A Charming Weekend Getaway in Historic Hillsborough, NC

By: TLP's Partners
Cardamom kanelbullar by Hillsborough Bakeshop
Image courtesy of Julia Kelley-Swift

Hillsborough, North Carolina is unlike any other Southern small town; the rich history, vibrant culture, flourishing culinary scene, and scenic beauty set the landscape for a perfect weekend escape. Just 20 minutes from Chapel Hill, this charming town has much to offer. We sought the expertise of Hillsborough Mayor Mark Bell to provide his best local suggestions. With a love for his town and a unique perspective, Mayor Bell invites us to explore his recommendations for the best bites, brews, and hidden gems to explore.  

Where to Dine 

For Mayor Bell, the day begins with a coffee run at Cup a Joe. The exposed brick, light-filled bay windows, and a tiled ceiling at the shop offer the perfect backdrop to enjoy a cappuccino, London fog, or fresh baked kolaches. For breakfast, stop by Hillsborough Bakeshop, where he recommends the cardamom kanelbullar, a sweet bun to fuel your day’s adventure.  

Pad Thai Dish at Nomad by Nomad
Image courtesy of Nomad

Downtown offers an array of cuisines like Mexican, Italian, and Indian fusion. For lunch, Mayor Bell suggests El Restaurante Ixtapa for delicious carnitas or get spicy with camarones a la diabla and enjoy views of the Eno River. For an array of traditional ethnic dishes and expertly crafted cocktails, visit Nomad on King Street for dinner. Enjoy the cozy, rustic interior as you dine on traditional Pad Thai, butter chicken or Moroccan lentil soup.   

For after-hours drinks, find yourself right next door to Cup a Joe at Yonder Southern Cocktails and Brew for craft cocktails and local brews. Stop by for live jazz, book club, or open mic night!  

What to Do

Hillsborough Riverwalk
Image courtesy of Steven Paul Whitsitt

Stroll the Riverwalk, a picturesque greenway tracing the Eno River from Gold Park to the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail. The greenway is the only remaining dirt speedway from NASCAR’s inaugural season and has now been transformed into an outdoor space with trails and the original dirt track for visitors to enjoy.   

Hillsborough boasts a vibrant art scene for connoisseurs and creatives. Local galleries such as the Margaret Lane Gallery and the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts highlight the vivid imaginations and expressions of local artists through all sorts of mediums from paintings and glasswork to sculptures and ceramics. 

On the last Friday of the month from March to November, don’t miss the popular Last Fridays with live music, dance, visual arts, poetry and more.  

Things to See

History enthusiasts, avid explorers, and those simply seeking a Saturday adventure will be delighted with Hillsborough’s rich history. Mayor Bell suggests starting your journey at the Alexander Dickson House that was built in 1790 and is now the Hillsborough Visitor Center. Next, walk the scenic trails and paths at the Ayr Mount Historic Site, a Federal-period plantation home built in 1815. The home offers guided tours, Thursdays through Saturdays from April to November. Lastly, visit the grave of William Hooper, one of three North Carolinians to sign the Declaration of Independence, in the quiet Old Town Cemetery.

The Colonial Inn by Mina von Feilitzsch Photography ()
Image courtesy of Mina von Feilitzch Photography

Where to Stay

For those looking for a longer and truly memorable experience with top-notch hospitality, a stay at The Colonial Inn is a must. Reopening after renovations and restored to its timeless charm and grace, the inn is one of North Carolina’s oldest hotels. The inn boasts a boutique hotel, and several event spaces as well as a restaurant and bar, where you can catch cocktails, local beer, wine, and spirits. Dine for lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch.  

Plan your weekend getaway to Hillsborough today at 

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