Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau
Carlisle & Linny Vintage Jewelry is located on Churton Street in historic downtown Hillsborough.
Welcome to Orange County
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.
Contact the Visitors Bureau
Since 2002 the Visitors Center has provided information and assistance to those interested in visiting the communities of Orange County NC including Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough. The Center provides suggested itineraries, directions, visitor guides, North Carolina & local maps, and brochures from many of the areas favorite attractions. Free parking off South Roberson Street, Chapel Hill. ADA access & parking in the front.
PLEASE NOTE: Area visitor centers are closed due to the coronavirus, but visitors and locals can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, which is being managed daily. Or, enjoy two area websites: www.visitchapelhill.org or https://visithillsboroughnc.com for local information.
Address: 501 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Phone Toll-Free: (888) 968-2060 | Phone: (919) 245-4320 | Fax: (919) 968-2062
Regular Business Hours: Open Monday-Friday, 8:30 am - 5 pm; Saturday, 10 am - 3 pm
The Chapel Hill and Orange County area is serviced by the Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU) located in Raleigh, about 18 miles east of Chapel Hill.
Black Lives Still Matter: What’s Next for the Movement by Greear Webb
I often say that true change is comprised of three pillars: education, protest, and policy change.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the nationwide protests that followed the horrific murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we must reflect not only on the unfortunate necessity of those protests, but on the overall atmosphere of summer 2020 and the way it elevated the three tenets above.
As a young Black man in America, I was shaken to my core by the video of George Floyd’s death, and then again and again as the video was subsequently shared all day, every day, for months. However, George Floyd’s death did not surprise me in the slightest. Actor and rapper Will Smith accurately stated in a 2020 interview that racism is by no means new, it is just “getting filmed” and he is right—America has a history of brutalizing and ignoring the very existence of its Black people. This striking reality, however, demonstrates exactly why the movement in support of Black life must continue to be placed at the forefront of our national psyche. These types of brutal attacks on the most marginalized Americans stem from systemic oppression, resulting in the blatant disregard for human life for no other reason than hate associated with the color of one’s skin. Not only is this despicable but it is preventable, only if we are all willing to play our part in the movement.
Though not everyone can be in the streets shouting and marching each time an injustice occurs, everyone can raise their voice and use their gifts to forward the cause of justice. The power held in the protests of summer 2020 lies upon the foundation of unity, given that unity cannot exist absent accountability. The first step in achieving accountability is education—the first pillar of true change. Last summer, I witnessed the influence of an educated community first-hand, as there was a noticeable increase in the number of individuals willingly and actively educating themselves on the real history of race in America, including the role police often play in perpetuating systemic racism. Particularly, many white Triangle residents chose to educate themselves following Floyd’s murder and stood in solidarity with those of us in Raleigh planning what to do next.
Protesting was next. The second step in achieving tangible change after better educating yourself is to challenge every instance of injustice you encounter. Last summer, for instance, many chose to reject racism and, by extension, police brutality by physically showing up in the streets, marching and chanting slogans of justice. Others chose to protest the status quo by supplying water and food to those walking along the hot streets, and others still chose to protest by writing and calling any and every person they knew in a position of power, demanding that they take a stance against police brutality and work to make their companies, neighborhoods, and families more antiracist. Though protesting can take different forms, what is important is that when an injustice is witnessed, action is taken to reject it.
The final, and often hardest piece in the equation of attaining lasting change is that of policy change. One of the primary ways white supremacy is preserved in American society is through our laws. I firmly believe that last summer’s protests were a buildup and reflection of the protests of America’s past, and that with the armor of education and compassion, communities like the Triangle are in a prime position to pressure our leaders for change. What we must do now is act collectively to push our government officials to change policy to better reflect the demands formulated by the protestors of last summer, and those throughout American history. This takes voting, attending city/town council meetings, and being willing to have uncomfortable conversations with those around us.
Attending UNC and encountering students of all backgrounds and identities, from all pockets of the globe has allowed me to recognize just how bright our future can be when we are not afraid to take part in difficult discussions. Young people have long been on the front lines of America’s social justice movements, and we continue to lead in the present. Youth possess the unique tools necessary to dream of a better future—a future that is more equitable, inclusive, and full of opportunity for the historically marginalized among us. If we wish to truly enact long-overdue change in our communities and establish environments of antiracism, justice, and accountability, each of us must be willing to step out of our comfort zones, listen to those most impacted by America’s original sin of slavery, and learn to lead with love.
Restaurant & Takeout Updates, Orange County, NC
Raleigh-Durham International Airport’s Official Parking Program
ParkRDU provides easy, convenient options allowing you to choose your experience. Select from a variety of short-term or long-term products, meeting various budget needs. ParkRDU options are fully-accessible for people with disabilities.
Helpful Tourism Links
For a list of meeting and conference facilities, contact Orange County Sales Director, Marlene Barbera, 919-245-4320
Overview of Orange County
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.
To view the Orange County Neighborhoods Guide online, click here.
