Nestled in the heart of North Carolina, Hillsborough is a charming town that offers a treasure trove of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Hillsborough has something for everyone. In this guide, we will delve into the many exciting things to do in Hillsborough, North Carolina, ensuring your visit is filled with unforgettable experiences.

1. Historic Sites and Museums

Hillsborough boasts a rich history, and its historic sites and museums provide a captivating glimpse into the past. Here are some must-visit locations for history aficionados:

Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail

Address: 320 Elizabeth Brady Road

The Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail is a unique and thrilling attraction for both racing enthusiasts and history buffs alike. This preserved dirt track was once the host of NASCAR races, making it a significant part of Hillsborough’s history. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the trail while immersing themselves in the rich heritage of stock car racing. The picturesque surroundings, including lush greenery and scenic views, add to the charm of this historic site.

Orange County Historical Museum

Address: 201 N. Churton Street

The Orange County Historical Museum is a treasure trove of exhibits chronicling the history of Hillsborough and its surrounding areas. The museum’s collections include a wide range of artifacts, documents, and stories that offer valuable insights into the town’s past. From Native American heritage to the American Revolution and beyond, visitors can explore the diverse and captivating history of Hillsborough in depth.

Ayr Mount Historic Site

Address: 376 St. Mary’s Road

For a truly immersive historical experience, a visit to the Ayr Mount Historic Site is a must. This beautifully restored plantation house offers a glimpse into the genteel life of the past. Visitors can take guided tours of the house and its stunning grounds, which include picturesque walking trails along the Eno River. Ayr Mount is an ideal destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, providing a serene and educational escape.

Hillsborough Historic District

Address: Various locations throughout Hillsborough

The Hillsborough Historic District is a living testament to the town’s rich heritage. Stroll through the charming streets and admire the well-preserved architecture of historic homes, churches, and businesses. Many of these structures date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The district offers self-guided walking tours, allowing you to explore at your own pace and soak in the town’s unique character.

2. Outdoor Adventures

Image of a rover surrounded by trees and rocky terrain

Hillsborough is not only rich in history but also offers a plethora of outdoor adventures for nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re into hiking, picnicking, or simply enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors, Hillsborough has something to offer. Here are some top outdoor destinations:

Eno River State Park

Address: 6101 Cole Mill Road

Eno River State Park is a true gem for outdoor enthusiasts. It spans across acres of natural beauty and offers a wide range of activities to connect with nature. Here’s a detailed look at what you can do in this park:

HikingExplore over 28 miles of scenic trails along the Eno River. The trails vary in difficulty, making it suitable for both novice and experienced hikers. You’ll encounter lush forests, river views, and diverse wildlife. Don’t forget your hiking boots!
PicnickingEnjoy a peaceful picnic amidst the natural beauty of the park. Picnic areas are strategically located, providing a perfect setting for a family lunch or a romantic picnic by the river.
Wildlife WatchingEno River State Park is teeming with wildlife. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the variety of avian species, and you might even spot deer, turtles, and other native animals. Be sure to bring your binoculars and camera.


Strolling along the Riverwalk in Hillsborough is an experience like no other. This picturesque pathway runs alongside the Eno River, offering breathtaking views and a tranquil ambiance. Here’s what you can expect:

Scenic ViewsThe Riverwalk provides stunning views of the Eno River and its lush surroundings. It’s an ideal spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts looking to capture the beauty of Hillsborough.
Leisurely WalksThe pathway is perfect for a leisurely walk, whether you’re exploring the area solo, with your family, or enjoying a romantic evening by the water. Benches along the route provide spots to sit and take in the scenery.
Nature ObservationKeep an eye out for local wildlife, including waterfowl and native plants. The Riverwalk offers a unique opportunity to observe the natural world up close.

Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Address: 625 Virginia Cates Road

The Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area is a haven for nature enthusiasts and hikers. Here’s what this natural area has in store:

HikingHike to the summit of Occoneechee Mountain for panoramic views of the surrounding area. The summit provides a stunning vantage point, especially during sunrise or sunset. Several hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties are available for exploration.
Scenic BeautyThe natural area is a treasure trove of scenic beauty, featuring diverse flora and fauna. It’s an excellent spot for nature photographers and those seeking tranquility in the midst of nature.
Educational OpportunitiesThe park offers educational programs and interpretive exhibits that provide insights into the area’s ecology, geology, and history. Check for scheduled events to enhance your visit.

