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50+ Great Things to Do in Durham NC (The Durham Bucket List)

Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on April 24, 2024.

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If you’re looking for fun things to do in Durham NC today—including special events throughout the year—this guide has everything you’ll ever need. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to come back because there’s enough stuff to do for more than a couple of days.

And exploring Durham’s awesome restaurants and breweries, along with its outdoor options, history, and kid-friendly fun that will keep every weekend in Durham jampacked. Trust me.

So with the challenge laid out, let’s see exactly how you can enjoy this awesome city in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

If you need to find something specific in this guide, we’ve organized it into the following sections:

  • Where is Durham?
  • The History of Durham
  • Visiting Today (and Where to Stay in Durham)
  • Annual Events (January to December During a Typical Year)
  • Things to Do in Durham This Weekend (and All Year!)
  • Indoor Fun
  • Outdoor Activities
  • Restaurants
  • Drinks and Nightlife
    • Breweries
    • Distilleries
    • Bars
  • Things to Do Around Durham (Day Trips)
  • More Things to Do in Durham NC (Travel Guides)

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

Where is Durham, North Carolina?

Rcsprinter123 CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Rcsprinter123 CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Durham is located in Central North Carolina near the Virginia Border. The county borders five NC counties, including the following:

  • Person County (North)
  • Granville County (Northeast)
  • Wake County (East-Southeast)
  • Chatham County (South)
  • Orange County (West)

You can visually plan all of the Durham attractions mentioned below with the following maps:

The History of Durham NC

Durham NC Downtown American Tobacco Campus

Before you start exploring all the fun things to do in Durham this weekend or any other time, it’s important to understand the city’s rich history.

Here are 15 historical facts about Durham:

  • Prior to European settlement, the area that is now Durham was inhabited by Native Americans, including the Occoneechi and Eno people.
  • John Lawson explored the area in the early 1700s and referred to it as “the Flower of the Carolinas” in his chronicles.
  • The earliest settlers arrived in the mid-1750s, developing grist mills and living off the land. West Point on the Eno is the best preserved of the grist mills. You can find the remnants of more mills in Eno River State Park, along the Eno River.
  • A few years before the Revolutionary War, some area residents joined the Regulators, who rebelled against the Colonial government in 1771.
  • After the Revolutionary War and before the Civil War, massive plantations were developed in the area. Stagville Plantation was the center of one of the largest in the South. Enslaved Africans were brought to work these plantations and the area’s farms, too.
  • In 1849, about a decade before the Civil War broke out, Dr. Bartlett Durham sold four acres of land to be used by the railroad.
  • During the Civil War, many Durhamites fought for the Confederacy.
  • In 1865, Union General Sherman and Confederate General Johnston negotiated the largest surrender and the end of the Civil War at Bennett Place in Durham.
  • Durham grew around the railroad station that was built on Dr. Durham’s former land and was incorporated in 1866. Compared to its neighbors in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Durham is a fairly young city.
  • After the Civil War, Durham became a major player in the growing tobacco industry. Brightleaf tobacco was Durham’s signature blend, leading to the success of families like the Dukes and spawning multiple successful corporations. American Tobacco, Liggett & Myers, and R.J. Reynolds are a few prominent examples.
  • Durham County was formed by the NC General Assembly in 1881.
  • In 1892, Trinity College was brought to Durham from Randolph County. The school relocated to land donated by Washington Duke and Julian Carr. It was renamed Duke University in 1924.
  • Durham is also known for its history of African-American entrepreneurship. North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (1898) and Mechanics and Farmers Bank (1907) were both founded in Durham.
  • Local leaders from Durham contributed to the Civil Rights era in a variety of ways. Reverend Douglas Moore and others pioneered the sit-in, which would lead to the Woolworth’s Sit-in in Greensboro.
  • Research Triangle Park (RTP) was established in 1959 and is central to Duke University, NC State University in Raleigh, and UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s the largest research park in the US and is home to more than 300 companies.

