City skyline

Durham, North Carolina is a vibrant city that offers couples and families an array of things to see and do. Don’t miss a visit to the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the The Nasher Museum of Art and the Durham Performing Arts Center. Best things to do in Durham, NC with kids include the Museum of Life + Science, the Duke Lemur Center and Eno River State Park. SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia


»Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Sarah P. Duke Gardens


Located on Anderson Street on the campus of Duke University, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is 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. The garden offers tours and programs such as Nature Adventures Camp, Japanese Tea Gatherings, Summer Internships, and many more. Sarah P. Duke Gardens is one of the best romantic places to visit in Durham, North Carolina.

Duke University, 420 Anderson Street, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-684-3698

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»Museum of Life and Science

Museum of Life and Science


Located on West Murray Avenue north of downtown Durham, the Museum of Life + Science is a natural science museum that features many hands-on exhibits. Formerly known as the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, the museum sits on 80 acres of land and consists of several buildings and attractions.

Some examples are the main building, a butterfly house, dinosaur trail, farmyard, and a train, and there are both indoor and outdoor exhibits. One of the best things to do in Durham, North Carolina, the museum is known for its Aerospace exhibit that displays many early NASA space program artifacts on loan from the National Air and Space Museum. The three-story glass Magic Wings Butterfly House is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.

433 West Murray Avenue, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-220-5429

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»Duke Lemur Center, Durham, North Carolina

Duke Lemur Center, Durham, North Carolina


Sitting on 80 acres of land, the Duke Lemur Center is the world’s largest sanctuary for rare and endangered prosimian primates. It is located on Erwin Road close to Duke University, and it is open to the public. One-hour tours are offered but require advance reservations. The Center had its beginnings in 1966 when 90 primates were relocated from Yale University to Duke University.

Since then, the Center has housed and taken care of almost 4,000 primates including lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers. Currently, there are approximately 250 primates representing 21 species. The Center hosts events such as Lemurpalooza, when visitors bring blankets and picnics and are introduced to some of the primates. If you are wondering what to see in Durham with kids, this is a fun place to visit with the whole family.

3705 Erwin Road, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-489-3364

More places to visit: 15 Best Things to Do in Asheville. 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Marcella Miriello/Fotolia

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»Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

Located on Campus Drive, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is an art museum that contains more than 13,000 works ranging from antiquity to contemporary art. The museum’s collection includes 3,300 Pre-Columbian art objects, works on paper, medieval art, and much more. Opened in 2005, the museum is housed in a building designed by architect Rafael Vinoly.

In addition to the museum’s permanent collection, the Nasher Museum of Art hosts temporary exhibits and events such as music concerts and Free Family Day. The Nasher Museum of Art is one of the must-see Durham attractions for art lovers. Public tours are held on Thursday and Sunday, and private group tours are also available. The museum can be rented for corporate events, parties, and weddings.

2001 Campus Drive, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-684-5135

Next read: Charlotte to Raleigh 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

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»DPAC - Durham Performing Arts Center

DPAC - Durham Performing Arts Center


With a capacity of 2,700, the Durham Performing Arts Center is the largest performing arts center in North and South Carolina. The Center is located on Vivian Street and hosts over 200 performances per year. It is a highly praised establishment that serves as the venue for touring Broadway shows, comedy events, music concerts, the American Dance Festival, family shows, and many other kinds of performances.

The Center opened in 2008 with a sold out concert by B.B. King. If you are looking for date night ideas in Durham, watch a performance at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Owned by the City of Durham, the Center has proved to be a great success for the city, as evidenced by the new business it has generated; several new restaurants have opened in the vicinity of the Center. Public tours of the Center are held once a month. More: North Carolina destinations, beaches and lighthouses

123 Vivian Street, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-680-2787

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»Stagville State Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina

Stagville State Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina


Stagville State Historic Site is a historic house museum made up of buildings from the Stagville Plantation, one of the largest plantations in the American South. The Bennehan-Cameron family originally owned the plantation, and the buildings date from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century.

The Bennehan House, built in 1878, and Horton Grove, an area that holds slave houses built in 1850, are both listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Located on Old Oxford Highway, the historic site offers guided tours three times a day. There are summer programs for school children and special events like the Harvest Festival Pie Auction.

5828 Old Oxford Highway, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-620-0120

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»Things to Do in Durham: American Tobacco Historic District

Things to Do in Durham: American Tobacco Historic District


Located on Blackwell Street, the American Tobacco Historic District is a tobacco factory area consisting of 17 historic structures. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2000, the structures were built between 1874 and the 1950s. Some of the most noteworthy buildings include the Italianate style W.T. Blackwell and Company Building, the Hill Warehouse built in the Romanesque Revival style, and several structures in the Art Moderne style including the Crowe, the Fowler, and the Strickland buildings.