12 Ways to Enjoy Chapel Hill/Orange County
EXPERIENCE ICONIC PLACES
There are many unique to this area, but we’ll just mention a few to get you started. Sutton's Drug Store established 1923 serving up shakes, burgers & more. The Carolina Coffee Shop – longest running restaurant in North Carolina. The Cat’s Cradle celebrating over 50 years of top name and upcoming bands. Carolina Brewery, the oldest brewery in the Triangle. Julian’s, established in 1942, brings Ivy League style to Chapel Hill. Open Eye Café, brings international coffees to Carrboro and the Chapel Hill Post Card mural is probably the most instagrammable spot next to UNC's iconic Old Well on campus
Whether your interests lie in historical facts and places, African-American history, or botanicals, you are sure to find a tour that ‘speaks’ to your passion. If historical facts is your thing, join the ‘Free Walking Tour of Chapel Hill’ guide that covers UNC campus and Franklin Street history. For garden lovers, the North Carolina Botanical Garden offers general private guided tours for a minimal fee. For self-guided tours, you might consider “Histories of Home: A Walk with Northside Neighbors”, Historic Hillsborough Walking Tours which include historic buildings, cemeteries & gardens, and African American history, or a historic downtown walking tour of Carrboro. (Image courtesy Free Walking Tours)
The weekends come alive in Orange County. Reserve your spot for Carolina Inn’s Fridays on the Front Porch to enjoy music, food and libations. Eat, sip, stroll, tip from East to West on Franklin Street Saturday nights with musicians set up at favorite dining and shopping spots. Sundays at Sundown features live music on the Green at Southern Village. And On the last Friday of the month, Hillsborough hosts buskers that roam Churton Street, plus still walkers, poetry readings and an artwalk. (Image courtesy Southern Village).
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
Walk the campus of the oldest public university in the country and look for historic landmarks like the Davie Poplar and the Old Well (Self-guided tours available). For a teaser, check out UNC Visitors Center 'Sense of Place' Zoom Tour. Or catch a star show at the newly renovated, largest planetarium in the southeastern United States at the Morehead Planetarium & Science Center.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro are very proud of their building murals. They define us as a community. There are over 30 murals in all, mostly in the downtown areas. Some have faded, some refreshed, some painted over. Local artist Michael Brown created the first mural, titled The Blue Mural in 1989. The most recent murals (2020) can be found in Carrboro: Elizabeth Cotten, Black Lives Matter and We are Community. There are a couple of outliers too, Children’s Faces can be viewed from Hwy 54 heading west, a tribute to legendary coach Dean Smith can be seen at the intersection of Smith Level Rd. and Hwy 15-501 S, and in Hillsborough, a tribute to Billy Strayhorn.
Did you know there are miles and miles of biking trails in Carrboro and Chapel Hill? Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill are designated Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly Communities by The League of American Bicyclists and UNC is recognized nationally as Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly University.
While Carrboro and Chapel Hill along with the University of North Carolina have a long standing history, Hillsborough’s downtown historic district in itself is listed on the National Register for Historic Places and features more than 100 homes, churches, school and other structures from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Among those buildings, open to the public is the Alexander Dickson House, which houses the Hillsborough Visitor Center. There you can join a group tour or venture out on your own to other notable buildings such as the Burwell School, the Old Courthouse and the Old Town Cemetery. Learn more of Orange County's history at the Orange County Historical Museum.
When visiting a new town it’s always fun to seek out unique shops. Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro is home to more than 10 local and family owned shops ranging from beads & jewelry, boutiques and natural skin care to fine-fabrics, children’s toys and a card shop. For the selective antique buyer, check out Whitehall Antiques in Chapel Hill. And you’ll find the cutest boutique shops on Churton Street in Historic downtown Hillsborough.
CRAFT BEERS & CIDER TRAIL
Just within a two-mile stretch between Chapel Hill and Carrboro lie six distinct craft breweries. Begin your tasting tour at Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, make your way down Franklin Street to Carolina Brewery, and then head into Carrboro to the neighborhood brewery, Vecino Brewing Co. Try a funky free-spirited brew at Steel String, a Mukimono Belgian Wit at Craftboro Brewing Depot and end at our newest brewpub, Dingo Dog. For a slight detour north of Hillsborough, visit the tasting room at Botanist and Barrel for dry fruit wines, ciders & sours every Sunday afternoon. Be sure to check out our numerous bottle shops and taprooms too.
ART GALLERIES & MUSEUMS
For an eclectic experience, the permanent collection of the Ackland Art Museum consists of more than 18,000 works of art, featuring North Carolina’s premier collections of Asian art and works of paper as well as significant collections of European masterworks. For modern and contemporary fine art galleries, check out the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts in downtown Hillsborough. You’ll not find better artisanship than at FRANK in Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Crafts Gallery and Womancraft Gifts in Carrboro, and Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery in Hillsborough.
LOCAL FOOD SCENE
Hailed as "America's Foodiest Small Town" by Bon Appetit magazine, Chapel Hill is a hot spot for local farm to table cuisine. From all-natural beef burgers at Al’s Burger Shack, BLT’s from Merritt’s, Shrimp and Grits at Crook’s, contemporary Italian faves with local ingredients at Il Palio, you’ll find a dish to your liking. Check out Eno River Farm and Maple View Farm Ice Cream Country Store to continue the flavor tour. Visit four county farmers’ markets to see where many local chefs shop. Stop by the Blue Dogwood Public Market for Persian food, BBQ and vegan favorites under one roof. Don’t forget the Honeysuckle Tea House for locally grown specialty tea drinks in an open-air environment.
With our average winter climate in the 50’s and summer in the 90’s, we can enjoy the outdoors most all year round. Here are some of our favorite spots. Located on the University of North Carolina campus, the Coker Arboretum is 5 acres of flowering trees and shrubs, grassy areas and benches to relax. Just off campus is the North Carolina Botanical Garden, 1100 acres of garden and conservation areas plus a nearby trail system. Hillsborough has RiverWalk that edges the Eno River and is part of the Mountains to the Sea Trail. Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill have an extensive park system, trails and greenways for walking and biking.
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.