For more Durham history, the North Carolina Collection at the main branch of the Durham County Library has an excellent bibliography. I’m overwhelmed every time I visit!

Read More: 125+ Important Facts About North Carolina You Should Know (History, Geography, and More!)

Visiting Today (and Where to Stay in Durham NC)

Today, Durham is a booming city that recognizes its history while pushing ahead toward the future. If you’ve never visited the city before, we think you should stay downtown at one of these hotels:

  • Check out The Durham Hotel (315 E Chapel Hill St) to kick off your weekend in Bull City. It’s an amazing representation of our city, and its rooftop hosts one of its best views.
Unscripted overlay
  • 21c Museum Hotel (111 N Corcoran St) is also just down the street and home to a cool and quirky art collection.
  • Unscripted (202 Corcoran St) is a popular choice, especially because it is the only hotel in downtown Durham with a pool.

Read More: Durham Airbnbs and The Coolest Airbnbs in North Carolina

Annual Events in Durham

Durham downtown drone

If you have a specific time you plan on visiting Durham or getting out for the weekend, these fun events should keep you busy throughout the year.

Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar

January to March

  • January: KwanzaaFest closes out the seven days of Kwanzaa and is half at the Durham Armory. Doors open at noon and the African American Dance Ensemble’s performances begin at 2:00 pm. More info is available here.
  • February: The Hayti Heritage Film Festival’s main goal is to “keep Black film alive,” with an emphasis placed on creators from the South. Durham’s historic Hayti community and the city’s African-American legacy also remain at the forefront during this annual festival.
Events in Durham NC Bull City Food and Beer Experience DPAC Image
  • More February: Another awesome February event in Durham is the Bull City Food & Beer Experience at DPAC. Proceeds from your ticket go to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association and Band Together.

Read More: Day Trips from Raleigh

April to June

The Durham Drone
  • April: Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies puts on Full Frame Film Festival each year. More than 100 films come from all over the world and are shown in a handful of venues downtown. Panel conversations aka “The Speakeasy” give attendees access to filmmakers and industry leaders in an informal setting at the Durham Hotel.
  • May: Bring a lawn chair for a fun day at Durham’s Bimbe Cultural Arts Festival. This FREE event celebrates African and African-American history, culture, arts, and more at Rock Quarry Park. Some events are weather-dependent, so keep tabs on Bimbe here.
  • June to July: The American Dance Festival remains connected to Durham’s community throughout the year, but June and July (dates here) are their biggest months. For the multiple classes and performances held, hundreds of dancers will descend upon Bull City in a Modern Dance takeover hardly seen anywhere else.
  • More June: We also can’t leave out NC’s Juneteenth Celebration in June!

Read More: Summer in North Carolina (and 50+ Great Events!)

July to September

things to do in July Festival for the Eno
  • July: Festival for the Eno brings over 70 bands, arts and crafts vendors, and food vendors to West Point on the Eno for an awesome two-day celebration in July. Usually held on July 4 and the closest weekend date to Independence Day, this event is presented by the Eno River Association to raise awareness and money to protect our natural region.
  • August: The OutSouth Queer Film Festival is the second largest of its kind, bringing thousands of attendees to downtown Durham annually. Along with providing films from worldwide makers, guests get an eye into modern gay, lesbian, and transgender life. The Audience Awards give those in attendance a voice and vote for “Best Film” in various categories.
  • Note: The event was formerly known as the NC Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
  • September: Downtown’s CenterFest Arts Festival takes over the city with juried artists. Many from Durham and surrounding spots in the Triangle. Music on multiple stages and a Creative Kids Zone are surrounded by vendors and those serving food you won’t always find downtown.

