Online searches for “solo travel” and “travel alone” are at a peak. With its welcoming, inclusive spirit and small-town feel, Carrboro should be at the top of every solo traveler’s list as the perfect place for a personal getaway. This central North Carolina town, dubbed “The Paris of the Piedmont,” neighbors Chapel Hill. Although the stretch of Franklin Street that links the two towns together makes it hard to distinguish one from the other at first, Carrboro definitely has a distinct identity.
Carrboro’s nickname, “The Paris of the Piedmont,” stems from a sardonic comment by John Martin, a reporter for the Chapel Hill Weekly. In 1970, musician Nyle Frank, then a graduate student in political science at the nearby University of North Carolina, organized an alternative “Invisible University,” and announced plans to have himself crowned as the institution’s “King.” Martin commented, “I can see it now − The Paris of the Piedmont.”
Carrboro is the kind of small southern town where the past and the present seem to be fused into a single moment which is why solo travelers find the town so refreshing. The heart of the town is a contemporary version of the old country store, which is one of the largest food co-ops in the southeast. There are no big sports teams here (that action is one town over) but there are bike lanes. Lots of them. And some serious bikers using them.
The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau shares a few things to know about Carrboro before making a reservation:
In 1882, the Durham-Greensboro Southern Railway line began offering service to a small, somewhat deserted area west of Chapel Hill, to accommodate travelers to and from UNC. This area was known as West Of, as in West of Chapel Hill. After a couple of name changes, in 1913 the town became Carrboro for Julian Shakespeare Carr, owner of the local textile mill, after Carr expanded the mill and provided electricity to the community.
Where to stay in Carrboro
The welcoming Hampton Inn & Suites Carrboro-Downtown hotel is within walking distance to the town’s brew pubs, restaurants, music halls and shops.
What to do in town
The ArtsCenter is the soul of the arts community offering concerts, theater, visual art exhibits, classes and more.
In the other end of the same building is Cat’s Cradle, the institution which has been the region’s premier live music venue for over 40 years hosting bands including Nirvana, Public Enemy and John Mayer as well as bands with local ties such as Ben Folds Five and The Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Daily people watching, Kombucha and Coffee at Weaver Street Market – or The Weave, as it’s known around town. This lawn, this market, is the heart of Carrboro. It’s the place to gather, to meet, to shop and listen to music on the lawn spring to fall. Fittingly, it’s just in front of the old Carr Mill building that still stands, a relic from an industrial past, here in the present second-life as a shopping mall: past and present intertwined.
Visit the Carrboro Farmers’ Market at the Carrboro Town Commons. This completely farmer run market has products which must be produced within a strict 50 mile radius of Carrboro, by the vendors themselves, who must also live within 50 miles of Market. The newly renovated commons is also home to occasional live music, community festivals and a yearly Harvest Dinner.
Where to Dine
Acme Food and Beverage is a must. Acme was chosen as a Top 10 Tastes of the South by Southern Living Magazine.
Milltown. While most people think of Milltown as a place to find amazing Belgian, German, and American micro-brew beers, not that many know that Milltown has one of the best chefs in town.
Carrburitos. This little Mexican joint is more of a weekday place for us but if you get a margarita and sit at the bar it can seem festive enough for a weekend.
GlassHalfull is what you might describe as a casual upscale tapas wine bar and worth checking out.
Akai Hana. Atmosphere abounds at this traditional Japanese and Sushi Bar, a favorite among locals.
For lunch in Carrboro you can’t beat the sandwiches at Neal’s Deli, right between Open Eye Cafe and Tyler’s Speakeasy – especially his homemade pastrami.
Coffee & Craft Beer
Find Carrboro Coffee Roasters at Open Eye Café in the heart of town.
Steel String Brewery offers craft beer inspired by the agricultural bounty of the North Carolina Piedmont and the funky, free-spirited vibes of Carrboro. The Vecino Brewing Co. is a brewery built by and for neighbors with locally-crafted beer and food ranging from snacks, small plates and sandwiches.
Festivals & Events:
Carrboro Music Festival
The last Sunday in September there’s the free Carrboro Music Festival, where the main event features 200 bands performing at 29 venues.
2nd Friday Art walks
Experience the creative arts scene in the community, explore venues, and socialize with other art lovers the second Friday of every month in Carrboro and Chapel Hill from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. Venues offer live music, food, activities and more.
Follow a self-guided Historic Walking Tour map on Carrboro’s website to visit some of the cultural and historical landmarks that make Carrboro unique.