By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon
If you’ve been in North Carolina for longer than a few minutes, you probably know that the town of Chapel Hill is precious to this state. Home to the University of North Carolina, it holds the college memories of generations of students.
Chapel Hill has a lot to offer families with kids, too. In fact, it makes for a delightful day or overnight trip. Let me share some of my favorites!
Located in the heart of the UNC campus, the planetarium is a thriving science museum. We went as part of a field trip with our homeschool co-op, but it would also be a great experience as a family. The planetarium features a variety of science-related shows (we learned about our local night sky in the planetarium itself, and also participated in a demonstration on the types of matter – this one included fire and slime, so it was a huge hit). There are also interactive exhibits, and you’ll find a lot of information about the key players in the movie Hidden Figures. Fun fact: those astronauts actually trained in the planetarium.
The planetarium has a gift shop, but no café. However, it’s right on Franklin Street, so it’s an easy walk to a variety of restaurants. You can also pack lunch and eat outside.
Carolina Basketball Museum
This free museum, located next to the Dean Dome, is truly a gem. UNC basketball has an incredible history, and the museum features artifacts from various players and games, videos, and photographs from decades of basketball history, and a life-sized half-court where you can stand on the spot that key shots were made from. Of course, the museum wouldn’t be complete without a section for their most famous player, Michael Jordan. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Tarheels, it’s still cool to see the letter his recruiter wrote to his parents and other correspondence from before he was famous. My elementary-age kids spent several hours in the museum, and I’m not sure they were ready to leave. And did I mention that it’s FREE?
The campus is a fun place to walk around and explore if you have the time. My kids’ favorite stop is the football stadium, which is almost always open for people who want to run the steps. The field is typically wide open, so bring a football and let your football wannabes get all their energy out.
Considered the hub of the college social life, Franklin Street is home to a variety of stores and restaurants. Our favorite stop for a sweet treat is YoPo, which is a local frozen yogurt store. It is a college town, so do be prepared to explain some colorful language if your kids can read.
If you’re looking to get away from campus, Southern Village is a fun planned community with a green where kids can play. Plus, it has occasional concerts and other community events, a variety of food options, and a movie theater. If you do decide to spend the night, there’s a Hyatt Place located adjacent to the village. It’s an easy walk to everything they have to offer. If you’re in town for a basketball game, the Tarheel Express shuttle picks up and drops off in Southern Village as well. It’ll save you a good deal of time and money – and the frustration of dealing with parking near the Dean Dome.
While the basketball and football programs get a lot of press, you can watch a variety of sports on campus, often very affordably. I do have to say – a basketball game is a truly incredible experience and well worth the time and money.
All that to say, Chapel Hill is a relatively short drive and packed with options for young families – it’s well worth the trip!
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