By Laurie Paolicelli
North Carolina is a state that revels in its culture, but few towns provide the quirky frisson of Carrboro! – a town whose name should always end in a celebratory exclamation mark.
It began almost as an afterthought. North Carrboro was first settled in 1882 around a University of North Carolina railroad spur, originally known as West End due to its location directly west of Chapel Hill, because no one wanted a railroad in Chapel Hill. The mills were built, a community established. Carrboro, no longer merely Chapel Hill’s charming country cousin, was born.
Fast-forward almost 150 years. A commitment to the town’s historic mill house architecture and aesthetics led to the preservation of its historic core. The town’s railroad depot, first textile mill, and a former grist mill, all listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, are at the heart of the downtown; pre-World War II commercial buildings and houses adapted as offices line Main Street; and just to the north and south, scores of early mill-related houses concentrated near the former mill sites survive as private residences.
Slowly but surely, Carrboro developed a distinct personality: smart, somewhat edgy, and exuberant. The town lured a youthful crop: hikers, bikers, and artists of all kinds.
In fact, Carrboro was named one of the 100 best art towns in America in John Villani’s book, “The 100 Best Art Towns in America: A Guide to Galleries, Museums, Festivals, Lodging and Dining.”
It’s a town literally on display in the windows of the North Carolina Craft Gallery, This & That Gift Gallery, and WomanCraft Gifts just to name a few. Art classes are popular, too. Carrboro artist James Carter was awarded 1st place in enameling in the prestigious Saul Bell Design Award Competition in 2011. The master goldsmith, skilled designer, and artist continues to lead hands-on workshops in jewelry making and enameling out of his studios.
On October 2, Carrboro’s My Muses Card Shop is offering a class on how to paint a beautiful floral composition using the old Ukrainian folk decorative style Petrykivka. All proceeds will be donated to Ukraine relief efforts, organized by local nonprofit organization “Ukrainians in the Carolinas”. This organization has a network of volunteers throughout the Carolinas, and is dedicated to assisting the people of Ukraine with food and medical supplies, and promoting Ukrainian culture in the Carolinas. You can find more information about them on the website: https://www.ukrainiansinthecarolinas.org.
Carrboro! Locally grown and nationally known, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is number five on the list of the Best Farmers’ Markets in the country according to The New York Times featured book, Serious Eats.
Carrboro also boasts some of the best dining options in Orange County.
Gabe Barker of Pizzeria Mercato was selected as a James Beard Award Semifinalist in the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” category for the second year in a row. Chef Gabe opened Pizzeria Mercato in 2015 and the restaurant continues to emphasize locally sourced ingredients from, where else, the Farmers’ Market.
Other favorites include Tandem, Iza Whiskey & Eats, Venable Bistro, Neal’s Deli, Carrburritos, Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar, Acme Food & Beverage Co., and Glasshalfull. New to Carrboro: Dingo Dog Brewing Company, a non-profit brewing company/bar that supports animal rescues, and Breakaway Café. For a complete list of restaurants, www.visitcarrboro.com.
Weaver Street Market is the community owned and operated natural foods store situated in the heart of downtown.
And when it’s time for a nightcap, you can finish off your day with some drinks from the Orange County Social Club, better known as OCSC. This social scene draws the neighborhood in with its lively bar, hipster-chic atmosphere, and booming jukebox.
The 2022 Carrboro Music Festival is scheduled to occur on Sunday, October 2nd, and later that month on the 22nd, Cat’s Cradle, one of the Southeast’s most popular music venues, will host YepRoc25, a 25th Anniversary Show celebration of Yep Roc Records. Caitlin Cary, Dawn Landes, Old Ceremony, Jennyanykind, Mayflies USA, and Chris Stamey will be performing, along with other artists TBA. Tickets are just $15 and can be purchased here.
Carrboro! The perfect and magical combination of the old and the new, the past and present teaming up to create a unique, colorful, and exuberant experience. Come visit to see it for yourself. You won’t want to leave.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.
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