A Green City Guide to Chapel Hill

A Green City Guide to Chapel Hill

Trent Johnson
Dec 30, 2010

City: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Population: 54,492
Green Cred: Home of the Green Bridge development, local eateries and sustainable southern living.

Chapel Hill, NC is known for the University but is also a destination in and of itself. Together with the nearby cities of Carrboro and Durham (both within a 5 minute drive and connected by a free bus), the area is full of local eateries, sustainable southern living, and surrounded by gorgeous greenery.

After living in the Chapel Hill area for four years, I've become acquainted with the charming Southern town located in central North Carolina just 5 hours from Washington, D.C. and conveniently located within driving distance of three major airports. Chapel Hill boasts a top ranked public research university, a huge selection of restaurants, great antiquing, history, art and great outdoor activities. Durham is known for its great eateries, Chapel Hill for its small college town feeling with lots of art and entertainment, and Carrboro for its quirky, homegrown and organic feeling. All three are must see's during any visit to North Carolina.

Places You Must Go

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Campus and Duke University's Campus. Each have beautiful buildings and great campuses surrounded by trees and well integrated with the communities. There's a free bus that connect the two, and each have taken steps for greener campuses.
  • Johnny's Market and Cafe in Carrboro is unlike anything I've ever visited. Located in a residential area, it is the backyard you always wanted. Serving up local coffee, and beer and selling local produce, Johnny's is also a hub for a crepe truck, taco truck and during the summer, live music.
  • The American Tobacco District is a collection of stores and restaurants located in downtown Durham, in buildings that once stored and processed tobacco. Located near the ball park (the famous Durham Bulls Athletic Park) it's now home to free concerts, movies, great restaurants, and shops. Grab dinner at one of the eateries and then see a show at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Also see a Converted Tobacco Warehouse home tour here.
  • Greenbridge Development may have raised local controversy but it remains a flagship green development setting the tone for things to come.

Things You Must Do

  • The North Carolina Botanical Garden display gardens, an educational center and a number of natural areas. Admission is free.
  • Catch a live show at one of the area's many concert venues from the Durham Performing Arts Center, Memorial Hall on the UNC Campus, the Local 506 in Carrboro, or the Cat's Cradle.
  • Maple View Dairy: Located just outside of town, Maple View Dairy produces fresh dairy products and their country store sells the best ice cream around.
  • Franklin Street Yoga is locally owned by a Chapel Hill Alumni and is the go to studio located just blocks from campus. Be sure to reserve your spot online!
  • See an athletic event. While getting a ticket to see the Tar Heels play in the Dean Dome will cost you, football tickets or tickets to other sporting events are easier to come by.
  • Ackland Art Museum: One of North Carolina's most important artistic resources since 1958, the Ackland is located on campus and the museum's collection boasts more than 16,000 works.
  • 2ndFriday Art Walk: For the past decade, the popular once-a-month event brings residents and visitors from all over the area to see a large variety of local artwork.
  • The Carrboro's Farmers Market every Saturday, and also on Wednesdays during the summer.
  • The Morehead Planetarium and science center.
  • Catch a movie at the locally owned Varsity Theater.
  • The Chapel Hill KidzU Children's Museum, a hands-on museum in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill geared to children 0-8 years of age.

Visit one of the many area breweries:

Where To Sleep

  • The Carolina Inn, a historic hotel owned by the University with tremendous charm and hospitality.
  • The King's Daughter's Inn in Durham is a seventeen room botique Bed & Breakfast, built in the 1920's. The 17,000 sf building has extensive green renovations.
  • The Millennium Hotel in Durham is committed to eco-friendly goals including use of eco-friendly supplies and cleaners, low energy lighting, water conserving fixtures and thorough recycling programs.

