15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Durham, NC

Downtown Durham, NC
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The bustling city of Durham is part of Durham County in North Carolina.

It’s known as the “City of Medicine,” with more than 300 health and medical-related companies in the area, making it Durham’s major industry.

The city is considered to be one of the best mid-sized cities to live in for its focus on healthcare, low unemployment, exceptional education systems, housing markets, and beautiful downtown area that's littered with delicious restaurants, unique boutiques, and breweries.

Durham has plenty of new modern, trendy places to visit and experience, but it doesn't neglect to show its rich history through its historical districts free for any traveler to experience.

Here are the best things to do in Downtown Durham, North Carolina:

Take a Stroll at the American Tobacco Campus Historic District

Signage of American Tobacco Campus Historic District
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There’s no better place to start your Downtown Durham visit than at the American Tobacco Campus Historic District.

This district at 300 Blackwell Street is a historical complex of old warehouses and factories from the 1870s to the 1950s.

They were used for tobacco product creations and have since been revitalized and repurposed into offices, restaurants, and other shops.

Top view of American Tobacco Campus Historic District
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The district offers a beautiful historic area perfect for strolls and sightseeing; it's also an amazing hub for delicious food and entertainment.

Expect to walk a lot as the campus covers over 14 buildings and three structures, each contributing to its historical status.

The American Tobacco Campus Historic District is a great place to walk around and visit to hang out with friends and eat after watching a game.

Display of a tractor at American Tobacco Campus Historic District
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Take Your Pets to the Downtown Durham Dog Park

If you’re looking for a place for your pets to run free and relax, go to the Downtown Durham Dog Park on Elliot Street.

It has all the features you’d expect in a dog park—benches you can sit on while your pooch runs around, waste dispensers, and two areas that separate small and large dogs.

Since it’s one of the smaller, unpopular dog parks, expect a quiet experience with few to no dogs.

Downtown Durham Dog Park offers a peaceful relaxing time with your beloved pets.

Watch a Game at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Entrance to Durham Bulls Athletic Park
JamesReyes, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is an athletic ballpark situated in downtown Durham.

Founded in 1995, The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is located at 409 Blackwell Street and can be accessed from the Durham Freeway.

The 10,000-seat park is home to multiple big and small league sports teams; its roof covers 2,500 seats and provides an amazing view for every fan in the stadium.

Baseball game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Melizabethi123, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This brick ballpark was built to ensure that every seat will give the visitors an intimate old-time ballpark feel combined with the historic Durham architecture as they enjoy today’s game.

Whether or not you’re an avid baseball fan, you should try watching games here at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Visitors at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover the Finest Indian Cuisine at Viceroy

Viceroy puts a modern spin on traditional Indian cuisine in an old-fashion English pub.

It is located on West Main Street in the heart of Downtown Durham.

Order their flavorful lamb curry and enjoy your delicious meal in an English-style interior.

Don’t forget to order their craft cocktails and drinks to enhance your dining experience.

Watch a Grand Performance at the Durham Performing Arts Center

Exterior view of Durham Performing Arts Center
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The Durham Performing Arts Center is a performance arts theater showcasing Broadway shows and popular music artists and entertainers.

The largest performance arts center in Carolina, the Durham Performing Arts Center, or DPAC, is the venue for over 200 shows annually, showing amazing productions that range from concerts, comedy shows, and Broadway productions to the American Dance Festival.

A singer performing at Durham Performing Arts Center
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If you've bought a ticket for an upcoming show, you'll be able to enjoy said performances with the venue's phenomenal acoustics and functional and thought-out multi-level theatre architecture.

You’re free to order from their lobby bars that feature snacks such as chips, candies, and even freshly baked cookies; you can also order wine, cocktails, and a selection of craft beers.

Durham Performing Arts Center is on Vivian Street.

A woman performing at Durham Performing Arts Center
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Enjoy a Hearty Meal at NanaSteak

If you’re looking for the best steak in Downtown Durham, look no further than at NanaSteak.

NanaSteak is a lively steakhouse serving premium steaks in a contemporary, well-lit dining space.

It also offers upscale meals, drinks, and a relaxing experience.

You can never go wrong with their tender and flavorful prime rib and filet mignon.

Be sure to order from their list of wines and cocktails to complement your meal.

Finish your meal with their superb desserts and cake of the day.

Founded in 2016, NanaSteak is right next to the Durham Performing Arts Center at Blackwell Street.

Watch and Discover Durham’s History at Carolina Theatres

Signage of Carolina Theatres
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The Carolina Theatre is a non-profit theater, performance arts, and cinema complex venue.

Located at West Morgan Street, it was established in 1926 and is currently the last of the original theaters in Durham, recently renovated in 2011, retaining its original decor.

With its 1,016 seats, two movie theatres, and a ballroom, you can enjoy a unique experience watching films and live performances.

Carolina Theatre also has historical exhibits featuring the rich culture and history of Durham’s arts.

Front view of Carolina Theatres
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On the main lobby level, you can see exhibits on artists and films, showing how Downtown Durham and the theater evolved over time.

On the first balcony level, you'll find exhibits dedicated to the volunteers from the 1970s to the 1980s, focused on Connie Moses's journey to restore the Carolina Theatre, and the ballroom named after her.

