Exploring Chapel Hill, NC – family travel guide
“I’m a Tar Heel born I’m a Tar Heel bred
And when I die I’m a Tar Heel dead.
So it’s RAH, RAH, Car’lina ‘lina
RAH, RAH, Car’lina ‘lina
RAH, RAH, Car’lina
RAH! RAH! RAH!” – University of North Carolina Fight Song
What pumps you up more than a College Fight Song?!??! I don’t know so that’s what I’m sticking with, lol. Last month, for Carter’s Spring Break, we took a trip out to North Carolina. We were honored and privileged to be able to collaborate with the Travel Bureaus out there to help put together this North Carolina Family Travel Guide Series for ya’ll. So for this specific post, I’d like to give big thanks and a huge shout out to the Chapel Hill / Orange County Visitor’s Bureau!
Fun Facts About Chapel Hill
- UNC at Chapel Hill is the nation’s first state college.
- Chapel Hill was named after the New Hope Chapel.
- Chapel Hill is a true College Town… meaning – lots of college action but still kid friendly.
- Franklin Street, the main downtown strip, is named after Benjamin Franklin.
These fun facts were found in the 2019 Official Visitor’s Guide. To find more fun facts and information, be sure to check them out.
Where We Stayed / How We Got Around
When we travel as a family, we like to find places that are kid friendly and has the option of having breakfast there. So what do I consider kid friendly? Well my friends, I’d say any place with a pool, fridge, and microwave. So not much but you’d be surprised how many hotels out there that don’t have those amenities. Our hotel was centrally located and Southern Village, the cutest shopping center with a lot of restaurants was right behind us.
Renting a car through Costco Travel has been our go-to for pretty much all of our trips. I can always find a great deal even when it’s last minute. Although we’re a family of four, I always like to rent a SUV so that we know we’ll have plenty of space… especially with all the luggage we have to tote around.
What We Did
The amazing thing about North Carolina is all the FREE or low cost activities that are available. I don’t know of any other place or state that is as family friendly as this!
Growing up, Tyler was a huge Tar Heel Basketball fan, so this was one of our first stops. It’s a college campus so we just did a tour and checked out the football field and campus itself. It’s great for the kids to run around and get some energy out. It’s also nice because I guess this starts our college campus tours with our kids.
Sooooo did you know that Michael Jordan and Antawn Jamison are Tar Heel Alumni?!?!?! I didn’t but that just made the college so much cooler! It took us less than an 45 minutes to get through the museum. When you enter, you first watch a 5 minute video, then you get to walk through the rest of the museum. There are lots of displays of all the achievements and individual displays of the Alumni that went on to the NBA. I didn’t realize that there were so many! And to see all of those championships rings up so close? AMAZING. This one is definitely good stop for the kids and adults.
Franklin Street is the main strip of the Downtown. It’s lined with cute shops and a lot of restaurants. It’s great to just stroll through and check out all the happenings. There’s even a cafe with cats that roam around! After we stopped by the Visitor’s Bureau, we strolled through and made a few stops. Tyler had to get on a few calls, so the kids and I tossed a ball around, and guess what?!?! The adults didn’t care!
What Else To Do
Between driving from the airport, to settling down at the hotel, and our meals – we really only had a day to spend in Chapel Hill. Here are the other attraction that were recommended but we could not make either because of the weather or timing. They look great and I would definitely check it out when I go back.
Where We Ate
Don’t let the small town feel fool you. This place is loaded with places to eat and enjoy a night out. However, when traveling with kids, you’ll want to make sure you get in there before the crowd hits and you’re reliving your college years.
Breakfast: Elmo’s Diner
We started our first full day here. It’s located in a shopping center so if you have time, you can do a little browsing before or after. There was a pretty big selection on their menu, and was pretty reasonably priced. I would say this is great for the kids because they hang their art on the wall afterwards. I’m not much of a breakfast food person, so I’m not sure what I thought about it. My kids loved the huge Chocolate Chip Pancake though.
When we travel, I always have to stop at a coffee shop to grab a fancy latte. I’m not a coffee snob, but I love to get those pretty shots. Patty from the Visitor’s Bureau suggested Perennial and I’m so glad we went. It’s the cutest coffee shop on Franklin St., and the coffee was great too!
Lunch: Carolina Brewery
This was a fun stop for us. There’s a bunch of board games for the kids to play and a bunch of TVs for the adults to watch sports. We went during College Basketball Championships time so naturally it was a pumped up environment because UNC was in it. We ended up only having drinks and appetizers there but what we had was fantastic!
Dinner Night 1: Pazzo
After we checked into our hotel when we got into town, we started looking up some places to grab a late dinner. The Southern Village behind our hotel had so many great options but most were starting to close, so we just went to what was open. I’m so glad we did because I probably had the best pasta to date. There’s two sides to the restaurant – fine dining and pizza. We were going for pizza but Tyler went and sat at the bar, which was on the fine dining side, so I thought that’s where we were going. The kids were still able to order their pizza though, so it all worked out.
Dinner Night 2: Mama Dips
We ended our night and trip in Chapel Hill at Mama Dips. Our Cousins that live in North Carolina came out to meet us for dinner, so that was nice. Everyone was super friendly and the food was great. We found out that Mama Dip recently passed, but let me tell you – I think her spirit lives on. I got one of my go-to Chicken and Waffles with a side of Collard Greens and Mac and Cheese.
It was definitely an exciting time to be in Chapel Hill, and everyone was definitely friendly. If you’re planning a visit, I would definitely recommend making a stop or checking out the Visitor’s Bureau first. They’re full of great insights and can definitely recommend the best places to visit and eat. And for some behind the scenes action, make sure to follow me on Instagram, and check out my Instagram Stories Highlights.