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Things for visitors to UNC and Chapel Hill to know before and after Chelsea vs Wrexham

From parking to food, whether you’ve been to Chapel Hill or not, you should know a few things.

Supreme Court Rules Affirmative Action Is Unconstitutional In Landmark Case With Harvard And UNC Photo by Eros Hoagland/Getty Images

Wednesday is going to be a unique day in Chapel Hill for a ton of reasons. When storied English football club Chelsea and equally storied Welsh football club Wrexham face off in a friendly at Kenan Stadium, the atmosphere is going to be like no other event in the area’s history. It’s going to bring people who have never been to UNC as well as those who are veterans to events there. It might even bring Hollywood celebrities to the area for the first time.

So let’s try to help everyone out, shall we? Things are going to be different for those of you who’ve come here before, and for first time visitor, well, there’s a lot to know. Below you’ll find tips depending on where you fall, so feel free to skip ahead to the category to which you belong.

For Everyone


Traffic is going to be rough. It’s still a workday for people on campus, the UNC Hospitals, and a school day for students attending Summer II. With their days ending around the time lots open up, that’s going to be a lot of people trying to get in and out of Chapel Hill at the same time.

Residents of the area will tell you the two main highways around campus-NC 54 and 15-501-are not the fastest on regular workdays. This also doesn’t include the traffic that will build in Interstate 40 as people leave their jobs at the Research Triangle Park (RTP), basically located on a stretch of the Interstate just past Raleigh-Durham Airport. In other words-build in time to get to Chapel Hill, whether you’ve been here before or not. Also have some patience for folks outside in 90 degree heat standing on the roads trying to assist with traffic.

For Football Game Veterans


Lots on campus are not going to open until 5 PM.

I’ll say that again

Because of all of the reasons laid out above, campus lots are not going to open until 5 PM. The people who’ve paid for the right to park at the various lots on campus will not only have the right to park up until 5 PM, but they also will be able to stay past 5 in a lot of these locations. This includes employees and students, so unlike football game days where all folks are told to remove their vehicles, there will be cars in these lots.

Also, the 5 PM opening means that if you were hoping to get into town early to treat this like a normal tailgating Saturday, you’re unfortunately going to be out of luck. Thus, you probably will want to plan on your food and...other things...before the match. It might be worthwhile to come into Chapel Hill earlier in the day, grab something at one of the Franklin Street locales that you love going to, and then making your way to the spot you’ve purchased to park at for the match.

Both UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill have put out guides for parking on this game day, and note the town will start charging “event rate” parking at 2 PM. The good news is that if you’re willing to pay that, you already have your space for the day and won’t need to try to pay to park closer to Kenan. In fact, Tar Heel Express will have a pickup spot in front of the Methodist Church if you decide to spend the afternoon Downtown.

Tar Heel Express

7/18 update-The town of Chapel Hill announced on Tuesday that they are out of tickets for the Tar Heel Express. If you have not purchased one, you’re going to need to pay for one of the school lots, or rely on Uber/Lyft to get you to the stadium.

The Old Well

Folks who take extra time to visit UNC always want to make a stop by the Old Well. It’s such a picture-perfect spot and it’s the symbol of UNC.

The problem is that it’s closed off right now.

On May 30th, UNC started a project to improve the accessibility of the Old Well. You can read about what it’ll look like in the link above, but for purposes of your visit, know that the whole area is fenced off and you will not be able to access it.

For Newcomers to UNC and Chapel Hill


First off, welcome to Chapel Hill! Here’s hoping some of the charm and beauty of this area rubs off on you to make your visit even better. There’s a reason that those of us who attend the school keep coming back, and hopefully you’ll get to experience it.

The area around Kenan Stadium-in fact a good chunk of UNC-was built before cars were even a consideration. As a result, Parking around campus has always been a problem. On (American) Football game days it isn’t as big an issue as the school has everyone clear out all of the lots and they just sell those spaces to the outsiders. The problem is that this match is occurring on a weekday, meaning that people who work across campus-including at the Hospital that is right next door to the stadium-have the right to park there until 5 PM and beyond.

