Chapel Hill is a town in Orange County, North Carolina (with some eastern portions in Durham County), and the home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC Health Care. The population was 57,233 at the 2010 census; Chapel Hill is the 16th largest municipality in North Carolina.
Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh make up the three corners of the Research Triangle, so named in 1959 with the creation of Research Triangle Park, a research park between Durham and Raleigh. Chapel Hill is one of the central cities of the Durham-Chapel Hill MSA, which in turn is part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area with a population of 1,998,808 .
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, which covers most of the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, along with portions of unincorporated Orange County, is recognized for its academic strengths. East Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill High School have received national recognition for excellence, with Newsweek currently ranking East Chapel Hill High as the 88th best high school in the nation, and the highest ranked standard public high school in North Carolina. A third high school, Carrboro High School, opened in 2007. The state's main youth orchestra, Piedmont Youth Orchestra, is based in Chapel Hill.
The town also shares with Carrboro a vibrant music scene. Cat's Cradle in Carrboro a nationally recognized live music club, Local 506 and other Chapel Hill bars (such as the Cave) often host local, national, and international acts in all genres. Archers of Loaf, Squirrel Nut Zippers, James Taylor, George Hamilton IV, Southern Culture on the Skids, Superchunk, Polvo, and Ben Folds Five are among the notable musical acts whose careers began in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has also been a center for the modern revival of old-time music with such bands as the Ayr Mountaineers, Hollow Rock String band, the Tug Creek Ramblers, Two Dollar Pistols, the Fuzzy Mountain String band, Big Fat Gap and the Red Clay Ramblers. Chapel Hill was also the founding home of now defunct indie label Mammoth Records, as well as now Durham-based Merge Records. Bruce Springsteen has also made a point to visit the town on several tours. His most recent appearance was on September 15, 2003, at Kenan Memorial Stadium with the E Street Band, marking his fourth appearance overall. U2 also performed at Kenan on the first American date of their 1983 War Tour, where Bono famously climbed up to the top of the stage, during pouring rain and lightning, holding up a white flag for peace.
The Chapel Hill/Carrboro Chambers of Commerce supports a vibrant business community among UNC Chapel Hill's strong academic presence. The town hosts a variety of corporations headquartered in Chapel Hill. Health insurance provider Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is one of the town's ten largest employers at its Chapel Hill headquarters. Technology companies USAT Corp and Realtime Ops have made Chapel Hill their headquarters location. Journalistic, Inc., the publisher of the nationally acclaimed magazines Fine Books & Collections, QSR magazine, and FSR magazine recently relocated from Durham to Chapel Hill. New companies are selecting the town as their base of operations such as the service company Alpha Install.
The Morehead Planetarium was the first planetarium built on a U.S. college campus. When it opened in 1949, it was one of six planetariums in the nation and has remained an important town landmark. During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, astronauts were trained there. One of the town’s hallmark features is the giant sundial, located in the rose gardens in front of the planetarium on Franklin Street.
Influences of the University are seen throughout the town, even in the fire departments. Each fire station in Chapel Hill has a fire engine (numbers 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35) that is Carolina blue. These engines are also decorated with different UNC decals, including a firefighter Rameses.
UNC has been very successful at college basketball and women’s soccer, and a passion for these sports has been a distinctive feature of the town's culture, fueled by the rivalry among North Carolina's four ACC teams: the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Duke Blue Devils, the NC State Wolfpack, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. More recently, the town has received regional notice as the site of a large annual Halloween street party, with an attendance regularly exceeding 70,000.
Even though Chapel Hill has a fairly large population, it still has a very small-town feel. This can be seen walking through downtown where you will find many large murals painted on the buildings. Most of these murals were painted by UNC alumnus Michael Brown. Also, for more than 30 years Chapel Hill has sponsored the annual street fair, FallFest, in October. The fair offer booths to artists, craftsmakers, nonprofits and food vendors. Performance space is also available for musicians, martial artists and other groups. The fair is attended annually by tens of thousands.
Chapel Hill also has some new urbanist village communities, such as Meadowmont Village and Southern Village. Meadowmont and Southern Village both have shopping centers, green space where concerts and movies take place, community pools and schools. There is also a traditional-style mall with a mix of national and local retailers at University Mall.