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Chapel Hill: The Southern Slice of Heaven from an outsider

Being from Ohio and rooting for the Heels may not be normal, but after visiting Chapel Hill I was hooked.

North Carolina Tar Heels Championship Welcome Rally Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

I've been a Tar Heel since I can remember. Growing up, my dad became a huge Tar Heel supporter. The 1993 National Championship was on my 1st birthday and there's a picture of my dad and I watching it in our UNC gear. This obsession would be completely normal in the triangle, but not so much in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

Fast forward to my first visit to Chapel Hill when I was 8 years old. I had been raised to like the Tar Heels, but that's when I fell in love with the university. Everything around the area was more amazing than I imagined; not to mention everywhere I looked there was that beautiful shade of blue. Since then, we've tried to get down to the Southern Piece of Heaven every season, but had to settle a few times seeing the Heels play a little closer to home.

Although I'm older now, the feeling of stepping on the UNC campus stays the same. Seeing how we're between baseball and football seasons, I wanted to document what I love about the Hill from an out of towner's perspective.

The shops on Franklin Street

In Cleveland there's not much Tar Heel apparel to be found. When I was younger online shopping wasn't really the "thing" yet, so getting into these stores were like Christmas. There's certainly a special feeling walking into a store and wanting to buy everything you see. Although we couldn't get to Chapel Hill every season, we make sure to get there after the championships and stock up on as much gear as possible. We're in the middle of planning this season's trip.

Sutton's Drug Store

One of the best burgers I've ever eaten, not to mention the awesome old school feel to it. Seeing all of the photos of alumni and signed jerseys hanging from the ceiling made it a very cool experience. Eating there made me feel like I was a student at UNC, which was pretty cool too.

He's Not Here (and the rest of the nightlife)

This is a recent addition to the list since I'm now old enough to partake in the festivities. The blue cups at He's Not lived up to every expectation; my only regret having too many to remember to take one as a souvenir. I was there in November 2016 so it was a little chilly and there wasn't a ton going on outside, but I can only imagine how fun that place can be when the weather is nice enough to be outside. We went to just about every bar that night, but He's Not is definitely stood out the most.

The Carolina Basketball Museum

I cannot believe this place is free; it is unbelievable. From the pre-show when you walk in with all the notable great alumni to the national championship trophies and rings at the end, it's hard to even take it all in. UNC did a tremendous job of bringing together the perfect amount of memorabilia, videos and explanations of what you're looking at. This amount of greatness all in one room is tough to top, unless you go next door to...

The Dean E. Smith Center

The history, the banners, the jerseys in the rafters; what college basketball experience can beat this? The first time walking in I was awestruck. After we took our seats my next goal was to find my favorite player's jersey in the rafters (who at the time were Joseph Forte and Vince Carter). Next came the band, followed by the pregame dives on the floor and the standing ovation from the Tar Heel faithful. I've seen my fair share of neutral site games, but nothing is better than taking in the game at the Dean Dome.

The People

I know this is cheesy but hear me out. I have been to Chapel Hill over a handful of times, and every single person I’ve spoken with has been nothing but kind. One of the best stories I have from visiting UNC is speaking with an employee at the basketball office. My family was hoping to drop off a few Sports Illustrateds to get autographed, so we all went inside to speak with someone. The employee was shocked to hear we had traveled from Cleveland, OH to catch a game, so she was nice enough to give us a tour of the Dean Dome.

After that amazing experience, we came back to the offices and she told us to hold on for a second. Lo and behold she comes walking out with the one and only Dean Smith. He spent a good 15 minutes having a conversation with us. I was a little too young to truly appreciate what he meant for the game then, but looking back I understand what how important and special he was. What other campus can you walk into an athletic office and meet the a legend? I don’t think in Durham Coach K is walking through those doors to meet a family from Ohio.

There are countless other reasons why I love Chapel Hill and UNC, but these are the ones that stand out the most to me. Maybe if I was a little better athlete this could have been my university, but just being able to experience from an outsider is pretty unbelievable.