What this means for you is that you will find the area congested when you park, and if you have any plans to explore campus and the area around it before the match, you’ll basically need to get to Chapel Hill much earlier in the day. Plan to park off campus until it’s time to move. Otherwise, any sort of exploration will have to wait until post-match. The good news is that if you purchase a parking spot on campus, that spot is yours until Thursday morning so you can take your time getting back.

Both UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill have put out special guides for the parking situation on game day, and it’s worth looking at. Chapel Hill, for example, is going to start charging for event parting at 2 PM, meaning if you are enjoying downtown you’ll have to either move or just plan on staying there until after the match unless you want to pay twice. There are, however, places to park your vehicle to where you can access Chapel Hill Transit and take a free bus up to Franklin Street. Either way, if you bought a parking pass that has a specific location on it, you won’t be able to access that spot until 5 PM.

It’s also worth looking up that specific location to make sure you’re headed to the right spot, as a lot of these lots only hold a few vehicles and may seem remote. The UNC site linked above has a map of each of the lots they are selling for, just click “public parking” and then the link to the site you purchased. From there, you’re going to want to make sure you know how to walk to Kenan Stadium, which the site also will allow you to do. It’s not always clear which direction you need to go as Kenan Stadium is actually well hidden inside campus. For the most part you aren’t going to know you’re there’re there.

Tar Heel Express

7/18 Update-The Town of Chapel Hill announced they are completely sold out of tickets for the Tar Heel Express. Hopefully you’ve already paid for your pass, otherwise you’ll need to investigate what other parking lots are still available for purchase, try to get to Franklin Street earlier, or use Uber/Lyft to get to the area. Also, be aware that local apartment complexes and businesses are very area people use their places to park for events and will be able to keep tow companies in business.

Again, if you were planning to use Tar Heel Express and haven’t bought a pass, you’ll need to look for another option.


Kenan Stadium acts as sort of a dividing line between the older parts and the newer parts of campus, and as mentioned for a place that holds 55,000 people it’s really well hidden. The area from Franklin Street to Kenan is where all of the classic buildings on campus are located. This normally would include the Old Well, but that was fenced off May 30th, as they are doing some renovations to the structure. Still, if you have some time, take a chance to stroll the campus as it’s very easy to get around. You’ll likely run into students since the second summer session is still ongoing.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

No one wants to just watch the match, right? You want to know where you can grab a meal before the match, drink either before or after the match, and where you may want to stop while you head out of town. Don’t worry, here are the legends of the area.

