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The city of Durham, NC, was once a neglected town in the North Carolina Triangle but has been undergoing a transformation to rival that of Cinderella on the night of the ball.
When we lived in Raleigh back in 2004 whilst I was teaching in nearby Johnston County, Durham was a city we barely set foot in.
Years later, it’s a city we can’t get our feet out of.
It’s a city known for sports, think Duke University and Durham Bulls. Out of the once abandoned streets, rise funky hotels, hip lounges, craft breweries, and award-winning restaurants.
Durham is blossoming with urban funk, yet still retains much of its Southern charm, and history.
Durham, NC has a list of accolades such as:
- Most Creative City in the US (Movoto)
- Tastiest Town of the South (Southern Living)
- 3rd most Educated City in the US (forbest)
- and one of the Best Places to Travel in 2015 (Travel & Leisure)
In this list of the best things to do in Durham NC, we’ll be showing you all the top attractions in the city that best prove this. We’ll not only show you the popular attractions, but some hidden gems that we found during our visit.
Each time we visit we learn something new about this city – one of the most exciting and interesting places we’ve discovered so far on our USA travels.
Things to do in Durham, North Carolina
Need insider tips on what to do in Durham?
When we last visited, we were guests of Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau who wanted to showcase the fun things to do in Durham NC with kids in just 48 hours!
While you would be hard pressed to all the top activities in Durham for kids into just 2 days, if you’re effective and plan ahead, you might be able to squeeze it all in.
Here’s what we recommend you do…
1. Visit Black Wall Street
What I love about Durham is that its focus is on local.
You won’t find too many high rises, or big corporations here, instead innovative start-ups and restaurants, and independently owned cafes with stories to tell.
Black Wall Street in the early 1900s was the thriving hub of African American business activity, one of the country’s most prestigious universities (Duke), the Research Triangle Park (the world’s biggest), and the American Tobacco Company call or called Durham home.
And the death of the tobacco industry was not going to keep this town in the shadows of its’ Triangle neighbors Raleigh and Chapel Hill for too long.
Culture, art, and food are the new Durham blend – a much cleaner inhale-exhale for you!
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Black Wall Street, Durham
2. Catch a Show at Durham Performing Arts Center
In the center of all the action and fun is DPAC, the Durham Performing Arts Center, which is famous for hosting the ever-popular Broadway show, Hamilton.
Durham is not short of theaters, in fact, the Carolina Theatre of Durham is a live music venue and cinema that has been operating since 1926. It’s one of the city’s most beloved institutions and holds several film festivals throughout the year.
But the Durham Performing Arts Center is the biggest and has the most iconic shows. It opened in 2008 and has a capacity of 2,700 seats.
Though it’s large, it has a very intimate feel and uses state-of-the-art sound and video equipment.
It has up to 200 performances a year, including dance, comedy and musical theater, so no doubt there will always be something special happening during your visit.
- Hours: Dependent on show
- Address: 123 Vivian Street, Durham, NC 27701
3. Eat at the Guglhupf Bakery, Café & Restaurant
Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant is around the corner from our friend’s place, so was a recommendation we heard often from them. It was wonderful to finally sit down and eat there.
The cafe has a good selection of sandwiches and entrees made from local and seasonal ingredients and prepared with a contemporary southern German Twist.
Line up for your schnitzel and Reuben with sauerkraut.
Grab a seat outside for some alfresco dining on the sunny patio and admire the gorgeous building, artwork, waterfall features, and greenery. We enjoyed a fresh and tasty quinoa salad with chicken and the salmon.
You can grab some treats from the artisan bakery for your visit to the Duke Gardens. (lines can snake out to the parking lot here)
- Hours: 7.30am – 8.30pm Tuesday – Thursday, 7.30am – 9.00pm Friday & Saturday, 8.30am – 3.00pm Sunday
- Address: 2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707
4. Visit Sarah P. Duke Gardens
In the West Campus of Duke University lies the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, recognized as one of the premier public gardens in the United States.
