20 Best Things to do in Chapel Hill

20 Best Things to do in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is a town located in the Durham and Orange counties of North Carolina.

It has been called one of the “foodiest small towns in the US” by Bon Appetit magazine.

The University of North Carolina is located in this town making it a college town.

Teeming with youngsters, the town has a lot to offer for its residents and visitors.

It has a vibrant atmosphere that visitors would enjoy.

If you are visiting Chapel Hill, then there are plenty of things for you to do.

University of North Carolina

Old well in University of North Carolina
Jill Lang / Shutterstock.com

The University of North Carolina has one of the most beautiful campuses.

Taking a walk through the campus is one of the things you must do when you visit Chapel Hill.

The University was chartered in 1789. It is one of the oldest public universities.

The walkaways are covered by trees and taking a stroll is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the campus.

The Bell Tower, Keenan Stadium, and the old well are landmarks in the campus worth visiting.

North Carolina Botanical Gardens

Lily pads after rain at North Carolina Botanical Gardens
Eric Krouse / Shutterstock.com

One of the best ways to spend time on a pleasant day is to enjoy nature.

When you visit the NC Botanical gardens, you will enjoy nature at its pristine best.

The 1,000 acre campus has more than 10 acres of beautiful gardens.

There are various display gardens that showcase the flora on North Carolina.

The Botanical gardens conduct many events as well as educational workshops.

There is also a summer camp organized annually. You can even buy plants from the gardens to take home.

The Carolina Basketball Museum

Display at Carolina Basketball Museum
Zeke Smith from Chapel Hill, NC, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rated by TripAdvisor as No.1 for things to do in Chapel Hill, a visit to this museum is a must for basketball fans.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday and admission is free.

You can see photos, videos, memorabilia, and panels explaining the history of the Carolina basketball program.

There are video tributes offered to legends like Michael Jordan and Roy Williams.

There are interactive presentations featuring some of the greatest games in UNC basketball.

Ackland Art Museum

Ackland Art Museum
Fernando Cruz / Shutterstock.com

The Ackland Art Museum has a collection of more than 17,000 art works.

The objective of displaying its artwork is to inspire and educate students and members of the local community.

You can see a wide collection of masterworks featuring European greats, contemporary art, and African art.

You can visit the North Carolina pottery collection and also see some of the best 20th century artworks.

The museum has special exhibitions scheduled throughout the year.

There are also educational programs for children that would help them appreciate art.

A visit to this museum is time worth spending.

Morehead Planetarium

Morehead Planetarium
KAD Photo / Shutterstock.com

The Morehead Planetarium and Science center in Chapel Hill is one of the oldest such centers in the USA.

Opened in 1949, the planetarium is located in the campus of the University of North Carolina.

There are a large number of permanent exhibits at the center like the ‘Highway of Planets’ and ‘History Hallway’.

The planetarium offers activities for kids and teens like sky gazing, starry nights, and also has science clubs.

There are a large number of science exhibits that are interesting as well as educative.

Lavender Oaks Farm

Lavenders Oaks Farm is a very interesting place to visit while in Chapel Hill.

As the name suggests, it is a farm that showcases various types of lavender.

Be prepared for a colorful extravaganza as you walk through the form taking in the rich colors.

The farm is spread across 60 acres and has a beautiful forest where you can take a quiet walk.

The barn in the farm is a historic landmark that is used as a wedding location.

When you visit the farm in summer, you can take home any of the 9 varieties of lavender grown here.

It is one of the best family-friendly activities in the town.

Coker Arboretum

Coker Arboretum tunnel
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Coker Arboretum is located in the campus of UNC and is managed by the North Carolina Botanical Gardens.

Founded in 1903, the arboretum has a collection of bulbs, shrubs, and flowering trees.

There are regular guided tours organized by naturalists who will introduce you to the various species found in the arboretum.

The arboretum is open throughout the year. It opens at dawn and is closed at dusk.

It is a historic walking area with benches and lawn spaces. Admission is free.

Gimghoul Castle

Gimghoul Castle
THE evil fluffyface, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gimghoul Castle is one of the mysterious places that surely has many stories to tell.

It is a place worth visiting to experience the unique atmosphere.

It was previously known as Hippol Castle. This is a ‘real’ castle that visitors, especially kids would enjoy visiting.

Like all such old buildings of its type, it has an eerie element attached to it.

The ghost of Peter Dromgoole who died in a duel at the castle reportedly haunts the castle.

It is also believed that the castle is home to a secret society known as the 'Order of the Ginghoul'.

Hobo Railroad

The Hobo Railroad comprises heritage train rides through the White Mountains.

If you are a fan of railway rides or have children with you, then don’t miss this ride.

The train runs through some of the most scenic locations allowing you to enjoy nature at its best.

The train ride takes you into the mountains past lakes and forests.

Taking this train ride during the fall season offers you a rich experience.

The Santa Express ride during the Christmas period is very popular and kids are sure to love it.

Time Out

One of the most popular dining places in the town, Time Out is a popular destination for the college crowd.

The restaurant, well-known for serving Southern-style food is open 24 hours a day for seven days a week.

