawn to dusk daily all year-round. One of the Botanical Garden’s oldest tracts, the Arboretum was founded in 1903 and has a current collection consisting of an array of flowering trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennial displays. Visitors to the Arboretum can enjoy monthly guided tours led by professional naturalists, which provide a relaxed, informative introduction to this floral gem in the heart of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Wander into The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus and have a look at the historic campus area and schedule a tour for your kids to check out the school.
Dinner at Carolina Brewery
This restaurant just underwent extensive renovations and has brand new menu as well. Their award winning, handcrafted beers have gained national recognition with medals from the nation’s premier beer competitions like the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and World Beer Championships. Recent GABF medals include Bronze Medals for their Oatmeal Porter and Sky Blue Golden Ale in 2013 and 2012, respectively, and a Gold Medal in 2006 for their Flagship IPA. Their menu has a large variety of items, making it very easy to bring happiness to everyone in your party. Travel Tip: Try the potato chip nachos! Some of the best nachos I’ve ever had in my life!
Where to Stay
Hyatt Place Chapel Hill (1090 US Highway 15 501 South/ Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA, 27517)
This is a brand new upscale hotel in charming Chapel Hill’s Southern Village neighborhood.
Hyatt Place Chapel Hill / Southern Village offers complimentary breakfast, free parking and a quiet, beautiful place to spend with your family.
- Relaxing rooms with extra space: 110 comfortable guestrooms feature plush Hyatt Grand Beds™ and a Cozy Corner with sofa-sleeper
- 24/7 dining: Start your day with free breakfast, then enjoy freshly prepared favorites on your time. There is even a mini-bar and snack station at the front desk.
- Soak up the sun: Enjoy the North Carolina sunshine from the outdoor swimming pool
- State-of-the-art Fitness Center with complimentary ear-buds for your iPod.
- Prime Chapel Hill location: Conveniently located near downtown, the University of North Carolina, and Raleigh-Durham International Airport
Have you been to Chapel Hill? What are some of your favorite spots? Leave a comment and share this article!