It’s a 55-acre public garden that features both wooded and landscaped areas. The garden is a memorial to Sarah Pearson Duke who was the wife of Benjamin N. Duke, a benefactor of Duke University.
There are five miles of trails and walks that wind their way through the garden, which is divided into four main areas.
Our kids loved the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden which displays, demonstrates, and teaches about native plants that provide people, animals, birds, and insects with food and shelter.
We had a lovely impromptu lesson about the importance of bees and pollination here.
Don’t miss The Big Easy sculpture on the south lawn, made entirely from red maple and sweetgum saplings collected from Duke Forest.
It’s like a Stonehenge of woven twigs and is an enchanting playground for the kids to run in and out of the maze-like structure.
It’s free to explore Duke Gardens, but there is a fee for parking.
- Hours: Grounds are open 365 days a year, 8 a.m. to dusk.
- Address: 420 Anderson St, Durham, NC 27708
5. Explore Duke University
Although we are mad University of North Carolina Tar Heel fans (Duke’s mega arch rivals 8 miles down the road), we urge you to pop on over to have a look at Duke University.
It was one of the first places I visited when I arrived in the US in 2004 and was when I first knew that I was in a place that was my home – it has that feel and presence!
Surprisingly though, I chose to support UNC’s basketball team instead. You know, greatness and all that!
Back to Duke University, which is often referred to as the ‘Harvard of the South’ and is one of America’s most prestigious colleges.
It is definitely one of the most beautiful universities I’ve wondered through with its gothic-inspired buildings. Spend time roaming the grounds to admire its beauty.
- Hours: 10.00am – 8.00pm daily
- Address: Durham, NC 27708
6. Learn About Duke Basketball
If you can’t get tickets to a Duke game (near impossible) and are looking for things to do in Durham, North Carolina that involve Duke, pop into the Duke Basketball Museum & Sports Hall of Fame.
Located adjacent to the famous Cameron Indoor Stadium, it’s the perfect place to learn more about the history and strength of Duke Basketball – 5-time National Champs.
Whilst there take a peak inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Walk the outer corridor and take in all the history.
In 1999, Sports Illustrated rated Cameron Indoor Stadium fourth on a list of the top 20 sporting venues in the world in the 20th Century, and USA Today referred to it as “the toughest road game in the nation.”
- Hours: 10.00am – 4.00pm daily
- Address: 306 Towerview Rd Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center, Durham, NC 27710
7. Check out The Duke University Chapel
Duke Chapel on West Campus is an example of neo-Gothic architecture and is an awe-inspiring structure that inspires a sense of wonder.
It’s constructed of volcanic stone from a quarry in Hillsborough, North Carolina (known as Hillsborough bluestone) and features huge stone piers, ribbed vaults, pointed arches, and flying buttresses.
Originally built as a house of worship for Methodist Protestants, the Chapel now has areas for Catholic prayers and for Jewish, Buddhist, and other spiritual beliefs.
The building has a striking 210 foot tower with 77 colorful glass windows, which are just stunning to look at.
- Hours: 10.00am – 8.00pm daily
- Address: Durham, NC 27708
8. Indulge in Ice Cream at The Parlour
There’s a story behind so many of Durham’s local businesses.
With The Parlour, it all began with Yoni and Vanessa Mazuz serving their handmade ice cream in a modified pink-painted mini school bus all over the triangle.
In 2013, they opened up a permanent location downtown funded by a Kickstarter campaign. The long lines out the door resulted in an expansion of the space in 2014.
You know that sounds like ice cream you want to line up for?
Their delicious flavors are made by local farmers whenever they can and are rotated to match the seasons giving you unique flavors like:
- orange spice cake
- goat cheese
- coriander and girl scout mint
The Parlour always offer vegan options, including fruit sorbets and creamy flavors made from coconut milk. AND gluten-free cones!!