  • Sutton’s-Pregame or Next Day-(Location)-This is the lunch spot of legend on Franklin Street. Anyone walking in will be transported to a time when “drug store” meant a place to get medicines as well as something to eat from a flat top grille and counter service. The pharmacy has long departed, but the food has stayed and survived the COVID closures. If someone went to school at UNC, they got a meal at Sutton’s and the photos on the wall and hanging from the ceiling are a testament to this. There is no better place to get a feel of the town than grabbing lunch from here, just know they close at 2:30
  • Carolina Brewery-Pregame-(Location) Carolina Brewery was the first brewpub to open in Chapel Hill-actually in the whole Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area-and their beers have won medals at various beer competitions. They’ll close up not too long after the match’s conclusion so that’s why it’s just a pregame spot. Also note they are several blocks away from the rest of these locations, so it does have a bit of a different vibe.
  • Linda’s-Pre and Post-(Location)-From the moment you walk in this bar you are wrapped in the feeling of just about any hole in the wall you may have been into. But the food is good, they have a great selection of beers, and most importantly-they have cheese fries. In some places, this dish can go wrong but somehow through the years, Linda’s has perfected the ability to take frozen crinkle cuts, cheese, bacon, scallions, and ranch dressing and make it one of the best things you’ve had. Depending on how much you’ve enjoyed the rest of the area, those fries may taste even better.
  • Sup Dogs-Pre and Post-(Location)-This may be the best mix of affordable eats and alcohol on the street, as they offer a ton of of hot dog, burger, and chicken combinations as well as mixed drinks for you to enjoy. They also have the wonderful soda called Cheerwine on the fountain, and if you’ve never had it-order some. If you want a quick bite before the game or something to pad your stomach after, it’s the go to place.
  • Cosmic Cantina-Pre and Post-(Location)-Technically this TexMex place can provide you with food before the game, but most students go to grab a late night meal after going up and down Franklin street. You won’t find an obvious sign for it. Just look for Johnny T-Shirt, turn into the building like you are going to walk into that store but go past the door, and in the back you’ll see Cosmic. It’s served many a late night wonderer and made a quick burrito meal cool before anyone had heard of the word “Chipotle.”
  • Top of the Hill-Pre and Post-(Location)-This is where a lot of the iconic shots of Franklin Street are shot from, as it’s the only place that is on the second level overlooking Franklin Street-at least until Raising Caine’s opens up across the street. If you’re looking for “higher end” food before the match, this is your place, and if your looking for the place with the most room inside and out to hang after the match, this is also your place. At some point they’ll shut down food service and it’ll be bar-only till 2 AM.
  • Goodfellows-Pre and Post-(Location) I’m putting Pre as a courtesy as they’ll be open on Wednesday ahead of the match. Unlike the other places here mentioned where you can get both food and drinks, Goodfellows is drinks only. It also has a unique vibe of the Chapel Hill bars in that you have to go downstairs in order to access the bar, and the bar itself has a very claustrophobic feel. One can imagine how lively things will be there after the match.
  • He’s Not Here-Postgame-(Location) This is the bar of legend in Chapel Hill. It serves beer, lots of beer. I mean beer in 32 oz cups. If you are just looking for a place where you go in, get beer, and hang out, this is it. The building itself requires a climb up some steps to get in, and the actual sitting area inside is really small. But, it makes up for it with a huge front yard with picnic tables sitting under some magnolia trees. It’s the place to go in Chapel Hill for beer at some point, as even Usher knew when J. Cole’s Dreamville was in the area in April. Note for it being a legend, it isn’t obvious where it’s at. Just hang a right at the place that looks like it used to be a gas station and you’ll see the crowd.
  • The Crunkleton-Postgame-(Location) This is the yang to the yin of He’s Not Here. The selection of whiskies-especially bourbon-is top notch, and they have several hand crafted concoctions. The setting is upscale with dim lighting, leather seating, wood everywhere, and bartenders in shirts and bowties. Make no mistake, this place will be popular after the game, but if you’re feeling more like a glass of bourbon or a well-made cocktail this is for you.
  • Time Out-Postgame-(Location) As all the bars close up shop at 2 AM, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to eat something for...reasons. Worry not as another Chapel Hill legend is open 24 hours to assuage your hunger with one of the greatest creations known to man: The Chicken Biscuit. Time out has full meals available with sides, but truth be told what everyone goes here for is the square biscuit filled with pieces of fried chicken and topped with cheddar cheese. It will cure what ails you.
  • Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen-Breakfast Next Day-(Location) Say you managed to grab a hotel in Chapel Hill or you just stayed out all night and aren’t hitting the road back until Thursday morning, a stop at this Chapel Hill institution is also required. It’s consistently known as having some of the best biscuits in the state, all made by hand, and has a wide variety of options-including chicken in case you didn’t get enough of that at Time Out. Despite the line the drive through gets you in and out quickly. They are only open for breakfast through lunch, though, so either you’ll want to start your Wednesday here or wrap up your way out of town with it.
  • Carolina Coffee Shop-Breakfast Next Day-(Location) If you’re done with heavy food after Wednesday-and that’s completely understandable-you can hit up this institution that is the longest service restaurant in Chapel Hill. Just a wide variety of meals, coffee, small bites and what not that’ll give you one last taste of Franklin Street before you go.
  • Merritt’s Grill-Lunch before or Next Day-(Location) Finally, if you want a lunch spot before getting into the heart of Chapel Hill or want a place to go to on your way out of town, stop of the home of the best BLT you’ll probably ever have. They also have a stand at Kenan Stadium during the game, but sometimes getting it fresh is best. The secret is the bacon, and if there’s one thing you can trust a place in North Carolina to get right-it’s bacon.

Ok, that was A LOT. Hopefully this helps locals, visitors, or Hollywood celebrities coming into Chapel Hill for this event out.

Did I miss something? Throw out some recommendations in the comments if you feel something else needs to be said, and to everyone coming for the match here’s hoping you have a great time!