Chapel Hill, N.C. — home of the nation’s first state university, the University of North Carolina — offers groups the ultimate college-town experience with its variety of activities that celebrate the local music, food and history of the area.
Every April through mid-October, the 185-room Carolina Inn hosts Fridays on the Front Porch. Locals and visitors alike gather to listen to bluegrass music on the hotel’s shady lawn, while vendors sell local brews and grub. Groups can check out the free music event amid the oak and magnolia trees to experience the local vibe at the iconic, circa-1924 inn.
“Chapel Hill has quickly emerged as a popular choice for small- to medium-sized meetings up to 300 because it is one of the few destinations that offer small town charm with big city flair,” says Marlene Barbera, director of sales for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau. “Chapel Hill is a mix of historic sites, unique gardens, wonderful museums and art galleries.”
Locally owned, farm-to-table restaurants abound in Chapel Hill. Asian-inspired Lantern restaurant and its hidden back-room bar serve up cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery alongside pork-and-chive dumplings. More low-key operations such as Neal’s Deli in nearby Carrboro makes its own pastrami, while Al’s Burger Shack uses fresh ingredients for its burgers that have quickly become a Chapel Hill staple since opening in 2013.
Taste Carolina offers customized food tours for 10 to 200 attendees to explore these hotspots. Afternoon walking tours visit about five to six restaurants, food shops markets or bars in which attendees will get to interact with chefs and local artisans. Tour guides will also discuss Chapel Hill history and architecture along the way. For dinner, the tour visits three to five restaurants and bars, offering a more in-depth experience at each. Triangle Food Tour offers a similar experience for groups as well.
Located just north of Chapel Hill, the Hillsborough Guided Walking tour dives a bit deeper into the area’s history, says Barbera. Listed on the Register of Historic Places, the city’s historic downtown features more than 100 homes, churches, schools and other buildings from the late 18th and 19th centuries. The Visitors Center dates back to the Civil War and served as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s headquarters when he surrendered the largest of the Confederate armies to Gen. William T. Sherman, leading to the end of the war.
Groups can also take a guided tour of the University of North Carolina to learn more about its initial endeavors in becoming the nation’s first university. The Priceless Gem Tours are led by experts in their field for a more distinctive campus experience, providing insight into subjects such as archaeology, women’s history or architectural preservation.