Chapel Hill, North Carolina is a quintessential college town where my husband and two daughters chose to spend their university days. Home to the University of North Carolina, its collection of unique shops, hotels and fine dining experiences makes this town memorable whether you are visiting campus, attending a wedding, just passing through or choosing a weekend destination. Its culture is classic yet relaxed. If you are thinking about going, don’t miss these favorites of mine.
Chapel Hill is located in the Triangle area of North Carolina, formed by the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Just off I-40, you can easily access the town from the Interstate highway system. If you want to fly, RDU airport in Raleigh is your best bet.
We’ve stayed in numerous hotels in the area. For the complete Carolina experience, I recommend The Carolina Inn.
Located in the heart of campus, it is owned by the University which regards the Inn as the University’s Living Room. My husband’s favorite room is Carolina Crossroads Bar. Manly elegance best describes this room, suitable for television spectating, cocktails or after-dinner drinks.
The Inn’s accommodations are classic Southern comfort as seen in the Second Floor lounge (left) and gorgeous hallway (right) below. This is how life should be!
Plan well in advance, in both time and money, to enjoy the magic of The Carolina Inn. It stays booked up, can be expensive depending on the time of year, but is worth the effort.
The Franklin Hotel is a small boutique hotel on Franklin Street, the heartbeat of downtown Chapel Hill. With parking limited throughout downtown, stay as close to the action as you can, park your car and walk.
This hotel is within easy walking distance to shops, restaurants and campus. Its rates are more reasonable than The Carolina Inn and include a delicious made-to-order breakfast.
A destination unto itself, the Fearrington House Inn includes gorgeous grounds, a world-class restaurant and village-like shopping. Why go to the South of France when Fearrington is just around the corner?
My daughters aren’t the biggest football fans around, so whenever we attend a home game, they last until half-time, then request a bit of retail therapy on Franklin Street. Best known for their exciting basketball games, the Tarheels do not impress this SEC Football and UGA Bulldog Mama on the football field, so I’m happy to take in my favorite shops until the game ends.
Uniquities. With a great denim selection for the college crowd, it carries a variety of designer items to satisfy the need to be current, but not uber-trendy. Prices range from comfortable ($$) to mom-will-you-buy-this-for-me? ($$$$).
Popping in Uniquities makes me feel up-to-date with today’s casual fashions, and the sales girls are just right: not snooty or aggressive.
Fine Feathers fittingly describes this ladies’ boutique located in University Square next to Granville Towers dormitory.
It is a full-service shop for special occasion dresses and casual sportswear for the mature set. You won’t find skinny denim jeans here, but if you want to shop out of town to find that special frock for a wedding, ball or debutante party, this is your spot.
You definitely need to check out Southern Season, the candy store for the home cook and epicurean. Previously profiled here on The Gracious Posse, I can’t pass up a visit whenever I’m in town. From specialty food, wine from all over the world, tempting housewares and cooking classes, this store serves up a feast for the senses.
Julian’s provides a true haberdashery of what the owners call creative traditional clothing for men and women.
Here you will find that perfect Carolina Blue garment of high quality, good taste and style.
The third of the great trifecta of reasons to visit Chapel Hill is the dining choices. New to the scene is Kipo’s.
Boasting authentic upscale Greek food and atmosphere, you must visit when in town. You know that you have found a good ethnic restaurant when you see plenty of locals filling the seats. The night we went, several got up during dinner and danced in the traditional Greek line dance. My family practically held me down from joining them. A belly dancer made the rounds to the tables, providing entertainment for all.
For the finest dining destination, look no further than the Lantern.
Winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2011, chef/owner Andrea Reusing’s creative and fresh menu features Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients. Ms. Reusing’s new book, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes
Top of the Hill caters to larger crowds, and its menu offers something for everyone at agreeable prices. Located at the Center of the Universe in Chapel Hill, the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets, TOPO is the gathering point for Tarheel celebrations.
Carolina Coffee Shop despite its name is open all day and into the night.
Go there for breakfast and enjoy the amazing waffles, coffee, fresh orange juice, and classical music playing in the background.
These are the best-of-the-best highlights of Chapel Hill. Should you find yourself in need of accommodations and the favorites mentioned above are full, try the Sheraton, the Siena or the Days Inn. Other restaurants that we’ve enjoyed are Crooks’ Corner, Spanky’s and The Weathervane. Dress code in Chapel Hill is casual, so rare is the need for a gentleman to wear a coat and tie. This gem of a city is a treat any time of year.
August 21, 2013