3. Art and Culture

Image inside an art gallery

Hillsborough’s vibrant arts and cultural scene serve as a testament to the town’s creative spirit. For those seeking enriching experiences in the realm of art and culture, Hillsborough offers a diverse range of options to explore. Let’s delve into these exciting opportunities:

Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery

Address: 102 N. Churton Street

The Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery stands as a showcase of local talent and artistic expression. This gallery serves as a focal point for both artists and art enthusiasts, featuring a diverse array of artwork that encompasses paintings, sculptures, crafts, and more. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect:

Diverse ArtworkThe gallery proudly displays a rich tapestry of artistic creations, providing a platform for local artists to share their unique visions with the community. Expect to encounter a wide range of artistic styles and mediums.
Supporting Local TalentBy visiting the gallery, you’re not only immersing yourself in art but also actively supporting the local arts scene. It’s a hub where creativity flourishes, fostering an environment of artistic growth and collaboration.

Music and Theater Performances

Hillsborough’s cultural calendar is replete with live music performances, theater productions, and an array of cultural events that showcase the town’s appreciation for the performing arts. These events often take place in various venues throughout the town, celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Hillsborough. Here are some highlights:

  • Concerts: Keep an eye on the local events calendar for upcoming concerts featuring a diverse range of musical genres. Whether you’re a fan of classical music, jazz, or contemporary tunes, you’re likely to find a performance that suits your tastes.
  • Theater Productions: The town frequently hosts theater productions that bring compelling stories to life on stage. These productions provide a platform for local talent to shine, and they offer an engaging experience for theater enthusiasts.
  • Festivals: Don’t miss out on the various cultural festivals that grace Hillsborough throughout the year. These festivals often incorporate music, dance, and visual arts into their celebrations, providing a comprehensive cultural experience.

Emerge Gallery and Art Center

Address: 404 W. Weaver Street

The Emerge Gallery and Art Center is a dynamic and engaging space that invites you to immerse yourself in contemporary art and culture. Here’s an in-depth look at what this art center has to offer:

Contemporary ArtExplore thought-provoking contemporary art exhibitions that feature works by both local and regional artists. These exhibitions often push boundaries and challenge conventional artistic norms.
Art Workshops and ClassesThe Emerge Gallery and Art Center is not just a place for passive appreciation; it’s also a space for active engagement. Consider participating in art workshops and classes to hone your creative skills. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a beginner, there’s something for everyone.
Community EngagementThis center fosters a sense of community and camaraderie among art enthusiasts. It’s an excellent place to engage with the local creative community, share ideas, and collaborate on artistic endeavors.

4. Dining and Culinary Delights

BBQ on a wooden board with sauce on the side

When exploring “things to do in Hillsborough, North Carolina,” one cannot overlook the town’s culinary scene, which offers a delightful fusion of flavors to satisfy every palate. From Italian delicacies to mouthwatering barbecue and the vibrant tastes of Louisiana, Hillsborough boasts a diverse range of dining options that promise an unforgettable gastronomic journey. Here are some top dining spots to consider:


Address: 110 S. Churton Street

Panciuto stands as a renowned Italian restaurant in Hillsborough, celebrated for its commitment to using locally sourced ingredients to craft exquisite dishes. This dining establishment takes pride in a seasonal menu that continually evolves to showcase the freshest flavors. Let’s delve deeper into what makes Panciuto a culinary gem:

Culinary OfferingsDetails
Locally Sourced IngredientsPanciuto’s dedication to locally sourced ingredients not only supports the community but also ensures that each dish is bursting with freshness and flavor.
Seasonal Menu ChangesThe menu changes with the seasons, allowing diners to experience a variety of tastes throughout the year. This commitment to seasonality ensures that every visit to Panciuto is a unique and memorable culinary experience.

Hillsborough BBQ Company

Address: 236 S. Nash Street

If you find yourself yearning for the smoky and savory goodness of barbecue, look no further than the Hillsborough BBQ Company. This establishment offers a warm and cozy atmosphere where you can indulge in tender smoked meats, delectable sides, and homemade desserts. Here’s a closer look at what this barbecue haven has in store:

BBQ HighlightsDetails
Smoked Meat MasteryHillsborough BBQ Company takes pride in its mastery of smoking meats to perfection. Whether you’re craving succulent pulled pork, tender brisket, or flavorful ribs, you’re in for a treat.
Homestyle SidesComplement your barbecue feast with a selection of homestyle sides that range from classic coleslaw to baked beans and macaroni and cheese. These sides elevate your dining experience to a whole new level.
Homemade DessertsDon’t forget to save room for dessert. The homemade desserts at Hillsborough BBQ Company are the perfect sweet endings to your barbecue adventure. Be sure to try their pie or cobbler of the day.

