There are many critics who believe that North Carolina lacks a touristy vibe. When people look closer there are many places locally providing enough attractions for a pleasant sightseeing experience.
Hillsborough is one of those places; it’s uniqueness, old town character and progressiveness blends to create the perfect sightseeing trip for people not planning expensive trips.
Hillsborough is a town of 7,000 located within thirty miles of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. The town is easily accessed by both I-85 and I-40.
Mrs. Eastman, Civics and Economics teacher at Leesville, is a resident of Hillsborough. “I like living there because it has that peaceful small town vibe. People are proud of what is being done,” she said.
Eastman said, “Locals strongly support this community, so its all about shopping at local stores.”
Mr. Hill, NC State graduate student and student teacher, has lived most of his childhood in Hillsborough and graduated from the town’s primary high school, Orange High.
Reflecting upon his hometown, he explained, “It’s small, really small. The good thing with small communities is that all the businesses know their customers, and cater the customers with perfection.”
“It’s really happy living there [Hillsborough] and the crime is very low. People in Hillsborough have to learn how to coexist, they do it much better than people in large cities,” he added.
Small towns do not have every amenity available in major cities, however residents have adapted. “Running through downtown is fun. There are also many places downtown to shop and eat,” said Hill.
The town’s main street, Chatham street, runs through downtown. Many restaurants, antique shops and stores line the street. A few places on the radar include Matthew’s Chocolates, Eno River Farmers Market, Antonia’s (Italian) and Kelsey’s Cafe & Catering. Downtown Hillsborough offers a wide variety of places to visit. Many historical homes and sites are located within the one mile radius of downtown so walking is no problem for tourists.
The first place of interest is the Occaneechi Indian Village just outside downtown. This site is a reconstruction of a pre-colonial, 17th century, Native American village and many tours and events take place there.
This Federal Era (Early 19th century farmhouse) Ayr Mount Historical site is one of the few remaining examples of old south in Hillsborough. This farmhouse turned landmark is one of the last examples of Federal Era (Early 19th century) architecture. Tours are available and endless amount of fine art and antiques are viewable to visitors.
For visitors interested in old church structures, there are several placesto take a snapshot. The First Baptist Church, the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church and the Hillsborough United Methodist Church are fine examples of structures constructed out of fine masonry.
The old Orange County courthouse is another fine example of fine old southern architecture. This greek-revival building, situated downtown, offers spectacular views to sightseers.
The town also offers some miscellaneous sights which the average tourist would not expect to see. “There is a large wooden [adirondack] chair that people many people visit. You have to climb up it to sit in it,” said Hill.
“The town has a way of showing off talents,” said Mrs. Eastman. Hillsborough in recent years has been recognized as an up and coming place for the live arts.
The town also is contented with its high concentration of nationally renowned authors and poets; those including, Frances Mayes, Michael Malone, Lee Smith and Hal Crowther. Why wouldn’t they want to live in such a tranquil place. The scenery around town is breathtaking, open fields of green grass are accompanied with rolling hills and patches of maple and oak groves. In fact, the area around Hillsborough offers a great terrain for hiking.
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural area is one of the most unique sights in the piedmont. This eroded mountain rises to 867 feet, 500 feet from the base of the summit. The state park offers a great hiking experience, nature walks, three miles of trails and breathtaking views of surrounding areas.