Started in 1978, the restaurant has been featured in the ‘Today Show’ and on ‘Travel Channel’.

Clearly, no visit to Chapel Hill is complete before enjoying the culinary experience Time Out has to offer.

Some of the popular dishes served here are biscuit sandwiches stuffed with egg, Barbecue pulled pork, fried chicken, country fried steak, and burgers.

Kidzu Children's Museum

Kidzu Children's Museum
Mx. Granger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are visiting Chapel Hill with kids, then don’t forget to take them to Kidzu Children's Museum.

This unique museum for kids offers an interactive and hands on experience for your little ones to enjoy.

Apart from viewing exhibits in the museum, children can explore them hands-on to get a better understanding.

A visit to this museum is a fun experience and also offers an enriching learning session.

The Flexible Forest is one of the popular exhibits at the museum.

Farm to Fork at the museum allows kids to learn how food is grown.

There are a large number of educational programs at the museum.

There are many special events organized that your kids are sure to enjoy. It is a great place for kids aged 2 to 12.

Horace Williams House

Horace Williams House
Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Professor Horace Williams was one of the popular teaching faculty at the University of North Carolina.

His house lives on after him and has become a historic house for people to visit.

The house was built in 1854 and it is today managed by Preservation Chapel Hill.

Apart from opening its doors to the public, the house is also a cultural center for the local community.

You can take a tour of the house any time in the year.

There are art exhibits to see. Events and concerts are organized here periodically.

Franklin Street

Shops in Franklin Street
KAD Photo / Shutterstock.com

Franklin Street is the main road that runs through the town of Chapel Hill.

One of the things to do when you are in Chapel Hill is to take a walk in the thoroughfare.

The street is a hangout for college students and locals.

Here is where you get to see most of the activities in the town.

There are festivals as well as cultural activities that are organized in this street.

There are music venues located here that you can visit.

Whether you want to dine out, buy antiques, or have a drink, Franklin Street is the place to visit for all this.

There are boutique shops here if you are interested in shopping.

Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe

Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe
Mx. Granger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here is another highly popular eat out that you must not miss visiting.

Vimala Rajendran, an Indian runs the café that offers authentic Indian cuisine.

You can experience some of the tastiest Indian curries and other delicious dishes at the café located on W. Franklin Street.

There is no reservation needed. You can dine in at the café or get the food delivered to wherever you are in the town.

Some of the ‘hot’ favorites of the café include Kerala beef, Pork Vindaloo, Tandoori chicken, Uttapam, and a wide selection of curries.

The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Top of the Hill Distillery

TOPO Distillery
KAD Photo / Shutterstock.com

TOPO is one of the places you have to visit when in Chapel Hill.

The distillery is the only in the US certified by the USDA.

It is the only distillery that that offers organic, locally sourced spirits.

Eight Oak Whiskey, Wheat Whiskey, Moonshine, and Vodka are the award-winning spirits offered at this distillery.

Don’t miss their tours where you walk in and explore the distillery under the guidance of a master distiller.

You need to book in advance for the tasting experience at this amazing distillery.

UNC Finley Golf Course

UNC Finley Golf Course
Mx. Granger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you love golfing, then do drop in to the UNC Finley Golf course when you are in Chapel Hill.

The 18-hole golf course is a great place to enjoy a good game of golf.

The course has something to offer for all levels of golfers.

Play at the par 72 course that has an excellent layout with great practice facilities.

Spend time at the clubhouse enjoying a drink and sampling the excellent menu at the Naismith Grill.

You can undergo golf lessons at the course delivered by pros.

Buy all that you want at the pro shop in the course.

Honeysuckle Tea House

Honeysuckle Tea House is an interesting place to visit.

The tea house grows its own produce that is fully organic.

You can get a wide range of tea blends here that are invented and innovated by the owners.

The tea house offers handcrafted therapeutic products.

Located on a 5-acre land, they also have Reiki and healing sessions for those interested.

Carolina Performing Arts

Memorial hall in Carolina Performing Arts
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are a fan of performing arts, then you must not miss attending the events showcased by California Performing Arts.

Performances are offered to entertain the local community and gives artistes a platform to showcase their skills.

From dance to jazz, and classical music to world music a host of performances are featured.

There are also educational programs on art for youngsters.

The performances are hosted at different venues that include the Memorial Hall, Gerrard Hall, and Playmaker’s Theater.

Elements

If you are planning a romantic date in Chapel Hill, then Elements is where you have to go.

This is a stylish restaurant located on Environ Way in the town.

The chic settings in the restaurant offers a great ambience. Chef Michael Choung and his team will offer you an amazing experience of Asian and modern European cuisine.

All dishes are made from locally sourced products. Menus change every week offering something new.

Don’t miss sampling craft beer and the house-made cocktails.

Brumley Forest Nature Preserve

Brumley Forest Nature Preserve is a 613-acre preserve managed by Triangle Land Conservancy.

You can visit the preserve anytime from dawn to dusk to enjoy the beauty of raw nature.

The preserve has an excellent mountain biking trail that offers challenges for experienced bikers.

There are also hiking trails that allow you to explore the preserve by walk.

There are many old ruins, ponds, and a lake to explore at this preserve.