Friday, June 12, 2009

University of North Carolina

Whether it's the picturesque scenery, the Tar Heel sports teams' signature powder blue motif, or the bars, restaurants, and shops of Franklin Street, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is one of the nation's most vibrant institutions of higher education. I recently had the opportunity to make my first visit to UNC (to the state of North Carolina, overall, in fact) to attend an academic conference. Naturally, I took the opportunity to walk around the area and take some pictures.

If I had to describe UNC in two words, they would be traditional and green. The campus also has a consistency of building style, featuring red brick, which I think adds to a school's appearance. Below are large photos of two buildings, plus a montage of additional ones.

The aforementioned Franklin Street is the commercial hub of the UNC area, extending several blocks in either direction from the East/West dividing point. Featuring restaurants to fit a wide array of tastes, coffee houses, ice cream parlors, and, of course, plenty of stores to buy Tar Heel clothing and paraphernalia, Franklin Street compares favorably in my mind to other "main drag" college-town streets around the nation.

Few (if any) college-town thoroughfares would be able to exceed Franklin Street's volume and variety of establishments, I would guess. One downside, however, is walkability. Unlike Madison, Wisconsin's pedestrian-friendly State Street, for example, from which automobiles are banned, Franklin Street is five lanes wide, with plenty of cars zooming by. Thus, you'll probably spend a fair amount of time waiting for "Walk" signs at intersections.

There probably aren't many U.S. cities in which you'll see fire trucks painted Tar Heel blue, though. Chapel Hill naturally is one of them!

Finally, by coincidence, today's New York Times ran its weekly "36 Hours in..." travel feature on North Carolina's Research Triangle region, which includes Chapel Hill. A couple of Franklin Street eateries were mentioned, as was the Carolina Inn, which hosted the conference I attended.