Things to Do in Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill is located in the heart of North Carolina’s Piedmont region, known for its picturesque landscapes and Southern charm. Its tree-canopied avenues, historic edifices, and vibrant downtown combine the warmth of a quaint town with the vibrancy of a city.
Chapel Hill is proud to host the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of America’s most venerable public institutions. Its presence ensures the town is buzzing all year round, offering a plethora of activities for everyone.
From meandering along the iconic Franklin Street to marveling at the wonders of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and the Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill is brimming with must-see attractions.

How to Go Chapel Hill?

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is conveniently located in the Research Triangle area, making it accessible by various modes of transportation. Here are some common ways to get to Chapel Hill:

By Air:

The nearest major airport to Chapel Hill is Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), located about 20 miles from Chapel Hill. From the airport, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft to reach Chapel Hill.

By Car:

If you’re driving, Chapel Hill is easily accessible via major highways, including Interstate 40 and Interstate 85. You can use GPS or mapping apps to navigate to your destination within Chapel Hill.

By Bus:

Chapel Hill is served by the Chapel Hill Transit bus system, which provides local transportation within the town. The Triangle Transit Authority (GoTriangle) also offers bus services connecting Chapel Hill with other nearby cities and towns in the Research Triangle area.

By Train:

Amtrak offers train service to nearby Durham, North Carolina, which is about 10 miles from Chapel Hill. From Durham, you can take a taxi or use local transportation options to reach Chapel Hill.

Shuttle Services:

Some hotels and accommodations in Chapel Hill offer shuttle services to and from the airport or other nearby locations. Check with your hotel to see if they provide this service.

Rental Cars:

Rental car agencies are available at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, allowing you the flexibility to explore Chapel Hill and the surrounding area at your own pace.

Cycling and Walking:

Chapel Hill is a pedestrian and bike-friendly town with numerous sidewalks and bike lanes. If you’re staying within the town, you can explore on foot or by bicycle.

Once you arrive in Chapel Hill, you’ll find it relatively easy to navigate the town, thanks to its well-marked streets and efficient transportation options. Whether you’re visiting for leisure, business, or education, Chapel Hill offers a welcoming atmosphere and plenty of attractions to explore.

The best time to visit  Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, located in North Carolina, is a vibrant town known for being home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). The best time to visit largely depends on your interests and preferences:

Fall (September to November):

Weather: It begins to cool down, especially in October and November. The fall foliage in North Carolina is gorgeous, and Chapel Hill is no exception.

Events: Football season is in full swing. If you’re a sports fan, visiting during a UNC home game can be exhilarating. Fall also brings a host of cultural events, including festivals and art exhibitions.

Academics: The fall semester is in session at UNC, so the campus is bustling with activity.

Spring (March to May):

Weather: Springtime is pleasant with blooming flowers and mild temperatures.

Events: Spring sports, especially basketball during March Madness, if UNC is participating. Spring also has its share of festivals and cultural events.

Academics: Like the fall, spring is active with the university’s semester in full flow.

Summer (June to August):

Weather: It can get hot and humid, but it’s a quieter time in Chapel Hill since most students are away.

Events: There are summer concerts, outdoor movies, and other local events.

Academics: UNC has a summer session, but it’s less hectic than the regular semesters.

Winter (December to February):

Weather: It’s chilly but typically not extremely cold. Snowfall is possible but not very frequent.

Events: Basketball season continues, and there are holiday-themed events around town.

Academics: The spring semester starts in January, bringing students back to town.

Final Tips:

  • If you want to experience Chapel Hill’s academic and sports culture, consider visiting during the fall or spring.
  • If you prefer a quieter experience and perhaps more focus on the town itself, summer might be ideal.
  • Always check the local event calendar to see if there’s something that particularly interests you during your visit.
  • Keep in mind that if you’re visiting during a significant university event or sports game, accommodations might be harder to come by, so book well in advance.

15 Best Things to Do in Chapel Hill

1. North Carolina Botanical Garden

North Carolina Botanical Garden

A must-visit attraction in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this garden spans an impressive 700 acres, providing visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of diverse plant life and wildlife.

