Durham is one of my favorite places to visit in North Carolina. The community has such a vibrant culture, from the artists, to the restaurants and bars, to the carefully curated shops. I am sharing a list of the 23 awesome things to do in Durham plus you can see more Durham favorites here. It’s easy to see why Vogue named Durham as North Carolina’s hippest city.
23 Awesome Things To Do in Durham
What to Do in Durham
Visit the Various Art Galleries
David and I thoroughly enjoy visiting art galleries together, and Durham has an amazing selection of galleries. Some of our favorites include PS118, 5 Points Gallery, and the art gallery in the 21c Museum Hotel (reservations required to tour). Last fall, Durham was hosting the Streetery, which was a fun way to experience Durham while socially distancing. While the Streetery isn’t technically still occurring, you could easily recreate the experience using the same itinerary.
Shop the Latest Fashion at Vert & Vogue
Vert & Vogue has an excellent selection of men’s and women’s clothes and accessories. Their clothes are carefully selected and beautifully displayed. I am particularly fond of their mission to help revitalize Durham and their commitment to creating a greener world, and supporting a variety of causes I feel strongly about as well. Check out their story Vert & Vogue.
Grab Ice Cream at The Parlour
The Parlour has the best flavors of ice cream and is the perfect spot for a treat on a warm day or dessert any time. The salted butter caramel is my go-to order. They’re not serving indoors yet, so take your cone to go and enjoy in the plaza right across the street. It’s a great spot for people watching!
Explore the Beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Photo from Sarah P. Duke Gardens Instagram
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens are an absolutely stunning way to spend a day with four distinct gardens on the property to explore. Admission is free to enjoy and there is a paid parking lot close to the entrance. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon exploring and taking a break from reality while being surrounded by all the beauty.
Hike the Trails at the Eno River State Park
The Eno River State Park offers a great view of the Piedmont region with awesome hiking trails perfect for taking your dogs. Winston loves this venue to hike because he gets to cool off in the river. It is pretty shallow so canoeing can be difficult unless it is right after a good rain. There are several access points and two picnic areas. The Eno is also a great place for fishing, too! For more details on activities that are available at the Eno River State Park, check out this page.
A great way to celebrate the Eno is the annual Festival for the Eno, which is held every summer. It features food trucks, craft vendors, and live music on 4 stages. Mark you calendars to check it out!
Cheer on the Home Team at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Durham Bulls have a great atmosphere to watch Triple A baseball and enjoy one of the best parts of summer! The stadium offers fun events (such as Bark in the Park) and their food and drink vendors are outstanding.
Shop Local and Support Small Businesses
Durham has some of my favorite unique shops in the state! Here is a great round up of some of my favorite fashion boutiques. One of the best spots to shop for unique home or gift items is Chet Miller. Parker & Otis is another fantastic option that offers a fun shopping experience plus a quaint cafe that serves delicious sandwiches and coffee and market to grab wine, beers, and gourmet food.
Experience the Stunning Duke Chapel
I remember attending Handel’s Messiah at Duke Chapel when I was a senior in high school with my aunt and being completely blown away at the magnitude of the chapel. While I had seen it before, there was something about seeing it decorated for Christmas and the sheer beauty of the concert. Check the tour schedule here and be sure to make a visit. It’s a beauty any time of year! P.S. I wrote an article highlighting the history of the Duke Chapel. You can read more about it here.
Concert at Carolina Theatre
David and I went to the Carolina Theatre to hear one of our favorite artists, Devin Dawson. It’s an excellent venue for concerts in such a quaint, cozy, intimate setting. The Carolina Theatre also operates as a cinema. Check out a full line up of their events here.
Goat Yoga at Hux Family Farm
This 4.5 acre farm is a fun place to connect with nature using animals to create happiness! We had a lovely time during one of the guided goat yoga classes. And, to be quite honest, I didn’t do very much yoga. Instead, I did a lot snuggling goats. It’s a ton of fun and a great way to spend an afternoon!
Take in a Show at Durham Performing Arts Center
DPAC offers a great variety of shows, everything from concerts, stand up comedy, to off-Broadway shows. It is located right beside DBAP, and across the street from the American Tobacco Campus. It’s walkable from several delicious restaurants and bars listed below plus in close proximity to the 21c Hotel.
Other Things to Do:
Where to Eat in Durham
Have a Leisurely Supper at Mateo Bar de Tapas
One of the top five best meals of my life was at Mateo. This was one of my favorite nights out with my girlfriends ever. We had the best time enjoying the tapas recommended by the staff, and some of the best wine. See more here (from my V early days of blogging).
Try all of the EMpire Restaurants
It’s really hard to pick one favorite out of the eMpire restaurants in the Bull City, so I wrote a review of them all. Chef Michael Lee has established quite the eMpire of restaurants in the Bull City, currently with 4 delicious concepts and 4 more on the way. I appreciate that his menus are small and intentional, and the spaces the restaurants occupy model this quaint feeling. While these are elevated dining experiences, they feel like you’re at a good friend’s home.
Try Some of the Best Eastern NC BBQ in the Triangle at Picnic BBQ
Picnic BBQ is some of the best eastern North Carolina BBQ I’ve had in the Triangle. Y’all know I’m particular about my BBQ, and this drive to Durham is totally worth it for that vinegar based sandwich and those fried okra! Also, their dessert is on point, too!
