Some are eateries, music venues, clothing stores, attractions, and murals. Some bring historic value, uniqueness, notoriety and hometown feel. So, if you're wondering what is a must see, or do , or try while you are in Chapel Hill, Carrboro or Hillsborough, we highly recommend these special places!
Suttons Drug Store has been around for decades, nearly a century since 1923. It’s a Chapel Hill tradition. Everyone has been there, just check out all the photos on the wall. While the pharmacy is no longer in operation, you can still find all of the old fashioned staples and hot off the grill eats that attract new Tar Heels and keep customers coming back year after year.
You’ll find the markings Est. 1922 on the front of the Carolina Coffee Shop. It’s even older than Sutton’s and holds the title of the oldest continually running restaurant in North Carolina. It’s easy to find, just look for the Parade of Humanity mural at Port Hole Alley on East Franklin Street. Don’t let the year distort your idea of the menu – it is modern southern cuisine and cocktails and weekend brunch.
Located less than a mile from the University of Chapel Hill in the Town of Carrboro, the Cat’s Cradle has hosted the likes of Nirvana, Public Enemy, John Mayer, Joan Baez, and Iggy Pop plus new and upcoming premier music acts for 50 years. Hmm, which act will you see that becomes the next mainstream sensation?
Maple View Ice Cream & Country Store, with its wrap around porch, rocking chairs, and farm acreage views has inside the most delicious, creamy, award winning ice cream. The flavors change with the season and are as wholesome as the Holstein milking cows across the street at Maple View Farm. No worries if you’re a true chocolate, vanilla and strawberry kind of person, they serve those flavors plus favorites like butter pecan, and cookies and cream all year ‘round.
Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, aka the Social Crossroads of Chapel Hill, is the place to be during basketball season; particularly a UNC vs Duke game or better yet, a championship game where you’ll find a trail of people camping out the night before just for a seat in the outdoor patio. It’s a perfect view of the thousands and thousands of people that rush to the intersection of Franklin and Columbia after a Tar Heel victory. And if you’re into craft brews, you’ll be interested to know they are the eighth oldest surviving brewery in the state and developer of over eighty different varieties since 1996.
Most likely the most photographed spot in all of Orange County, the Old Well on UNC Campus, is a neoclassical rotunda located at the southern end of McCorkle Place. Its current decorative form completed in 1897, was modeled after the Temple of Love in the Gardens of Versailles and has a drinking fountain reported to give good luck to those who drink from it. The original well served as the sole water supply to the university for many years.
The Chapel Hill Mural named 1941 Curt Teich Postcard is probably the other most photographed spot in Orange County. Artist Scott Nurkin, who studied under Michael Brown (painter of many of the murals downtown), completed the mural in October of 2013 which commemorates various landmarks on the campus of UNC. The mural is located on the backside of the outdoor bar He’s Not Here, a legendary collegial haunt and home to the famous Blue Cup which you may also see in many a photograph.
Do you have the desire to relax in an open space while savoring a carefully prepared cup of coffee from beans roasted in small batches and sourced directly from small farms across the world? Then you’ll want to check out Open Eye Café. The Open Eye Café is dubbed Carrboro’s Living Room and a favorite among locals since 2004. For a quaint getaway experience, Open Eye’s little sister Caffe Driade is a good bet. Think beautiful Northern –Italian style shop nestled in the woods. It actually is near the Chapel hill greenway and accessible by a greenway trail on the east side of town.
For bacon lovers, the single, double, and massive triple BLT at Merritt’s Grill are addictive and have been described in reviews as “…but oh my that freaking BLT!” And how does adding Pimento Cheese sound? Well they earned the title of best BLT with Pimento Cheese in the state of North Carolina by Peoples Magazine and Infatuation! By the way they have an awesome outdoor seating area perfect for all that good messiness that’s going to come from whatever you get on the menu.
Julian’s – Established in 1942, Mary and Maurice Julian brought Ivy League style to Chapel Hill. Children and grandchildren continue the tradition in bringing custom style using exclusive fabrics to men’s and women’s apparel. Notable tidbit: Son Alex Julian became the first American clothing designer to create his own exclusive fabrics. His textile design is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. He also designed basketball uniforms for the Charlotte Hornets, designed new colors for Paul Newman’s racing team both cars and uniforms, and of course the UNC Tar Heels basketball uniforms.
The Carrboro Farmers’ Market celebrated its 40th season in 2018. Under the two pavilions in the Town Commons of Carrboro, you’ll find the freshest produce and goods plus the highest quality crafts from 75 vendors located within just 50 miles of the market. The market is nationally recognized and open Saturdays, year ‘round and Wednesdays during the growing and harvest season.
The Alexander Dickson House, originally built in 1790, is one of the most historically significant houses in Orange County. In April 1865, Generals Wade Hampton and Joseph E. Johnston used the house as temporary headquarters during negotiations with Union General William T. Sherman. Ultimately Johnston surrendered nearly 90,000 troops under his command, making his surrender at the nearby Bennett Farm the largest of the American Civil War, and putting an end to the war in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its present location (since 1983) serves as the Visitor Center in Hillsborough.
Occoneechee Speedway closed in 1968 as one of NASCAR’s first two tracks to open and is the only dirt track remaining from the inaugural 1949 season. The speedway hosted stock car racing legends such as Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson. In 1968, Richard Petty won the last race held at the track. The Occoneechee Speedway along with North Wilkesboro Speedway helped inspire the Thomasville Speedway in the Pixar move Cars 3. Now, instead of cars zooming by, people do, just not as fast. Located just outside of the Town of Hillsborough, the historic speedway is now a trail and surrounded by towering pines and sycamores.