What sets this botanical garden apart is its approach to accessibility. Instead of a fixed admission fee, they encourage a recommended donation of just $5 to support the maintenance of the grounds. Furthermore, for those who plan to frequent this serene oasis, becoming a member of the North Carolina Botanical Garden offers the added perk of free admission, making it an excellent option for repeated visits.

2. Ackland Art Museum

Nurturing the thirst for knowledge and igniting the creative spark in emerging artists, the Chapel Hill Campus of the University of North Carolina proudly hosts the Ackland Art Museum. Within these walls, both tourists and students alike are granted a unique opportunity to behold a vast and remarkable collection of over 18,000 artworks, spanning from extraordinary Asian art to captivating European masterpieces, and beyond.

At the heart of the museum lies a permanent gallery, complemented by a dynamic rotation of temporary exhibits, spotlighted artists, and a rich tapestry of art-related programs and events. Regardless of one’s affinity for art, the museum’s kaleidoscopic display has an enchanting allure that captivates all who enter, including the younger generation.

3. Coker Arboretum

Coker Arboretum

Another delightful activity to consider during your visit to Chapel Hill is exploring the Coker Arboretum, a tranquil arboretum nestled within the North Carolina Botanical Garden on the picturesque University of North Carolina campus. True to the area’s tradition of care and conservation, the University of North Carolina meticulously tends to this enchanting space.

The arboretum is renowned for its diverse array of botanical treasures, featuring a splendid collection of flowering trees, shrubs, and enduring perennial plants. If you seek a serene morning or afternoon spent meandering through the beauty of nature, this is an experience that should be at the top of your list.

4. The Forest Theatre

For architecture enthusiasts visiting Chapel Hill, a trip to The Forest Theatre is a must. This historical campus amphitheater not only boasts a rich architectural heritage but also serves as a vibrant venue for a wide range of artistic performances, including theater, music, and various events throughout the year. In addition to its cultural significance, The Forest Theatre has also become a sought-after location for weddings, adding an extra layer of charm to its timeless appeal.

5. The Varsity Theatre

The Varsity Theatre

Another cherished gem located on Franklin Street, the Varsity Theatre, has been delighting audiences since its establishment in 1927. It stands as a historic movie theatre, preserving its vintage marquee, intriguing passageways, and timeless cinematic decor, making it an enduring and beloved local icon.

Inside its unassuming facade, the Varsity offers a captivating world of film. Its repertoire includes a blend of independent and mainstream movies, along with its role as a host for special events and film festivals. Upon stepping inside, visitors are transported to a realm of cinematic wonder that defies the modest exterior.

6. Cat Tales Cat Cafe

Another noteworthy attraction to explore in Chapel Hill is the Cat Tales Cat Cafe, offering a unique experience where patrons can savor a meal in the delightful company of adoptable kittens. This novel concept was conceived with the intention of providing individuals with a more intimate and heartwarming opportunity to interact with these endearing feline companions, ultimately leading to their adoption.

While enjoying a meal at the cat cafe, visitors are not obliged to adopt, but the possibility of taking home a furry friend as a cherished vacation memento adds an extra layer of charm to the experience.

7. Kidzu Children’s Museum

For families embarking on a journey to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a visit to the Kidzu Children’s Museum promises an ideal afternoon adventure. This private, 501 non-profit children’s museum caters to a wide age range, from infants to tweens, offering an enriching experience that encompasses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the arts, child health, and emerging literacy.

While it may not be the equivalent of an amusement park, the Kidzu Children’s Museum provides an engaging and educational environment where younger members of the group can learn, explore, and have fun in a secure and nurturing setting.

8. Explore The University Of North Carolina

North Carolina offers an abundance of remarkable hiking destinations, yet for those seeking a more leisurely experience, the University of North Carolina (UNC) presents an idyllic option. Visitors can luxuriate in hours of leisurely strolling amidst the captivating green landscapes.

Even for those not affiliated with the university, there remains a splendid opportunity for enlightenment. Anyone with a curiosity about the campus can explore the UNC Visitors Center, where they can embark on a self-guided tour of the university. And no visit to UNC would be complete without indulging in a thrilling game or exploring the North Carolina basketball museum, both quintessential experiences for any Chapel Hill itinerary.

