24 hours in Chapel Hill
Heading to Chapel Hill and don't know where to start? Here's what we recommend for a day trip.
Where to stay: Chapel Hill has a lot of options — unless it's parent's weekend, move-in weekend or graduation day at UNC.
- The Carolina Inn is the nicest, though usually the priciest.
- Downtown Chapel Hill is walkable and has free-and-popular bus transit. Other walkable options include: the AC Hotel, the Graduate Hotel and a Hampton Inn.
Breakfast: Want something on the go? Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen sells one of the state's most famous biscuits.
- Brandwein's Bagels is another good option. It exploded onto the scene a few years ago, and has since expanded several times due to the love for its bagels.
- The Root Cellar has an impressive menu and space to relax.
- Venable Bistro in Carrboro offers one of the best brunches if you are here for the weekend.
- Tucked away in the woods off Franklin Street, Caffe Driade is the most idyllic coffee shop in town.
Shop: There are a variety of bookstores, clothing stores and gift shops along the main drag of Franklin Street in Chapel Hill to Main Street in Carrboro.
- Epilogue Books is a standout.
- The military surplus-and-costume store Surplus Sid's is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.
- On Saturdays, the Carrboro Farmers Market is a great bet for artisan food and crafts.
Hike: The Carolina North Forest — home to 750 acres of woodlands and trails — isn't far from downtown.
- The Bolin Creek Trail and the Morgan Creek Trail are in-town greenways that connect to several parks and are popular with bicyclists and runners.
- There's a two-mile loop at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.
- If you have time, head north of the city to Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, home to the highest point in Orange County.
Lunch: Keep it light and simple. You've still got a lot ahead of you.
- Merritt's Grill, home to the best BLT in the state.
- Carrburritos, the makers of truly top tier burritos and nachos.
- Zach's pick: Mediterranean Deli, where you can sample a trove of Middle Eastern dishes. They make my favorite falafel.
Stroll: Chapel Hill is home to one of the beautiful campuses in the country. Your tax dollars help pay for it, so go enjoy it.
- I recommend walking around UNC's Coker Arboretum, home to a variety of tree and flower species, as well as Battle Park and the Forest Theatre.)
Catch a show or a game: We know you're probably in town for a UNC game (it's a great reason to go!), but there are plenty of other entertainment options in Chapel Hill.
- Catch a show at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro — one of the state's best music venues — or Local 506 or The Cave.
- Watch a play at Playmakers Repertory Company.
- Or attend whatever the Carolina Performing Arts happens to be putting on at Memorial Hall that weekend.
Pre-dinner cocktail: The Crunkleton is the classic spot for cocktails in Chapel Hill. The Franklin Street institution employs some of the best mixologists in the state and built the foundation for a growing empire, stretching from Charlotte to Raleigh.
- For something a little cheaper and laid back: Try the townie haunt Bowbarr.
- Or you can try to blend in with the college kids and drink a blue cup at He's Not Here.
Dinner: It's hard to pick just a few, but Andrea Reusing's Lantern is one of the town's most well renowned eateries. Other great options include:
- Al's Burger Shack, which became a cult favorite as soon as it opened its doors in 2013.
- Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe, an Indian restaurant with a great courtyard.
- And for one of the most iconic views of Chapel Hill, eat outside at Top of the Hill.
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