October 18th, 2021

Things to Do in Chapel Hill & Pittsboro NC

Chapel Hill, NC—also known as the Southern Part of Heaven—is most famous for its unique old-fashioned Southern charm with a modern spin. Not only will you want to visit, you may just consider moving to Chapel Hill after you read about it.

The town was named after the New Hope Chapel, a once-famous church that has long disappeared.

Until the establishment of the UNC campus, Chapel Hill was just another rural community. In fact, half of the highly diverse Chapel Hill population comprises the University of North Carolina students.

The small, highly educated college town is home to numerous historical sites, museums, greenways, and restaurants. Chapel Hill is also surrounded by several cities and counties, such as Chatham County’s Pittsboro, an idyllic small town nestled in the heart of the region. If you are considering moving to one of these areas, you will love this list of things to do near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And while there are several fantastic things to do in Chapel Hill, NC, here are seven must-do’s for every tourist:

  • Explore the wild side with Pittsboro’s Carolina Tiger Rescue
  • Get Outdoors at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area
  • Enjoy a historical tour while exploring Downtown Pittsboro
  • Drink some of the world’s best spirits at the top of the hill (TOPO) distillery
  • Take an afternoon stroll in the impressive North Carolina Botanical Garden
  • Take a time machine to your ancestors’ world by visiting the Ackland Art Museum
  • Get to know different basketball legends and historical events at the Carolina Basketball Museum

Carolina Tiger Rescue

Explore Pittsboro’s Wild Side with Carolina Tiger Rescue

Head to nearby Pittsboro in Chatham County and take a walk on the wild side with Carolina Tiger Rescue. This big cat and wildlife sanctuary is home to over ten species of animals, including tigers, leopards, bobcats, lions, cougars, and kinkajous.

At the Carolina Tiger Rescue, tigers and other big cats are provided with a safe haven where they can enjoy abundant naturalistic outdoor environments and dens. Located just a ten minute drive from Legacy at Jordan Lake, Carolina Tiger Rescue offers family-friendly tours that educate the public about the importance of wildlife advocacy, conservation, and protection.

Visitors can sign up for a number of different tours, including public, private, or special tours, all of which are unique in its own way. Want to visit the sanctuary after hours? Buy a ticket for a Twilight Tour where you can spend a relaxed evening with the tigers. For families with young children, the Tiger Tale Tour is a great way to enjoy story time while enjoying tiger-themed activities and crafts.

If you really want to make it a special experience, go on a Feeding with a Keeper tour, which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how keepers feed the big cats and maintain their health.

Chatham County’s Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Get Outdoors & Visit Chatham County’s Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Looking for a place to get outdoors and enjoy the water? Visit Chatham County’s Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, a picturesque recreation area where outdoor lovers can pursue a multitude of water sport activities.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day on the lake with family and friends or an invigorating, adrenaline-charged water sport challenge, there’s something for everyone here.

Jordan Lake in Chatham County is one of the most popular recreation destinations for both visitors and residents of Chapel Hill and Chatham County.

The lake is a beautiful natural area with many recreational sites and is a great place for all kinds of outdoor activities. Driving along Jordan Lake, you’ll see groups of campers, tourists, fishermen, and locals enjoying the lake. Boat ramps located around the lake provide access to the water for fishing and boating. There are trails, swimming areas, fishing docks, camp sites and more.

Most people flock to Jordan Lake as a top spot for boating during the warmer months, with over 40,000 acres of land and water providing plenty of ways for families to enjoy the lake. Anglers launching from Chapel Hill will find that this area has plenty of fishing options that offer convenient access. If you’re an avid fisherman or just looking to try something different with your family or friends, come check out Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.

Historic Downtown Pittsboro

Discover Revolutionary Roots in Historic Downtown Pittsboro

History comes alive in Historic Downtown Pittsboro – one of the oldest towns in Chatham County. From the remnants of the Revolutionary War to century-old homes and businesses, this is a family-friendly historic district that offers something for everyone, including museum-goers and shoppers who like to explore small boutiques.

Downtown Pittsboro stretches along Hillsboro Street and Sanford Road. with its businesses tucked between the old buildings that give downtown its historic charm. This 59-acre walkable town was established in 1787, named after William Pitt the Younger, son of the Earl of Chatham. Visiting Pittsboro’s downtown Historic District would be incomplete without a stop to the Chatham Historical Museum, which houses historical artifacts dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War in a victorian style courthouse located in the heart of the city.

Visitors can also enjoy perusing through the Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village, a farm from the 18th century, now turned into a mercantile market with charming antique shops, a market, an inn and fine dining options. Visitors can also tour the town’s various art galleries and studios, as well as the city’s many retail stores, where they can go home with a unique gift or souvenir to take home.

Top of the Hill (TOPO) Distillery

Drink Some of the World’s Best Spirits at Top of the Hill (TOPO) Distillery

Chapel Hill’s great relationship with food became most apparent in 2008 when the town secured a place in Bon Appetit Magazine’s list of America’s “foodiest small towns”.

With an ever-increasing number of quick bites, restaurants, and bars, it’s evident that Chapel Hill, NC, is determined to protect its “foodies paradise” status.

On one of the most famous streets, Franklin Street, there are around 200 restaurants and bars.

TOPO brewery and restaurant is strategically located on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC, near UNC. Its central position in the town’s cultural and economic heart makes for a convenient stopover.