The district was formerly the home of the American Tobacco Company, and the redevelopment of this historic area was a part of a large urban renewal plan to revitalize downtown Durham. Today, the district is known for its many restaurants and shops.

318 Blackwell Street, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-433-1566 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Sean Pavone Photo/Fotolia

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»Metro 8 Steakhouse

Metro 8 Steakhouse


How can you make a classic American steakhouse even better? You add an Argentinean touch to it. At Metro 8 Steakhouse, the Argentinean touch is the chef and owner Francisco Pirillo. He mixes elements like shrimp and simple filet mignon stuffed with crabs or turns your steak into a churrasco and serves it with chimichurri. For dessert, try the soufflé or the decadent crepes filled with dulce de leche.

With such amazing food, the menu does not have to be extensive and complicated. The restaurant is also as simple as it is perfect, and features soft colors, clean lines, rich hardwood floors, and a large inviting bar. There is also a nice outdoor patio if you want to enjoy the fresh air while you dine.

746 Ninth Street, 919-416-1700 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Metro 8 Steakhouse

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»Piedmont Restaurant, Durham, North Carolina

Piedmont Restaurant, Durham, North Carolina


Modern and spacious, Piedmont is located in a 1930s Nash car dealership in downtown Durham. Chef Greg Gettles changes the menu daily, and when he says “farm to table,” he means it. Piedmont works with a range of local farms, particularly with its sister company Coon Rock Farm. Coon Rock Farm provides Piedmont with organic produce, free-range chicken and hormone and antibiotics-free pigs, eggs, goats, and sheep.

Piedmont serves what the Piedmont region grows. The result is an inspired menu that is innovative and colorful and features dishes with carefully selected flavors. Try his Coon Rock Farm's chicken with smoked Woodfruit farm oyster mushrooms, Anson Mills' red peas, corn, and charred tomatillo. Piedmont serves a nice selection of North Carolina beers and has an extensive wine list.

Suite 401-B2, 401 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-683-1213 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Piedmont Restaurant

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»Things to Do in Durham: Eno River State Park

Things to Do in Durham: Eno River State Park


Eno River State Park consists of 4,200 acres of land and, along with the West Point on the Eno City Park, preserves more than nine miles of the Eno River. Located northwest of downtown Durham, the park is a popular place for outdoor activities such as camping, canoeing, and fishing, and there are also 24 miles of hiking trails. If you are wondering what to do in Durham with kids, this is a great park to explore.

The area was home to several Native American tribes. Once the settlers arrived, they built over 30 gristmills on the river. The park was created in 1972 to protect the area from development. The park is known for its natural beauty including its springtime wildflowers and its animals such as beavers, birds, deer, fish, and turtles, among others. 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Irina Silayeva/Fotolia

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»Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant

Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Restaurant


You do not have to be able to pronounce its name to fall in love with Guglhupf. This exciting café, patisserie, and bakery located on a commercial strip of the Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd will take you by surprise: it features modern touches with exposed beams, lots of steel, a waterfall feature, at the entrance and yet the dining room and patio areas are incredibly cozy. The wonderful aromas are perhaps reminiscent of a different era. You’ll be struck by the smell of homemade hot bread, fresh brewed coffee, and vanilla cake cooling on the windowsill.

This incredibly popular German-influenced eatery offers Central European delights like pork schnitzel and house-smoked sausages, but most people come for the cakes and breads. Once you try their guglhupf, you will find the word much easier to pronounce because you’ll never forget the wonderful taste.

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. Suite #1, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-401-2600 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Guglhupf

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»Only Burger, Durham, North Carolina

Only Burger, Durham, North Carolina


We often want life to be simple. For example, sometimes all we want is a burger, but at the same time, we want that burger to be absolutely perfect. This intense desire for the perfect burger drove the owners of OnlyBurger to come up with such a tasty burger that they had to open two more shops to satisfy their happy customers. OnlyBurger started as a food truck serving burgers made of Certified Piedmontese beef free of hormones, antibiotic, and steroids; they are freshly ground every day and served on a toasted bun.

Add fried green tomatoes and pimiento cheese and you end up with the burger that tops all burgers. When the customers got tired of chasing the truck all over Durham, the company opened two restaurants downtown. They also offer turkey and veggie burgers for those who prefer lighter fare.

3710 Shannon Rd., Suite 118, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-937-9377 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Only Burger

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»Brightleaf Square

Brightleaf Square


Housed in two historic tobacco warehouses in downtown Durham, Brightleaf Square is a bustling area full of restaurants, shops, and a venue for special events. The two historic brick warehouses, the Watts and the Yuille tobacco warehouses, were built in the early 20th century and are located at 905 West Main Street in the American Tobacco Historic District.

