Making plans for 2019? Consider taking a trip to Chapel Hill and neighboring Carrboro and Hillsborough in Orange County, N.C.

Chapel Hill, one of North Carolina’s premier destinations, is located in the middle of the state on the Atlantic Coast, right between Washington D.C. and Atlanta – making it an easy drive for East Coasters.

Here are 12 fun things to do to help you plan your visit.

1.  The Morehead Planetarium & Science Center celebrate its 70th birthday in 2019. See a star show, learn about its role in the early astronaut program and brush up on your science.

Morehead Planetarium

2.  Walk the campus of the oldest public university in the country. Take a guided or self-guided tour of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which opened its doors in 1795. Spy some key landmarks from Davie Poplar to the Old Well.

3.  Art is everywhere. See the world at the Ackland Art Museum. Wander past dozens of colorful art murals in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Look for the Visitors Bureau new mural walking map in 2019. For performing arts, catch an event at Memorial Hall, CURRENT or The ArtsCenter. Don’t forget the 2nd Friday Artwalk or the Last Friday Art Walk.

4.  Get the lay of the land in our Historic, unique downtowns. The area is home to three glorious downtowns: Franklin Street, named after Benjamin Franklin, is tree lined with sidewalk dining, bistros, award-winning coffee shops, cocktail bars and more. Carrboro’s Main Street is the home to the best lawn in the Southeast, Weaver Street Lawn, where you can spend the afternoon people-watching and dining – it’s also fun for the kids. Hillsborough’s charming Churton Street is on the National Historic Register, with small restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

5.  Need more history. Head to Hillsborough and take a tour from the Hillsborough Visitors Center (11 am Sat, March – Nov). Drop by the Orange County Historical Museum and the Burwell School Historic Site.

Orange County Historical Museum

6.  Get back to Nature. Walk the beautiful Riverwalk and sit by the river in Hillsborough. If you want a little elevation, climb to the highest point in Orange County, Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. Try the new walking and biking trails at the Brumley Forest Nature Preserve. Don’t miss the North Carolina Botanical Garden with its display gardens and more.

7.  Sports on the UNC Campus. Choose between more than two dozen sports (men’s and women’s) during the academic year from late August through May. Many are free. For the ticketed events visit www.goheels.com/tickets.  Drop by the Carolina Basketball Museum for loads of memorabilia, exhibits and videos. 

Carolina Basketball Museum

8.  Eat.  From burgers at Al’s Burger Shack, BLTs at Merritt’s, Shrimp and Grits at Crook’s, Fried Chicken at Lula’s, contemporary Italian faves with local ingredients at Il Palio, you’ll find a dish to your liking. Check out Fusion Fish, Venable and Hillsborough BBQ to continue the flavor tour. Stop by the Blue Dogwood Public Market where you can taste 8 vendors all in one location from Persian food, to vegan faves to chocolate, beer and much more. 

9.  Micro-Brews, Spirits and Ciders. Only a mile separates four breweries between Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Take a tasting tour from Steel String and Vecino in Carrboro to the Carolina Brewery and the Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery in Chapel Hill. Tour and taste organic spirits at Top of the Hill Distillery and visit Botanist and Barrel for their Dry Fruit Wines, Ciders and Sours at Ciders in Cedar Grove. Try something new at The Neighborhood Bar next to The Pig. Play indoor bocce ball at the King Street Bar in Hillsborough.

TOPO Craft Brews

10.  Live Music. Clubs fill the air with music each week. Check out the long-time Cat’s Cradle, The Cave or Local 506.  Head to the Nash Street Tavern in Hillsborough. Find music on the lawns at Fridays on the Front Porch at The Carolina Inn, Last Fridays in Hillsborough and Southern Village.

11.  Shopping. People from all over the state visit Chapel Hill to experience the gourmet food market, Southern Season. Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro will also meet all your needs when it comes to unique, local items. For local food, produce and crafts, shop at local farmers markets every weekend throughout the year.

12.  Fun Festivals Galore.  When you visit, check the calendar and take in a festival. Some favorites feature Jazz, Chinese Lanterns, Larger than life puppets, bluegrass, poetry, film, food and more.

Chinese Light Up Lantern Festival