Suggested Itineraries

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Welcome LGBTQ Traveler

Getting Married in the Southern Part of Heaven

Orange County is a great place to get married, and the process is easy.

Your first stop is the County Register of Deeds website, which has a lot of useful information, including rules regarding required documents, and applicants who are minors, have prior divorces, or are unable to be present. Call the office at (919) 245-2675 if you have questions.

The website also has a downloadable worksheet outlining the information needed for your license. Many couples prefer to complete the form ahead of time because it requires some data you may need to research (like the cities in which each of your parents were born). You can fill it out on-site, however.

When you’re ready to get your license, head to the Register of Deeds Office in downtown Hillsborough (228 S. Churton Street, Suite 300). You each need to present a valid ID--driver’s license, state-issued ID card or a passport--and your social security cards, a W-2 form, or a payroll check stub with your complete social security number on it.” Once the paperwork’s done, you pay $60.00, affirm your application and you’re done.

You have 60 days to get married, and the ceremony must be done by a county magistrate or a religious official authorized to solemnize marriages. After the wedding, your officiant completes the marriage certificate, which must be returned to the Register of Deeds office. 

“Our experience there was efficient, professional and welcoming, as we understand it has been in most counties in North Carolina,” notes Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle (far right in above photo), who recently secured a marriage license for herself and partner Alicia Stemper (to left of Lavelle).  Their marriage took place (photo) on October 25, 2014 at the Carrboro Town Commons. 

For more information on the legal aspects of getting married in North Carolina, visit EqualityNC’s Day One site

Orange County Wedding Venues

From outdoor options to elegant indoor venues, there’s something to suit every couples’ taste and requirements. In addition to our welcoming houses of worship, here are some popular Orange County wedding venues:

Your church or venue staff can help you line up other resources like florists and caters. EqualityNC created a short list of wedding vendors  or contact the Visitors Bureau wedding coordinator, Marlene Barbera, at 919-245-4323 or

Orange County’s climate is mild, making outdoor ceremonies feasible in all but the winter months. Of course, springtime and June are traditionally popular wedding months, and local venues fill up fast. Festivals and home football weekends also take up a lot of hotel rooms in the fall, so check the UNC football schedule and the local events calendar before setting your date.

“Make your plans early!” asserts Hillsborough resident Steven Petrow, Washington Post columnist and author of five books, including The New Gay Wedding: A Primer for Brides and Grooms, Their Friends and Families “Orange County is for lovers. Period.”

Note: This information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as legal advice. State and county marriage license requirements frequently change, so it’s crucial to verify all information with the Orange County register of deeds before making your wedding and travel plans.


Out in Chapel Hill-Carrboro (Southern OC)

If you favor destinations with lots of terrific food, a rich arts and music scene, or a variety of recreational opportunities, Orange County, N.C., deserves your consideration. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Carolina piedmont, this progressive community appeals to every vacationer’s taste—and is one of the most welcoming sections of the state.

“We’ve had many friends from out of state joke that we live in ‘Appalachia’,” notes Hillsborough resident Steven Petrow, Washington Post columnist and author. “Of course, once they visit, they realize they’re 100-percent wrong—and that Orange County is home to James Beard Award-winning restaurants; UNC, the oldest public university in the U.S.; and a host of this country’s best writers—Allan Gurganus, Lee Smith, Daniel Wallace and so many more. Oh, and it’s a county where gays and lesbians are right at home with everyone else. That’s true equality.”

A Welcoming Place

“Our community has a long-standing reputation as the most welcoming place in the state for the LGBTQ community,” says Lydia Lavelle, the state’s first openly lesbian mayor. (From 1995 to 2004, Carrboro was led by Mike Nelson, the first openly gay candidate elected mayor in North Carolina. “I always feel welcome anywhere I go in Carrboro or Chapel Hill—and this was the case before I became mayor!—and able to talk openly about my family and my life. This is not the case in many communities, and we recognize that we are so fortunate to feel so welcome and a part of the community here.  

In fact, Orange County is currently home to half of the state's gay and lesbian elected officials, a trend that started in 1987, when Chapel Hill Town Council Member Joe Herzenberg became North Carolina's first openly gay elected official; the town’s present mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt, is openly gay. Further proof of the community’s values: “Carrboro has the oldest domestic partner registry in North Carolina and recently declared October 10 Marriage Equality Day in celebration of recent court decisions that brought marriage equality to North Carolina,” explains Damon Seils, a Carrboro alderman. Chapel Hill also has a registry.

