North Carolina is without question one of the most beautiful states in the southeastern region of the USA and home to “the southern part of heaven,” Chapel Hill. This historic and vibrant college town is beautiful. The city is best described as charming and with a touch of southern elegance. You’ll find countless coffee shops, outdoor farmer’s markets, beautiful nature trails, and strangers who exuded that famous southern hospitality. Chapel Hill, North Carolina is the perfect weekend getaway if you find yourself in North Carolina. Last weekend I went to visit my cousin David who is a graduate student in the School of Public Health at UNC and had the best time in Chapel Hill. I put together a guide on how to spend a lovely weekend in this darling town.
THE CAROLINA INN // Built by a UNC graduate in 1924, this inn is a Chapel Hill staple and an AAA Four Diamond award winner. Whether you’re staying here or not it’s definitely worth the visit! It’s located right across the UNC campus, therefore perfect to get a true Carolina experience. It is a bit pricey but if you’re willing to splurge on your accommodations, this is THE place to splurge.
AIRBNB // If you’re a frequent Life with Lovely reader, you know I love Airbnbs. Chapel Hill has so beautiful and affordable options near campus. You can also check Airbnbs in Carrboro and Durham. Raleigh is about 25 miles away from Chapel Hill but if you have a car, it would also be another great option. TO BETTER ENJOY YOUR VISIT CLICK HERE FOR $40 OFF YOUR FIRST AIRBNB STAY.
THE HAMPTON INN // This is also in a great location if you’re spending the weekend in Chapel Hill. It’s located in Carrboro, however, once you get to Chapel Hill you’ll realize Carrboro and Chapel Hill are one-in-the-same. The Hampton Inn is great if you want to stay in a nice hotel but don’t want to splurge.
IL PALIO $$ // Feeling like a nice Italian meal to start your trip? Say no more, I’m always up for a good pasta. IL Palio is one of the most famous restaurants in Chapel Hill and included in all the food guides I looked through. The soft gnocchi, 500 day aged prosciutto, or veal meatballs all sound like heaven.
ACME $ // A southern restaurant that’s tag like is “Damn Good Food,” has to be amazing right? Pecan-Crusted Fried Chicken is enough to convince me to get in my car and drive back to North Carolina. This is a great dinner option if you’re looking for something more low-key and drooling.
Breakfast + Coffee
LA VITA DOLCE $ //One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to explore coffee shops. Fortunately my cousin also finds great joy in sipping coffee, indulging in a fresh pastry, and people watching. This was the first stop on our Chapel Hill tour and it did not disappoint. Located within Southern Village, this is a great spot to start your morning. They also serve gelato and wine for a midday treat.
WEAVER STREET MARKET $ // If you love breakfast, this is the perfect place for you. The vibrant colors of freshly picked produce are enough to draw you in and the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread will have you wanting to stay all day. Weaver Street Market opens at 7 am daily and serves the freshest bites, produced directly from local farmers and artisans. The breakfast bar lasts until 11 am on weekdays and 1 pm on weekends. I can only imagine how lovely this place is in the spring and summer with its outdoor seating and live music.
UNC Campus // Did you know that UNC is the oldest public university in the country? The campus is absolutely beautiful, it even had me considering another degree just to attend the university. Spend the morning exploring the campus and touring the historic buildings. I suggest touring the reserve library! If you’re lucky enough to visit Chapel Hill in the Spring or Fall, I can only imagine how beautiful the trees and blooms will be as you walk through UNC. The lawns are open to picnic or enjoy a midmorning treat as you people watch. Make sure you stop by the Old Well and take a drink from the fountain that said to bring you a 4.0 with a sip of water.
Visit the Gardens // Don’t miss the famous NC Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill. Spend a peaceful morning strolling through the lovely gardens. If you’re in the mood for some reading, this is a wonderful place to take your book. The Duke Gardens are only a short drive from Chapel Hill and also worth visiting. NC Botanical Gardens are more natural in their appearance, while the Duke Gardens have been carefully pruned. Both gardens are worth visiting.
CARRBORO FARMER’S MARKET // I love visiting farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings and a weekend in Chapel Hill definitely calls for a trip to the farmer’s market. My cousin needed to grocery shop, so we took advance of the farmers market on Saturday for him to stock up on produce. You can check the FARMER’S MARKET SCHEDULE here. With over 75 local vendors, here you’ll find a bit of all type of foods and artisans. You’ll even find local craftsmen showcasing their famous North Carolina wood furniture.
