Many college towns in the South are noted for their quirky character and artistic penchant, however folksy. Chapel Hill is not without its eclectic beat, and you'll discover shops and boutiques that you would expect to find only in big cities.
A Southern Season, in the Eastgate Shopping Center, 1800 E. Franklin St. (tel. 919/929-7133; www.southernseason.com), is one of the largest, most up-to-date, sprawling, and comprehensive large-scale shopping emporiums in North Carolina. It offers a fabulous array of delicatessen-style gourmet foods to go, wines and liqueurs, porcelain and crystal, and gift items, many with a distinctive Southern flair. Particularly appealing are gift baskets that, depending on what you specify, might contain kudzu jelly, Moravian spice cookies, chocolate-covered Carolina pecans, Carolina buttercrunch toffee, Blue Ridge bonbons, all manner of North Carolina honey-cured hams, plus about a thousand different gourmet items imported from Europe. You can even order vacuum-packed North Carolina barbecue here, available in either the western (with a touch of tomato sauce) or eastern North Carolina (with salt, pepper, and vinegar) style. The center is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 9pm, Sunday noon to 6pm.
The Weathervane, a restaurant associated with A Southern Season shopping emporium, takes the best of its affiliate's produce and turns it into a sophisticated array of salads and sandwiches priced from $5 to $12 and main courses priced from $12 to $22. Set in a woodsy family-friendly format immediately adjacent to the store, it's open Monday to Thursday from 7am to 9pm, Friday to Saturday from 7am to 10pm, and Sunday 10:30am to 6pm. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.
Well-read Chapel Hill has a large book-buying public, and Franklin Street is the site of most bookstores. The Bookshop, Inc., 400 W. Franklin St. (tel. 919/942-5178; www.bookshopinc.com; Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 11am-6pm, and Sun 1-5pm), has been a civic monument in Chapel Hill since 1981. This bookshop sells only used books and (in the words of its owner, Bill Loeser) "everything except textbooks and romance novels." It doesn't seem very large, but its cramped, crowded, and somewhat dingy premises contain some 150,000 books, ranging in price from 50¢ to a rare 1770 edition of Catesby's History of the Carolinas, selling here for around $40,000.
Immediately across the street, and selling a radically different style and type of book, is Chapel Hill's most visible counterculture bookstore. The Internationalist Book & Magazine Cooperative, 405 W. Franklin St. (tel. 919/942-1740; www.internationalistbooks.org; Mon-Sat 11am-8pm and Sun noon-6pm), is funky, artsy, and the darling of Chapel Hill residents with a slightly leftist bent; it focuses on feminist, gay, lesbian, graphic arts, and poetry tomes.
Some 3 miles east of the center of Chapel Hill stands Meadowmont Village, adjacent to Route 54 (eastbound). This upscale multipurpose shopping, residential, office, and dining complex is evocative of the way visitors and locals dine and shop in the New South.
A unique food market is the Weaver Street Market, 101 E. Weaver St. (tel. 919/929-0010; www.weaverstreetmarket.coop), 1 mile west of Chapel Hill. It is a rambling but modern warehouselike structure near the center of Carrboro that's piled almost to the rafters with all-organic foodstuffs. You can buy things that are fresh, Carolinian, and healthful here, and you can also purchase the fixings for a picnic lunch. Many locals visit its self-service, buffet-style restaurant, the Weaver Street Market Café (same address and phone), where a $6 buffet (especially pleasing to vegetarians) is served on picnic tables under soaring oak trees, and where Thursday nights include performances from live jazz bands. Both the market and its restaurant are open Monday to Friday 7:30am to 9pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am to 9pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.