A weekend in Durham, North Carolina is barely enough and you’ll have to come back because there’s more than a couple of days worth of stuff to do here. Thanks to an awesome food and beverage scene, outdoor options, history, and more, your weekend in the Bull City is going to be jam-packed with fun. So let’s see exactly how you can enjoy it.
A Weekend in Durham
This article was originally created on December 21, 2017. It has been maintained and updated (as of September 5, 2018) to reflect current viewpoints and North Carolina tourism and travel trends.
Fun Facts and Things to Remember
Pronounced as “Durm” with one syllable, the city has risen through the years thanks to tobacco (hence the name “Bull Durham”), later for African-American enterprise, health, education, and technology. Oh, and there was that awesome baseball movie with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. Over 230,000 people call this Piedmont city home and that number should steadily rise as more land gets developed in the coming years. Street names change when crossing major ones and sometimes without much warning. Don’t worry if you get lost at least once.
For more Durham background and history, check out Durham Tales by Jim Wise.
Where is Durham? Getting There
Durham is located in North Central North Carolina and is not far from the Virginia border if you’re traveling there via I-85. Many people also drive to Durham via I-40, or US Highway 70 or US Highways 15-501. You can also fly into nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which seems to be adding flights almost every day. I follow its map of non-stop destinations and am always excited to see the new additions popping up. When you visit Durham, remember that the airport is the only thing in the area known as “Raleigh-Durham.” You can thank us later.
Where to Stay
There are some really nice hotels in Durham and more keep popping up as the city grows as a travel destination. We included the Arrowhead Bed and Breakfast in our favorite hotels in North Carolina because we loved it. Oh, and it’s where we were married! If you’re looking for somewhere specific, take a look at the best places to stay in Durham, rated by price or by the customers who came here via our favorite booking sites. (Trip Advisor | Hotels.com)
If you’re like us, you’ll fall in love with the area are start looking through all the available homes for sale in Durham.
Things to Do in Durham
Food and Drink Scene
The Durham food scene is hard to encapsulate in one small section and we’ve broken it down at Travel Through Life. One great way to sample Bull City restaurants is via a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour. It’s a great way to eat, learn about the city, and meet like-minded foodies!
If you’ve got some time and want to dig into Durham, here’s a quick rundown of places to eat and when:
Coffee: Cocoa Cinnamon (Lakewood Location), Bean Traders, or Parker & Otis
Breakfast: Silver Spoon, Beyu Caffe, or Rise Biscuits & Donuts
Lunch: Picnic Durham, Toast, Ninth Street Bakery, the Tamale Factory and Tequila Bar, or Watts Grocery
Brunch: Grub, Hope Valley Diner, or Vin Rouge
Dinner Out: M Sushi or NanaSteak
Dinner In: Thai Cafe, Randy’s Pizza, or Mediterra Grill
Food Trucks: Sympathy for the Deli, Pie Pushers, or Chirba Chirba
Beer: Fullsteam, Ponysaurus, or Sam’s Quick Shop
Cocktails: Alley Twenty Six
Dessert: Locopops or The Parlour
Looking for a low-key night out? Check this guide to our favorite casual restaurants in Durham.
Going Out in Town
For a view of the city, head to the top of The Durham Hotel for a nice panorama. A big part of Durham’s revitalization happened around the American Tobacco Campus, which is a treat if you get a chance to walk around. Main Street cuts through Downtown Durham and is nice for walking around and checking out the city.
Indoor and Outdoor Entertainment
If you’re around during baseball season, please catch a game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It’s a beautiful new stadium and there’s hardly a bad seat in the house. If you’re in Durham during the winter, camp out in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium and you might be able to get a ticket to see the Duke Blue Devils. There’s a bit less demand for Duke football, but Wallace Wade Stadium is a nice place to watch a game. If the weather is not cooperating or you’re in the mood for something indoors, the Carolina Theater, DPAC, and multiple other venues have shows playing throughout the year.
We included a few of these things in our guide Winter Things to Do in North Carolina!
Duke & NCCU
There’s also Duke University, Duke Chapel, and Sarah P. Duke Gardens that everyone talks about. Both are an awesome sight if you’re fortunate enough to walk on campus Duke is not the only school in town, as North Carolina Central University is also here. Known as the nation’s first public Liberal Arts institution for African-Americans, NCCU is known as a campus that gives back, as all students are required to perform community service before graduating. Check their campus calendar for more info if you’re interested in stopping by or doing a tour.
Bonus Fun Fact: Don’t assume everyone is a Duke basketball fan because you’re in Durham. You’re still in the state of North Carolina, where most people root for the Tar Heels and even Wolfpack over Blue Devils.
Street Art, History, and Family Fun
Downtown Durham even has some cool street art, centering on the civil rights era like the one pictured above, which you’ll find at 120 Morris Street. There are also some cool murals dedicated to civil rights leader Pauli Murray throughout the city. Stop by the NC Mutual Life building and take yourself back to times when Durham’s “Black Wall Street” rose during the early 20th century. The Museum of Durham History can also give you insight into the city’s origins through modern times. There are also quite a few family-friendly places to explore, like the Lemur Center and Museum of Life and Science, where you and the kids can explore for hours. There’s much more but that one stands out above the rest.
Outdoor Things to Do
We can name off quite a few Outdoor things to do in Durham. Our personal favorites include Eno River State Park and Duke Forest. Of course, there’s Sarah P. Duke Gardens that I already mentioned. That beautiful collection of trees and flowers hosts quite a few events and weddings throughout the year. The Duke Wall is a nice long path as well, though I recommend visiting during spring when the massive magnolias start to blossom. There are many more city parks in Durham and we suggest you explore them when coming here.
Eno River State Park also featured among our favorite places to find fall hiking trails in North Carolina!
Day Trips from Durham
If you have time to get away from Durham for an afternoon, there are some pretty awesome small towns nearby. Some of our favorites include the small town of Hillsborough, which is fun for all travelers. Stay in the Bull City and you’re within a short drive from Durham to Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and the nearby Triad area that includes more North Carolina cities like Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. Another great thing about Durham is its proximity to the mountains and the coast, both within a few hours drive.
Our Thoughts and Yours
So, do you see that a weekend in Durham is not enough? Regardless, please come and check out this wonderful city. There’s so much to see, do, and especially eat in the Bull City, so what would you do first? Ever been to Durham? We’d love to know what you think in the comments section below.