September is a busy month and here are a few more events you shouldn’t miss:

October to December

Things to Do in Durham NC American Tobacco Campus Christmas Lights
  • October: World Beer Festival happens at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, with two sessions available for attendees (Afternoon and Evening). Local beers join forces with national and international ones; if you are hungry, amazing food will be there, too!
  • November: NC Comicon & Comiquest Film Festival invites guests and comic book enthusiasts to the Durham Convention Center for exhibits, cosplay, and fun. This two-day event brings together creators behind the best comics. Carolina Theatre hosts the Comiquest Film Festival, which is also a part of the fun.
  • December: Christmas in Durham kicks off with the Tower & Tree Lighting during the first week of December. A week later, the Christmas Parade & Fun Fest packs downtown with floats, Santa Claus, and more things to do for everyone.
  • More December Events: A few more can’t-miss December events include Christmas by Candlelight at Duke Homestead and Christmas at Historic Stagville. The latter focuses on the lives of both the enslaved population and the plantation owners.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina (the Best Holiday Events)

Things to Do in Durham NC This Weekend (and ALL Year)

Our monthly “things to do” posts feature many of the above events. Now, let’s get to all the fun you have in Durham, no matter which weekend you decide to be here.

Indoor Fun (Shopping, Escapes, and Sports)

If the weather isn’t cooperating or you’re just feeling some indoor entertainment, there are still plenty of fun things to do in Durham!

  • Art Galleries in Durham
  • Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Carolina Theater
  • DPAC
  • Duke University Chapel
  • Escape Rooms
  • Hayti Heritage Center
  • Motorco Music Hall
  • Museum of Durham History
  • Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
  • OC Aerial
  • Regulator Bookshop
  • V & E Simonetti’s Historic Tuba Museum

Art Galleries in Durham

5 Points Gallery in Durham NC
5 Points Gallery.

While Durham is home to research and innovation, there’s also a wonderful art scene here.

Shopping in Durham NC
  • Shop the shelves at The Artisan Market at 305 (305 E Chapel Hill St), and you’ll find that browsing art is one of the best things to do in Durham! Featuring more than 40 artisans and makers, we always walk out of there with something fun and special.
  • Pop into 5 Points Gallery (109 E. Chapel Hill St) and see a diverse exhibit featuring ten local artists. The works rotate every two months, and there is always one of the artists in the gallery that can offer you even more insight into the works.

Boxcar Bar + Arcade

Address: 621 Foster St, Durham, NC

Things to Do in Durham NC Boxcar Arcade

Hang out at Boxcar Bar + Arcade and you’ll see why we love its Durham location best of all. This company is making waves across the state with its ever-expanding footprint, especially in Durham.

Cameron Indoor Stadium

Address: 115 Whitford Dr, Durham, NC

Durham NC Duke University Cameron Indoor Stadium Image

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 Duke basketball. 

Seeing the men or women play against UNC made our bucket list of things to do in North Carolina.

Bonus Fun Fact: Don’t assume everyone is a Duke basketball fan because you’re in Durham. You’re still in North Carolina, where most people root for the Tar Heels and even Wolfpack over Blue Devils.

Carolina Theatre

Address: 309 W Morgan St, Durham, NC

Carolina Theatre Durham NC Outside

And we can’t forget about Carolina Theatre, either. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and one of 13 original theaters that remain today. Enjoying a show at Carolina Theater is one of the best things to do in Durham for a date night.

Counter Culture Coffee

Address: 812 Mallard Ave, Durham, NC

Sustainable, delicious, and notable are words that come to mind when thinking of Counter Culture Coffee. You might have already seen their exceptional coffee served elsewhere in the US, so why not head to the source?

Tour their roasting room and learn more about Counter Culture’s amazing coffee, every Friday at 10:00 am.

DPAC

Address: 123 Vivian Street, Durham, NC

Durham Attractions DPAC Image

Rain or shine, DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) is one of the best weekend things to do in Durham. Among its 2,700 stadium-style seats, I still haven’t found a bad one.

And with over 200 performances a year, you’ll most likely be in luck if you’re in town and don’t have anything planned. 

