19 Things to Do in Chapel Hill This Summer

19 Things to Do in Chapel Hill This Summer

From summer concerts to frozen treat staples, museums, outdoor movies and more... we've collected 19 musts to check off this season.

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(1) Add local writings to your pool bag.

amazing placeWells Tower’s “Seven Postcards from an Orange County Childhood” falls on page 100 of Amazing Place: What North Carolina Means to Writers, but one of the joys of any anthology is the freedom to open it wherever you like. Edited by Marianne Gingher and featuring authors like locals Bland Simpson, Belle Boggs and Stephanie Elizondo Griest, the collection moves geographically from the mountains through the Piedmont to the sound country, with brilliantly crafted stories that range from quirky to deeply poignant. Simply find your spot and dig in.

Even if you’ve lived here for just a short time, there’s still a good chance that you’ll come across a passage so familiar that for a moment, you’ll believe you could have written it. Take the imagery from Wells’ childhood, which is both local and universal: the penny collection swapped for a Cheerwine, the fires boys set to burn away their boredom, the “old and dangerous” high school girls who will kiss in the kudzu.

A good summer read should do many things – among them, make you laugh out loud, hold your breath, then sigh and nod. Amazing Place will, proving that what North Carolina means to these writers is often what it means to all of us. – Virginia Robinson

(2) See a movie under the stars.

The town’s movie series will show free family-friendly films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Space Jam on the Wallace Parking Deck every Thursday night at sundown (usually around 8:30 p.m.), with popcorn and games to boot. For $5, enjoy Outdoor Movies on the Green in Southern Village.

(3) Grab a cone.

Maple ViewA summer that lacks at least one Maple View Farm ice cream cone is a summer that’s incomplete!

(4) Retreat to Honeysuckle Tea House. 

Surrounded by acres of gardens – herbs, berries and the first crops of Camellia sinensis that will one day be harvested and roasted into tea – the open-air Honeysuckle Tea House is about as close to a modern-day tree house as it gets. Designed by architect Giles Blunden, who also designed the first Weaver Street Market, the space is propped up on four reused shipping containers and, while completely covered, has no walls but an excellent cross-breeze that keeps it temperate even during the dog days of summer.

Behind the counter, rows of glass jars bear herbal blends meant for steeping into tea and infusing into sodas.

A blender whirs property-grown produce into smoothies. A four-handled tap serves up not beer, but locally made kombucha, and organic baked treats beckon from a display case. Every herb and much of the tea is grown on-site and managed by a team of professional herbalists. If you’ve got a question – about tea, yes, or about holistic remedies in general – here you can find an expert answer. Or, out yonder behind the teahouse is a Yome, a yurt-dome (layman’s terms: teepee-tent) hybrid, where one-on-one holistic consultations take place.

Honeysuckle
Photo by Briana Brough

“We’re a farmstand,” co-owner Megan Toben says of Honeysuckle’s roots. Opened just over two years ago, the project is a collaboration among Pickards Meadow Eco-Institute, The Abundance Foundation and EastWest Organics. Many of the herbs are infused into essential oils or blended into teas sold at the teahouse and also online. “It’s also about education and empowerment,” Megan says. To that end, the staff offers a robust schedule of classes on everything from herbal medicine and seasonal flower design to Qigong and mindfulness techniques.

Honeysuckle’s mission is rooted in education and a natural, holistic approach to well-being, but it’s also simply “a safe space,” Megan says. “All are welcome here.” There’s live music every Friday and Saturday, and folks often come to just hang out and enjoy a community gathering spot. And a few necessities are still available: Coffee is always brewing, and there is Wi-Fi.

It’s a place to treat as a weekend morning activity or an all-day escape, a co-working space or a living room. “People need this,” Megan says. “They tell us what a breath of fresh air it is for them.” Quite literally. – Jessie Ammons

(5) Make Sawyer Sessions your summer soundtrack. 

Sawyer Season 1Sawyer Sessions, Season 1 is an album to throw on in the heat of the afternoon, sitting on a front porch swing while sipping an Arnold Palmer. In honor of Record Store Day in April 2015, Yep Roc Records released Redeye’s CD and LP, a companion to the YouTube video channel of the same name that features various artists’ acoustic performances at restaurants, galleries, shops and private homes within the roughly four square miles of Hillsborough. It combines the best of the first season of the series and includes songs from the likes of Chatham County Line, Mandolin Orange, Chuck Prophet and Peggy Sue, filmed and recorded in locales such as Mystery Brewing, Uniquitiques and The Wooden Nickel. You can catch new YouTube episodes on the second Thursday of every month. – Amanda MacLaren

(6) Visit your downtown favorites. 

Photo by Briana Brough
Photo by Briana Brough

With students on break, now’s the time to visit your favorite downtown restaurants, shops and sights while our college town is relatively quiet. Find a parking spot right in front of Al’s Burger Shack (but don’t forget to read up on Al’s burger-ology first!), and wait in a normal-sized line for YOPO“Summer is a really wonderful time for [locals] to come and take ownership of YOPO,” Managing Partner Elise Stephenson says. “We want to be a staple for locals in Chapel Hill [as much as UNC students]. The heart of why we’re still here, who we are and who we want to make proud is the local Chapel Hillians.”

(7) Go for a picnic with these local essentials.

