My Southern, Blue Heaven: Make it a 2011 Favorite Distinctive Destination

The skies are so blue in Chapel Hill, NC
My college town, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has the honor of being named as one of a dozen distinctive destinations in the US by the National Trust for Historic Preservation this year.  Now, through March 15, 2011, the voting is up to us, and we can make this North Carolina town, a favorite Distinctive Destination.  Since 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destination program has recognized cities and towns that offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes and a strong commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization.  

I live about 40 minutes away from this beautiful, scenic college town and it is one of my favorite places to visit.  The quaint town in Orange County of North Carolina has the nickname of "A Southern Part of Heaven" following the publication of a book by William Meade Prince in 1950.  In fact, my husband and I have only been away overnight from our children five times in the past five years, and Chapel Hill, NC actually accounts for two of those trips.   It was heavenly!  We chose it because it's a quick drive for us, the town is adorned with some of the best restaurants in both NC and the US, and it just exudes such Southern, charm.  It's no secret that I find any excuse to go there.  You should, too!

Today, we're going to take a quick tour of Chapel Hill and go over some fun facts so that you are well-educated before you place your vote.

Chapel Hill is the only place where I know you can find fire trucks that are Carolina Blue.  Fires may be red hot, but fireman will arrive on scene driving these cool, blue trucks that supports the University town's athletic teams.

The Town of Chapel Hill's Fire Department

Chapel Hill derives its name from the highest point where a Church (of England) was located in the 1700s.  Originally called New Hope Chapel Hill, the name was later and wisely shortened to Chapel Hill.  The historic and elegant Carolina Inn, established in 1924  is located on the old church's property today.

The Carolina Inn

I have had the great fortune to attend weddings and other functions here throughout the years, and it is one of my favorite places to have afternoon tea.  My son had his first "official" high tea at The Carolina Inn shortly after my daughter's birth as a little royal treat.

Tea at the Carolina Inn was Divine!

Franklin Street, the main street throughout Chapel Hill, was named after Benjamin Franklin.   I lived off of Franklin Street in college, and one of my favorite places to go was the charming, Carolina Coffee Shop.

Carolina Coffee Shop

The Carolina Coffee Shop was established in 1922 as the Carolina Confectionery, making it one of the oldest original restaurants in the town.

Courtesy of the Carolina Coffee Shop

Of course, being in college means being on a pauper's budget, but occasionally, my friends and I would splurge and have dinner at Spanky's which is located on Franklin Street.  There was always a wait, but it was worth it.  This was the days before reservations were big, or maybe we were just all too impromptu to make them.

Spanky's Restaurant and Bar, est. 1977

Or we would walk down the west side of Franklin Street which when we were in college from 1988-1991, it wasn't as built up as it today.  We would have dinner at our Italian favorite, 411 West.

411 West Italian Cafe

There are so many wonderful dining options in Chapel Hill now that the town is truly a gastronomic delight.  It's also home to the the nationally known gourmet store, A Southern Season.  I love to eat at their restaurant, The Weathervane, and then walk down their store aisles an "Ooh and Aah" at the delicacies.  Their coffee, tea, wine, and chocolate sections are absolutley amazing.

The Best of NC Section highlights products made
in NC. Photo Courtesy of A Southern Season. .

When you stroll down Franklin Street, you will find cute and eclectic boutiques.  During my college days, we primarily shopped at Johnny T-Shirt since it was the days long before the "Sex and the City" fashion craze.  T-shirts, Tarheel sweats, and tennis shoes were in place of designer jeans and Manolo Blaniks.

Johhny T-Shirt Store

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides the backdrop for this distinctive college town.  UNC-Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the US, founded in 1793.  UNC was the only public university in the U.S. to award degrees to students in the 18th Century. Today students at UNC come from every one of North Carolina’s 100 counties, all of the other 49 states and more than 100 countries worldwide.  I know I may be partial, but it is truly a beautiful campus, and during every season, it's picture perfect. 

The Old Well

The Old Well was the primary source of campus water for more than a century. In 1897, President Edwin A. Alderman had the ramshackle shelter over the well rebuilt in Greek Revival style, and it became the unofficial symbol of the University.  This well is one of the University's most photographed landmarks, but my husband who graduated from the rival university, NC State, tells me that someone would be very foolish to drink from it.  Oh, those fraternities!!!

As I've stated before, I'm proud to be a North Carolinian, and am so glad that Chapel Hill, NC has been a part of my life. And as the song says, "I'm a Tarheel Born, I'm a Tarheel Bred, and When I die, I'll be a Tarheel dead".   I think this lovely, historic town should be everyone's favorite destination so please vote today!

UNC's Mascot Ramses and Me in Spring of 1990

Click here to vote for Chapel Hill as the 2011 Favorite Distinctive Destination.  You will have to register with the National Trust for Historic Preservation's website to vote.  You can vote once a day til March 15th.

Until next time, I am going to grab a cup of tea, and perhaps call my friend who never left the college town for a visit.

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