Want to see where all the magic happens at DPAC? Well, you can, thanks to monthly behind-the-scenes tours.

You’ll have a chance to walk the stage like your favorite performers and see where the stars prepare for showtime.

Duke University Chapel

Address: 401 Chapel Dr, Durham, NC

Duke University Chapel is an over 80-year-old church at the center of campus. If you visit, stand inside and admire the grandeur and beauty that makes up the place.

Maybe you’ll be there when the pipe organ goes, which is an awesome added effect.

Escape Rooms

If you really need a getaway, try out one of Durham’s escape rooms—I’m sure you’ve never heard that one before.

Hayti Heritage Center

Address: 804 Old Fayetteville St, Durham, NC

The construction of NC 147 demolished almost all of the buildings that made up the historic Hayti Community in Durham. Pronounce it “Hay-Tie” and you’ll win points toward an imaginary NC Tripping prize!

The building that previously housed the St. Joseph’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, was the only Hayti building to survive the “urban renewal” project. Today, the Hayti Heritage Center calls the former church “home,” and is an important cultural hub in Durham.

A series of arts performances, community events, classes, tours, and more are held at the HHC throughout the year. Even if you can’t attend any of them, a visit to St. Joseph’s to recognize its history is a must!

Read More: 25+ Important Places to Visit and Learn About Black History in North Carolina

Motorco Music Hall

Address: 723 Rigsbee Ave, Durham, NC

Motorco Music Hall Durham North Carolina

DPAC and the Carolina Theatre aren’t the only places to watch a great show. Bands and performers from all walks and genres come to Motorco Music Hall to perform in one of NC’s finest venues.

Museum of Durham History

Address: 500 W Main St, Durham, NC

The Museum of Durham History is truly one without walls, as advertised. However, you can stop by for info about their “History Groves” scattered throughout the city.

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Address: 2001 Campus Dr, Durham, NC

With incredible visiting exhibits and an impressive permanent collection, a trip to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is a must. There are admission fees most days but the museum is free to the public on Thursday nights from 5 to 9 pm.

OC Aerial

Address: 3463 Coates Industrial Blvd Suite 200, Durham, NC

OC Aerial Durham NC

OC Aerial Indoor Adventure Park & Climbing Gym is Durham’s most thrilling indoor activity. With its ropes courses, walls, slides, and zipline, you’ll easily wear yourself out in a couple of hours.

Upstairs, you can rest with some complimentary coffee, ice cream, and popcorn. Once you’re recharged, it’s time to test your limits again!

Read More: Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk (7 Important Tips Before You Go!)

Regulator Bookshop

Address: 720 9th St, Durham, NC

Regulator Bookshop Durham North Carolina

Another spot on 9th St we think you should know about is Regulator Bookshop. Visiting them is one of the best things to do in Durham, not just because of their awesome kids’ section and selection of books for adults.

Read More: The Best Bookstores in North Carolina

V & E Simonetti’s Historic Tuba Museum

Address: 1825 Chapel Hill Rd, Durham, NC

Love tubas? Or maybe just interested in them? The Vincent and Ethel Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection houses over 300 of the large bellowing brass instruments from 1830 to current models. The museum is free to visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.

Outdoor Activities

One of our favorite things to do in Durham is to enjoy the city’s outdoor activities, which are plentiful!

  • American Tobacco Campus
  • American Tobacco Trail
  • Bennett Place
  • Black Wall Street
  • Boxyard RTP
  • Bull City Laughs
  • City Parks
  • Duke Forest
  • Duke Wall
  • Durham Bulls Baseball Games
  • Durham Dark and Mysterious Ghost Walk
  • Eno River State Park
  • Historic Stagville
  • Major the Bull
  • Murals
  • Museum of Life and Science
  • North Carolina Central University
  • Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve
  • Sarah P. Duke Gardens
  • Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours
  • Wallace Wade Stadium

American Tobacco Campus

Address: 300 Blackwell St, Durham, NC

Free Things to Do in Durham NC

A big part of Durham’s 2000s revitalization started around the American Tobacco Campus, which is a treat if you can walk around. This is usually the first place we take friends and family when they come to Durham for the first time. You’ll see why when visiting.

