By Laurie Paolicelli
Welcome to the world of The North Carolina Botanical Garden where garden design, horticulture, education, and the arts interplay to inspire and enlighten visitors from across the globe.
The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a conservation garden. Their guiding mission is to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.
Through December 6, the garden is displaying its 32nd Annual Sculpture in the Garden and admission is free ($5 donation suggested). There’s parking available at the site.
Autumn is a picture perfect time to stroll through the outdoors and see 60 installations by various North Carolina artists. From steel to ceramic, tiny to massive, and abstract to figurative, the Garden has dozens of fascinating sculptures on display.
Most sculptures are available for purchase, but all remain on site until the end of the show. You can find prices here: https://ncbg.unc.edu/visit/exhibits/sculpture-in-the-garden
Said a recent visitor who came through the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Center looking for things to do: “We might not have visited this attraction had many others not been closed due to COVID-19. It just shows that you should never disregard a place because you don’t think it’s your type of attraction. Everyone enjoyed taking photographs. Art has always been a part of my life and this attraction really engaged me,” Nancy Burne, Culver City, CA.
As Sculpture in the Garden is entirely outdoors and spread out across the display gardens, it’s an ideal place to enjoy art in a safe and socially-distanced way. When you visit the show, you’ll need to follow the standard safety precautions to ensure the Garden is safe for everyone.
Down slope from the Display Gardens and Education Center is an 88-acre area known as the Piedmont Nature Trails. Opened to the public in 1966, the trails provide over two miles of hiking through a typical central North Carolina forest. Open from dawn to dusk every day of the year, the trails consist of two major loops, the Streamside Trail and the Oak-Hickory Trail. The easier Streamside Trail crosses Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek twice as it meanders through the lower sections of this site. The more difficult Oak-Hickory Trail traverses hillier portions. A diversity of hardwood and evergreen trees, shrubs, and woodland wildflowers thrive in these woods. Interpretive brochures and a trail map are available at the entrance to the trail. The trail walk can take from 15 to 45 minutes or more, depending upon the path taken and your pace. https://ncbg.unc.edu/venue/piedmont-nature-trails
Just a few miles down the road is Southern Village, a community that offers many options for outdoor and indoor coffee, tea, dessert and snacks.
And, just a few blocks away is the legendary Merritt’s Grill, home to the famous BLT that’s won the hearts of international travelers. Since 1929, Merritt’s has squatted just south of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, around the invisible boundary where campus becomes country. The store is tiny and white, perched above U.S. Highway 15-501, enclosed by a grove of bamboo.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.