Orange County consists of four incorporated towns; Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Carrboro and Mebane. Each is unique and, together, they’re the perfect blend of cosmopolitan culture and energy with the relaxation of rural life.
Locals call it “the Southern part of heaven,” and if you’ve ever visited, you’d see why. Chapel Hill is probably best known as the home of the University of North Carolina, the nation’s first state university and an institution that is continually recognized for having one of the best undergraduate programs in the U.S. The Chapel Hill area is also home to the employers in the health care and high-tech industries, who demand a highly skilled workforce. As a result, the town’s culture blends bohemian college town, quaint Southern charm and a cosmopolitan craving for sophistication in dining, shopping and entertainment.
The Town of Carrboro was founded nearly a century and a half ago when, in response to an outcry from college students who felt cut off from the outside world, a spur from the Durham-Greensboro Southern Railway line was extended to link Chapel Hill with what was then a tiny mill town. Today, much of that tiny town’s rustic charm still remains, with both the original rail station and the textile mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Contemporary life has made in some inroads, however (including an extensive bikeway system). Carrboro features a downtown that offers unique shopping and dining, a growing arts community and a reputation for some of the best farmer’s markets around.
Founded over 250 years ago and once the colonial capitol of North Carolina, Hillsborough now serves as the county seat of Orange County. Located about 15 minutes northwest of Chapel Hill, the city boasts over one hundred late 18th and 19th century structures and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the Revolutionary War, Hillsborough was the political and cultural focal point of the area and it remains so today. Surrounded by rolling hills, the town’s 140,000 residents enjoy charming shops and restaurants and many activities celebrating the arts and history being held almost daily.
Mebane’s namesake is Brigadier General Alexander Mebane, a Revolutionary War officer and later, a United States Congressman. In the late 1700’s, Mebane joined the first board of trustees of the University of North Carolina. He also served on the committee that chose New Hope Chapel Hill as the site for the new school and, in 1793, helped lay cornerstone of the first building erected on campus. Today, the city of Mebane is at the center of one of the fastest growing areas in North Carolina, offering all of the conveniences of city life with all of the escape opportunities that city dwellers often seek; the mountains are just three hours to the west and the coast, just three hours to the east.