But that’s not even one of the primary reasons why the TOPO restaurant is one of the most interesting things to do in Chapel Hill, NC.

Below are four other allures that you’ll only find in the TOPO distillery:

  • 100% organic spirits
  • Red winter wheat whiskey
  • “Age Your Own Whiskey” Kit
  • Internationally award-winning spirits

The brewery’s superior products have won recognition and awards in national and international competitions. Its Carolina Whiskey, for example, won silver medals in the 2013 San Francisco International Spirits Competition and Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago.

The spirits of the North Carolina-based distillery are also 100% organic.

North Carolina Botanical Garden

Take an Afternoon Stroll in the Impressive North Carolina Botanical Garden

North Carolina makes for one of the most picturesque places in the US. And Chapel Hill, NC, is home to some of the state’s most beautiful features.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, another of our favorite things to do in Chapel Hill, NC, is to visit the region’s largest native plant botanical garden—the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

The conservation garden is part of the University of Carolina and covers 1,000 acres of land.

It features extensive herbs, ferns, carnivorous plants, and wildlife collections. It also has several nature trails, a green education center, and a children’s wonder garden.

Whether young or old, there’s so much to do in this part of Chapel Hill, NC.

The children’s wonder garden allows your little ones to play outdoors and learn about nature in a safe and fun space. It has:

  • A picnic lawn
  • Little woods and wooden blocks for play
  • A bird blind where children can watch birds
  • A lovely pond where children can watch frogs
  • Digging areas where children can play in the mud and soil
  • A magic mailbox where children leave notes for their favorite gnomes and fairies
  • A pollinator garden where children are allowed to search and marvel at butterflies

In other parts of the garden, such as the carnivorous plants section, children also enjoy searching for venus flytraps and pitcher plants.

The garden has mapped several routes for nature lovers and botanists, allowing them to stroll to different sections. Additionally, the plants are grouped according to their medicinal, economic, and culinary importance, making it easy to find the most interesting ones.

Popular trails include:

  • The Streamside Trail. This takes you to the garden’s riparian section.
  • The Bike-Pedestrian Trail. This route allows you to join the trail system from Old Mason Farm Road.
  • The Oak-Hickory Trail. This footpath goes through the garden’s hillier sections leading to the garden’s shrubs, hardwood trees, and woodland wildflowers.

While you’re here, remember to buy some plants from the garden’s gift shop to improve the look of your yard.

Take a Time Machine to Your Ancestors’ World by Visiting Ackland Art Museum

If you love spectacular art collections, visiting the Ackland Art Museum is one of the most exciting things to do in Chapel Hill, NC.

This most treasured gem is located on Columbia Street, just south of Franklin Street.

It’s home to over 19,000 ancient and modern African, American, Asian, and European arts—some dating from 5000 BCE to 1100 CE.

Some of the things you’ll find in its permanent collection include:

Ancient artworks housed in the Chapel Hill-based museum Contemporary artworks housed in the Chapel Hill-based Museum
  • Ancient African art like Egyptian faience amulets
  • Ancient European works like Greek and Roman coins and vases
  • Ancient Asian art like Japanese ceramics
  • Master sculptures and paintings by 19th Century world-renowned artists like Pissaro
  • Portraits by women photographers from Iran and other Arab countries
  • War portraits showing the effects and devastation of war
  • Impressionable works of UNC students and faculty

Ackland Art Museum, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, also provides a vibrant program schedule for its visitors according to age and interests.

For instance, it offers gallery talks, guided tours, music, and films, making it so much fun and educational for everyone.

A few yards from the museum, still on Franklin Street, you can indulge in more contemporary art pieces at the Frank Gallery. This smaller gallery is run by regional artists and offers excellent food, art, local music, and drinks.

If you visit on a Thursday or Friday evening, you may even get the chance to participate in Frank Gallery’s Chapel Hill community outreach projects.

Carolina Basketball Museum

Know Your Basketball Legends at the Carolina Basketball Museum

Your Chapel Hill visit is incomplete without touring the Carolina Basketball Museum.

The museum houses the history of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team, one of the town’s greatest pride.

But that’s not the only reason why it has made it to the list of the most exciting things to do in Chapel Hill, NC.

This Chapel Hill-based museum is the first of its kind in the country—dedicated to basketball only.

It houses around 500 authentic artifacts, photographs, trophies, and video clips related to different historic basketball moments, players, and championships.

It also shows the history of different legends who’ve gone through the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, including Tyler Hansbrough and Michael Jordan.

What to Keep In Mind When Planning Your Chapel Hill Visit

Now we have you excited about visiting Chapel Hill, here are some suggestions to make the most of your trip.

To get the ultimate Chapel Hill experience, plan your visit between April and November when the attractions are most accessible.

Chapel Hill is hottest in July. While you can still visit different places, it can get uncomfortable.

If you’ll be cycling around the town, it’s also best to familiarize yourself with the town’s traffic rules. For instance, Chapel Hill cyclists are required to use specific hand signals to communicate with motorists.

There you have it, Chapel Hill, NC is ready and waiting for you to visit.

If you happen to be visiting so you can start a home search in the area, look no further than Legacy at Jordan Lake. You’ll have your very own private retreat with walking trails, rolling hills, nature, a short-iron golf course, clubhouse with pool and more. Visit our community page to learn more about our amenities and see our homebuilders and the variety of styles we offer. If you’re ready to speak to someone to learn more about Legacy at Jordan Lake, sign up here.