First of all, congrats and welcome UNC class of 2021! You've picked a school that boasts incredible academics but also one with a lively campus atmosphere. There are certain places on campus that are almost impossible to avoid — like the Old Well, the Pit and the Dean Dome – but there are also some places that are more out-of-the-way and are just as worthwhile to visit. Here are six of my favorite underrated spots, some more hidden than others.
1. Cat's Cradle
One of the more iconic locations on my list, Cat's Cradle has been a favorite music venue for Carolina students for 40 years. It's in Carrboro, less than a mile off campus, so it's easy to walk to. (I suggest not wasting money on an Uber!) Cat's Cradle hosts a wide variety of acts, usually of the indie or alternative genre, but occasionally big-deal artists (including Waka Flocka) will do a show. It can be fun to pick a random show and go even if you have no idea who the artist is. Tickets usually range from $15-$25.
2. Carrboro Farmer's Market
This location is further into Carrboro than Cat's Cradle and can take upwards of 35 minutes to walk to depending on your speed, but it's still worth it. The farmer's market is open year round with hours varying by season. The schedule can be found on their website. Local vendors sell fruits and veggies, meats and cheeses, beautiful bouquets of flowers and other wares for reasonable prices. Everything is fresh, natural and of high quality. Pick a nice morning to walk to the market with your friends. It's fun to look around even if you don't buy anything!
3. North Carolina Botanical Gardens
At the gardens, you will find a Platinum Leed-Certified education center, but the main attraction is outdoors. There you will find an herb garden, a children's garden, a carnivorous plant garden, a marshy area and nature trails that go through the forest located behind the main garden. It's a great place to relax and enjoy nature, away from the sounds and smells of city life. I love this place so much that I once wrote a whole article about it. Two buses, the HU and the S, will take you to the gardens. It's not a bad walk if you live in Ehaus or HoJo. The gardens are open to visitors Tuesday-Sunday.
4. Anderson Softball Stadium
Situated a little off of main campus in a beautiful wooded area, Anderson Softball Stadium is often overlooked. Students on south campus may find the trek to the field a little long, but it's not bad at all if you take a bus up to north campus and walk the rest of the way. Because it is a smaller sports facility, any seat is a good seat. I'm a bit biased towards softball but I genuinely think every freshman should attend at least one softball game.
5. Carolina Basketball Museum
UNC's basketball program is very well known for its legacy of excellence, but students tend to be awed by the Dean Dome and don't even realize that there's a museum next to it. The museum celebrates current and former players and coaches with a wide variety of memorabilia and multi-media presentations. It's not very big, so you don't need to clear your entire afternoon if you're planning to visit, but an avid fan might feel so at home that they never want to leave. Hours can be found on the museum's website.
So as not to dispel the mystery of this place, all I'll say is that finding Gimghoul without anyone telling you where it is is a rite of passage at UNC. Grab a group of friends and start hunting. Good luck.
I hope you take my advice and visit all, or at least most, of these locations. Part of the fun of being a college student is having countless opportunities to explore. Don't be afraid to leave the larger groups behind to find a new hangout or place to relax.
Lead Image Credit: Caroline Culler via Wikimedia Commons