Two New Visitor Centers Will Open on Franklin Street in 2020

UNC Visitors Center, Chapel Hill


By Laurie Paolicelli

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is opening its new UNC Visitors Center at 134 East Franklin Street, adjacent to Porthole Alley, in the heart of Historic Franklin Street. A primary goal of the new 1,000 square foot Visitors Center is to demonstrate to the citizens of North Carolina the value of the important work that happens each day on campus. The UNC Visitors Center welcomes guests to Carolina and offers daily tours that include information about campus history and traditions, and the initiatives and priorities that define the University today. The Visitors Center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As the front door to Carolina, the UNC Visitors Center features several exhibits illustrating the university’s unique history and the many contributions Carolina faculty, students, staff, and alumni have made in North Carolina, throughout the nation and around the world. Staff and student workers provide guests with directions and information on the many different campus attractions visitors can experience during their visit.

The new UNC Visitors Center features seven interactive elements designed for guests to learn more about Carolina and enhance their experience on campus. This includes a mascot-centered selfie-station where guests can capture a photo with Rameses, the official mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Rhonda Hubbard Beatty, Director of the UNC Visitors Center and a Carolina Graduate in the Class of 1987.

The UNC Visitors Center also offers its guided Sense of Place walking tour to introduce guests to Carolina’s history, traditions and hallmarks, as well as some of the University’s current and future endeavors.

Sense of Place tours depart from the UNC Visitors Center Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tour registration is required prior to attendance. To sign up for a tour, complete the scheduling form or email

Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau to Relocate

The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Center, 501 W. Franklin Street, will relocate to 318 W. Franklin Street in July 2020. The Visitors Center will re-open as the Chapel Hill/Orange County Welcome Center in the space currently leased by Cholonad restaurant, which has announced its relocation to the former Mellow Mushroom restaurant space.

The new 4,000 square foot Welcome Center will help visitors navigate the arts, restaurant, and retail scene throughout Orange County.

Families with young children visit to learn more about activities in Orange County.

“It’s rewarding to see tourism services gain a higher profile in our community,” Laurie Paolicelli, Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, says. “We’re pleased the University of North Carolina has opened a new state-of-the-art Visitors Center for prospective students and their families because UNC is still the number one reason for a visit to Orange County.”

Paolicelli said the Visitors Center decision to relocate in downtown Chapel Hill is the result of the healthcare IT firm Well Dot setting up its $3.1 million headquarters on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street, including the current space occupied by the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

“It’s an exciting time for Franklin Street with the addition of Well, and new changes on the horizon,” said Paolicelli. “There was consideration on moving our existing county space to an I-40 locale to better capture motorists, but the Visitors Bureau Board and Orange County made a decision to keep a countywide Welcome Center in downtown Chapel Hill,” said Paolicelli.

Each year more than 2.5 million visitors come to Chapel Hill and Orange County to explore the nation’s #1 public university, the growing arts, music, and culinary scene, and its unrivaled beauty and unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities.

The late Lee Pavao, longtime tourism advocate, worked to keep a Visitors Center alive to assist all guests in learning about Orange County.

Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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