Opened in 1981, Brightleaf Square has been a part of the urban renewal plan to revitalize downtown Durham. The restaurants offer a variety of cuisine including Italian, Japanese, Mexican, and many more. Shops sell items such as antiques, books, and clothing. Events include music concerts including performances by the Durham Symphony Orchestra String Ensemble.

905 West Main Street, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-682-9229 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: realstock1/Fotolia

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»Old Havana, Durham, North Carolina

Old Havana, Durham, North Carolina


Roberto Copa Matos, a Cuban, and Elizabeth Turnbull, a Haitian, opened the Old Havana restaurant because they could not find any good Cuban sandwiches in Durham. They found a lovely, spacious downtown location with high ceilings and huge windows, and that building became the restaurant where they serve their traditional Cuban sandwiches and tapas, fresh homemade sodas, and delicious café. You can even learn to salsa and tango on music nights at Old Havana.

The sandwiches are stuffed with their in-house cured ham, roasted pork, pickles, cheese, mustard, and their own sauce. Don’t ask what it is; it’s a carefully guarded house secret. You can buy your own bottle, though, and it’s called Papa Bull’s Hot Sauce. Roberto and Elizabeth work with many small local farms, and recently opened their own farm in Hilsborough, Terra Sacra, to make sure that they have the best possible ingredients for their delicious cuisine.

310 E Main St, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-667-9525

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»58Fifty Bistro, Durham, NC

58Fifty Bistro, Durham, NC


Located in the Sutton Station upscale complex, 58Fifty Bistro is a friendly, modern restaurant where friends get together to watch games on Sunday, grab a burger, or sample one or more of their famous martinis. The menu has many dishes other than burgers, and it features several vegetarian options, fabulous fish and chips, and some inspired dishes like the Shrimp and Grit Cakes, which are fried and topped with sautéed shrimp, garlic, smoked bacon, onions, and peppers.

There is live music three days a week, an event that typically draws big crowds. The restaurant is conveniently located near the Southpoint Mall and many other shops, ensuring there’s always a nice crowd of people who stop by for their popular and affordable lunch specials.

5850 Fayetteville Road, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-544-8585 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: 58Fifty Bistro

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»Things to Do in Durham, NC: West Point on the Eno

Things to Do in Durham, NC: West Point on the Eno

Located on North Roxboro Street north of downtown Durham, West Point on the Eno is a 404-acre city park on the Eno River. The park is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is home to several preserved buildings, including the 1850s McCown-Mangum farmhouse, West Point Mill, which is a museum housed in a reproduction of a colonial mill, and the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography, a museum with historic 19th and 20th photos in a restored tobacco pack house.

In addition to these historic buildings, the park features a children’s play area called Natural Play Space, five miles of hiking trails, and an amphitheater. Popular activities include canoeing, hiking, and kayaking. 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

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»Nana's, Durham, North Carolina

Nana's, Durham, North Carolina

Nana’s has been a staple of Durham for the last 20 years, because it is one of the most popular local restaurants around. It has received numerous awards, and many individuals have written up pieces that praise this acclaimed establishment. The bar is set high, but Nana’s always delivers. You will see touches of the Mediterranean at this restaurant, from the soft saffron-colored walls to the original artwork, and from the Italian chandeliers to Chef Scott Howell’s enticing specials.

American cuisine combines nicely with bold Italian flavors in his Guinea Hen Cacciatore with potato gnocchi. You can eat in the formal, elegant dining room or at the beautiful cherry wood bar. Be sure to look at their wine list, which is both extensive and excellent.

2514 University Drive, Durham, North Carolina, Phone: 919-493-8545 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Nana's

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»Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Durham Bulls Athletic Park

The home to the Durham Bulls, Durham Bulls Athletic Park opened in 1995 in downtown Durham. It was expanded to fit 10,000 seats in 1998, when the Bulls started playing in the Triple-A International League.

The stadium was designed so that all fans can have a great view of the field in total comfort. A roof covers about 2,500 seats. All seats are extra wide with extra legroom, and most have cup holders. The ballpark, called the Blue Monster, has many similarities to Fenway Park – the Green Monster.

The structure’s characteristics follow architecture of today’s Durham’s downtown and those of many old-time athletic parks. The park's most famous feature is the Snorting Bull sculpture that stands above the park, and it was featured in the popular movie Bull Durham.

409 Blackwell St, Durham, NC 27701, 919-687-6500 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Durham Bulls Athletic Park

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»Duke University Chapel, Durham, NC

Duke University Chapel, Durham, NC

Located on Duke University’s West Campus, Duke Chapel is a magnificent example of neo-Gothic architecture. Built in 1930 and designed by Julian Abele, the structure features huge stone piers, ribbed vaults, pointed arches, and flying buttresses that create a vast interior open space without the need for columns.