American Tobacco Trail

Outdoor Things to Do in Durham NC American Tobacco Trail

One of the easiest ways to get active in Durham is along the American Tobacco Trail. 22-plus miles snaking Downtown Durham and through Wake and Chatham counties means there’s a lot of ground to cover!

Hop on any of the trail’s entry points and walk, bike, or run through this beautiful greenway. Our favorites include Solite Park (4704 Fayetteville Rd) and CM Herndon Park (511 Scott King Rd).

Bennett Place

Address: 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd

Facts About North Carolina Bennett Place Durham NC End of Civil War Surrender
Bennett Place.

You’ll find tons of history and a beautiful open green space at Bennett Place! With restored historic structures, living history events, and tours, feel like you’re with General Joseph E. Johnston and General William T. Sherman during the largest surrender of the American Civil War.

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

Black Wall Street

Parrish St between Mangum St and Corcoran St

Things to Do in Durham NC Black Wall Street

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. 

On West Main Street, the Museum of Durham History can also give you insight into the city’s origins through modern times. 

Read More: Black History in North Carolina

Boxyard RTP

Address: 900 Park Offices Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC

Boxyard RTP Fullsteam pizza

Boxyard RTP is a collection of shipping containers that house a variety of shops and eateries in the heart of RTP. You can grab some Beyu Coffee, tasty grub from Lawrence Barbecue, and amazing square pizzas from Fullsteam’s Boxyard location.

The collected shipping containers surround a huge area filled with tables and benches. Throughout the year, special events are held at Boxyard, further solidifying this spot as one of our go-to things to do in Durham.

City Parks

Satellite Park Durham

Durham’s Parks and Recreation offices manage nearly 80 community parks.

If you’re a Durhamite or know the city well, what’s your favorite park to visit?

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Duke Forest

Free Things to Do in Durham NC Duke Forest Trails

Duke Forest‘s nice, flat nature walks within its 7,000-acre university-managed living laboratory and outdoor classroom. 

We’ve spent much time walking Duke Forest trails but love the Durham Division (off Highway 751 near Constitution Drive). The nearby Al Buehler Trail (3001 Cameron Blvd) is also nice for hiking and mountain biking, with a bit of an incline.

Duke Wall

Duke Wall is a nice path around the university’s East Campus. It’s a wonderful walk throughout the year, but spring and fall are when the blooms and foliage make this one of Durham’s prettiest spots. 

Durham Bulls Baseball Games

Address: 409 Blackwell St, Durham, NC

Durham Events Durham Bulls Image

If you’re around during baseball season, please catch a game at the Durham Bulls Athletic ParkIt’s a beautiful stadium and hardly a bad seat in the house. 

I prefer sitting somewhere on the third-base side but also like ditching my seat for a bit. That’s when I walk around and take in a pitch or two from various parts of the outfield.

Read More: Minor League Baseball in NC (15+ Interesting Teams to Watch)

Durham Dark and Mysterious Ghost Walk

Tobacco Road Tours operates the Durham Dark and Mysterious Ghost Walk, perfect for visitors and locals, as it journeys to some hidden spots in the city that many locals may not know.

The tour features sinister sites, including the Bull Durham Factory, The Liggett-Myers Factory, and the Kress Store Building. Each place has spooky stories that you’ll love learning about!

Read More: 15+ Enchanting Ghost Tours in NC for You to Join!

Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park

We’ve started many weekends in Durham exploring everything to do at Eno River State Park. This is where you should start when exploring the outdoors in Bull City, even if you’re searching for a hike near Raleigh or Chapel Hill.

