**Update: The Children's Store at University Mall is closed. It has moved to 243 S. Elliot Rd. in Chapel Hill. However, La Vita Dolce with coffee, gelato, pastries, and more has opened in the mall.
What it is: University Mall in Chapel Hill is a completely different type of mall than Southpoint in Durham, but it's also a great way to spend a rainy day. The mall is fairly small and full of mostly unique non-chain boutiques and stores. While there's not a huge variety of stores, there's still enough to keep a toddler and mommy occupied.
I like to start at Southern Season for a little shopping for me. Southern Season is a paradise for foodies with exotic foods of all sorts as well as wine, candy, kitchen gadgets, and countless other interesting goods to peruse. There's also a room for cooking classes upstairs that hosts wine tastings and cooking classes with in-house and guest chefs. This store took over and added on to an old department store location, so it's food shopping on a huge scale. While it is really a store for parents, my child doesn't mind sitting in his stroller, watching, and smelling all of the fancy foods as we stroll through the store. He also enjoys the occasional food sample and promise of chocolate treat at the end of our visit.
After Southern Season you can head out into the mall itself. As stated earlier, the mall is very small and always uncrowded. Therefore, it seems like a great place for toddlers to stretch their legs. They can walk and run up and down the mall where they are in full view of their parents without many other people in their path.
Near Southern Season is a fabulous toy store, A Children's Store. This store has half of it's location devoted to younger toddlers and babies and half devoted to older kids. This store seems to have quite a variety of unique and educational toys. There are ones at many price points as well as bins at the front of the store with little toys for only a few dollars. One of the nicest things about this store is the train table on one side. My son loves to go play with the table while I look at toys nearby in relative peace. The store also offers free gift wrap on your purchases!
Recently opened across the mall from the toy store is a new store called My Fairy Godmother which is completely devoted to all things girly and pink. For all the little girls out there, this store looks great for princess and fairy attire. I would love to have a girl and be able to check this one out!
In the middle of the mall is the Chick-fil-A for a great kid-friendly lunch stop.
Further down is a little bit of a mystery right now. There should be a great hobby store called Hungates with, what I've heard, is a great train table in the back. There should also be a Waldenbooks. However, I have heard recently that they are no longer there. Please let us know if you know whether they're still open or not.
What we like: We like how the mall is uncrowded to there's lots of room for the little ones to roam. We also like exploring the variety of stores that we can't normally find at your typical mall.
What we would change: Unlike Southpoint there is no play area in this mall, so there's no place specifically designated for kids to play. In addition, there are quite a few stores that are not kid friendly so you do have to make sure your child doesn't go explore one of those.
Website and other important information: University Mall is located off Estes Blvd. in Chapel Hill off of 15-501 just north of its intersection with Hwy. 54.
Address: 201 South Estes Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-7001
Phone Number: (919) 967-6934
Hours: 10am-9pm Monday-Saturday, 1pm-6pm Sunday
1. View of A Southern Season from the parking lot