Where To Eat

Chapel Hill

  • Cypress on the Hill is for dinner only, but serves some of the highest quality food and drink around.
  • Crooks Corner is famous for its tasty southern fare but best known for their shrimp and grits. Seasonal favorites also include Persimmon pudding and fried green tomatoes.
  • Mama Dips has been cooking in Chapel Hill since 1957, first as a family cook, then at the Carolina Coffee Shop, and eventually in her own restaurant started with $64. The country restaurant located downtown now serves great fried chicken and bar-b-que with all the fixings.
  • Sugarland Bakery, a desert and cafe bakery in the heart of downtown, next to campus. All of their treats are made from scratch with local organic flour, eggs, and dairy products to create honestly delicious baked goods.
  • Mediterranean Deli has been serving up great Mediterranean and Greek food in Chapel Hill since 1992. Using unbleached, local, organic, kosher flour, they bake fresh pita bread every morning, which are so good, I always order an extra bag to go.
  • Fosters Market is a gourmet food market and cafĂ© that makes everything from scratch. It's a restaurant, coffee bar, specialty food store, and more.
  • Carolina Coffee Shop: The oldest original restaurant in Chapel Hill, the Carolina Coffee shop is a popular Franklin street breakfast, lunch and dinner destination, as well as late night bar.
  • 411 West is a local hot spot for seasonal fresh pasta, pizza, fresh seafood, and other dishes if the Italian variety.


  • Weaver Street Market is a community owned and operated grocery store with a great hot food bar and plenty of seating inside and out.
  • Panzanella is Carrboro's Community-Owned Italian Eatery serving fresh, local, healthy fare.
  • Provence is an amazing french restaurant tucked on a side street in Carrboro with indoor and patio seating.
  • Southern Rail is more than just a restaurant-built-in-train cars but also features a great bar, "the Station" for triva, drinks, and dancing for after eating.
  • ACME Restaurant is a staple for dining in Carrboro and is ranked by Southern Living as one of the top ten tastes in the south.
  • Milltown, a self titled a gastropub, is located in downtown Carrboro featuring over 150 beers from around the world and fabulous bar inspired food for dinner and lunch.


  • Scratch Bakery is a small neighborhood artisan bakery that serves breakfast and makes great cakes and pies. Their small market also sells a small selection of handpicked delicious treats.
  • Piedmont serves up the best local fare around while paying tribute to the slow food movement with fresh, organic and locally grown food.
  • Dos Perros serves delicious authentic Mexican food prepared with the best local ingredients available.
  • Watts Grocery serves only the best local food, many of which is raised, smoked, pickled or cured within a two-hour radius for great Carolina cuisine.
  • Irregardless Cafe is full of local greens with an abundance of vegan and vegetarian options, as well as local meat dishes.

Storefront of Sugarland Bakery

Shops To Visit If You're There For A Day

  • Nested Home is a great place to find a gift, full of green ideas and home decor. They also have local art and classes.
  • Toots and Magoo for art, antiques, paper goods, and gifts.
  • Uniquities is a fashion forward boutique with only the best brands.
  • Time after Time: Hand selected vintage clothing, recently voted one of the 25 best vintage clothing stores in the USA.
  • A Southern Season is Chapel Hill's landmark gourmet market for amazing food and ingredients from around the world and cookware.
  • Seagrove Pottery is a collective of North Carolina potters that has stores throughout the state. The Carrboro store has shelves of their hand made creations that are both functional and decorative.
  • Hill Country Woodworks designs and hand crafts beautiful modern furniture.

Shops To Frequent If You're There For a Year

  • The Red Hen is a boutique for new and used child and parent ware, also offering classes for new parents.
  • Phydeaux Pets is an independent, locally-owned pet supply store with the best socially and environmentally conscious supplies for your animals.
  • Fifth Season Gardening in Carrboro for all your hydroponic and container gardening supplies.
  • Habitat for Humanities Restore in Durham for all your reclaimed building needs.
  • The Scrap Exchange in Durham, is a non-profit dedicated to collecting and redistributing industrial discards and reclaimed materials.

(Images: First photo by Caroline Culler via Wikipedia)

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