In Hillsborough, good times come in small-town packages

Just minutes away from Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh, Hillsborough – in the center of Orange County – gives you the chance to wind down on cafe-lined streets, listen to great live music and enjoy a bottle of wine.

The restaurant scene is delightfully diverse. There’s Panciuto’s where small farm- and garden-sourced suppers are a fusion of Italian and Southern cuisines ( The Saratoga Grill ( is best known for New England clam chowder, honey almond salmon and homemade scones. Allow Antonia’s to prepare for you the perfect brunch – fresh and creative ( If authentic Cajun cuisine excites your taste buds, don’t miss LaPlace Louisiana Cookery ( Before you leave town, indulge yourself at the Village Diner, which offers, quite possibly, the best home-cooking buffet you will ever have (Go to “The Village Diner” page on Facebook).

Downtown Hillsborough is the place to pick up distinctive gifts. Art galleries sprinkle the downtown area, and among the many shops, there is one for wine, one for yarn and another for chocolate. Daniel Boone Village, off Interstate 85 just south of Hillsborough, is a quaint pioneer-style village that has 15 antique stores, a blacksmith shop and other businesses (

The last Friday evening of each month through November, Hillsborough’s downtown Art Walk features numerous art galleries and venues hosting opening-night receptions.

Hillsborough’s lengthy history begins before the Revolutionary War. Its historic sites offer a wealth of knowledge about life in the region in various eras. Include visits to Ayr Mount plantation house, Burwell School Historic Site, the Orange County Historical Museum, the Alexander Dixon House and the old Orange County Courthouse on your itinerary (

All trips deserve some outdoor time. Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail ( offers a special hike on one of the first NASCAR tracks to open in the nation, and one of only three tracks remaining from the inaugural 1949 season. The site now is in a forest of 40-year-old pines and sycamores. Remnants of the concession area and grandstands still are visible beside the 1-mile, mulched oval track. The site has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Three miles of pedestrian trails, including a trail that runs alongside the Eno River, are open to the public.

All trips deserve some quality outdoor time. A hike along the Occoneechee Speedway Trail offers just that. Once a NASCAR track from the 1949 inaugural season (, the 1-mile trail now curves through pine and sycamore trees. The trail is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Riverwalk is an asphalt urban greenway, about 1.8 miles long, built along the Eno River corridor. It is open from Gold Park to downtown Hillsborough to River Park and is the primary route in the area for the N. C. Mountains-to-Sea Trail.