Orange County

Chapel Hill named top 12 tourist destination

The National Trust for Historic Preservation this morning named Chapel Hill one of its 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

Chapel Hill was selected for its stately charm, cultural offerings and its citizens’ dedication to protecting and sharing its heritage.

From now through March 15, Chapel Hill will be participating in a public online voting contest to select the 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destinations Fan Favorite.

“From its well-preserved historic districts to its quiet winding streets and historic downtown, Chapel Hill lives up to its nickname as the ‘Southern Part of Heaven”, said John Hildreth, director of the southern office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Discerning travelers to Chapel Hill have long appreciated the two centuries of architectural grandeur on display throughout the town. And Chapel Hill’s commitment to the environment and sustainable practices set it apart from other towns and cities. Chapel Hill is the perfect place for travelers looking for a truly distinctive destination.”

Since 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has annually selected towns and cities across America that offer cultural and recreational experiences different from those found at the typical vacation destination. From dynamic downtowns and stunning architecture to cultural diversity and a commitment to historic preservation, sustainability and revitalization, the selected destinations boast a richness of character and exude an authentic sense of place.

Though most well known as the home to UNC and its basketball legacy, Chapel Hill has a distinctive character that sets it apart from other college towns, according to the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, the agency that nominated Chapel Hill for the award. With three local historic districts and four National Register Historic Districts, Chapel Hill is a place that prioritizes the preservation of its heritage, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, she said. The concept of adaptive reuse flourishes. In the case of the Horace Williams House - a 19th century home is now an historic cultural center. Several of the community’s early buildings, have been rehabilitated -- transforming them into housing, retail, restaurant and gallery spaces humming with activity.

“We tend take for granted what visitors find to be a truly unique destination,” bureau director Laurie Paolicelli said. “Visitors almost always comment on our trees and sidewalks and the friendliness of our people. They see a community that is nurturing its riches of authors, musicians and chefs. They almost always come back.”


The public is invited to vote online to help determine which of the 12 destinations will be the 2011 Fan Favorite. From now to March 15, vote once per day for your favorite city or town on this year’s list. The winner of the popular vote will be announced on March 16, 2011.Visit for official rules.