9. Carolina Basketball Museum

Carolina Basketball Museum

Among the multitude of captivating attractions nestled within the confines of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, there exists one that truly stands head and shoulders above the rest—the Carolina Basketball Museum. This particular gem holds a special allure, particularly for ardent sports enthusiasts. UNC’s athletic prowess is no secret, and its college basketball team boasts an unwavering and impassioned fan base.

Within the museum’s hallowed halls, visitors are afforded a comprehensive understanding of Carolina’s nationally acclaimed basketball program. Here, a vivid and immersive journey through the Tar Heels’ storied history unfolds through an impressive array of photographs, exhibits, videos, documentaries, and a treasure trove of artifacts. It’s an experience that offers a profound appreciation for the rich sporting heritage of the university.

10. Morehead Planetarium

Situated on the grounds of the University of North Carolina, the Morehead Planetarium is a distinguished establishment with a remarkable history of training astronauts for NASA. Beyond its astronautical legacy, it provides an exclusive opportunity for visitors to delve into the world of contemporary scientific research through engaging and family-friendly activities.

Under its expansive 68-foot-high ceiling, the dome within the Morehead Planetarium accommodates an impressive 240 individuals. For an enriching experience, make sure to attend one of the weekend star shows offered here, allowing you to embark on an awe-inspiring journey through the cosmos.

11. The Old Well

Nestled on the grounds of the University of North Carolina, the Old Well holds a hallowed place in the hearts of students. Legend has it that sipping from the well’s waters bestows academic success upon those who partake.

Gallantly presiding over the entrance to McCorkle Place, a picturesque grassy quad, the Old Well’s timeless and stately columnar design beckons admiration. Since its inception in 1793, this iconic structure has remained a cherished centerpiece of the university, steeped in history and tradition.

12. Carolina North Forest

Carolina North Forest

Carolina North Forest is just one of the many enchanting hiking destinations that showcase the natural beauty of North Carolina. Spanning an impressive 750 acres of pristine woodlands, it serves as a serene retreat for students, residents, and travelers alike, offering a rejuvenating escape into nature’s embrace.

Among the 14 well-frequented trails within the Carolina North Forest, options like the Crow Branch Overlook Loop and the Pumpkin Loop beckon explorers to select the one that best aligns with their preferences for a delightful afternoon adventure.

13. Stroll Franklin Street

Franklin Street stands as the bustling epicenter of Chapel Hill, serving as the town’s principal thoroughfare. Embark on your journey from the eastern end, where you can leisurely meander past an enticing blend of contemporary establishments and cherished classics. Notably, the Carolina Coffee Shop and Sutton’s Drug Store have graced Franklin Street for well over a century, embodying its enduring charm.

After indulging in a delightful afternoon of shopping, these venerable institutions make for ideal dining destinations, offering a fitting conclusion to your exploration of this iconic street.

14. Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall

Positioned at the heart of the University of North Carolina’s sprawling campus, Memorial Hall claims the distinction of being the largest venue dedicated to performing arts events at UNC. While its initial construction in 1883 was intended for ceremonies and games, today it serves as a premier platform for Carolina’s vibrant performing arts program.

This magnificent space boasts not only exceptional acoustics but also a storied past, adding a layer of historical depth to its cultural significance. Memorial Hall beckons to all who possess a passion for music, theater, or dance, inviting them to partake in a distinctive and enriching cultural journey.

15. Battle Park

Nestled on the fringes of the UNC campus, Battle Park emerges as a serene and unspoiled natural haven. This well-preserved old-growth forest beckons to those who yearn for the unbridled beauty of the wilderness. Within its embrace, visitors can traverse hiking trails, encounter babbling creeks, and immerse themselves in breathtaking natural landscapes.

Amidst your explorations, you might chance upon the Koch Memorial Forest Theatre, a stone amphitheater steeped in over a century of history. It stands as a refuge for anyone seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of town life, providing a tranquil sanctuary in the midst of nature’s bounty.

Weekend after weekend, faculty members, tourists, and locals alike converge here to unwind and find solace in the embrace of the great outdoors. Battle Park’s appeal extends to families and children, offering a delightful oasis for all to revel in and savor the wonders of the natural world.

