For the first time, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's 2024 Spring Commencement takes place on Saturday evening. The University moved to an evening ceremony to provide a more celebratory atmosphere and to offer friends and family traveling from long distances more time to return home on Sunday. The ceremony will be held at 7 pm, Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Kenan Stadium. Gates will open at 6 pm and tickets are not required for graduates or guests.

The keynote speaker is UNC graduate Zena Cardman who earned a Bachelor of Science in biology and Master of Science in marine sciences in 2010 and 2014, respectively. Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017, Cardman's is now the commander of NASA’s Crew-9 mission, a four-person crew that will launch to the International Space Station later this year. 

With the Saturday night ceremony, expect family and friends to start their celebrating a little earlier in the week.  Here are ten ways that visiting families, friends and graduates can explore the Chapel Hill area together before or after the tassels are turned.  

1. Stroll the UNC Campus you’ve called home. 

Spring is a beautiful time in Chapel Hill. See the flowers and landmarks. Snap a few pictures at the Old Well and other spots to remember the day or weekend.

2. Shop for a local keepsake. 

Take home a Tar Heel T-shirt or the work of a local artist. Visit Johnny T-Shirt, Alumni Hall, Shrunken Head, Carolina Classic or Chapel Hill Sportswear. Find jewelry at Light Years or Creative Metalsmiths on Franklin Street. Shop for local art, crafts, or other gifts  in Carrboro at  Frank Gallery, North Carolina Crafts Gallery, Womancraft Gifts or Carr Mill Mall. You can even buy a crystal at Quantum Soul on Graham Street and more fun gifts at SallyMack in Midtown Market.  Finally, grab a book by a local author at Chapel Hill's Epilogue Books Chocolates Brews , Flyleaf Books or Golden Fig in Carrboro Click shopping for more ideas.

Shrunken Head Jewelry
Gifts at Shrunken Head

3. Dine at a new restaurant or an old favorite.

There are several restaurants which opened recently or in the last couple of years. Try Bombolo, Bluebird French Bistro, Ay Por Dios, Hawthorne & Wood, Market & Moss or La Montana. Old time favorites include  La Residence, 411 West, Lantern, Crossroads Chapel Hill, Il Palio or Bin 54. Want a quick burger, pizza or BLT, hit Sutton’s, Al’s Burger, IP3 or Merritt’s Grill.  In Carrboro visit the expansive patio at Acme or try Tandem or Oakleaf. There are many opportunities for outdoor dining. Reservations are highly recommended.  Also remember, it's Mother's Day on Sunday. For information on the above dining venues or others, click restaurants.

4. Toast the graduate.

Says cheers at The Crunkleton, He’s Not Here, Lapin Bleu, Franklin Motors Beer Garden, The Gathering Place or Rocks + Acid Wine Shop. Try a local brew at Carolina Brewery, Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery or Steel String.  And if in town longer and want a little road trip, venture out to Pluck Farm on Hwy 54 West or up to Cedar Grove and Botanist and Barrel. Bars & Taprooms.

Carolina Brewery for Blog
Cheers at Carolina Brewery

5. Try a cool treat.

If spirits and brews aren’t your thing, try a yummy ice cream, yogurt, gelato or sorbet at Franklin Street’s Yogurt Pump, Ben & Jerry’s or Cold Stone Creamery or head to Southern Villages’ La Vita Dolce. Visit the Orange County countryside for a sweet ice cream treat at Maple View Farm Country Store, Broken Spoke Farm or Eno River Farm. Try Whit’s Custard in West Hillsborough.

6.  See dozens of colorful murals, including several new ones highlighting the public art landscape in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Get a photo in front of the Greetings to Chapel Hill post card on Rosemary Street, Parade of Humanity Parade on Porthole alley or the African American Trailblazers mural on 111 S. Merritt Mill. One of the newest murals is in Carrboro by Loren Pease of Butterflies on the side of Womancraft Gifts.  Take a Mural Tour or drop by the welcome center for a mural tour map. The Welcome Center will be open weekdays, 8:30 am - 5 pm and on Saturday, 10 am - 3 pm. 

