I fell in love with Chapel Hill my freshman year in college and never really got over it. Any time I visit, I could see myself living in this beautiful town. I picture it driving in on Franklin St. and driving past the stately homes with rolling hills, lush green lawns, and the established trees lining the street.
One of my favorite ways to spend a day is walking through campus and having a progressive lunch or dinner to try new places while mixing in old favorites. This charming town struck me all those years ago, and I’m so excited to share my travel guide to Chapel Hill today. Here’s a round up of fun things to do in Chapel Hill: the best restaurants to try, where to stroll, and a quintessential Southern place to stay right in the heart of Chapel Hill. Keep scrolling for the details!
Fun Things to Do in Chapel Hill: A Complete Travel Guide
Grab a Biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
The only drive thru on Franklin Street also happens to be the best spot for a biscuit in Chapel Hill as well. The bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit is a good choice, but my go-to order is a chicken biscuit with cheese. If I’m feeling really good about myself, I’ll get pimiento cheese instead of regular cheese. You can’t go wrong.
Do a Little Shopping at Meadowmont
The Morehead Planetarium offers a great variety of shows and exhibits and is a great way to spend an afternoon. 11 of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon have experienced shows at the Planetarium which offers both “live” star shows and multimedia shows.
Soak in the Beautiful Campus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the United States. The campus is one of the prettiest I’ve ever walked, and there are guided tours available if it’s your first time visiting. There are opportunities to experience musicals and plays on campus, in addition to athletic events and Coker Arboretum.
Stroll Franklin Street
Franklin Street has a variety of shopping, restaurants, bars, and cultural events. It’s such a fun scene, especially after a Carolina basketball win. You can spend an entire day exploring the street, and it would be well worth it!
Have Lunch at Al’s Burger Shack
I’ve mentioned this before here, but I cannot recommend the Sean’s Bacon Cheeseburger with the crinkle fries enough. I think my favorite part is the literal “cup o’ wine” on the menu. There are two locations, one on Franklin St and one in Southern Village, but my favorite is the one on Franklin.
Enjoy an Afternoon on the Patio at Carolina Inn
The patio at the Carolina Inn is such a gorgeous spot to spend a spring afternoon. There is a fire pit if it gets a little chilly, rocking chair on the front porch, and the grounds are gorgeous for taking a little stroll.
Take the Long Way Past the Old Well to Dinner at Lantern
Lantern is such a staple in Chapel Hill, and their bar is a great spot for dinner. It’s a laid-back, casual vibe with a seasonal menu. The garden seating area is a fun spot to dine as well to enjoy the beautiful spring weather in Chapel Hill.
Grab a Drink and Views of Franklin Street at Top of the Hill
Topo is a tradition in Chapel Hill and has a delicious lunch and dinner menu, but is also one of the oldest breweries in North Carolina. My favorite brew year round is Old Well White, but I love the Blue Ridge Blueberry Wheat starting April 1. The deck has a panoramic view of downtown and is electric on game nights. If you’re considering heading here to watch a game, be sure to check the protocol here.
Stay at the Quintessentially Southern Carolina Inn
Carolina Inn was such a quaint spot for a staycation and I loved the luxurious bedding and large bathtub. It was a true treat to relax after spending a day on the go.
Grab Coffee from Carolina Coffee Shop
Carolina Coffee Shop has it all, breakfast, lunch, dinner, craft beer, cocktails, and coffee. It’s also the oldest operating restaurant in North Carolina and has been serving up coffee for almost a century. Start your morning with a good cup of coffee and a good Southern brunch.
On the second Wednesday of every month, Bin54 offers a wine hour for you and your friends. It features a rotating list of wines paired with carefully curated hor d’oeuvres. It’s a fun way to learn more about wine and sample some new selections!
Taste the Best BLT on the Planet at Merritt’s Store & Grill
Merritt’s is a welcoming spot with the best BLT I’ve ever tasted. Get yours on sourdough bread with a Cheerwine and head out to the patio to enjoy the sunshine.
Fun Things to Do in Chapel Hill: Activities
- Ackland Art Museum
- Carolina Basketball Museum
- Coker Arboretum & North Carolina Botanical Garden
- Franklin Street
- Morehead Planetarium & Science Center
- University Place
Fun Things to Do in Chapel Hill: Staples
- Carolina Athletic Event
- Carolina Inn
- He’s Not Here
- Merritt’s Store & Grill
- Shrunken Head Boutique
- Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
- Sutton’s Drug Store
- Top of the Hill
- The Yogurt Pump (YoPo)
Fun Things to Do in Chapel Hill: Restaurants
This is the second in a three part series of Must Sees in Orange County, NC. See the first post about What to Do in Hillsborough here.
This post was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated and recirculated for 2021.