When we think about spring in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough it’s easy to conjure up an image of stunning azaleas, dogwoods in bloom, red buds. Yes, the flowers are blooming, the temperatures are rising, and students donning Carolina blue caps and gowns are posing for photos around the Old Well. It’s spring at one of the most beautiful college towns in the world.
Kate Miller, class of 2023, reflects on what a simple change of temperature can do for the spirit and the mind. “There is something so different about Chapel Hill once the weather gets above 60 degrees,” she says. “The cold, empty campus we endured during the winter months has finally come back to life, and a walk through the quad displays hundreds of students enjoying the warm weather.” She hasn’t left yet but she’s missing it already.
The warm weather brings an endless of array of special events to the area, from live concerts in Hillsborough, to packed crowds at the Carrboro Farmers Market and happy restaurant and brew pub diners filling the outdoor tables in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough. The list of events is too long to include here, but you can find them all at www.visitchapelhill.org.
Instead, what we want to focus on this spring is the restorative power of Chapel Hill’s blossoming beauty, and its power to transform those who come here. Through education, opportunity, healthcare, and the arts, lives have been known to grow and bloom like the daffodils and dogwoods that surround us.
In the spring, we begin to live again beneath the canopy of nature. We follow the defining scents of spring: honeysuckle, gardenia, lavender. And think of Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) which you can find in all its grandeur on the Piedmont Nature Trails at the Botanical Garden.
Simply getting outside, engaging with the natural world, has been shown to have found a profound effect on stress reduction.
“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
In Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Botanical Garden is a prime point of immersion, a place that exists to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants, and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.
Every Thursday evening from April 6 to June 15, the North Carolina Botanical Garden is staying open until 7 p.m. so visitors can enjoy the display gardens after work. The exhibit hall and Garden Shop will be open, and guests are welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy outdoors – they have lots of benches and picnic tables, plus open lawn areas for blankets.
Apart from service animals, pets are not allowed in the Garden, and open containers of alcohol are prohibited.
Twilight Thursdays will take a break over the summer and resume on August 17.
North Carolina Botanical Garden Hours and Admission
This display gardens will be open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Thursdays from April 6 to June 15 and again from August 17 to September 28. There’s no fee or ticket for visiting, but The Garden welcomes donations. Make a donation here.
Some evenings will feature food trucks and music performances. Check the schedule here for more information!
Twilight Thursdays take place from 4-7 p.m. on Thursdays from April 6 to June 15 and again from August 17 to September 28.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.