Yes, yes, I am the crazy person who went to walk around UNC's campus during graduation weekend. Oops. But, really, it was perfectly fine and, to be honest, a heck of a lot of fun. Graduation or not, spending a day enjoying UNC's grounds is something you and your family should plan to do.
C and I started by getting easy parking on Cameron Avenue at the intersection of West Street, past Carolina Inn and towards Carrboro. And yes, this was graduation weekend. It should be even easier for you once the students head home for the summer. Parking is always the burden with going near campus, but there are options including pay lots off of Franklin Street.
So, if you haven't guessed by now, I love my ice cream. Accordingly we hopped over to Franklin Street first to get some ice cream from Cold Stone on a hot afternoon (it's a good thing I work out a lot). But Franklin Street has all kinds of refreshments if ice cream isn't your thing. There is coffee, sweets, local brews, and even Bubble Tea (which is the newest fad and hard to describe). Plenty of dining, too. Which is another reason why this outing offers everything for a family.
We then strolled down Franklin Street and entered campus at McCorkle Place. McCorkle Place is the huge lawn that butts up against Franklin Street. Buildings line each side, and huge shade trees are all around. At the end of McCorkle Place is the famous Old Well. McCorkle Place would be a great place to picnic or otherwise spend some time lounging outside. In fact, while we were there we saw a few students snoozing in the shade, clothes flapping in the light breeze. Very southern, don't you think?
After watching the graduates pose in their blue robes by the Well, we walked down to the Coker Arboretum. This is one of my favorite places on campus. Managed by the NC Botanical Gardens, this a picturesque little garden tucked into UNC's main campus. Over 580 species of trees and shrubs, gentle walking trails, a big wisteria trellised lane, and grassy areas in the shade to sit and enjoy, I love being in the Arboretum. It is not huge, but C and I still played there for over half an hour. The Arboretum is on the corner of Cameron Ave and Raleigh St.
Just down the street from the Arboretum, also maintained by the NC Botanical Gardens, is the Forest Theatre. The Forest Theatre is a big stone amphitheater built into the hillside. It feels like Shakespeare could appear at any moment to perform his Midsummer's Night Dream. It is that magical. It is also a great place for kids to run around, play, and sing, especially any budding starlets. Forest Theatre can be accessed by either Country Club Road or Boundary street.
Bathrooms are available at Carolina Inn. Everything is stroller friendly.
This little walk and day pairs nicely with a Fridays on the Front Porch event at Carolina Inn. You really could spend a lot of time here. And it's going to get even more fun for families as the students are leaving. You will feel like you have the campus to yourself. Enjoy!
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill campus