Last Updated on March 31, 2023
Last Updated on March 31, 2023
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?
- 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
- Drinks and Nightlife
- More Things to Do in Durham NC (Related Posts)
Read More: 100+ Places to Visit in Central North Carolina
Where is Durham, North Carolina?
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:
Read More: Central North Carolina (and 100+ Amazing Places to Visit)
Where to Stay in Durham NC
To kick off our weekend in Bull City, check out The Durham Hotel. It’s an amazing representation of our city and its rooftop hosts one of its best views.
21c Museum Hotel is also just down the street and home to a cool and quirky art collection. Unscripted 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
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- The Art of Cool Festival
- Black Wall Street: Homecoming
- Pride: Durham
October to December
- 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
- Duke University Chapel
- Escape Rooms
- Regulator Bookshop
Art Galleries in Durham
While Durham is home to research and innovation, there’s also a wonderful art scene here.
- Shop the shelves at The Artisan Market at 305 and you’ll find that browsing art is one of the best things to do in Durham!
- Pop into 5 Points Gallery 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.
- Another great place to peruse is The Artisan Market at 305. Featuring more than 40 artisans and makers, we always walk out of there with something fun and special.
Boxcar Bar + Arcade
And in case you wanted to up the ante for your weekend in Durham, hang out at Boxcar Bar + Arcade Durham location. This company is making waves across the state with its ever-expanding footprint, especially in Durham.
Cameron Indoor Stadium
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.
And we can’t forget about Carolina Theater, 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.
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.
Duke University Chapel
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.
If you really need a getaway, try out one of Durham’s escape rooms—I’m sure you’ve never heard that one before.
Bull City Escape is off 9th St and NC Escape is on Orange St, just off W Chapel Hill St. Mission X Escape is closer to Chapel Hill, just off 15-501 in Westgate Shopping Center.
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
One of our favorite things to do in Durham is to enjoy the city’s outdoor activities, which are plentiful!
American Tobacco Campus
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.
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
Bull City Laughs
Of all the things to do in Durham, I’d call Bull City Laughs the most unique. This comedy history tour takes place on a bus of all places (still outdoors!) and will whisk you around the city.
This is not a PG-rated show, which is a good thing. Audience participation is encouraged, and topics include African-American history, the city’s best burgers, and more.
Check out our interview with owner Brandon Wright, on our podcast, NC Travel Chat!
Durham’s Parks and Recreation offices manage nearly 80 community parks. Durham Central Park is best known for Farmer’s Markets, music events, and Food Truck Rodeos.
We also found a secret gem of a park near Duke University. Satellite Park features old satellites that have been painted alongside some beautiful murals.
However, we can’t leave out South Durham’s massive Piney Wood Park and West Point on the Eno in North Durham.
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‘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 is also nice for hiking and mountain biking, with a bit of an incline.
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!
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
If you’re around during baseball season, please catch a game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It’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)
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, Cox Mountain, and Buckquarter Creek.
Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina
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.
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
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.
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.
Wallace Wade Stadium
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?
Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours
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.
Eat at These Durham Restaurants
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, Beyu Caffe, and True Flavors (the latter two 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!)
Durham NC is filled with places to drink, including everything from breweries and taprooms, bars, distilleries, and more!
Breweries and Taprooms
If you’re looking for breweries in Durham, start with:
- Fullsteam and Ponysaurus. Those two are among our favorite North Carolina breweries.
- Of course, we can’t leave out Bull City Burger and Brewery, which combines organic and local eats with delicious beers.
- Oh, and don’t forget about Durty Bull Brewing Company. 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, 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!
- And if you want to sample beers from all over North Carolina, Check out Pour Taproom and Clouds Brewing. These two places both offer a great selection and delicious eats.
The Wine Feed
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
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 for a hand-crafted drink.
Bar Virgile 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 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 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 for gin and amazing bourbon. And then you can’t forget about the truly unique Brothers Vilgalys, 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
- We start the “bars in Durham” conversation with Parts and Labor, for their food and drinks, outdoor seating, and proximity to Motorco Music Hall.
- Right around the corner, The Accordion Club offers great cocktails and a cozy atmosphere.
- More bars with outdoor seating, drinks, and food include Bull McCabes and Devine’s.
- And we couldn’t mention Durham bars without giving Pinhook 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. Fun fact: Bull Durham shot a scene there. Can you guess which one?
- Looking for a non-alcoholic option? Dakine’s Kava on Old Chapel Hill Road 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!
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 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 offers beer and wine, Sam’s Bottle Shop has that, and cigars.
The Glass Jug Beer Lab should fall into our “Breweries” section but also have a wide selection of taps, cans, and bottles made elsewhere.
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!
3 thoughts on “50+ Awesome Things to Do in Durham for EVERYONE (Fall in Love with OUR Bull City)”
Durham is a sweet slice of North Carolina. Enjoyed exploring a bit with you and the girls.
Thanks for stopping by, Charles. Hope you can come back to Durham again soon for more exploring of it, during nicer weather!
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!