Since the founding of Orange County in 1752 and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1785, this area has championed its natural beauty, history, and its writers, artists and musicians like no other. Consider: the nation’s first public university is here. UNC was the only university to award degrees in the 18th century. The university was built in Chapel Hill, near the ruins of a chapel, due to its central location in the state, right in Orange County. While visiting, stop by the Visitors Center, 501 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill.
Orange County, North Carolina is a remarkable place to visit. Its three main towns: Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough have everything a visitor wants in a destination: beautiful climate, historic neighborhoods—many on the national historic register, a cutting-edge arts scene, and some of the best food you’re going to get anywhere in the country.
Many area hotels are located in the heart of Chapel Hill, near the University, and several area chefs are James Beard winners and nominees.
James Taylor grew up in Chapel Hill, Charles Kuralt taught at UNC, Michael Jordan played basketball here and Mia Hamm set new goals for soccer and women in business.
It’s a cultural oasis, the crown-jewel of higher education. We invite you to explore our neighborhoods and encourage you to check-out the numerous special events that happen year-round.
12 Ways to Enjoy Chapel Hill/Orange County
What is a must see while visiting Chapel Hill and Orange County? We're glad you asked! Click here for recommendations...
In Orange County, History is Everywhere
The past, as William Faulkner wrote about another Southern place, “is never dead. It's not even past.”
In fact, in Orange County, it’s all around us. In this very modern place, history is still everywhere. Nearly 50 county sites are on the National Register of Historic Places, from downtown historic districts and classic farmhouses to stately colonial residences and re-imagined industrial plants.
Some of the history is renowned — like Old East residence hall on the University of North Carolina campus, the first public university building in the nation, dating from 1793. While the residence hall looks welcoming, Gimghoul Castle appears forbidding. Off a gravel path at the end of the road in the Gimghoul Historic District, the stone castle’s tower and ramparts make it look like we’re in medieval England.