Plus, they are committed to paying their workers a living wage, giving back to the community, and creating happiness through ice cream.
I was sure happy! My Vietnamese coffee and pistachio crunch was delicious. The girls loved their cookies and cream too – their ice cream standard.
- Hours: 12.00pm – 10.00pm daily (Closed Monday)
- Address: 117 Market St, Durham, NC 27701
9. Wander around the American Tobacco Campus Historic District
Take your ice cream and walk down to the American Tobacco District, one of the most historical places to visit in Durham.
This area of Durham, NC was formerly the headquarters of the American Tobacco Company and the Lucky Strike Cigarette Factory. It was abandoned in the late 80s when American Tobacco (the backbone of Durham’s economy) left.
It’s now been redeveloped into a live, work, play district known as the American Tobacco Historic Campus.
It consists of 17 historic structures that used to be tobacco factories, which now house the Tobacco Museum, Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, a radio station, a culinary school, a documentary theater, shops, restaurants, and bars, and even a man-made river.
The rustic factories and red-brick warehouses make it a lovely space to walk around.
You’ll see people playing basketball in The Cage and in the warmer months laying around on the grass under the iconic Lucky Strike smokestack listening to live music on the stage.
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: 300 Blackwell St #104, Durham, NC 27701
10. Swing by Burt Bees Headquarters
The founder, Burt Shavitz’s rustic cabin from Maine was relocated here to honor his life.
Peer into the window to see the life Burt lived in the woods of Maine. It’s a reminder that the Bee Man taught us to never lose sight of our relationship to nature”.
The District also houses The American Underground which launched in 2010 and is becoming the counter-story to Silicon Valley.
It’s creating a diverse startup scene rich in innovative ideas and deep city engagement. Today, it supports 275+ startups across four locations and has been dubbed the “Startup Capital of the South.”
Durham is for doers and innovators and it’s bringing an exciting and vibrant air to the city.
- Hours: You can’t go in without working there butyou can see outside any time
- Address: 211 W Pettigrew St, Durham, NC 27701, United States
11. Dine at Pompieri Pizza
One of the best things to do in Durham, North Carolina is eat. And if you love pizza you’ll love it here.
Located in the historic Fire Station Number One building in the heart of Downtown Durham, Pompieri Pizza is an ode to the building’s original heroes.
Pompieri is Italian for Firefighters.
The interior has casual elegance with a large seating area inside and an outside area perfect for kids and warmer nights. Pay attention to the goldfish swimming in large tanks that supply water to hydroponically grown basil as you enter the restaurant.
You just know good pizza is on the way, dished up by fast and attentive service.
Pompieri’s is known for it’s authentic Neapolitan handmade and wood fired pizzas using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
There’s some innovation happening here with pizzas called The Pork Belly and Drunken Horse.
We loved the lamb special:
- Fresh Garlic + Oil Base
- House Smoked Local Lamb Loin
- Goat Cheese with Rosemary & Chili Flake
- finished with Charred Scallions and a Balsamic Lamb Reduction
And the BC Pie.
We paired it wonderfully with the fresh kale salad and finished with some gelato and panna cotta!
We loved that the pizzas came with scissors instead of pizza cutters!
And no pizza is better served then with a glass of wine noted for its “Yummy” flavours. You had me at Yummy and it was. Or, you can pair it with a beer from the Bull City Burger brewery next door.
Plus, you’ve got gluten-free and vegan pizza options here! If you want a bit of pizza porn, check out their Instagram account.
- Hours: 4.30pm – 9.30pm Tuesday – Thursday, 4.30pm – 10.00pm Friday, 11:12 am – 10.00pm Saturday, 11.12am – 9.00pm Sunday, Closed Monday
- Address: 102 City Hall Plaza, Durham, NC 27701
12. Tour the Duke Lemur Center
I am embarrassed to say I thought lemurs were just of the King Julian kind.