Carrboro Butterfly Mural
SweatPease Art Facebook

7. Attractions to explore.

Drop by Ackand Art Museum at 101 S. Columbia Street. Hours are Wed – Sat from 10 am – 5 pm and Sun 1- 5pm. Check out their exhibit, Focus on the Peck Collection: Windmills in Dutch Art or see the pARC by The Urban Conga on the museum's front terrace before it leaves in July.  A portion of the Museum’s permanent collection of over 19,000 works of art is always on view. The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center is celebrating 75 years in 2024, so drop by to check out the exhibits or see a star show.. There are two shows on May 10 if you are in town. Current hours are Fri 2:30 pm - 6 pm; Sat 10 am – 6 pm and Sun 1 pm - 6 pm.  Wander through the display gardens or nature trails at the North Carolina Botanical Garden open Tue - Sun. Head to the Carolina Basketball Museum for a look at the glorious history of the UNC Men's Basketball program in the Ernie Williamson Athletic Center. This free museum is open Mon - Fri 10 am - 4 pm and Sat 9 am - 1 pm. Finally, click for what events are taking place around town that weekend, including UNC Baseball hosting Louisville and Friday night events including Fridays on the Front Porch at The Carolina Inn, Freight Train Blues Concert at the Carrboro Town Commons grounds and more.

800 by 533 North Carolina Botanical Garden by NCBG
North Carolina Botanical Garden

8. Take A Guided Tour

Free Walking Tours of Chapel Hill take place on select Fridays - Sundays leaving from the sundial in front of the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center at 250 E. Franklin Street. The guided tours highlight historic buildings, murals and a little bit of UNC history. Visit to find your tour and register. Three guided tours through Triangle Walking Tours take place in Chapel Hill on Friday, May 10. Register for a 3 pm Chapel Hill History Tour, 5 pm Chapel Hill True Crime Tour and 7 pm Chapel Hill Ghost and Urban Legend Walk all leaving from Rougarou (Imbibe) at 108 Henderson Street. You must register in advance and tours are $12. If you want more ghosts, check out the Haunted Hillsborough Tour

9. See the springtime bounty at area Farmers' Markets open Saturday mornings or visit a local area farm directly on your weekend visit.

Start your day early and visit Carrboro Farmers’ Market at Carrboro’s Town Commons or the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market in the University Place parking lot.  If the whole family is here, take them to Chapel Hill's Spring Haven Farm at 5306 Home Ruffin Road open Wed - Sun from 10 am - 5 pm. Visit this family friendly farm meeting baby goats, pigs, donkeys, cows and more. While you're enjoying the animals, there will be treats to eat and drink. Kids can take a ride on the Tractor Train Express or Gem Mine. For the adults, there is axe throwing. 

Baby Goats at Spring Haven
Spring Haven Farm

10. Take a side trip to Hillsborough.

Whether you venture up to Hillsborough during the weekend or stop on your way in or out of town, come take a self-guided walking tour, walk the Riverwalk or head downtown and drop in at Carlise & Linny Vintage Jewelry, Hillsborough Arts Gallery or Matthew’s Chocolates. Yonder in Hillsborough is another great location to say cheers and congrats. Try dinner and or drinks at Nomad, Antonia’s or Wooden Nickel. Experience Hillsborough BBQ or try Sunday Brunch at The Colonial Inn. Drop by the Hillsborough Visitors Center. Want more to learn a little more about Hillsborough? Take a guided walking tour leaving at 10:30 am on Saturday, May 11 from the Visitor Center at $10 per person or read a local Hillsborough author at Purple Crow bookshop. 

Have a safe journey to and from Chapel Hill for the graduation celebration. Congratulations to the UNC Class of 2024.  

(Photo credits - UNC Graduates in Kenan Stadium - University of North Carolina/Jon Gardiner; Shrunken Head Facebook; Carolina Brewery, SP Murray for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau; SweetPease Art Facebook, North Carolina Botanical Garden credit to NCBG, Spring Haven Farm credit)