LaPlace Louisiana Cookery

Address: 111 N. Churton Street

For a taste of the vibrant flavors of Louisiana, LaPlace Louisiana Cookery is the place to be. This restaurant invites you to savor the authentic tastes of Cajun and Creole cuisine in a lively and inviting setting. Here’s what you can expect at LaPlace Louisiana Cookery:

Culinary OfferingsDetails
Cajun and Creole DelightsIndulge in a menu that features classic Cajun and Creole dishes, from spicy jambalaya to delectable beignets. The flavors are rich and the portions generous, ensuring a satisfying and flavorful meal.
Lively AtmosphereThe restaurant’s vibrant and inviting atmosphere adds to the overall dining experience. It’s a great place to enjoy the lively spirit of Louisiana without leaving Hillsborough.

5. Festivals and Events

Image of a Hog Day Festival

When searching for “things to do in Hillsborough, North Carolina,” one cannot ignore the vibrant tapestry of festivals and events that bring the town to life throughout the year. These gatherings offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Hillsborough’s culture, creativity, and community spirit. Here are some notable festivals and events to mark on your calendar:

Last Fridays Art Walk

Frequency: Monthly

The Last Fridays Art Walk is a recurring monthly event that showcases the dynamic synergy between local artists and businesses. This collaborative effort transforms the town into a vibrant hub of art, music, and culture. Here’s a closer look at what you can experience during this event:

Event HighlightsDetails
Local ArtistryImmerse yourself in the creative energy of Hillsborough as local artists exhibit their works in various businesses and galleries. This provides a unique opportunity to engage with the town’s thriving art scene.
Live PerformancesEnjoy live music performances that add to the festive atmosphere of the evening. The Last Fridays Art Walk often features talented musicians and performers who contribute to the town’s cultural vibrancy.

Hillsborough Hog Day

Frequency: Annual

Hillsborough Hog Day is an annual celebration that pays homage to the beloved tradition of barbecue. This event is a smoky, savory, and finger-licking good time for the entire family. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Festival HighlightsDetails
Barbecue ExtravaganzaFeast on a delectable array of barbecue dishes prepared by skilled pitmasters. From pulled pork to ribs, the variety of flavors and styles will satisfy even the most discerning barbecue enthusiasts.
Live Music and EntertainmentEnjoy live music performances and entertainment throughout the day. The festival’s lively atmosphere is enhanced by the sounds of local and regional musicians.
Barbecue Cook-OffWitness a barbecue cook-off competition that showcases the culinary prowess of barbecue aficionados. It’s a chance to see the experts in action and taste their mouthwatering creations.

Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting

Frequency: Annual

As the holiday season approaches, Hillsborough transforms into a winter wonderland with its festive holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony. This event encapsulates the warmth and merriment of the season. Here’s what you can anticipate:

Event HighlightsDetails
Festive ParadeJoin the community in celebrating the holidays with a festive parade that features colorful floats, marching bands, and even a visit from Santa Claus himself. It’s a heartwarming spectacle for all ages.
Tree LightingExperience the magic of the season as Hillsborough’s holiday tree is illuminated with twinkling lights. The tree lighting ceremony is a cherished tradition that fills the town with holiday cheer.
Community SpiritThe holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony embody the spirit of togetherness and community. It’s a time to connect with neighbors and friends and embrace the joy of the season.


Hillsborough, North Carolina, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. From its rich historical sites and outdoor adventures to its vibrant arts scene and culinary delights, there’s no shortage of things to do in this charming town. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, an art enthusiast, or a foodie, Hillsborough offers an unforgettable experience for every visitor. So, plan your trip and immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of this remarkable North Carolina town.


Q1: What are some family-friendly activities in Hillsborough?

Hillsborough offers plenty of family-friendly activities, including visiting the Orange County Historical Museum, exploring Eno River State Park, and attending the Last Fridays Art Walk.

Q2: Are there any outdoor adventures for nature enthusiasts in Hillsborough?

Absolutely! Nature enthusiasts can explore the trails at Eno River State Park, hike Occoneechee Mountain, and take a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk.

Q3: What is the best time to visit Hillsborough, North Carolina?

Hillsborough is a year-round destination, but the spring and fall months offer pleasant weather for outdoor activities. Additionally, many festivals and events take place during these seasons.

Q4: Can I find gluten-free or vegetarian dining options in Hillsborough?

Yes, many restaurants in Hillsborough offer gluten-free and vegetarian menu items to cater to a variety of dietary preferences.

Q5: How can I stay updated on events and festivals in Hillsborough?

You can stay updated on events and festivals in Hillsborough by checking the town’s official website, following local event calendars, and engaging with the community on social media.