Within the first two minutes of visiting the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, I learned that there are actually over 90 different species, including sub-species.
I also learned that Hollywood got it completely wrong (again) as King Julian really should be Queen Julie as the lemur family is matriarchal.
All the more reason to love these delightfully cute primates.
The Duke Lemur Center has 250 lemurs (21 species), which is more lemurs in the world outside their native Madagascar.
You’ll be happy to know that this is a research center which focuses on behavioral sand social research.
The lemurs are taken care of and many programs are implemented to help endangered lemurs, with especially useful programs like teaching local villagers in Madagascar sustainable farming practices for reliable food sources.
You learn all of this and more on an engaging tour through the facilities. The girls especially loved pretending to be a lemur with their delightful sideways gait and the cute Aye-Aye in the nocturnal area.
You must have a reservation to visit the Duke Lemur Center. The center offers nine different tour types catering to a variety of ages, interests, and budgets.
Tours sometimes book out two weeks in advance so reserve your spot early.
- Hours: open all year round from 9:00 a.m. ’til 4:00 p.m
- Address: 3705 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705
13. Enjoy The Museum of Life & Science
The Museum of Life & Science in Durham is all about play and interaction – inside and out.
If you’re looking for fun and educational things to do in Durham, North Carolina as a family, then we recommend you visit here!
It’s one of the most popular Durham attractions for kids and your visit helps towards lemur conservation efforts. You know a museum must be great if you end up spending six hours in it. So unlike our family.
There are over 84 acres of amazing outdoor hands-on exhibits, which include a two-story science center, a butterfly house, and gorgeous outdoor exhibits that are safe havens for rescued black bears, lemurs, and endangered red wolves.
They also liked digging for fossils in the dinosaur section and chasing butterflies in one of the largest butterfly conservatories on the East Coast.
And the walk around the grounds on the boardwalk is gorgeous.
Once we entered inside, we learned a lot about astronauts and outer space and building machines in the forces and motion room. Perfect homeschool experience to learn and spark the imagination!
The biggest hit for our girls was the handcrafted tree houses connected by rope bridges.
If you’re feeling hungry, the museum has the Sprout Cafe, and the food is fairly decent for a museum cafe (it is Durham after all) but I think there are more exciting food options to experience in Durham, if you have the time.
A few places we love nearby are:
- Bull City Burger & Brewery – prepare for delicious, healthy and well priced burgers. Grab a craft brew to match your beer. Bull City is the sister restaurant to Pompieri Pizza.
- Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas – excellent Southern American cuisine.
- Happy + Hale – on Ninth Street (Plenty of affordable places to eat on this street popular with students).
- Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm daily (closed Monday)
- Address: 433 W Murray Ave, Durham, NC 27704
13. Go to a Durham Bulls Game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
If you are visiting during baseball season, one of the best things to do in Durham, North Carolina is going to a Durham Bulls baseball game.
The Bulls are a Triple-A minor league baseball team that currently plays in the International League.
Durham Athletic Park was built in 1994 so it’s modern and fun-filled. All seats have pretty good views and you can walk around bar hopping or watch the game from different angles.
As for kids, there is plenty of entertainment and a cool kid zone section set up for the kids to shoot basketballs, run through mazes, and jump around.
The stadium even has its own craft brewery, Bull Durham Beer Company. It’s the only brewery in the country based in a minor league baseball park.
For Durham Bull Games they have promotions such as $2 Taco Tuesday, $1 concessions on Thursday nights and Friday night Fireworks, which is what we experienced.
- Hours: dependent on game
- Address: 409 Blackwell St, Durham, NC 27701
Read more: Want to know more about an iconic night at the Durham Bulls Baseball Game? Read our complete guide on this.
14. Eat at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is a Durham institution.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding how this unusual food pairing came about.
