Moving to Chapel Hill - Your EZ Guide to Everything Chapel Hill, NC

Moving to Chapel Hill: Your Guide to Living in Chapel Hill, NC

Chapel Hill Campus Photo

Are you looking to move to North Carolina? Then look no further than Chapel Hill. You’ll quickly find out why people love to live here and why it is in fact one of the best places to live in North Carolina. Since 1871, Chapel Hill has stood the test of time and has fully grown into a city with much to offer anyone who is looking for a place to call home. 

People have referred to Chapel Hill as the “southern part of heaven,” and those who have been to the small city will agree. It’s home to a number of historical sites, museums, and the University of North Carolina along with a diverse population and a growing economy. As a result, this established college town has so much more to offer. Moving to Chapel Hill is more than a change in scenery; it’s a new way of life. 

Cost of Living and Population Growth

If you do end up moving to Chapel Hill, you can trust that you won’t be the only new resident to find out why the city is a wonderful place. Since the 2000 Census, Chapel Hill has grown by 22%, and the city is more than capable of accommodating new residents every year. But because it’s such a thriving area, the cost of living has also increased, which may be bad news for some. But it is also a testament to just how much the city has to offer. 

To give you a better sense of the living costs in Chapel Hill, here’s a table that includes all the expenses you can expect to pay for along with a comparison to the national average and North Carolina’s average:

COST OF LIVING       

Chapel Hill          

North Carolina      

USA

Overall

118.3

90.6

100

Grocery

103.9

96.5

100

Health

98.2

107.5

100

Housing

165.1

81

100

Median Home Cost

$381,800

$187,300

$231,200

Utilities

101

99.2

100

Transportation

82.6

83.9

100

Miscellaneous

107.1

96.2

100

Chapel Hill’s cost of living is 118.3.

As of 2018, Chapel Hill has a population of almost 60,000 people with a median age of 26.2. Between 2017 and 2018, its population grew from 59,234 to 59,561, which is a 0.552% increase. Meanwhile, the largest ethnic groups in the city are White at 68.1% (Non-Hispanic), Asian at 12.4% (Non-Hispanic), Black or African American at 9.74% (Non-Hispanic), and White at 4.8% (Hispanic). 

Job Market

Because Chapel Hill is located in the Triangle, it’s only a few steps away from Research Triangle Park. This means that Chapel Hill has plenty of employment opportunities in various industries. Research Triangle Park is a well-known destination for residents looking to find jobs in the application of technology and research. Some of the top employers you’ll find here include WakeMed Health & Hospitals, IBM, SAS, GlaxoSmithKline, and Biogen Idec Inc.  

Furthermore, around one quarter of Chapel Hill’s professionals come from the fields of office work, administrative support, and sales. Other job opportunities come from the universities closeby. UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University are all major employers in the area of Chapel Hill. While many of the admin jobs are connected to the universities, there are many other employment options in the city. 

Finance, business, transportation, and material production are also among the biggest sectors of employment. And even if work can become limited at times, there are plenty of other opportunities to find if you have the drive and flexibility to take up any kind of work. And because of these combined factors, Chapel Hill is known for its strong job market and low unemployment rate. 

Things to Do

There are various things to do in Chapel Hill, each answering for different interests, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re an outdoor person, the Coker Arboretum is located on the University of North Carolina campus and offers five acres of grassy areas, flowering shrubs, and trees along with benches to relax in. Just outside the campus is the North Carolina Botanical Garden, which offers 1,100 acres of conservation and garden areas and a trail system nearby, and there are various paks where you can walk or bike to enjoy the scenery. 

Chapel Hill also hosts food truck rodeos where a dozen local food trucks make their way to Rosemary. Here, you’re sure to find treats to satisfy all your cravings. With more than 95 bars and restaurants—most of which are locally owned—Chapel Hill is known to have some of the best dining scenes in North Carolina. Here are just a few restaurants you should try: 

  • The Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen: Serves mouth-watering chicken biscuits for breakfast
  • Merritt’s Store: Cooks up sandwiches to die for during lunch
  • Mama Dips: For homey, Southern cooking goodness at dinner time 

If you’re looking for an exciting nightlife, Chapel Hill can give you that too. Rock Out Before You Roll Out is a restaurant that serves up inspired cuisine with its famed music scene that quickly draws in a crowd. Franklin Street also offers a selection of college bars, nightclubs, and microbreweries and is the home to one of the oldest landmarks in Chapel Hill, known as Varsity Theatre. This shining beacon of entertainment has served the city for more than 50 years.