Our personal favorite trails at this state park include: 

  • Cole Mill Trail
  • Cox Mountain Trail
  • Buckquarter Creek Trail 

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Historic Stagville

Address: 5828 Old Oxford Hwy, Durham, NC

Things to Do in Durham NC Historic Stagville

We’ve already mentioned Historic Stagville in the “Events” section but thought you should know more about it. Spread across two sites on the outskirts of Durham County, this place shares the story of the enslaved people who lived here and worked the land.

We think it’s one of the most powerful tributes to plantation life in the state. A visit here is also one of the most interesting things to do in Durham.

Major the Bull

Address: 237 Corcoran St, Durham, NC

Free Things to Do in Durham NC Major the Bull Statue

No matter how long you stay in Durham, you must stand in front of Major the Bull for a selfie. This bronze statue is probably the easiest of free things to do in Durham, and it’s also one of the most “local.”

The statue was created and built locally, in true Durham spirit. He remains something of a mascot and offers good luck to those who rub his sides. Just no riding, as Major has retired.

Read More: Wonderful Durham Airbnbs

Murals

Durham NC Civil Rights Movement Mural Image

Downtown Durham’s buildings host some of the coolest street art, centering on the civil rights era like the one pictured above, which you’ll find at 120 Morris Street. 

Some cool murals are dedicated to civil rights leader Pauli Murray throughout the city. 

Museum of Life and Science

Address: 433 W Murray Ave, Durham, NC

There are also quite a few family-friendly places to go during a weekend in Durham but start with the Museum of Life and Science.

Personally, I think you and the kids (or just you) can explore for hours. We can easily think of things to love about MLS and include it in our guides to children’s museums throughout the state and North Carolina’s awesome museums.

The museum’s 84 acres include indoor interactive play, one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast, and it’s free for Durham County residents two times a month.

North Carolina Central University

Address: 1801 Fayetteville St, Durham, NC

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 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.

Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve

Address: Old Oxford Rd

Pennys Bend Nature Preserve Durham North Carolina

Penny’s Bend is a nature preserve that’s managed by the NC Botanical Garden. It’s home to plants (blue wild indigo) and soils not typically found in Central North Carolina. A loop trail (2.8 miles) will take you along the Eno, which surrounds the preserve on three sides.

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Address: 420 Anderson St, Durham, NC

Things to do in Durham Duke Gardens

You’ll find quite a few beautiful places in Durham, but Sarah P. Duke Gardens is among the prettiest. It houses a gorgeous collection of trees and flowers and hosts several events and weddings throughout the year. 

Seeing the cherry blossoms in early spring makes this one of our favorites, but you can hardly go wrong any time of year. Taking visitors to Sarah P. Duke is one of our favorite things to do in Durham.

Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours

The Best Durham Food Tour Taste Carolina Featured Image

Another great weekend thing to do in Durham is to sample the Bull City food and drink scene. And you can do that by joining a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour.

It’s a great way to eat, learn about the city, and meet like-minded foodies! For more about our experience joining a Durham food tour a la Taste, check here.

Wallace Wade Stadium

Address: 110 Frank Basset Dr, Durham, NC

Wallace Wade Stadium Duke University Durham NC

There’s a bit less demand for Duke football, but Wallace Wade Stadium is a nice place to watch a game in the fall

It’s also the answer to an interesting trivia question: what site served as the Rose Bowl in 1942, due to security concerns during World War II?

Eat at These Durham Restaurants

Restaurants Durham NC GRUB Image

The Durham food scene is one of North Carolina’s best and is hard to encapsulate in one small section. That’s why we’ve broken it down into guides to restaurants (specifically, international ones), along with our favorite pizza joints!

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 (we featured more coffee shops in Durham here)
  • Breakfast: Rise Biscuits, Silver Spoon, and Beyu Caffe (also featured in our guide to black-owned Durham restaurants)
  • Lunch: Picnic Durham, Toast, or Ninth Street Bakery
  • Brunch: Grub, Hope Valley Diner, or Vin Rouge
  • Dinner Out: M Sushi, NanaSteak, or Mateo
  • Dinner In: Twisted Noodles, Randy’s Pizza, or Mediterra Grill
  • Food Trucks: Sympathy for the Deli, Pie Pushers, or Chirba Chirba
  • Dessert: Locopops or The Parlour

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

Drinking Spots

Durham NC is filled with places to drink, including everything from breweries and taprooms, to bars, distilleries, and more!

Breweries and Taprooms

North Carolina Breweries Fullsteam Image

If you’re looking for breweries in Durham, start with:

  • Fullsteam (2 locations) and Ponysaurus (219 Hood St). Those two are among our favorite North Carolina breweries.
  • Of course, we can’t leave out Bull City Burger and Brewery (107 E Parrish St), which combines organic and local eats with delicious beers.
  • Oh, and don’t forget about Durty Bull Brewing Company (206 Broadway St #104). There, you’ll find a nice and cozy place to sit while admiring their immense collection of Simpsons memorabilia.
  • And don’t forget The Glass Jug (2 Locations), an eclectic mix of a bottle shop and artfully crafted beer. Sit in their beer garden and escape city life for a bit! The Glass Jug has also opened in Central Park near downtown Durham!
  • Pour Taproom (202 N Corcoran St #200) and Clouds Brewing (Brightleaf Square, 905 W Main St #22). both offer a great beer selection and delicious eats.

Read More: 15 Hop-Tastic Raleigh Breweries for Your Next Flight, Pint, or Growler

The Wine Feed

Address: 307 S Roxboro St, Durham, NC

And if you thought we were only focused on beer and spirits, think again. The Wine Feed mixes a nice selection of bottles for sipping at the bar and a shop where you can take something home. Either way, it’s a great Downtown spot.

Read More: 25 of the Best North Carolina Wineries and Vineyards

Cocktail Spots

We know many of Durham’s restaurants and bars make nice cocktails, but we think you’re missing out if you don’t visit Alley Twenty Six (320 E Chapel Hill St) for a hand-crafted drink.

  • Bar Virgile (105 S Mangum St Unit #1) also makes a fine cocktail, as do The Durham Hotel and Counting House inside 21c Museum Hotel. 
  • But for an all-around incredible experience, check out Kingfisher (321 E Chapel Hill St) next to The Durham Hotel. Incredibly unique cocktails and handmade ceramics make it a drink to remember.

Distilleries in Durham

  • You’re bound to notice Durham Distillery (711 Washington St) in every restaurant you walk into in the Bull City. And not only is their gin delicious, but touring the place where it’s all made is one of the most interesting things to do in Durham, too!
  • You can also visit Mystic Farm and Distillery (1212 N Mineral Springs Rd) for gin and amazing bourbon.
  • And then you can’t forget about the truly unique Brothers Vilgalys (803 Ramseur St), whose Krupnikas will keep you coming back for more.

Visiting any of these distilleries in Durham is a fun date night activity, especially on the weekend!

Read More: 19 Spirit-Filled North Carolina Distilleries, Liquor History, and What to Sip

Bars

  • We start the “bars in Durham” conversation with Motorco’s Parts and Labor (723 Rigsbee Ave), for their food, drinks, and outdoor seating.
  • Right around the corner, The Accordion Club (316 W Geer St) offers great cocktails and a cozy atmosphere.
  • More bars with outdoor seating, drinks, and food include Bull McCabes (427 W Main St) and Devine’s (904 W Main St).
  • And we couldn’t mention Durham bars without giving Pinhook (117 W Main St) a shout. Bands come from all over to play there; and it’s also a great casual spot for hanging out.
  • If you want to shoot some pool, start with The Green Room (1108 Broad St). Fun fact: Bull Durham shot a scene there. Can you guess which one? 
  • Looking for a non-alcoholic option? Da Kine’s Kava (1114 W Chapel Hill St) near Duke East Campus serves delicious kava drinks in a cool and inviting atmosphere. Seriously, not only will the drinks chill you out, but the owners are some of the nicest people you will ever meet!

Bottle Shops

If you want a massive variety to choose from, Durham’s bottle shop scene can help.

  • Like all the others we’ll mention here, Beer Study (2501 University Dr #4) is primarily a bottle shop, and you can also hang and drink from their taps.
  • However, they get bonus points for having an arcade, too. Beer Durham (404 Hunt St Suite 110) offers beer and wine.
  • Sam’s Bottle Shop (1112 W NC Highway 54) has all of the above and cigars.

Ready to Explore These Things to Do in Durham?

After writing all of this, I now see many weekend things to do in Durham. I can now understand when visitors don’t get to see and do everything in Bull City.

If you had to choose, what would you do first? And if you regularly visit Durham, hail from the area, or live here now, we’d love to know your favorites, too!

Things to Do Around Durham NC (Day Trips)

It will be hard to run out of fun activities, but if you somehow manage it, these places are filled with some of our favorite things to do around Durham!

Read More: 50 of the Best Day Trips from Durham

Raleigh

I 40 Exits in NC Raleigh

Raleigh is easily the first place that comes to mind when thinking of things to do around Durham. As the state’s capital city, there is plenty to do, from outdoor recreation to educational museums and delicious restaurants. It’s easy to pack a whole day of fun here!

Read More: William B Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC (Chainsaw Art, Great Trails, and More!)

Chapel Hill

I 40 Exits in NC Chapel Hill

Home to the Triangle’s best Farmer’s Market and America’s oldest university, Chapel Hill and its neighbor Carrboro are welcome neighbors to Durham!

  • Walk around the beautiful campus of UNC Chapel Hill and stroll along the fun-filled Franklin St for some Tar Heel gear. Your friends in Durham won’t care and might even be fellow anti-Duke Carolina or even NC State alums.
  • Wherever you are in Chapel Hill, there are plenty of small businesses and unique specialty and gift shops to explore.
  • You can learn about many of them in one visit by joining a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour.
  • The NC Botanical Garden is here, too, as is the wonderful outdoor retreat Carolina North Forest.

Read More: 60+ Amazing I-40 Exits in North Carolina (from Asheville to Wilmington)

Hillsborough

Day Trips from Greensboro NC Hillsborough Occoneechee Speedway Trail
Occoneechee Speedway Trail.

Hillsborough is often overlooked for its bigger neighbors but it’s an especially close day trip from Durham, especially if you live on the I-85 side of town.

  • Stroll through the River Walk or Gold Park, or enjoy the views of the Eno River from above at the aforementioned Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area!
  • Either way, we hope you enjoy the incredible small-town charm found here. Whether you’re coming to Hillsborough to go strawberry picking or enjoying a pint and wings at The Wooden Nickel, you might find yourself dreaming of moving here.
  • The Historic Occoneechee Speedway, which was once home to a NASCAR dirt track, is also in Hillsborough. It has nice great walking paths with remnants of old cars and NASCAR history along a mile loop.

We’ve featured many of these things to do in Durham and beyond in NC travel guides throughout our website. Here are a few of them:

4 thoughts on “50+ Great Things to Do in Durham NC (The Durham Bucket List)”

    • Thanks for stopping by, Charles. Hope you can come back to Durham again soon for more exploring of it, during nicer weather!

      Reply
  1. This helps a lot! I’m planning a trip to Durham soon and potentially moving out there, so thank you for sharing these great places to explore!

    Reply
  2. You should definitely add DSSOLVR under breweries! Opened October 2023 in the heart of downtown (630 Rigsbee Ave) and has 5 stars on Google. They make way more than just beer though and have an entire gluten free section on their menu and a lot of non alcoholic options. Dog and family friendly.

    Reply

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