MEDITERRANEAN DELI $ //One of my favorite things about Chapel Hill is that restaurants pride themselves on serving local North Carolina ingredients. It’s evident in how fresh the foods taste. For lunch, my cousin took us to one of his favorite spots, Mediterranean Deli. Locals call this place Med Deli. You’ll find absolutely anything and everything your craving at this one location. The salads and fruits were…oh my god! Between my mom, cousin, and me, we had the lamb gyro and chicken gyro. As for our side dishes, we ordered the roasted cauliflower, mango salad, and Israeli Couscous. Wow, that sounds like a lot of food! The portions here are huge so I’d recommend getting an entree and a 1/4 size portion of a side dish.
AL’S BURGER SHAKE $// Some would tell you it’s sinful to leave Chapel Hill without a Mookie Burger! Al’s is a staple in the charming town and sure to have you planning a return trip just for the burger. The menu also includes a chili burger. Make sure to add a side of sweet potato fries that are topped with sea salt and brown sugar.
LULAS $ // Are you looking for authentic southern food during your weekend in Chapel Hill? Look no further than Lulas! Fill your southern craving by ordering Lulas famous Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich with drizzled with honey.
WALK FRANKLIN STREET // Chances are you’ll need to walk off your lunch a bit and Franklin Street is the ideal place for an afternoon stroll. Franklin Street is the main street in downtown Chapel Hill and the go-to for festivals, food, coffee shops, and breweries. As you walk, stop in YOGURT PUMP for a sugar boost. If you’re looking for some UNC spirit wear, Franklin street has plenty of shops to show off you UNC pride, these stores will often be cheaper than the campus bookstore.
DRINK TEA AT THE CAROLINA INN // Experience a true southern tradition as you sip tea at one of the Carolina’s oldest hotels. Afternoon tea is offered from 2:30pm-4:30pm Thursday-Sundays. Delight in specialty teas and freshly baked macarons and pastries. I also must note that the teacups are absolutely gorgeous! The dress code is casual elegance or resorts casual.
Hike // Chapel Hill has wonderful hiking trails. Put on your hiking boots or tennis shoes to enjoy an afternoon in the fresh Carolina air and under those iconic blue Carolina skies. There are trails for every skill type, whether you’re a pro hiker or simply want to stroll through nature. The RIVERWALK is one of the most popular paved trails that stretches about 1.8 miles. BOLIN CREEK TRAIL is another paved trail that stretched about 1.5 miles. Both are sure to give you a good taste of North Carolina’s beauty.
PERENNIAL CAFE // Every college town needs an Insta-worthy coffee shop, right? Located in the heart of Franklin Street, here you’ll get your perfect shot with delicious coffee in hand. Seating is limited but if you’re lucky enough to grab a seat, you won’t be disappointed.
GRAY SQUIRREL // Named the best coffee in Chapel Hill, the Gray Squirrel is a lovely place to stop in for a midday pick-me-up. Rumor has it that the maple latte delightful. The Gray Squirrel has two locations, the main location is in Carrboro and their second location is in the Chapel Hill Public Library.
BREAD AND BUTTER // Croissants, pastries, and scones are not solely reserved as breakfast foods. At this bakery, your tastebuds will be in heaven with a homemade scone and midday coffee.
TOP OF THE HILL RESTAURANT AND BREWERY $ // Just as the name suggests, this restaurant is located at the top of Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. Grab some dinner in the dining room and then head to the open patio for a drink.
JUJUBE $$ // If I could eat one type of cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Asian inspired cuisine. Jujube is an awarding winning restaurant that’s sure to give you a memorable foodie experience. All dishes are Asian inspired with an eclectic twist. If it’s a nice evening, I recommend dining in the outdoor patio.
CITY KITCHEN $$ // This is another Chapel Hill restaurant that prides itself on sourcing its ingredients locally. One quick scroll through their INSTAGRAM and your mouth will begin to water. City Kitchen cooks up American meals with delicious twists. All the dishes prepared are created to reflect the flavors of America. The sushi rolls look amazing and so do their flatbreads.
UNC Sports // Whether you’re a sports fan or not, UNC is home of some of the countries best sports teams! During our visit, we were lucky enough to catch a basketball game. It was so much fun and well worth the trip. Spending an evening in the stadium where Michael Jordan and so many other basketball champions have made names for themselves was incredible. My cousin shared that the football and hockey games are also very lively and so much fun to attend. We waited until closer to the afternoon on game day to purchase tickets. We found that the closer to game time, the cheaper the tickets become.
A CAROLINA COFFEE SHOP // By now you’ve fallen in love with Chapel Hill, NC! End your weekend in Chapel Hill with the perfect coffee and breakfast at the oldest running restaurant in North Carolina. If you slept in, don’t worry, they serve a delicious brunch. This is a great place to reminisce on your perfect weekend and start planning your next visit back to Chapel Hill.