The most prominent story is that to satisfy hungry partygoers in the jazz scene of Harlem, a popular venue serving southern cuisine, Wells Supper Club, created a late night/early morning dish pairing leftover chicken from dinner with their sweet breakfast waffles.
We could not try them because of our gluten-free requirements, but Savannah sure gobbled it up with BACON. And our friends vouch for its awesomeness, especially the flavored butter is known as shmears.
They do have gluten-free options and we enjoyed a meal of blackened salmon and a delicious side of collard greens – southern style!
- Hours: 11.00am – 3.00pm Sunday & Monday, 11.00am – 3.00pm & 5.00pm – 9.00pm Wednesday & Thursday, 10.00pm – 9.00pm Friday & Saturday
- Address: 530 Foster St #130, Durham, NC 27701
15. Have Breakfast at Elmo’s Diner
A Durham breakfast institution is Elmo’s Diner on Ninth Street.
It’s a casual, kid friendly restaurant with an extensive menu. Breakfast is served all day!
- Hours: 7:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 3:30 pm Saturday & Sunday
- Address: 776 9th St, Durham, NC 27705
16. Drink Coffee and Eat Churros at Cocoa Cinnamon, Lakewood
We can’t write about things to do in Durham, North Carolina without indulging in coffee.
What began on a bike ride around the streets offering coffee to workers and farmer’s market addicts, has now turned into three popular Downtown cafes, each with its own distinctive Cocoa Cinnamon flavors.
But each cafe has one thing in common – great coffee and a wonderful story to tell. Espresso, coffee, and chocolate are available at all three shops, with churros only available at the Lakewood location!
Just like The Parlour, owners Leon and Areli Barrera de Grodksi are making a large community impact with a living wage guarantee for all staff and by using local and sustainable ingredients.
Cocoa Cinnamon operated on the idea that coffee, chocolate, and tea are age-old lubricants for ideas, so has cultivated a space in which diversity of ideas and backgrounds are celebrated and fostered.
We visited the Lakewood location of Cocoa Cinnamon Cafe, a community chosen for its ethnic diversity and the offerings in this cafe are inspired by classic churrerias and street vendors in Mexico and with subtle allusions to Andalusia, North Africa, and Sicily.
Cocoa Cinnamon’s third location is a vibrant and beautiful space.
Whimsical umbrellas hang from the ceiling and colorful patterned tables showcase the cafe’s Mexican influence.
The original coffee bike stands near the counter as an espresso bar and there is a micro-roastery where Cocoa Cinnamon will roast its own beans under the name 4th Dimension Coffee, sourcing them only from importers who buy direct from growers.
Signature drinks are created based upon stories in history and flavor characters that make them up.
Dr Durham is a drink that honors Durham’s namesake and the doctors who made the early medicinal root tonics. Dr Durham donated land for the train station which later became the area Durham.
With this latte, you’ll find slightly frothier micro-foam with homemade vanilla topped with macca root powder, ginger root powder, and black lava salt.
All syrups are made in-house and the chocolate is made in the style of Modica in Sicily (a cultural melting pot), which comes from the ancient Aztecs’ secret recipe.
I highly recommend the La Frida, a nod to the prominent Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
This latte brings together elements of spice, and mole (homemade chocolate sauce), and is topped with rose petals.
Smooth and with a hint of rich chocolate, this latte was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. I’m ready to return for another.
And the kids enjoyed their hot chocolates.
Cocoa Cinnamon in Lakewood Durham is my favorite cafe of the year for its innovation, diversity, attention to detail, vibrancy, community feel and amazing coffee.
While we sadly could not partake in the famous churros (gluten free requirements) we did enjoy delicious affogatos with ice cream from The Parlour!
- Hours: 7.30am – 7.30pm Monday – Friday, 8.00am – 7.30pm Saturday & Sunday
- Address: 2013 Chapel Hill Rd Suite A, Durham, NC 27707
17. Visit The Scrap Exchange
You wouldn’t think a thrift store would make the list of things to do in Durham, but Durham’s creative resource center is a little different.