The result is an awe-inspiring structure that inspires reverence and a sense of wonder. The chapel is built with volcanic stone the University bought for its West Campus. The stone, called Hillsborough bluestone, was brought from a Hillsborough quarry and plays a big part in the beauty of the building with its range of colors, from rust to gray, in 17 different shades.

Duke Chapel is a Christian church of interdenominational purpose and character. It welcomes people of all faiths and any circumstance with its music and worship. It is a symbol of the University’s goal of bridging learning and faith.

401 Chapel Dr, Durham, NC, Phone: 919-681-9488 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: sframe/Fotolia

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»Cameron Indoor Stadium

Cameron Indoor Stadium


Cameron Indoor Stadium is a 9,314-seat indoor arena located on the West Campus of Durham, North Carolina’s Duke University. It is the home of the Duke women's volleyball team and women's and men's basketball teams. It is also the main indoor athletic venue for the Duke Blue Devils.

It was named Cameroon Indoor Stadium from 1940 when it opened until 1972, when it was renamed Duke Indoor Stadium in honor of Eddie Cameron, the legendary coach of Duke’s men's basketball team. Cameron is considered the crown jewel of classic college basketball's venues.

It was renovated in 1980 when its seating capacity was increased to 9,314, and in 2009 with the installation of the new video scoreboard. The Blue Devils won 817 games in Cameron and the Duke women’s team won 411. Many of these victories have been attributed to the special atmosphere of the Cameron halls.

115 Whitford Dr, Durham, NC, Phone: 919-684-2633 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Sergey Ryzhov/Fotolia

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»Carolina Theater, Durham, NC

Carolina Theater, Durham, NC

Located in the Carolina Theatre complex of downtown Durham, Carolina Theatre has been the city’s most popular and most loved art institutions for more than 20 years. The theatre presents Durham’s art lovers with more than 60 concerts every year, new and classic films daily and several annual film festivals.

The Carolina produces the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as well as the Nevermore and Escapism film festivals. The theatre’s popular Arts Discovery educational program serves 15,000 of Durham’s school children.

The facility is frequently used by a number of not-for-profits and other organizations for their events. The Carolina Theatre historic building was constructed in 1923 in the Beaux-Arts style.

309 West Morgan St., Durham, NC, Phone: 919-560-3030 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: dechevm/Fotolia

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»Bennett Place Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina

Bennett Place Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina


Bennett Place or Bennett Farm in Durham, North Carolina, is a small, simple farmhouse where Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union General William T. Sherman met in April 1865 to sign the surrender of Southern states armies in Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia.

It was the biggest surrender of the American Civil War troops. The original Bennett family farmhouse was carefully reconstructed in the 1960s using original sketches and photos in order to show the farmer and his family’s way of life during this tragic period of the nation's history. This historic site has a well-organized Visitor Center and the extensive Everett-Thissen Research Library, which contains over 1,000 books and documents relating to the Bennett family and Civil War.

Visitors can also see the short very informative film Dawn of Peace. The farmland has many scenic trails visitors can enjoy during their visit.

4409 Bennett Memorial Rd, Durham, NC, Phone: 919-383-4345 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Bennett Place Historic Site

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»Duke Homestead State Historic Site

Duke Homestead State Historic Site


Duke Homestead is the site of the early farm and 1852 home of the Duke family and factories where Washington Duke started growing and processing tobacco. Duke's sons founded The American Tobacco Company, the world’s largest tobacco company.

The tour of the homestead includes a visit to the Duke family's home with four furnished and restored rooms, two tobacco factories, a tobacco packhouse, and a curing barn. The Tobacco Museum, which is part of the Homestead, contains 5,500 square feet of historic exhibits that tell the story of tobacco, ranging from the times of Native Americans to today.

The museum also shows a short film Legacy of the Golden Leaf on the history of tobacco and the Duke family.

2828 Duke Homestead Rd, Durham, NC, Phone: 919-477–5498 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: Duke Homestead State Historic Site

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»Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC

Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC


Duke Stadium is a football stadium that opened its doors on October 5, 1929. The stadium is designed in a horseshoe shape and is surrounded by the towering green pines of the Duke forest.

The stadium changed its name in 1967 in honor of the legendary Duke coach Wallace Wade, who led the Blue Devils to two appearances at the Rose Bowl and a 110-36-7 record. The stadium was upgraded in 1984 when a new lighting system was added, making nighttime football games possible.

There are 64 lights on four 110-foot-high poles, providing great illumination not only for the stadium but also for walkways and parking. A video board was added in 1998, and the Wallace Wade Stadium was the first North Carolina football stadium to have this feature.

110 Frank Basset Dr, Durham, NC, Phone: 919-684-4112 25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina - Photo: moomsabuy/Fotolia

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25 Best Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina