On a normal fall afternoon, Franklin Street would be bustling with spirited co-eds and football fans grabbing a bite before kickoff. This year, these traditions have been put on pause in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. With students spending the semester online and no longer living on campus, foot traffic is way down for many of Chapel Hill’s most beloved institutions. But there is some good news: The town has pulled together to make it safe and accessible for you to visit the restaurants and shops we love—and you just might find it’s easier to park too.
The biggest change you will notice when you roll up to Franklin Street is that two of the street’s four lanes have been closed. From Robertson Lane near the Morehead Planetarium on East Franklin Street to Graham Street, about a half-mile down West Franklin Street, the town has shut down one lane on either side of the road to make more room for outdoor dining and shopping, and to make it easier for pedestrians to social distance.
With all the outdoor dining options, you could spend all day doing a “food crawl” to sample bites from the area’s fabulous restaurants. Bring your appetite and mosey down Franklin and its surrounding streets to feast on dishes from 411 West, Al’s Burger Shack, Big Belly Que, Blue Dogwood, Bon Chon, Carolina Brewery, Cha House, Chimney Indian Kitchen, Cosmic Cantina, Crossroads Restaurant, Epilogue, Heavenly Buffalos, Imbibe, Italian Pizzeria III, La Residence, Mama Dips, Mediterranean Deli, Might as Well, Pantana Bob’s, Que Chula, Rumi Persian Café, Sup Dogs, Sutton’s Drug Store, Talulla’s, The Northside District, The Pizza Press, The Purple Bowl, Top of the Hill, Trolly Stop Hotdogs, TRU Deli + Wine and Vegan Flava Café.
Between bites, shop the sidewalk sales or take advantage of curbside pickup being offered by Alumni Hall, Chapel Hill Florist, Chapel Hill Sportswear, High Life, Johnny T-Shirt, Julian’s, Rumors Boutique, Shrunken Head Boutique, The Bicycle Chain, The Hemp Store, Uniquities and University Florist.
Service-based businesses also need our support to survive until students and visitors return. Thousand Petals Yoga and Franklin Street Yoga are offering classes online, while Pūrvelo has reopened its cycling studio with limited capacity. Hair salons and barber shops will gladly tame your corona hair—make an appointment at Arrow, In the Cut Barbershop, Moshi Moshi, Salon 135, Syd’s Hair Shop and Who’s Next Barber Shop.
If you want to make a weekend-long staycation, AC Hotel by Marriott, Graduate Chapel Hill and the Carolina Inn are all accepting reservations. For safety, all guests are asked to wear masks while in public areas of the hotel.
Starting in October, large outdoor entertainment venues that seat more than 10,000 people will be allowed to open at 7 percent capacity. So for a handful of diehard Tarheel fans, a trip to Kenan Stadium could be in your future.
Even if you can’t score a ticket to a game, fall is one of the best times to walk around campus and enjoy the brilliant foliage lining every quad and the school’s iconic red brick buildings.
For more information about businesses that are open, services offered and street closures, visit downtownchapelhill.com.