A Travel Price Comparison for North Carolina Chapel Hill vs. Wilmington for Attractions, Nightlife, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is a collegiate, southern, and student-oriented town. Other reasons to visit include museums, nightlife, and food.

Wilmington

Wilmington is a welcoming, charming, and historic city. Other popular activities here include beaches, shopping, and museums.

Chapel Hill and Wilmington: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Scenic old town
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Less popular for students


Is there more to do in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Wilmington than Chapel Hill, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Wilmington is better known for its beaches and historical sights, while Chapel Hill is more popular for its museums and nightlife. Wilmington is more touristy than Chapel Hill and is popular for its laid back beaches, historical waterfront area, and university setting. Also, Wilmington is famous for the Battleship North Carolina. Chapel Hill is well known for being the home of the oldest public university in the United States.

How is Chapel Hill different from Wilmington?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Wilmington and Chapel Hill. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Chapel Hill is great for its historical sights. Also, Wilmington is not as popular, but is still a nice city for its sights and museums.

With a variety of museums, monuments, and historical sights, a trip to Chapel Hill can be an interesting and educational experience. Many of the museums are affiliated with UNC. A highlight of many trips is a visit to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Hours can vary, so check the schedule ahead of time. Also worth visiting are the Ackland Art Museum and the Carolina Basketball Museum.

Wilmington offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. There are art, history, and science museums around town. The Battleship North Carolina is a popular destination. Science enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science or the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. For art, head to the Cameron Art Museum or Art in Bloom Gallery.


Is the Food Better in Chapel Hill or Wilmington? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Both Chapel Hill and Wilmington offer notable local cuisine and restaurants.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Chapel Hill area. Students often eat on Franklin Street, which has a diverse mix of casual and slightly nicer restaurants. You'll find Indian food, Mediterranean, Italian, and Greek. The city also has excellent barbecue and other southern favorites.

There are plenty of up and coming restaurants around Wilmington. Head to the waterfront for local seafood restaurants that offer outdoor seating and fresh caught fish. There are also farm-to-table restaurants and local diners with casual food.

Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for Nightlife?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Chapel Hill is great for nightlife. Also, Wilmington is not as popular, but is still a nice city for nightlife and partying.

Many people head to Chapel Hill for the nightlife scene. Most of the nightlife is centered around the student population. Franklin Street has a number of bars where students hang out. There are also parties hosted by fraternities and sororities. Things are quieter during the summer months when students are mostly gone.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Wilmington. Live music is popular around town. There are also bars, lounges and dance clubs. When the weather is warm, many places make use of the outdoor setting, which makes for a relaxed and fun evening.

Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for Beaches?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Wilmington is well known for the beach. However, Chapel Hill is not a beach destination.

Wilmington is considered a top beach destination. Nearby you'll find Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, and Carolina Beach. They have long stretches of sand and great waves. The water is usually warm enough for swimming between the months of April and October. During these peak months parking can be challenging, but during the quieter times, you shouldn't have trouble.

Chapel Hill is not a beach destination.


Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for its Old Town?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Wilmington is a popular place for its historic old town charm. However, Chapel Hill does not have a historic old town.

Wilmington offers a nice historic old town area. The Historic District is along the waterfront and has 18th and 19th century architecture. There are also great restaurants and interesting shops.

Chapel Hill does not have a historic old town.

Is the Shopping Better in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Shopping is a popular activity in both Wilmington and Chapel Hill.

Many visitors go to Chapel Hill to go shopping. There are a mix of local shops, larger shopping centers, and suburban malls. There are also weekly farmer's markets that are fun to check out.

Plenty of visitors enjoy shopping while in Wilmington. Head downtown for the most interesting local shops. You'll find boutiques and souvenir shops where you can pick up art, accessories, or antiques.

Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for Families?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Wilmington is well known for its family-friendly activities. Also, Chapel Hill is still popular, but not quite as popular for its kid-friendly activities.

Wilmington is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. Near town you'll find several beaches - Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, and Carolina Beach. They're all family-friendly and perfect for a day's activity. The city also has the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, the Children's Museum of Wilmington, and the Wilmington Railroad Museum. For a rainy day there are also indoor play areas and entertainment centers.

Chapel Hill offers lots of family activities. You can wander around the UNC campus or visit one of the museums affiliated with the school. This includes a planetarium that has regular shows and movies (The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center). There are also science exhibits geared specifically towards kids.


Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for Couples?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Wilmington is well known for couples. Also, Chapel Hill is still popular, but not quite as popular for romance.

Couples visit Wilmington frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. The beaches are great for a relaxing day of swimming and sunbathing. In the evening head into town and enjoy one of the local seafood restaurants on the waterfront. You'll also find great shopping and historical sights in the area.

Chapel Hill is a nice destination for couples. There's an eclectic mix of restaurants on Franklin Street. Couples will also enjoy exploring the campus at UNC, visiting the botanical garden, or checking out one of the town's museums.

Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for Students?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Chapel Hill is a must-visit destination for its student-friendly activities. Also, Wilmington is not as popular, but is still a nice city for students.

Chapel Hill is a great destination for students. It's a quintessential college town. UNC has a nice campus and Franklin Street is the main spot for restaurants and shopping. Most of the students live near or on campus, but once you head further out things get more suburban.

Wilmington is a good town to visit for students. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is a popular school that brings many students to town.

Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Chapel Hill is a nice place to visit for times when you don't have a car. However, Wilmington is not a good destination for its public transit.

While Chapel Hill offers some public transit options, it might not be your first choice. There are bus routes that operate between Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Public transit is generally limited in Wilmington. There are public buses around town, but for practical reasons, you'll want to have your own vehicle.


Is Chapel Hill or Wilmington a more walkable city?

Chapel Hill
Wilmington

Chapel Hill and Wilmington both are notable when exploring on foot.

Chapel Hill is a somewhat walkable town. The area around UNC is the most walkable part of town. Elsewhere things are very suburban and you'll need a car.

Wilmington is somewhat walkable. The Historic District is best explored on foot. You can also get around Wrightsville Beach on foot, but traveling between these places requires a car.

For even more information, also check out Is Chapel Hill Worth Visiting? and Is Wilmington Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Wilmington or Chapel Hill?

How long in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

In either Chapel Hill or Wilmington, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Wilmington than Chapel Hill because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 1-3 days is a good amount of time for Chapel Hill, and 2-5 days is enough time in Wilmington.

Families should spend more time in Wilmington than Chapel Hill. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Wilmington, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Wilmington than Chapel Hill. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Wilmington that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Chapel Hill than Wilmington if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Chapel Hill.


  • How many days in Chapel Hill or Wilmington? Ideal Length of Stay
    Chapel Hill 1-3 
    Wilmington 2-5

One day in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

With museums and nightlife around the collegiate town of Chapel Hill, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Chapel Hill, one day is sufficent for most.

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the welcoming city of Wilmington. It's also a great beach destination, too. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A weekend in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Chapel Hill, there's plenty to do. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town.

Visitors enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the welcoming destination of Wilmington. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. This city offers something for everyone. Plenty of people spend a weekend in the area when traveling. If you enjoy all that's offered here, then a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.


Five days in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Chapel Hill, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Visitors enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the charming city of Wilmington. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Many people spend five days here.If you enjoy all that's offered here, then five days is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

A week in Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Chapel Hill is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Wilmington. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Most people come for the beaches. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Bicycle Tours in United States of America, Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in United States of America, The Best Coach Bus Tours in United States of America, and The Best Adventure Tours to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Wilmington or Chapel Hill?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Chapel Hill is $164, while the average daily cost in Wilmington is $204. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Chapel Hill and Wilmington in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Chapel Hill $95
    Wilmington $120
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Chapel Hill $190
    Wilmington $240
Compare Hotels in Chapel Hill and Wilmington

Looking for a hotel in Chapel Hill or Wilmington? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Chapel Hill


Hotels in Wilmington


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Chapel Hill Hotel Prices and Wilmington Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Chapel Hill $34
    Wilmington $47

Is it cheaper to fly into Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Prices for flights to both Wilmington and Chapel Hill change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Chapel Hill $49
    Wilmington $56

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Chapel Hill $17
    Wilmington $17

Tours and Activities in Chapel Hill

Here are a few actual costs in Chapel Hill for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Chapel Hill Historic Churches Tour: $16
  • Chapel Hill, NC: Murder Mystery Detective Experience: $15
  • Coastal Excursion/Sunset Cruise/Sand Dollars/Sea Shells/Horses: $225
  • Morning Aerial Adventure Adult Course from Riegelwood: $55

Tours and Activities in Wilmington

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Wilmington.

  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure Self-Guided City Game: $10
  • Wilmington Pirate Walking Tour: $20
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure in Wilmington by Zombie Scavengers: $20
  • Eagles Island 50 minute Narrated Boat Cruise: $21
  • History and Architecture Walking Tour : $25
  • Wilmington History and Architecture Tour: $25
  • Ghosts of the Port City Haunted Walking Tour: $26
  • Craft Beer and History Crawl Shared Experience in Wilmington: $30
  • Wilmington Ghosts: Phantoms of Pirates and Patriots Tour: $33
  • Black Water Adventure Cruise: $33
  • Trolley Pub Public Tour: $49
  • Island Hopper Cruise in Wrightsville Beach: $50

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Chapel Hill $40
    Wilmington $39

Sample the Local Flavors in Chapel Hill

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Chapel Hill:

  • Wacky Fayetteville Bar Crawl: By Let’s Roam: $12

Sample the Local Flavors in Wilmington

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Wilmington:

  • 2-Hour Wilmington E-Bike Bar Crawl: $50
  • 2-Hour Wilmington E-Bike Bar Crawl: $55


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Chapel Hill and Wilmington, we can see that Wilmington is more expensive. And not only is Chapel Hill much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Chapel Hill would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Chapel Hill and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Wilmington would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Wilmington than you might in Chapel Hill.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Chapel Hill Expensive? and Is Wilmington Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Wilmington has a larger population, and is about 94% larger than the population of Chapel Hill. When comparing the sizes of Chapel Hill and Wilmington, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington in the Summer?

