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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Chapel Hill takes meetings to a higher level

Courtesy Chapel Hill/Orange CVB

Where is Chapel Hill, N.C.?

The city of 56,778 is in the middle of the state; it, Raleigh and Durham are the three points of North Carolina’s Triangle. Raleigh is 28 miles southeast; Durham is 12 miles northeast.

How do I get there?

Air travelers opt for Raleigh-Durham International Airport, a 25-minute drive. Taxis and a shuttle service are available at the airport. The city is between interstates 40 and 85 and is a four-hour drive from Washington.

What types of meetings best suit Chapel Hill?

Because it is a college town (home to the University of North Carolina [UNC]-Chapel Hill) with a small but vibrant downtown, Chapel Hill attracts education, corporate, medical and association markets.

What’s new?

• A 144-room Hampton Inn and Suites is planned in Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s neighbor. It will be Carrboro’s first hotel.

• The 140 Franklin Street development will open downtown in about 18 months. The $55 million project will be mixed-use, from four to eight stories, with retail space below and residential space above. A 337-space underground parking garage is part of the complex.

• Scott Maitland launched one of the area’s first brewpubs, and he’ll soon distill and sell the state’s first legally made vodka. Groups can tour his Topo Spirits’ operation on Franklin Street downtown. Maitland also plans to make gin, bourbon and sorghum rum.

Tell me about some sites worth seeing.
• Follow the foodies to A Southern Season, a 60,000-square-foot emporium stuffed with foods, kitchen supplies and other merchandise for those who like to cook and eat. The store’s cooking school can whip up team-building breaks.

• You’ll learn that Tar Heel basketball is more than a game at the Carolina Basketball Museum, where a game day theme gets visitors caught up in the pregame excitement.

• The Southeast’s largest planetarium is also one of the country’s most sophisticated. Digital full-dome video technology at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center puts it on par with the National Air and Space Museum, the American Museum of Natural History and the Griffith Observatory.

• Native plants, herbs and carnivorous and aquatic plants are on display at the North Carolina Botanical Garden; other exhibits are housed in the garden’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified Education Center.

Tell me about the main meeting sites.

• The William and Ida Friday Center, operated by UNC-Chapel Hill, has 25,000 square feet of meeting space and a 400-seat auditorium.

• The 168-room Sheraton Chapel Hill is the city’s largest, with 16,000 square feet of meeting space.

• On the UNC campus, the historic Carolina Inn has long garnered AAA’s Four Diamonds. It has 12,000 square feet of meeting space. Another Four Diamond option is the Siena Hotel, on the edge of town, with 79 rooms and 3,500 square feet of meeting space.

• Among the city’s newest options is the 67-room Franklin Hotel downtown in the thick of things on Franklin Street, with about 2,500 square feet of meeting space. Its nearly 900-square-foot presidential penthouse suite has a furnished balcony overlooking the treetops.

Tell me about some offbeat sites for off-site meetings.
• The Horace Williams House is the only historic home in Chapel Hill that is open to the public. It’s also appropriate for small receptions.

• Opt for the winner of multiple awards — Best Restaurant, Best Outdoor dining and Coolest Place on Franklin Street — the Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery. The restaurant complex includes the Great Room, formerly the Carolina Theater, as well as the Back Bar, a smaller space with a pool table, dartboards, foosball and a bar, that can also be booked for small events. In addition to on-site-brewed beer, the restaurant is known for its made-from-scratch pizzas, burgers and innovative appetizers, such as Polynesian calamari.

For a true taste of Chapel Hill…

The James Beard Foundation called Crook’s Corner an “American Classic.” Among its favorites are shrimp and grits, Mount Airy Chocolate Souffle Cake, Princess Pamela’s Buttermilk Pie and Hoppin’ John. At Carolina Brewery, enjoy a lunch of white pizza or a dinner of wild mushroom ravioli, accompanied by a fresh-brewed Sky Blue Golden Ale or Flagship India Pale Ale.

For some of North Carolina’s famous barbecue, try Allen and Son, where everything, including the desserts, is home-cooked. Two hotel restaurants are renowned for their cuisine: the AAA Four Diamond Carolina Crossroads, in the Carolina Inn, and Il Palio Ristorante, in the Siena, a AAA Four Diamond winner that has also garnered prizes from Condé Nast and Wine Spectator. Dine on the front porch at Mama Dip’s, where cookbook author Mama Dip has been making Southern specialties since she was 9. Even the pickiest eaters clamor for her vegetables, among them baby limas, black-eyed peas, yams, and okra and tomatoes.

Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau
888-968-2060 or 919-968-2060