If you’re into live music, the Rolling Stone has voted the Triangle—which consists of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—as the number 2 spot in their list of college towns in 2005. It also cited Cat’s Cradle as the city’s best venue, so there’s no doubt you’ll discover a new side to the South when the sun comes down. 

Climate

Summers in Chapel Hill can be hot and muggy at times, while winters are very cold but short. In addition, it’s partly cloudy and wet all throughout the year. As the seasons change, the temperature in the city generally varies between 32°F to 88°F. However, it can also reach as low as 19°F or high as 94°F, although this rarely happens. 

A more detailed breakdown of the weather in Chapel Hill is as follows: 

  • The hot season begins in May and lasts for 3.7 months until September with an average high of above 81°F. The hottest day is typically July 21, with a low of 70°F and a high of 88°F. 
  • The cool season usually begins in December and lasts for 3 months until February 28, with average high temperatures below 58°F. The coldest day during the whole year is January 29 with temperatures between a low of 32°F and high of 51°F. 

Based on tourism scores received, the best times to visit this city for comfortably warm climates are from May to June and from August to October. 

Traffic

According to locals, traffic in Chapel Hill can get bad, especially if you’re new to the area and aren’t familiar with alternative routes. Locals who live in Chapel Hill who need to travel to Raleigh often face a 25 to 30 minute commute. However, these estimates were observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it can quickly become a longer trip once the full volume of cars take to the streets again. 

During pre-COVID times and when the RTP is in full swing, estimates put the commute to be around 45 minutes. While this was the norm pre-COVID-19, construction and wrecks were also frequent and can bump up commute time up to an hour and 30 mins. Locals advice that you leave extra early if you have somewhere to be in the morning to avoid an unpleasant ride through boring traffic. 

Public Transportation

Thankfully, Chapel Hill offers a diverse mix of options for traveling. Because it’s common for people to travel to Durham and Raleigh (both of which are 30 to 40 minutes away), Chapel Hill has provided its residents with plenty of ways to get in and out in a hurry. The availability of mass transit has helped to lessen the traffic issues around the city and has led to less congestion during rush hours. 

Obrella ranked Chapel Hill as their 24th best city for North Carolina commuters, and if you’re not a fan of driving, the city has you covered. Fortunately, Chapel Hill is also accommodating to those who don’t drive. While it has a decent infrastructure for cycling and good public transit for a city of its size, it’s relatively walkable. But with a score of 35 on the walkability scale, it’s not an ideal option when exploring the city. 

It’s a good thing that Chapel Hill has a well-established public transit system where the buses have a lot to offer. One of the best things in this city is that there are no fares for the bus, which is pretty great. However, the bus system is limited to Downtown Chapel Hill, so commuting to other neighborhoods can be difficult without your own car.  

Golf

Chapel Hill has fine golf courses and clubs to choose from. Here are a few options:

Chapel Hill Country Club

This country club was originally designed by Gene Hamm but was eventually re-designed by John LaFoy in 1999. Its course features 18 holes of challenging valleys, hills, ponds, and creeks enveloped in a scenic and peaceful neighborhood. Members have access to chipping greens and practice putting, a driving range with both mat and grass tees, and a practice bunker. 

Further enhancements to the Chapel Hill Country Club include having the greens replaced with Champion Bermuda Grass in 2017, which are thriving beautifully today. Their Golf Pro Shop provides room for cart and bag storage and a great selection of clubs and apparel, including special order services, club repair, and customization. 

UNC Finley Golf Course

Designed by George Cobb, the UNC Finley Golf Course was the original golf course and was funded by A.E. Finley, a Raleigh businessman. It opened its doors in 1949 and was located just southeast of the campus. It is one of the biggest equipment dealers in the country and served the town of Chapel Hill along with the University for almost half a century before it received a massive overhaul. 

Tom Fazio was hired to completely change the course to make it more modern, so he started from scratch. In 1999, UNC Finley was opened and became the 11th course he designed in North Carolina, a place he has called home since the 1980s. Since then, this golf course has hosted the NCAA Men’s Regional Championships in 2015 and many collegiate tournaments, including the annual Men’s and Women’s Tar Heel Invitational. 