5 Best places to stay in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, being a college town with a rich history and vibrant community, offers a variety of accommodations to cater to different tastes and budgets. Here are some of the best places to consider:

1. The Carolina Inn:

A historic hotel located on the UNC campus, The Carolina Inn offers Southern charm with modern amenities. It’s also within walking distance of the main attractions in downtown Chapel Hill. With its colonial architecture and traditional furnishings, it provides a unique atmosphere that captures the essence of the South.

2. Aloft Chapel Hill:

A more modern option, Aloft offers contemporary rooms with a vibrant design. It’s close to the UNC campus and has a lively bar and lounge area, making it a favorite among younger travelers.

3. Rizzo Center:

Part of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, this upscale conference center and hotel is a bit removed from the hustle and bustle but offers a tranquil environment with luxurious accommodations. It’s great for business travelers or those looking for a quiet retreat.

4. Hampton Inn & Suites Chapel Hill/Durham:

A reliable choice for those familiar with the Hampton Inn brand. It offers comfortable rooms and is conveniently located with easy access to both Chapel Hill and nearby Durham.

5. AC Hotel by Marriott Chapel Hill Downtown:

A sleek, European-inspired hotel located in downtown Chapel Hill. It’s within walking distance of many shops, restaurants, and attractions.

10 Best Foods in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, offers a diverse culinary scene with a wide range of dining options, from southern comfort food to international cuisine. Here are some of the best food experiences you can have in Chapel Hill:

1. Carolina Barbecue: North Carolina is famous for its barbecue, and Chapel Hill has its share of excellent barbecue joints. You can’t visit the area without trying some pulled pork or smoked ribs. Check out places like Allen & Son Bar-B-Que or The Pig.

2. Southern Comfort Food: For classic southern comfort food, Mama Dip’s Kitchen is a beloved institution. They serve up delicious fried chicken, collard greens, biscuits, and other southern staples.

3. Southern Cuisine: Chapel Hill is in the heart of North Carolina, so you must try traditional Southern dishes. Look for restaurants that serve classics like fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, collard greens, and shrimp and grits.

4. Farm-to-Table: Chapel Hill embraces the farm-to-table movement, and many restaurants take pride in using locally sourced ingredients. Places like Lantern and Acme Food & Beverage Co. are known for their commitment to fresh, seasonal, and sustainable cuisine.

5. International Cuisine: Chapel Hill has a diverse range of international restaurants, offering cuisine from various parts of the world. You can enjoy Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and more.

6. Vegetarian and Vegan Options: If you have dietary restrictions, you’ll find plenty of vegetarian and vegan-friendly options in Chapel Hill. Restaurants like Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe and Sage Vegetarian Cafe cater to these preferences.

7. Breweries and Craft Beer: Chapel Hill has a thriving craft beer scene, with several local breweries and taprooms. Try some local brews at places like Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery and Steel String Brewery.

8. Desserts and Bakeries: Satisfy your sweet tooth with desserts from local bakeries like Sugarland and Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten.

9. Coffee Shops and Cafes: Chapel Hill has a variety of cozy coffee shops and cafes where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, pastries, and light meals. Check out spots like Caffe Driade and Open Eye Cafe.

10. Food Trucks: Don’t overlook the food truck scene in Chapel Hill. Food trucks often offer creative and delicious options for a quick and affordable meal. Follow local food trucks on social media for their locations and schedules.

Remember that the dining scene in Chapel Hill can change, so it’s a good idea to check for the latest restaurant reviews and recommendations before your visit. Chapel Hill’s food scene offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for Southern comfort food, international flavors, or innovative cuisine.


Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is a charming and culturally rich destination that offers a wide array of experiences for visitors. With its moderate climate, diverse dining options, and a vibrant arts and music scene, Chapel Hill has something to offer travelers year-round. Whether you’re exploring the historic University of North Carolina campus, savoring Southern cuisine, enjoying the natural beauty of nearby parks, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Chapel Hill promises a memorable experience. So, whether you’re a food enthusiast, nature lover, history buff, or simply seeking a relaxed getaway, Chapel Hill is a destination that welcomes you with its warm hospitality and distinctive charm.