Finally, on the second balcony level lies the exhibits that focus on the heroic protests for the desegregation of Carolina in the 1960s, making the theater accessible to all.

Fountain in front of Carolina Theatres
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Cool Off with Desserts at The Parlour

There's no better treat on a warm and sunny day than ice cream, which you can enjoy at The Parlour.

The Parlour is an ice cream shop serving arguably the best ice cream in the area.

Their ice cream dairy has been locally sourced and handmade daily since 2011, offering unique, eye-catching, and mouthwatering ice cream flavors, plus vegan options!

Enjoy The Parlour’s non-every day, creative flavors such as sweet potato, apple cider sorbet, pear brie, and more!

Order from their bright pink and white store at 117 Market Street, and take a walk around the historic African-American section of Downtown Durham as you enjoy your delicious treat.

Enjoy a Unique Stay at 21c Museum Hotel Durham

Exterior view of 21c Museum Hotel Durham
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21c Museum Hotel Durham is a four-star hotel and museum on North Corcoran Street, a four-minute walk from the DPAC.

It's a classy, contemporary boutique hotel with a prominent museum featuring a modern art gallery.

Here you can enjoy your stay by taking beautiful photographs of the museum and the hotel's minimalist design.

21c Museum Hotel Durham also has an on-site fitness center, with a sauna and a business center.

Discover Durham at the Museum of Durham History

The Museum of Durham History is one of Durham’s local museums, free for visitors to explore.

This small, 21st-century museum features thoughtfully curated exhibits, artifacts, and accounts of the chronological history of Durham and its community.

The Museum of Durham History showcases the city's ancestral, cultural, and economic history.

It’s located on West Main Street.

Join the Festivities at Durham Central Park

Name board of Durham Central Park
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Durham Central Park offers visitors a relaxing time with its activities and surrounding nature.

This five-acre park offers plenty of beautiful green spaces and accessibility to nearby attractions and entertainment

You can go to the pavilion, a 9,000-square-foot roofed event area that hosts the lively Durham Farmer's Market.

A small pedestrian bridge at Durham Central Park
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You can also bring the kids to Mount Merrill, a children’s play area with a climbing mound.

Next to it is the Pixel Wall Durham, a series of three-panel colorful walls visitors can move around to create their own art.

You can also skate at the 10,000-square-foot concrete park, with quarter pipes, step-up banks, stairwells with handrails, and more.

Farmer's market at Durham Central Park
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can even hike and escape the concrete jungle through the beautiful gardens and trails.

Durham’s Central Park is located at Foster Street.

Enjoy Italian Dishes at Cugino Forno

Cugino Forno is a popular Italian pizza restaurant.

Founded in 2017, Cugino Forno makes its fresh pizzas fresh and offers a taste of Italy at an affordable price.

They use hand-made wood-burning ovens to make the best authentic pizzas in town.

The restaurant also has an open kitchen and a self-serve condiment bar.

You can enjoy their authentic Italian meals in their cozy industrial-style interior while watching TV.

Don’t forget to order dessert; you can’t go wrong with their Italian Fruit Tarts and the popular Homemade Cannoli.

Cugino Forno is located at 800 Taylor Street.

Indulge in Mexican Dishes at Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas

Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas is a popular South American-Mexican restaurant in Downtown Durham.

It is located on West Main Street and offers a creative and delicious menu in a chic exposed-brick wall-style casual dining area.

Couple Shawn and his wife Maria founded the restaurant in 2009, inspired by the explosive changes in the city, establishing a delicious addition to the already colorful culinary scene in Durham.

Enjoy their large portions and cleverly presented South American Cuisine; you can't go wrong with their Beef Brisket and, of course, their empanadas.

If you're craving South American cuisine while visiting Downtown Durham, Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas is the ideal place.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore, Relax, and Get Inspired at Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Scenic view of Sarah P. Duke Gardens
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Just outside Downtown Durham lies Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden that’s a must-visit in the city.

It's located at Anderson Street and offers a beautiful 55-acre green area perfect for relaxation, drawing over 600,00 visitors annually.

The gardens are divided into four distinct areas that offer different but picturesque experiences.

Eric C Roberts / Shutterstock.com

You start your adventure by the large Gothic gates, where you can take a map for a self-guided tour along the gardens.

End your trip by the Terrace cafe for a snack or a hearty meal; options include sandwiches, salads, drinks such as coffee, and more.

Visitors enjoying at Sarah P. Duke Gardens
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Taste Unique Ciders at Bull City Ciderworks

Bull City Ciderworks is a cider bar and taproom near South Roxboro Street, eight minutes from Downtown Durham.

It offers seasonal brews with rustic, contemporary-style decor and outdoor seating.

They’re passionate about their hard cider—unique blends unsweetened by corn syrup and perfect on its own, making you taste 100% of the apple!

You can take a seat at their spacious indoor taproom and order from their extensive list of unique and delicious gluten-free ciders—from hops, gingers, honey, bacon, black tea, and other combinations you wouldn't expect.

Visit Bull City Ciderworks to experience the best ciders near Downtown Durham.

Final Thoughts

Downtown Durham is a lively district rich in history and interesting attractions.

It's also home to various restaurants where you can try different cuisines.

Start planning your trip with these best things to do in Downtown Durham, North Carolina.

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