~The hand-dipped pimento cheese from Whole Foods. The addition of smoked Gouda to traditional cheddar makes this version addictive; my toddler is perfectly willing to fight her Granny for the last bit of it.
~Two Chicks Farm mild pepper jelly. Wheat cracker, pimento cheese, pepper jelly. Eat. Repeat!
~Sandwiches from The Root Cellar. They’re generously sized and great for sharing.
~Ice-cold watermelon and cucumber, either from our Transplanting Traditions CSA or one of the farmers’ markets.
~Handy, stylish, BPA-free food containers from Twig that are easy to pack and travel well. – Virginia Robinson

(8) Get inspired at Ackland.

Let the works of art at Ackland Art Museum inspire your own works of art every second Saturday of the month. Artist and Director of External Affairs Amanda Hughes leads each free workshop in “creative exploration” of a particular exhibited piece. All levels are welcome and no reservation is necessary; just bring paper and any drawing utensils you like. Summer dates include July 9 and August 13, from 10 a.m. to noon.

(9) Take an ArtWalk.

With daylight pushing well into the evening, get some fresh air, exercise and an art fix at the Second Friday ArtWalk. Download the map from the website and choose any of the 25 participating venues that stretch from Carrboro’s Town Hall to the 140 West Plaza on West Franklin. Upcoming dates include July 8 and August 12, from 6-9 p.m.

(10) Cool down with gelato at The Goat!

The Fearrington Village cafe serves up flavors made from ingredients like Maple View Farm cream and local strawberries. Chef Colin Bedford says, “The Fearrington Tea is my favorite by far.”

(11) Enjoy the sweet sounds of summer at a local concert. 

UMall Concert Series
Photo by Mackenzie Brough Props

Music in the Meadow Concert Series July 9 – From 6 to 9 p.m., Briar Chapel by Newland Communities will host an afternoon filled with live music and local food and drinks to help you unwind after a busy week. The concert is free of charge, but canned food will be collected to benefit CORA Food Pantry.

Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music Series
Through August 26 – Enjoy fine music and local eats under an open sky. Don’t miss budding Chapel Hill artist Matt Phillips as he plays soulful melodies on July 1.

Meadowmont Music Series
September 10 – Fill your Saturday evening with outdoor entertainment brought to you by The Charlie Band in this last installment of Meadowmont’s music series.

Fridays on the Front Porch at The Carolina Inn
Through October 7 – Every Friday, gather with friends for front porch sipping, food truck eating and good regional tunes.

Live Music at Roost
Through October 28 – This seasonal beer garden at Fearrington Village not only serves up delicious wood-fired pizza, but also brings a great live-music series.

Be Loud ’16
August 26-27 – Rock out for a great cause at this annual concert held at Cat’s Cradle. A selection of bands, including Preeesh!, Hobex and The English Beat, will donate their talent to help raise funds for Be Loud! Sophie Foundation‘s mission to support adolescent and young adult cancer patients at UNC Hospitals.

(12) Catch a Paperhand Puppet Show.

Photo courtesy Paperhand Puppet Intervention
Photo courtesy Paperhand Puppet Intervention

Paperhand Puppet Intervention is famous for taking puppets to a whole new level in its annual summer show. Check out their mind-boggling performances at the Forest Theatre from August 5 to September 5 – every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

(13) Switch up your exercise routine with Aqua Zumba. 

Head to Tanja Cole’s Aqua Zumba class at the Briar Chapel pool (Sunday evenings at 6:30 p.m.). You’ll be amazed how much fun you can have – and how many calories you can burn – doing choreographed moves to songs like “Proud Mary” and “I Will Survive.”

(14) Pick your own berries. 

Get a taste of summer by picking your own berries at one of these area farms: Patchwork Berry Farm (Chapel Hill, blueberries); Ayrshire Farm (Pittsboro, blueberries); Busy Bee Farm (Pittsboro, blueberries and blackberries); Herndon Hills Farm (Durham, blueberries and blackberries); Cedar Grove Farm (Cedar Grove, blueberries). Tip: Call to check on availability.

(15) Visit the Carolina Basketball Museum

Photo by Briana Brough
Photo by Briana Brough

Get your fix of Tar Heel hoops history in the off-season with a visit to the Carolina Basketball Museum. Managing Editor Jessica Stringer visited earlier this year – check out her experience here.

(16) Head to the Library.

With school out, pile the kids in the car and head to the Chapel Hill Public Library. Take the little ones to Summer Story Time, check out Science Tellers – Power & Energy or let your teen escape to Bad Movie Friday (and, no, you can’t go to that last one, even though it sounds ironically awesome).

(17) Sign up for a cooking class. 

Photo by Sarah Arneson
Photo by Sarah Arneson

Southern Season offers cooking classes galore, with options for kids, hands-on learning and the usual taste-and-watch. Earlier this year, Assistant Editor Laura Kirk staycationed at one of Sheri Castle‘s classes. Check out her first-person experience here.

(18) Celebrate the glory that is a fresh-from-the vine NC tomato.

In this area, there are actually two Tomato Days: July 9 for Carrboro Farmers’ Market and July 16 for Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market. Expect kids activities, recipes and of course, an epic tomato tasting.

BONUS! (19) Catch a play at 10 by 10.

Spend your summer enjoying international, original plays right in our backyard. Over 1,100 scripts were sent in this year for the chance to be performed during the 15th annual 10 by 10 in the Triangle held at The ArtsCenter.