Whether you just dropped off and are planning your Parents Weekend visit, you are an alum heading back to the scene of the crime, or just looking for a great weekend escape, a visit to Chapel Hill is always fun. Although the downtown is small in size, it is packed full of places to keep you busy during your stay. We’ve put together just a few of our favorites for where to stay, eat, drink and play that we’re sure won’t disappoint you. This list is by no means comprehensive of everything worth visiting in the ‘Thrill.’ Let us know what your go-to spots are in the comments section please!
One of the most recognized establishments in the heart of Chapel Hill, The Carolina Inn has been a part of the town since 1924 and owned by the university since 1935. Stroll the halls lined with photographs dating back to the beginning of the university to learn the who’s and what’s, grab a homemade cookie from the check-in desk and sip sweet tea on the front porch rocking chairs. Whether you’re staying the night at the inn or not, we recommend the Crossroads Chapel Hill restaurant located on the main level.
Located where the action happens on Franklin Street, the Franklin Hotel is another favorite Chapel Hill stay with a much different vibe than you will find at The Carolina Inn. Luxurious and stylish, the hotel is just steps away from some of the towns best restaurants and bars. Book the Presidential Suite for a balcony to people watch on Franklin Street or host a small get-together.
The newest of the hotels conveniently located on Rosemary Street (parallel to Franklin Street), the AC offers everything you need for a quick trip in a stylish space within walking distance to everything downtown has to offer.
With three locations in Chapel Hill, our favorite to visit is the one downtown. Order at the counter inside the ‘shack’ and take a seat outside at one of the picnic tables because inside seating is limited. The burgers, hotdogs and fries are all top notch and a staple for when visiting UNC. Don’t forget to order a milkshake made with Maple View Farms ice cream.
Lantern in downtown Chapel Hill brings Asian inspired dishes to local ingredients. Make a reservation ahead of time if sitting in the dining room for dinner, especially on the weekend. In the warmer months, sit outside in Lantern Garden for drinks and the full menu. Feeling a late night snack? Lantern offers late night Monday through Thursday until 11pm and Weekends until 12pm. You can access the bar from the side of the building.
Just down the road in Carrboro is another must-try, Pizzeria Mercato. The menu changes often and includes many ingredients from the local farmer’s market. The homemade pastas and Neopolitan-inspired pizzas pair excellently with fresh salads and plenty of vegetable dishes. Don’t forget to try the gelato!
A casual spot for fresh sandwiches, salads and a great selection of beer, wine and cocktails is Tru Deli just off Franklin Street. Order your meal at one of the walk-up tablets and grab a drink at the bar. Tru is the perfect spot to take a break from walking around campus and sit on the rooftop patio. You won’t be disappointed.
The legendary Chapel Hill bar He’s Not Here has been around since the 70’s. There are many theories on how the bar got its name, one being that when the bartenders were asked if a certain athlete was there they’d always reply, ‘he’s not here.’ Don’t ask for a cocktail because they serve beer and beer only. Order in a pint glass or get one of the famous Blue Cups which you can take home with you.
If you’re looking for a cocktail, make sure to stop by the Crunkleton on Franklin Street. Pay a small fee to become a member and order a drink from just about any spirit you can think of. Your bartender will be dressed nicely, well-trained and treat you with Southern hospitality. Yes, this is the same as the new location located in Charlotte.
Another Chapel Hill classic, Top of the Hill or TOPO sits at the corner of Franklin and Columbia Street in the heart of downtown. It is a restaurant, brewery and distillery that turns into a popular bar for students after hours. For beer drinkers, try their popular Old Well White.
Out in the country but not too far from campus is Maple View Farm and Country Store. Grab an ice cream and watch the sunset from the front porch or lawn. Pick up fresh eggs and dairy products in the shop while you’re visiting. Many local restaurants use Maple View’s dairy products and sell their famous ice cream. It’s worth a visit.
Along Franklin street you’ll spot the iconic sundial in front of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. The exhibits and science stage venue are being renovated and will not open until February 2020 but you can still visit the planetarium shows. Shows are $8.25 for adults, $7.25 for students, children and seniors.
The Ackland Art Museum is an important cultural resource not only for the university but for the state of North Carolina as well. Owned by the university, the museum is Columbia Street and you can miss it with the large art display outside seen in the photo above. The museum houses over 18,000 pieces of work from various time periods and locations all over the world. Admission is free to all.