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Explore Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street 

By: TLP's Partners

Franklin Street, the heart of downtown Chapel Hill, serves as a vibrant cultural and social hub that reflects the spirit of the town and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The street runs three miles, with the downtown portion stretching a mile. Here’s why Franklin Street is worth a visit. 

Credit Epilogue Books Chocolates Brews
Image Courtesy of Epilogue Books Chocolates Brews

Historical & Campus Connection 

Deeply intertwined with the history of Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina, the street is named after Benjamin Franklin and welcomed the first university students when they arrived in 1795. Franklin Street serves as the main thoroughfare connecting the UNC campus with downtown. This proximity connects students, faculty, and locals as they dine, shop, and socialize. 

Dining 

The Crescent City comes to downtown at Rougarou Cajun Kitchen (Imbibe). Time-Out, open 24/7, 365 days a year, is known for Southern cooking since 1978 including its popular chicken `n cheddar biscuits. Steps away is Sutton’s Drug Store founded in 1923 with its hand-crafted burgers, shakes, old-fashioned sodas, and candy. Across the street is North Carolina’s oldest original restaurant, the Carolina Coffee Shop, serving favorites since 1922. Try Italian at IP3, Mexican at Que Chula, and Pan Asian at Lantern. For a cool treat, head to Yogurt Pump, a staple since 1982.

Franklin Street by Donn Young
Image Courtesy of Donn Young

Nightlife & Music 

Franklin Street is home to local breweries, Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, and Carolina Brewery. The 32-ounce Blue Cups are famous at He’s Not Here, while signature handcrafted cocktails flow at The Crunkleton. Play vintage arcade games at The Baxter and visit Franklin Motors, a bar tucked away in a converted car dealership. Hear live music at Local 506 and The Cave and don’t miss SchoolKids Records. 

Shopping 

Find men’s fine clothing and select womenswear at 82-year-old Julian’s, trendy women’s fashions at Uniquities, jewelry at Light Years and Creative Metalsmiths, and luxury home and lifestyle goods at Glass Box. Shop for crystals, candles, and incense at Quantum Soul just off Franklin. Get Tar Heel gear at the Shrunken Head and Johnny T-shirt among others. Take home a keepsake from your visit. 

Greetings from Chapel Hill Mural in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Image Courtesy of Visit Chapel Hill

Arts and Entertainment 

See a star show or exhibit at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Steps from Franklin is the Ackland Art Museum with an expansive permanent collection. Colorful murals adorn the sides of many downtown buildings. Catch a movie at the Varsity Theatre or find a book at Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews, an independent bookstore & Spanish-style chocolatería, café and coffee shop.

Cultural Events 

Franklin Street hosts vintage markets, craft markets, and UNC football game weekend activities. Town events include Festifall Arts Markets & More and the annual Community Holiday Parade. Free and low-cost guided walking tours are available throughout the year.  

Drop by the Chapel Hill & Orange County Welcome Center at 308 West Franklin Street to learn more or head to VisitChapelHill.org.  

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