Water Sports

If you’re more into water sports or simply want to find places where you can enjoy your summers in the water, here are some of Chapel Hill’s go-to places: 

Great Outdoor Provision

What started as a 120-square-foot store behind a bike shop in Carrboro, NC flourished to become what it is today. With nine stores across North Carolina and Virginia, Great Outdoor Provision Co. has provided residents with the best outdoor gear for 50 years. However, they don’t just sell gear for various water sports; they also provide guided tours and fun water activities such as paddling, kayaking, and fly fishing.  

Letts Go Watersports

Letts Go Watersports brings you the opportunity to enjoy an exhilarating jet ski ride while on Jordan Lake, and depending on your mood, you can even set up a family-friendly water adventure, a day to relax and spend time to yourself, or you can even have a romantic sunset with someone special. They also provide fun activities such as: 

  • Canoeing

With a canoe rental, you’re sure to see some amazing wildlife while you explore nearby islands, beaches, inlets, and coves on Jordan Lake.

  • Paddling 

You can use a Stand Up Paddleboard to roam around the quieter section of the lake where you’re bound to see other paddlers, kayakers, and even fishermen. 

  • Supyaking

If you’re unsure of whether to go paddling or kayaking, you can enjoy both with a supyak!

Dog Friendly

If you have pets and want to take them around Chapel Hill, you’re in luck. Chapel Hill is a pet-friendly city and has plenty of places for dogs to play, stay, or eat. Here are just a few places you and your pet are sure to love: 

  • Chapel Hill's Southern Dog Park

Locals love this area because everyone here (including their pets) knows the meaning of respect and boundaries. People are also friendly and attentive of their dogs, so there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re looking for your dog to meet friends, be sure to visit during the busiest hours: after 5pm on weekdays. 

If you’d prefer to spend some quality time with your dog, there’s also a disc golf course and a nature trail nearby. For your convenience, there’s also a bathroom, picnic shelter, and playground for family outings. 

  • Red Pepper

In this Sichuan restaurant, dogs are welcome over at the four outdoor tables provided. This authentic Asian restaurant serves soups, appetizers, lo mein and rice dishes, Singapore noodles, and seafood. Here are just a few of their menu items: cashew chicken, crab rangoons, moo shoo pork, kung pao shrimp, and Hunan beef.   

  • Aloft Chapel Hill

This pet-friendly hotel makes sure to give your pets a warm welcome, accepting two dogs of up to 40 lbs for no additional cost. However, keep in mind that only the second-floor rooms allow for pets. Located in the center of 'Blue Heaven' just down the road from UNC, you can shoot a game of pool in the lounge, enjoy signature drinks, or munch on the mix of sweet and savory snacks by the pantry. 

Attractions

There are a lot of places to see in Chapel Hill, but if you’re in a hurry to see the best it has to offer, here are two great options to choose from: 

  • North Carolina Botanical Garden

Part of The University of North Carolina, the North Carolina Botanical Garden is made up of more than 1,000 acres, 10 of which display various natural areas and display gardens. Created to inspire appreciation, understanding, and an effort to conserve their local fauna, it features many habitat gardens on display. These are designed to interpret the vegetation and plants of North Carolina, and they also have a Garden of Flowering Plant Families, nature trails, an Education Center, and more. 

  • Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

As one of the largest and oldest planetariums in the country, it is located on campus at the University of North Carolina. First opened in 1949, the Morehead Planetarium was used to train astronauts for celestial navigation. It’s also the home to the GSK Fulldome Theater, various classrooms and exhibits, the Science Stage, UNC Visitors Center, UNC Morehead Observatory, and more. 

Some of the permanent exhibitions in the Morehead Planetarium include Highway of the Planets, History Hallway, and Where American Astronauts First Met the Stars. Furthermore, they also offer educational programs for teens and youths, which include Starry Nights, Skywatching, and Scout workshops. So, if you’re looking for a fun day out with kids in Chapel Hill, this is the place to be.

Shopping

At Chapel Hill, you can shop from one-of-a-kind stores where the products are as unique as they come. You’ll also find heaps of Tar Heel sportswear and memorabilia along with clothing and accessories, hi-end antiques, and flea markets as well as fun and quirky gifts. To help you enjoy your shopping experience, the streets are pedestrian-friendly, and the downtown areas of Chapel Hill offer plenty of parking. 