The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse.
One of the founders, Chris Rosenthal is an Australian and The Scrap Exchange was modeled on an Australian organization Reverse Garbage Truck. Woop Woop.
The Scrap Exchange is now a model for creating effective reuse centers around the world.
The center contains a retail store, an art gallery, a design center that hosts classes, and more.
To stop gentrification in its place, The Scrap Exchange purchased the northern end of the Lakewood Shopping Center which they will turn into a Reuse Arts District (RAD).
RAD will be a multi-faceted cultural, environmental, historical, recreation, and community-based destination.
Rad alright! I told you Durham was innovative, local, and cool!
For $5 you can enjoy some self-directed creativity in the Make N Take a room, where budding artists can use recycled materials to create works of art.
Our girls had a wonderful time creating a water park. They demonstrated excellent teamwork and problem-solving skills.
- Hours: 11.00am – 6.00pm Tuesday – Saturday, 11.00am – 5.00pm Sunday, Closed Monday
- Address: 2050 Chapel Hill Rd, Durham, NC 27707
18. Nasher Museum of Art
The Nasher Museum of Art is located at Duke University and is the biggest center for arts in Durham. The space opened in 2005 and has been dedicated to showing contemporary art, as well as works from artists they feel have been underrepresented historically.
There is a particular focus on artists of African descent, as well as some European medieval art and ancient American art.
- Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm Tuesday – Wednesday, 10.00pm – 9.00pm Thursday, 10.00am – 5.00pm Saturday, 12.00mp – 5.00pm Sunday, Closed Monday
- Address: 2001 Campus Drive Durham, NC 27705
19. Admire the Art Installations at The Satellite Park
The Satellite Park is another example of how Durham embraces contemporary art. The park features 8 stunning and vibrant murals on decommissioned satellite dishes.
The dishes are on the grounds of the Duke Arts Annex since April 2018, after they were painted during the Mural Durham Festival.
Each satellite has been painted by eight local artists from North Carolina, most from Durham, and a couple from nearby Raleigh, with the help of Durham students.
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Duke Arts Annex, 404 Gattis Street, Durham
20. Learn About Civil War History at Bennett Place State Historic Site
Bennett Place is a historic landmark located on Bennett Farm, a typical American home, and is famous for being the site of the last surrender of a major Confederate army in the American Civil War.
The house belonged to James and Nancy Bennett, who were a middle-class family and yeoman farmers.
They worked for themselves and were self-sufficient, even though it was common to own slaves at the time, the Bennetts never did.
When James died after the Civil War, the farm fell into disarray, until it was restored and turned into a museum.
- Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm Tuesday – Saturday, Closed Sunday & Monday
- Address: 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd, Durham, NC 27705
21. Learn About Slave History at Stagville State Historic Site
The historic Stagville plantation is one of the largest plantations in North Carolina.
It was owned by the Bennehan-Cameron family, which claimed ownership of about 900 slaves.
Many of the plantation buildings have been well-preserved, including the original slave quarters, a barn, and the Bennehan family house.
Now you can learn about the lives and work of the enslaved on the plantation.
It’s an important part of American history that should not be skipped on any trip to Durham.
- Hours: 9.00am – 5pm, Closed Sunday and Monday
- Address: 5828 Old Oxford, Highway, Durham, NC 27712
22. Go Hiking in Eno River State Park
Another great thing to do in Durham with kids is to hike in the Eno River State Park.
The parks is just 10 miles north of the city and is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
There are approximately 13 miles of hiking trails, and there are also some popular camping spots.
You can also paddle or fish in the river or have a picnic in the Fews Ford and Cole Mill sites in the park.
- Hours: 7.00am – 9.00pm
- Address: 6101 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
23. Try Local Cocktails at The Durham Distillery
If you’re looking for things to do in Durham on a weekend then you should check out the Durham Distillery.
