The Weekend of May 14-16 will be a time for celebration in Chapel Hill. Congratulations to the Class of 2021 for your hard work during these unprecedented times. This year’s graduation will be spread over three days with commencement speakers Drs. Anthony Fauci and Kizzmekia Corbett ’14 (Ph.D.).

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 to remember the day.

2. Shop for a local keepsake. 

Take home a Tar Heel T-shirt or the work of a local artist. Visit Shrunken Head, Johnny T-Shirt or Chapel Hill Sportswear. Find local art, crafts or gifts at Frank Gallery, North Carolina Crafts Gallery, Womancraft Gifts or Carr Mill Mall. Click shopping for ideas.

Shopping at The Shrunken Head
The Shrunken Head

3. Dine at a new restaurant.  

There are several new restaurants which opened recently or in the last couple of years. Try Osteria Georgi, Old East Tavern, Hawthorne & Woods, Market & Moss, Blues on Franklin, Dame's Chicken & Waffles or Que Chula. In Carrboro, try Thai Station or Iza Whiskey & Eats. Make your reservation and follow the safety guidelines. If dining on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill on Saturday, enjoy the live music as part of the Save the Music Series.

4. Grab a bite at an old favorite.

In downtown try La Residence, Crossroads Chapel Hill, Carolina Coffee Shop, Mama Dips or 411 West. Celebrate at Crook’s Corner, Il Palio or Bin 54. Want a quick burger, pizza or BLT, hit Sutton’s, Al’s Burger, IP3 or Merritt’s Grill. Check out the new locations of Kipos or Breadman’s. In Carrboro see the new patio at Acme or try Tandem or Oakleaf. There are many opportunities for outdoor dining. For information on the above dining venues or others, click restaurants.

Dining at Kipos
Kipos at Eastgate Crossing

5. Toast the graduate.

Says cheers at The Crunkleton, He’s Not Here, Linda’s Bar & Grill or the new Trophy Room at the Graduate Hotel.  Try a local brew at Carolina Brewery,  Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, Vecino Brewing Company or Steel String.  And if in town longer and want a little road trip, venture to Honeysuckle Tea House or Botanist and Barrel. Bars & Taprooms.

Cheers at The Carolina Brewery
Carolina Brewery

6. 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 Creamy or Southern Villages’ La Vita Dolce. In Carrboro, ice cream is available at Present Day on Main. 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.

7.  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 new Elizabeth Cotten mural on 111 N. Merritt Mill. During graduation weekend wander on Franklin Street downtown to see The Art of Science + Hope art walk.

Elizabeth Cotten Mural
Elizabeth Cotten mural

8. Attractions to explore.

Drop by Ackand Art Museum at 101 S. Columbia Street. Hours are Wed – Sat from 1 pm – 5 pm. Timed tickets end and standard walk-in hours begin on May 14.  A portion of the Museum’s permanent collection of over 19,000 works of art is always on view. You may not know about the awesome renovation of the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center which reopened its doors in November. Visitors are welcome with timed tickets from Sat 10 am – 6 pm and Sun 1 pm – 5 pm. Wander through the display gardens or nature trails at the North Carolina Botanical Garden open all weekend.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
North Carolina Botanical Garden

9. See the springtime bounty at area Farmers' Markets open Saturday mornings.

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.

Carrboro Farmers Market
Carrboro Farmers' Market

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 Chocolate. Yonder is Hillsborough is another great location to say congrats. Try dinner and or drinks at Nomad, Antonia’s, Wooden Nickel or Gatewood House. Experience Hillsborough BBQ or try Sunday Brunch at The Colonial Inn. Drop by the Hillsborough Visitors Center

For even more ideas, the Visitors Bureau has produced two resources highlighting things to do this spring. Download the Safely Visit Chapel Hill and Orange County Spring 2021 newsletter and the 50 Ways to Just Do You Spring 2021 Guide to Orange County.

(Photo credits - UNC Graduates at the Old Well - University of North Carolina/Johnny Andrews, North Carolina Botanical Garden and all others SP Murray for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau)