What to See First When You Move to Chapel Hill

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  • There’s lots to see and do in Chapel Hill. One of the corners of the Raleigh–Durham–Cary area, often referred to as the “Research Triangle,” it’s home to the University of North Carolina and is frequently named among the country’s best towns.

    After moving into one of the Chapel Hill apartments you’ll probably want to check out what your new town has to offer, but with such a long list, we recommend checking out these attractions first.

    North Carolina Botanical Garden

    Located on the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus, the North Carolina Botanical Garden is spread over more than a thousand acres, including 10 acres of display gardens and multiple natural areas. Established in 1903 by Professor William Coker, it’s now home to around 2,500 different species of native plants represented in 14 different collections as the largest native plant botanical garden in the southeastern U.S.

    One of the highlights is the carnivorous collection, AKA plants that eat bugs. That includes Venus flytraps, butterworts, and sundews. You can also check out the Mountain Habitat Garden which features plants that are typically grown in the Applachians as well as the Native Water Gardens displaying aquatic plants native to the region. There are events for families, educational workshops, summer camps, and plant sales hosted here as well.

    The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

    One of the nation’s largest and oldest planetariums, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center initially opened over 70 years ago to train astronauts in celestial navigation. It’s a great place for families and others of all ages with live star shows and multimedia shows presented in the GSK Fulldome Theater.

    Visitors can take a journey into the skies above the Carolinas or delve way beyond into space. It also hosts the Science Stage with live science demonstrations, and a variety of exhibits. Launch Lab opens in October 2021 and will allow visitors to participate in self-guided activities designed to promote discovery and exploration topics. It will even teach skills like soldering. Educational programs for children and teens include Skywatching, Starry Nights, Scout workshops, and multiple science clubs.

    Gimghoul Castle

    Long a source of rumor and mystery for locals, students, and visitors alike, Gimghoul Castle, once known as Hippol Castle, is a medieval-style structure built by stonemasons over five years, breaking ground in the 1920s.

    Located at the top of a hill on Gimghoul Road, it required 1,300 stones and came at a cost of $50,000 (worth nearly $683,000 in today’s money), paid for by the secret society known as The Order of Gimghoul, part of UNC. What makes it a must-see is not only the great photo-ops, but the tale of its haunting. The structure is believed to be haunted by the ghost of Peter Dromgoole who died in a duel over a local girl, Fanny.

    Horace Williams House

    Chapel Hill’s only historic house open to the public, the Horace Williams House is run by Preservation Chapel Hill. It serves as its headquarters as well as being a community cultural center. Open year-round, visitors can tour the home by appointment. There are also many free events hosted here, including concerts and art exhibits.