The micro-distillery produces high-quality spirits such as gin and vodka. In fact, the distillery has Conniption Navy Strength gin, the highest award for gin in the world.
A visit to this distillery is not just about tasting the spirits and touring behind the scenes, but you can learn about the craftsmanship, the history and develop your connoisseurship.
- Hours: Friday & Saturday, 1pm – 8pm
- Address: 711 Washington St, Durham, NC 27701, United States
Where to Stay in Durham NC
The King’s Daughters Inn
Looking for boutique hotels in Durham NC? Then consider staying in a historical building at The King’s Daughters Inn.
We enjoyed our stay here. It has an ideal location near Duke East campus, the popular 9th avenue, and downtown.
The King’s Daughter’s Inn is in a handsome brick building from the 1920s. Formerly a retirement home for elderly women, it’s now been renovated and converted into a boutique hotel.
It offers the class and amenities of a first class hotel with the intimacy and warmth of a B&B.
Each floor has a different color scheme and painted designs on the wall and each room is individually styled and tastefully decorated.
We stayed in the spacious Farthing suite decorated in restrained neutrals – warm grey, black, and cream textured and contrasting patterns. It was comfortable and relaxing. The girls slept on a pull-out sofa in the living area.
High on my radar for our next overnight stay are the following trendy hotels in downtown Durham.
The location puts you in easy walking distance to the hottest Durham restaurants and close to DPEC and the trendy Tobacco Warehouse District.
The rise of these three relatively new hotels speaks to the growth that Durham is experiencing.
What do you do with a mid-century motor lodge making the downtown look a little bland?
Revamp it to be a vintage cultural hub for the vibrant community. Unscripted blew me away with its funky elegance. It’s a hotel to get excited about.
The parking garage and hotel entry (and stairwell) are covered in art from hand-picked street artists. It makes you immediately pay attention and feel good.
Graffiti and typography are on the walls of the lobby, which is tastefully decorated to honor the 1960 lodge but with a modern twist.
I love the welcome mats at the doors reminding you to have fun and the rooftop pool and retro-inspired patio have an unscripted whitewashed style and grace.
Not to mention the incredible views!
The lobby and rooftop patio are open to the public in addition to guests, making this space just as much about the local community as it is about visitors.
The rooftop patio will regularly host movie nights, live music, and pool parties.
The Durham Hotel
A mid-century modern classic boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Durham. The design is colorful and chic.
There’s also a restaurant by James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing and a rooftop bar (the first in Durham), open to the public and very popular with visitors and locals for its panoramic Durham views. It was the first rooftop bar.
Hotel guests also get free access to rooftop yoga classes! Hello, Mommy’s time out.
21 C Museum Hotel
Once the SunTrust Bank, this restored building is now a 125-room boutique hotel and doubles as a contemporary art museum.
Its eclectic and inspiring design and the museum add to the innovative and exciting spirit of Durham.
The museum portion of the hotel is open to the public with plenty of artwork on the walls. Be sure to head all the way down to the lower level and enjoy the old bank vault, which has been converted into a mini lounge.
The kids will love the secret passageway granting them access to run around the vault in the dark nark barrow hall.
Be sure to pop your head in the elevator to see a few penguin friends in there. I hope they haven’t gone!
Getting to Durham
One of my favorite things about living in the Raleigh Durham NC area is the easy access to the airport (RDU).
It’s not unusual to breeze straight through check-in and security in 10 minutes. RDU airport is an easy 20-minute drive to Durham. Unless you’re traveling during peak times you won’t experience any traffic at all.
You can rent a car from the airport here.
If you are driving, Durham is right off the I-40, or I-85.
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Do you have any tips on things to do in Durham, NC? Or, if you’re planning a trip and have questions on what to do in Durham NC, please share in the comments.