Enjoy a Casual Lunch on the Patio at Geer St. Garden
Geer Street Garden is a wonderful place to relax and unwind on the beautiful, shaded patio while enjoying good food and drinks. It’s a casual atmosphere that in former Fletcher’s Gulf Station that serves up delicious options! Their Cobb salad is my favorite.
Order the Hush-Honeys at Saltbox Seafood Joint
The Hush-Honeys at Saltbox Seafood Joint are outstanding, y’all! I am a huge fan of their shrimp rolls and a Cheerwine to wash it down with. Saltbox is a Durham staple and a must-try in the Bull City!
Other Favorite Places to Eat:
Where to Drink in Durham
Order the Frosé at the Unscripted Pool Bar
The Unscripted Hotel has so much to offer the community, even if you are not a guest at the hotel. They have an amazing rooftop pool with a bar that serves amazing frosé. They offer live music in the hotel lobby and special events such a cocktail making classes or holiday party events.
Take in the City Lights from the Durham Hotel Rooftop
The Durham Hotel is a mid-century boutique hotel in the heart of Downtown Durham. It has a rooftop bar that serves up spectacular sunsets, delicious plates, homemade nutty butty ice cream cones, and a wide variety of cocktails, beer, and wine options.
Experience the Best Craft Cocktails at Kingfisher
I can never find appropriate words to describe just how much I love Kingfisher. Their cocktails are amazing (the one in the top picture is the Open Borders), the space is hip and welcoming, there is so much attention to detail, and their personal connections to the space and products shines through. Sean and Michelle are so talented and kind and are exceptional at building community. Plan on spending quite a bit of time enjoying the space and making new friends!
Revive your Spirit at Corpse Reviver
Durham Distillery, which distills Conniption Gin, opened a gin bar in below the distillery in an old coffin shop. Melissa and Lee have created such an outstanding brand and their bar is a perfect tribute to that. We enjoyed a lovely summer afternoon on the patio. They do take reservations and it’s a short walk to Geer St. Gardens if you wanted to grab food before or after your cocktail!
Enjoy Southern Sourced Beer at Fullsteam Brewery
As a North Carolinian born and bred, and the granddaughter/niece/friend of farmers in eastern North Carolina, it’s safe to say that I adore the mission at Fullsteam Brewery. Their mission is from plow to pint to craft a southern beer economy that supports local farmers, foragers, and agricultural entrepreneurs. Their Southern ingredients give their beer distinct character while creating jobs for NC farmers and food producers. They also serve up some delicious food in Rigsbee Tavern including their pimento cheese sandwich (on sour dough! with pickles!) and their parmesan fries (duh).
Relax on the Ponysaurus Patio with Little Pizza Box
Ponysaurus is such a fun brewery with great food options including food trucks on Tuesdays & Wednesdays and Little Pizza Box (the sister to Oakwood Pizza Box, which is our #1 pizza place in Raleigh). Ponysaurus prides itself on creating forward-thinking, backward-tasting beers that are meant to be savored and enjoyed.
Where to Stay in Durham
Relax at the 21c Museum Hotel
Since 2015, 21c Durham has been engaging visitors and locals alike with the art of today. Explore the current exhibition, dine among thought-provoking works at Counting House, or lounge in the original bank vault – transformed by contemporary art. It’s my favorite spot to stay in the Bull City for its location and for all that it offers its guests. Right now, the art gallery is open by appointment only. See more from our date night staycation here.
Check out additional recaps here: hotel recap // afternoon exploring // art gallery // Counting House
Photos by Glory Roze Photography
Learn more about Durham and all that is has to offer in this welcome video and by visiting this website.
If you plan a trip to this fun, exciting city, I’d love to hear from you about what you enjoyed and any things to do in Durham that may not be on this list. This former tobacco town has a lot to offer and boasts such an interesting atmosphere!
Which of these top things to do in Durham would you like to try? Let me know in a comment below!
This post was originally published in June 2017 and was sponsored by Discover Durham. It has since been updated and recirculated in 2021.
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Kelsey @ So Much Life says
Great list, Meghan! I’m archiving this for when I (someday) have a chance to visit Durham. I’ve wanted to visit the Carolinas for a while, and the flight time from Austin isn’t bad at all…I just need to bite the bullet and make it happen!
Great recap about Durham! You mentioned all my favorite places but one. Nana Taco! They have the best food.
So many great spots! I’m excited to visit Durham. Thanks!
Amy Colasuono says
I think I need to buy a plane ticket ASAP!!
There are so so so so many wonderful reasons to love Durham! I agree with all your recommendations and would add to this list but then I’d end up listing a gazillion more places 😀 Hooray Bull City! ?
Yes to all! I grew up in Durham and it is still my favorite spot. “I’d rather be shot to death in durham than die of boredom in cary”
Julie Marciniak says
???? They still say that about Durham?!? Moved here in ’91 when that WAS a possibility downtown. Look at it now. ???? ?
Jacquelin T says
Loved This! You’ve got a new follower?Shared!!
Heather B. says
You obviously love our town and have spent time figuring out the best we have to offer! I do want to add that Durham has some incredible dog trainers that could get you to toss those pinch collars in the trash. Hello folks!
This is a great list, Meghan!!
I’ve done about half the stuff!
One dessert place you have to try is Royal Cheesecake & Varieties! They are located near the Hyati center. They have great cheesecake, cakes, and this awesome Grandad’s dirty secret cookie!!
Rachel Abi says
I have spent a good deal of time in Durham but I love that I didn’t know many of these! I’m excited to take an adventure soon!!