Experience Orange County

“Being a member of the LGBTQ community is no barrier to enjoying everything our community has to offer,” Kleinschmidt says. “There are few…exclusively LGBTQ activities, but there are also no places where members of our community aren’t welcome.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the things you can see and do in Orange County, N.C.:

Food & Drink: “Named as one of the foodiest towns in the U.S. by Bon Appetit, make sure you visit some of our award-winning restaurants and the South’s only organic distillery,” notes Kristen Smith, vice president for advocacy and engagement at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Favorite eateries include the James Beard-winning Lantern and Crook’s Corner, and nominee Panciuto; plus the acclaimed Neal’s Deli, ACME Food & Beverage Co., Allen & Sons, Talullas, Vimala’s and Sage. Check out our local producers, too. Stop by the famed Maple View Dairy—which includes a store and agricultural education center—or one of the local Farmers Markets in Carrboro (the oldest and largest), Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. Fuel up at a friendly coffee house, like Caffé Driade or The Open Eye, which is also home to Carrboro Coffee Roasters. Prefer a more potent potable? TOPO Organic Spirits distills local ingredients into gin, vodka and moonshine whiskey; and three breweries (Mystery Brew Co, Steel String, and Carolina Brewery) create tasty craft brews for every season and palate. Popular bars include The Baxter Bar/Arcade, The Crunkleton and Pecadillo. 

Entertainment & The Arts: Orange County has a vibrant arts and entertainment scene spanning the fine and cultural arts to crafts, music and comedy. “When the Bolshoi came to America, they came to New York and Chapel Hill,” says Chapel Hill Town Council Member Lee Storrow. “And just this year Taylor Mac brought his show, 1910s – A 24 Decade History of Popular Music here. That says a lot about the general state of the arts in our community.”

There’s live music every night at our many clubs, including the famous Cat’s Cradle. Take in a performance at The ArtsCenter, Playmakers Repertory Theatre or Memorial Hall. DSI Comedy Theatre keeps us laughing seven nights a week. The towns feature lots of public art, and there are myriad galleries, like FRANK and the N.C. Crafts Gallery, which you can patronize individually or en masse on the Carrboro-Chapel Hill Second Fridays Art Walk or Hillsborough's Last Fridays. Visit the Ackland Museum or see artisans at work during the Orange County Open Studio Tour each November.

Recreation: Orange County might host more festivals than any community in the nation. “All of these events give us the opportunity to highlight the wonderful community we live in, with all of our fabulous locally owned shops, galleries and restaurants, there’s no better place in the Triangle,” says local arts advocate and festival organizer Jackie Helvey.

Festivals celebrate local crafts, poetry, film, local food and more. The nationally acclaimed Comedy Arts Festival comes to town each February, and the famous Carrboro Music Festival takes over the final weekend of September. For a full list of festivals, visit Annual Events. Other diversions include the North Carolina Basketball Museum and the Morehead Planetarium, which are especially fun for families. Looking for a more active pursuit? Hike Occoneechee Mountain Preserve or the trails at the N.C. Botanical Garden (including a huge collection of carnivorous plants!). Stroll Montrose Gardens, the UNC Arborteum, Occoneechee Speedway Trail or Hillsborough Riverwalk. Bait your hook at University Lake or Cane Creek Reservoir, or pedal to your heart’s content around town or farther afield.

Visit the New South

Whether you’re ambling along our scenic downtown streets or rambling through the wooded hills, you’ll find yourself in a unique Southern community. “It epitomizes ‘The New South’,” says Jen Jones, director of communications for EqualityNC. “It’s a place of the future that welcomes diversity, embraces inclusivity, and is a gateway for native Tar Heels, wayward travelers and new transplants alike. Chapel Hill-Carrboro remains one of the most LGBTQ-friendly areas in North Carolina and across the South.”

Petrow agrees. “I travel all over the country and gays and lesbians are ‘tolerated’ more and more just about everywhere, which is great. But here we’re accepted,” he says. “I’ve looked for a place like this to call home my entire life and now I don’t plan to leave until my toes point up at the stars.”

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A Walking Tour

West End

This part of Franklin Street—just before Chapel Hill turns into Carrboro—has a high concentration of fabulous Dining options, including 411 West, Sandwhich, West End Wine Bar, Elaine’s, The Carolina Brewery, Tallulah’s, Mint Indian Restaurant, Crook’s Corner. If it’s not meal time, check out the menus and make plans to come back later. If you need help, stop by the Visitors Center in West End.

Carr Mill Mall

The first stop in Carrboro is the historic Carr Mill Mall. A former textile mill, it is now filled with interesting shops, restaurants and Carrboro’s own improvisational comedy theater. It’s listed in the National registry of Historic places under its original name, The Alberta Complex.

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Family Fun Day Chapel Hill

Spend the day sampling the below ideas if you have kids or enjoy taking in local attractions.

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10 Ways to See Chapel Hill

Park downtown Chapel Hill at the Wallace Deck public parking lot.

Explore the UNC Campus

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the first state-supported university in America, chartered in 1789.

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Cultural Arts

A visit to Chapel Hill means world-class performances, indie music and top-notch opportunities to view visual art. [Image Source, UNC

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