However, if you prefer malls, Chapel Hill has that, too. At University Place, you will find boutiques, restaurants, galleries, the local radio station, a kid’s museum, and a cinema. But if you really want local shopping at its best, make your way to Carrboro and look for Carr Mill Mall. This former cotton mill was built in 1898 and was known as the Alberta Cotton Mill. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but today it serves as the home to unique restaurants and shops.  

Art and Culture

If you love the arts and culture, then you’ll fit in with the people in Chapel Hill. If you’re a movie fan, head over to Varsity Theater to watch the latest movies, but if you’re more into art, then make your way to the Ackland Art Museum to soak up all the exhibits they have on display. 

  • Ackland Art Museum

The Ackland Art Museum has collected, preserved and displayed outstanding pieces of art to inspire, educate, and engage the local community and students of the university. Since its founding in 1958, it has featured a permanent collection of over 17,000 works of art, and it is the home to various collections from Europe, Africa, and Asia along with North Carolina pottery and twentieth-century art. 

  • Varsity Theatre 

This historic theatre has always shown the latest movie releases. However, if you’re looking for amazing performances, incredible musicians, and powerful productions such as “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity,” make your way to the Carolina Performing Arts. 

If you’re looking for Chapel Hill’s food culture, you can be happy knowing that Bon Appetite magazine named this city as one of America's “foodiest small towns.” Thanks to the college population, the development of the restaurant and social scene has truly lifted off. Elmo's Diner and 411 West are just some of the best that Chapel Hill has to offer, but in truth, there’s just too many great restaurants to choose from. 

Sports and Sports Teams

Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation encourages men, women, and teens to take part in athletics programs, leisure activities, and fitness classes. Their athletics programs are designed to provide coaching and skills instruction and healthy competition while helping the community stay healthy and fit within a positive environment. Here are just a few areas that locals can look forward to using should they choose a healthier lifestyle: 

  • Baseball/Softball Fields 

The Department of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation has several fields to be used by the public when they aren’t scheduled for programs. 

  • Multi Use Fields

The Department of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation also provides many multi-propose fields for the public to use when not reserved or scheduled for programs. 

  • Pickleball

This combination of badminton, tennis, and table tennis is a fun, fast paced, and easy to learn exercise for everyone. 

As for sports teams, the University of North Carolina basketball takes Chapel Hill by storm, and basketball fever starts every fall. This is when it takes the floor to start off the season, and every March, the city is flooded with blue colors as the UNC basketball team runs through March Madness. 

Education

Chapel Hill schools pride themselves on the emphasis they place on student achievement as well as growth. Chapel Hill has a lot to offer in terms of education in the schools they offer and the support systems behind them: 

  • UNC 

This large, historic university sports a beautiful campus decorated in powder blue colors and offers some of the top collegiate athletics programs in the US. With more than 24,000 students, they make up almost half of the city’s population. With Duke University and NC State just by their doorstep, the whole area is considered to be home to the state’s brightest minds. 

  • Great Schools 

This non-profit organization works hard to reach out to parents about educational opportunities within school districts. Great Schools rates Chapel Hill Schools an 8 on a scale of 1-10 and provides information to help families choose the most suitable school for their kids. The scale they use is based on student achievement, growth, and readiness for college. 

Real Estate

As of 2018, Chapel Hill had a median household income of $68,640, which is a 1.8% increase from the previous year’s $67,426. Because of this, the city can be seen as affordable, despite the table shown above. Moreover, the people relocating to the city usually come from much less affordable places, whether from the west coast or the northeast. Meanwhile, job growth is keeping steady at 2.25%, and between its neighboring cities, Cary, Durham, and Raleigh, you are almost certain to find a job right away. 

Even more good news is that Chapel Hill’s market is quite stable with the median home price hovering around $330k, an improvement from the prices in the past few years. If you plan to rent though, a one-bedroom apartment in town may set you back around $500-700 a month, most of which won’t include utilities. Again, this could be a good or bad thing depending on where you’re coming from and the kind of place you need to move in comfortably. 

Welcome to Chapel Hill!

Now that you know the pros and cons about Chapel Hill, it’s best to consider your lifestyle and how it might change before you make the big move. Moving to this city may not be the best choice for everyone, but if you’re looking for a big adventure in a place with a small-town feel, then Chapel Hill can be a great choice for you. 

For students in particular, this could be the perfect mix of higher education, business opportunity, and nightlife. With its high average pay, low crime rate, and great weather, Chapel Hill is a strong contender for anyone wanting a change of environment.

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