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12 hours in Chapel Hill-Carrboro: Hikes, burgers, beer and more

Posted October 20, 2020 10:39 a.m. EDT

— Collegiate Chapel Hill and its neighbor down the street, Carrboro, offer a one-two punch of fine dining, fun bars, art and local amusements.

Because of their proximity, it’s easy to cover both towns in a day, but it pays to be strategic. Here’s how:

Start early around 7 a.m. and hit the popular Morgan Creek Trail and Merritt’s Pasture in Chapel Hill. To access, park at the parking lot off of Fordham Boulevard. The trail connects directly to the pasture, a roughly 32-acre open plot of land on the east side of U.S. Highway 15-501.

Later, head into town to Franklin Street, the town’s main thoroughfare that runs adjacent to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s home to numerous coffee shops, restaurants, museums, bookshops and bars. That includes Sutton’s Drug Store, an old-school pharmacy, convenience store and throwback diner that has existed on that same corner since 1923.

Many locals would argue it has the best fry-up in town.

UNC-Chapel Hill seal

Spend the middle of the morning on a stroll through the university’s campus and visit the iconic Old Well. Lore has it that drinking from it will bring good luck. Other popular landmarks: the Davie Poplar Tree, Wilson Library, Memorial Hall and the Bell Tower.

If it’s a Saturday, another must-see is Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Established in 1977, it features local organic produce, cheeses, baked goods and handmade crafts. Shelby White, whose family has had a stall at the market for over two decades, is best known for her lemon-glazed sour cream pound cakes.

Next stop: Al’s Burger Shack at 516 W. Franklin St. A popular haunt with students, its signature “Boho Chili Cheeseburger,” which is topped with chili sauce, coleslaw, onion, yellow mustard and American cheese, was named “Best Burger in America” by TripAdvisor in 2018.

If burgers aren’t your thing, step next door to Italian Pizzeria III. Brothers Angelo and Vincenzo Marrone have been serving up authentic Italian fare there since 1980.

After lunch, head over to the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill. Located at the northern edge of campus, it holds about 17,000 works, including European masterworks, twentieth-century and contemporary art, African art and North Carolina pottery.

Another perk: it’s free.

To cap off the day, hightail it over to Steel String Brewery in Carrboro. Founded in 2011, this small, quirky brewery offers a variety of craft beer that uses modern American brewing styles. Another bonus: outdoor seating in this age of coronavirus.

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