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Chapel Hill NC

Riverwalk, near Hillsborough, NC, is a paved, accessible downtown trail that stretches almost two miles along the Eno River. Popular for strolling, jogging and cycling, it provides pedestrian connections between several neighborhoods and keeps life more walkable.
Photo credit: Chapel Hill / Orange County Visitors Bureau

There must be lots of happy foodies in Chapel Hill. It’s been named #8 Best College Town in America for Food and Drink, by Thrillist. And, Huffington Post has judged it #1 vegetarian city in the U.S. It’s also noted for having a great fried chicken restaurant (Mam Dip’s) as well as a top bourbon bar (The Crunkleton) just to cover all the bases.

Undoubtedly, the student population helps fuel some of the dining establishments. Among major public universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is ranked fifth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

It’s been recognized as one of America’s best college towns by Sports Illustrated. As such, it’s an integral part of life in this quaint town, ideally located in the North Carolina Piedmont. The oldest state university in the country, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is known for academics as well as its nationally known athletics program.

The Charles Kuralt Learning Center houses the entire contents of Kuralt’s three-room penthouse office suite in Manhattan, donated to the school by his widow in 2000.

Franklin Street is the heart of the vibrant downtown area with an eclectic mix of bookstores, clothing shops, jewelry shops and restaurants of every variety. The Triangle area of Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham is home to the internationally recognized Research Triangle Park.

Susan and Steve Gerstl are from New York and love the area but they were ready to live in a town with more outdoor time. “We go mountain biking, hiking and kayaking,” she explained. “We looked down the East Coast, but Florida wouldn’t work – no mountains!” They kept dreaming and researching and at 55, decided it was time to make their move.

“We found Briar Chapel and loved everything about it. We’re five miles from Jordan Lake boat ramp and every day, we feel like we’re on vacation.” They looked at a number of communities but decided they didn’t want 55 and older. They chose Briar Chapel because of its commitment to nature and integrating within natural spaces. (It’s the Triangle’s largest green community, with a 1.5 mile drive into the neighborhood – perfect to begin decompression, moving into an area with 20 parks and over 1,600 acres.)

They bought a villa – perfect because there are no lawns to maintain. She works in healthcare at Duke and her husband works for the IT department in the Chapel Hill Police Department. It’s a lower key lifestyle, with those outdoor opportunities, including single track mountain bike trails Mr. Gerstl loves, and two beautiful pools for lounging. They enjoy concerts and all the restaurants close by. Recently, they moved Mr. Gerstl’s 83-year-old mother down as well. She’s renting in Fearrington Village. Their family and friends miss them, but understand when they come to visit. And as for their African Grey Parrot, and the two cats, Miss Allie and Edison, the move has been just right.

Chapel Hill and the neighboring town of Carrboro have devised a system of bikeways and greenways, open daily from dawn to dusk, to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as those with baby strollers or on roller skates or roller blades, skateboards or wheelchairs.

Nature lovers can enjoy the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the largest in the Southeast, with over 2,100 species of plants, nature trails, walking tours and classes.

Chapel Hill is often called “Blue Heaven” because of the sky blue team color of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and has also been called “The Southern Part of Heaven.” With all it has going for it, maybe it really is.

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