Both Wilmington and Chapel Hill during the summer are popular places to visit. Many travelers come to Chapel Hill for the family-friendly experiences. Also, many visitors come to Wilmington in the summer for the beaches and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Chapel Hill is around the same temperature as Wilmington. Typically, the summer temperatures in Chapel Hill in July average around 79°F (26°C), and Wilmington averages at about 81°F (27°C).

In Wilmington, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Chapel Hill. In the summer, Chapel Hill often gets less sunshine than Wilmington. Chapel Hill gets 259 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Wilmington receives 283 hours of full sun.

Wilmington gets a good bit of rain this time of year. It rains a lot this time of the year in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill usually gets less rain in July than Wilmington. Chapel Hill gets 5.1 inches (129 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 8.1 inches (207 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Chapel Hill 79°F (26°C) 
    Wilmington 81°F (27°C)

Should I visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Chapel Hill and Wilmington. Many visitors come to Chapel Hill in the autumn for the shopping scene. Also, most visitors come to Wilmington for the shopping scene during these months.

In October, Chapel Hill is generally cooler than Wilmington. Daily temperatures in Chapel Hill average around 61°F (16°C), and Wilmington fluctuates around 65°F (18°C).

People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Wilmington this time of the year. In Chapel Hill, it's very sunny this time of the year. Chapel Hill usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Wilmington during autumn. Chapel Hill gets 211 hours of sunny skies, while Wilmington receives 227 hours of full sun in the autumn.

In October, Chapel Hill usually receives around the same amount of rain as Wilmington. Chapel Hill gets 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 2.7 inches (68 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Chapel Hill 61°F (16°C) 
    Wilmington 65°F (18°C)

Should I visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Chapel Hill as well as Wilmington. Most visitors come to Chapel Hill for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine during these months. Also, the winter months attract visitors to Wilmington because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Chapel Hill can be very cold during winter. Chapel Hill is much colder than Wilmington in the winter. The daily temperature in Chapel Hill averages around 40°F (5°C) in January, and Wilmington fluctuates around 45°F (7°C).

In the winter, Chapel Hill often gets less sunshine than Wilmington. Chapel Hill gets 162 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Wilmington receives 180 hours of full sun.

Chapel Hill usually gets less rain in January than Wilmington. Chapel Hill gets 3.2 inches (82 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 3.9 inches (98 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Chapel Hill 40°F (5°C) 
    Wilmington 45°F (7°C)

Should I visit Chapel Hill or Wilmington in the Spring?

Both Wilmington and Chapel Hill are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. Also, the beaches are the main draw to Wilmington this time of year.

In the spring, Chapel Hill is around the same temperature as Wilmington. Typically, the spring temperatures in Chapel Hill in April average around 60°F (16°C), and Wilmington averages at about 63°F (17°C).

It's quite sunny in Wilmington. The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill usually receives less sunshine than Wilmington during spring. Chapel Hill gets 251 hours of sunny skies, while Wilmington receives 278 hours of full sun in the spring.

In April, Chapel Hill usually receives around the same amount of rain as Wilmington. Chapel Hill gets 3.1 inches (78 mm) of rain, while Wilmington receives 2.9 inches (73 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Chapel Hill 60°F (16°C) 
    Wilmington 63°F (17°C)

Typical Weather for Wilmington and Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill Wilmington
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 40°F (5°C) 3.2 inches (82 mm) 45°F (7°C) 3.9 inches (98 mm)
Feb 43°F (6°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm) 47°F (9°C) 3.7 inches (94 mm)
Mar 52°F (11°C) 3.4 inches (87 mm) 55°F (13°C) 3.9 inches (99 mm)
Apr 60°F (16°C) 3.1 inches (78 mm) 63°F (17°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm)
May 68°F (20°C) 3.3 inches (84 mm) 70°F (21°C) 4.4 inches (113 mm)
Jun 76°F (24°C) 3.7 inches (93 mm) 77°F (25°C) 6 inches (152 mm)
Jul 79°F (26°C) 5.1 inches (129 mm) 81°F (27°C) 8.1 inches (207 mm)
Aug 78°F (26°C) 4.9 inches (125 mm) 80°F (27°C) 6.9 inches (176 mm)
Sep 73°F (23°C) 3.8 inches (96 mm) 75°F (24°C) 5 inches (128 mm)
Oct 61°F (16°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm) 65°F (18°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm)
Nov 53°F (11°C) 2.8 inches (72 mm) 56°F (14°C) 3.1 inches (79 mm)
Dec 44°F (7°C) 3.1 inches (78 mm) 49°F (9°C) 3.6 inches (92 mm)