20 Best Things to Do in Durham, NC

Durham, NC
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Durham might seem like a small city, but wait until you step foot inside.

It boasts some of the country's most fascinating historic sights and breathtaking nature spots.

The pedestrian-friendly city has more than enough to keep you entertained.

Watch your favorite Durham Bulls win a game, and learn about the American tobacco industry in the place where it all began.

You can also enjoy just about any cuisine, as there are all sorts of restaurants in downtown Durham.

Ready to explore the Bull City?

Check out this list of the best things to do in Durham, North Carolina:

Gather at the Historic American Tobacco Campus

Night scene at American Tobacco Campus
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Kickstart your trip with a visit to the most exciting part of Durham: downtown.

The area has several things to offer, and the American Tobacco Campus ranks first.

First established in 1890, it used to be the complex of a cigarette factory.

A corridor at American Tobacco Campus
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During the end of the tobacco industry, the American Tobacco Company was transformed into a hub for food and entertainment.

The American Tobacco Campus now comprises the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham Performing Arts Center, Miracle Lead Stadium, and more.

You'll see a lot of locals and tourists walking around the area, enjoying themselves and looking for  great food.

Chairs and tables on American Tobacco Campus' grounds
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Grab a Bite at Brightleaf Square

Daytime view of Brightleaf Square
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You'll find the food of your dreams in Brightleaf Square.

Situated in downtown Durham, it's lined with local shops and restaurants that serve every type of cuisine.

Entryway of Brightleaf Square
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The warehouses of the iconic Watts and the Yuille tobacco companies are located here, so the area also has a lot of historical significance.

Strolling past the brick buildings, which date back to the 1900s, will make you feel like you've gone back in time.

Brightleaf Square also has a picturesque courtyard where several events take place throughout the year.

Exterior of a warehouse at Brightleaf Square
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Gaze at the Beauty of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

An arched bridge at Sarah P. Duke Gardens
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The Duke University campus is very much worth exploring, as the university is home to a number of beautiful sights.

One such place would be the gorgeous Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

The garden itself is stunning, and the space is vast and beautifully decorated.

Daytime view of the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens
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It was named after Sarah Pearson Duke, the wife of one of the university's benefactors.

Many events are held here, and the Japanese tea gatherings are some of the best.

Several summer internships also take place here.

Cherry blossom trees at Sarah P. Duke Gardens
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Pay a Visit to the Gorgeous Nasher Museum of Art

Exterior of Nasher Museum of Art
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When touring the Duke University campus, don't miss out on the the great Nasher Museum of Art.

An art museum that contains art in every category, the Nasher Museum of Art is a sight for sore eyes.

You can find ancient, modern, and contemporary art in this museum.

There are also rare medieval art pieces and pre-Columbian works on display.

If you are passionate about art, the Nasher Museum of Art is a must-visit.

The museum holds several spectacular exhibitions throughout the year.

Pop in to See the Beautiful Duke Chapel

Front exterior of Duke Chapel
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A jaw-dropping work of architecture, Duke Chapel is located on the Duke University grounds.

Very few buildings boast neo-Gothic architecture as fine as this.

Exterior of Duke Chapel
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The chapel looks more like a palace with the towers piercing out and the columns standing straight.

Some volcanic stones were used to build the chapel.

It is indeed one of the most beautiful sights to admire.

Interior of Duke Chapel
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Catch a Show at the Carolina Theatre

Exterior of Carolina Theatre
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The Carolina Theatre is one of the best places to enjoy in Durham.

This theater shows you what the actual Durham looks like, and it is pretty famous, too.

Marquee of Carolina Theatre
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It hosts many events throughout the year, and you even get to see a lot of films all year round.

There are daily shows that go on here as well.

You can easily book a ticket and get a chance to take part in the theater's incredible legacy.

Treat Yourself to Mouth-Watering Burgers at OnlyBurger

It's always exciting to sample new cuisines, but the traditional American hamburger and fries are undeniably unbeatable.

OnlyBurger has been preparing the freshest burgers and hand-cut fries since 2008.

They started out as a simple food truck and have since opened a restaurant to keep up with a growing demand for their dishes.

Made with Piedmontese beef, their burgers are a must-try when in Durham.

Don't miss out on a chance to gorge on their mouth-watering specialties!

Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Eno River State Park

Still and reflective waters of Eno River State Park
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In Durham, Eno River State Park is the best place to take a break amid nature.

The park offers a wide range of options for outdoor recreation.

There are a lot of trails that boast awe-inspiring views.

Wooden suspension bridge at Eno River State Park
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The Cox Mountain Trail, in particular, tends to attract all sorts of adventure lovers.

The blue river that flows through the green forests is a sight that must not be missed.

You can go kayaking in the river water.

Woods area of Eno River State Park
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Visit the Bennett Place Historic Site

Exterior of Bennett Place Historic Site
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If you consider yourself a history geek, the Bennett Place Historic Site is among the best places for you to visit in Durham.

It was here that Confederate General Joseph Johnston met with Union General William Sherman, marking the end of the Civil War.

History marker of Bennett Place Historic Site
Ildar Sagdejev (Specious), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The simple farmhouse, kitchenhouse, and smokehouse owned by James and Nancy Bennett were reconstructed to exhibit how the ordinary Southern farmer lived during the Civil War era.

You can visit the exact room where the two generals met to end the war.

There's also a Visitor Center with a museum gallery, monuments, and outdoor exhibits for guests to explore.

Cabins at Bennett Place Historic Site
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Interact with Some Lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center

Coquerel's sifaka on a tree at Duke Lemur Center
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Want to go check out some cute little prosimian primates?

Durham has a place especially reserved for them.

The center is close to the Duke University campus.

A meditating sifaka lemur at Duke Lemur Center
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It was first established when Yale sent some of its primate species to Duke and asked them to take care of them.

Now, it’s the largest sanctuary of its kind in the world.

You can take a tour around the center, learn about the different species, and enjoy.

A sifaka lemur at Duke Lemur Center
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Visit Duke Homestead State Historic Site

Exterior of Duke Homestead Historic Site
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The home and the beginning of everything important for the iconic Duke family, Duke Homestead Historic Park plays an essential role in America’s tobacco industry.

It was here that the legendary Washington Duke tried his hand at making tobacco.

Exterior of Duke Homestead State Historic Site's tobacco pack house
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Now the largest tobacco company in the entire world, the American Tobacco Company was just a start-up that had its initial stages right here.

There is a museum where you can see all the processes of how they made tobacco in the old days.

You can even see the tobacco factories.

Check Out the Museum of Life + Science

Butterfly in Museum of Life + Science
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The Museum of Life + Science is one of the top interesting places to check out in Durham.

When you are in the area, peep inside and be amazed.

Originally named the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, this museum has some of the best natural science displays you'll ever see.

It comprises more than 80 collections and even more attractions outside the building.

There's a butterfly house and a train, both of which get visitors excited.

See the Stagville State Historic Site

Durham truly has some of the best spots for history buffs.

If you are well-versed in American history, then you must already know about most, if not all, of these spots.

Now, this is your chance to see one of them for yourself.

Listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, the Stagville State Historic Site used to be the homestead of the Bennehan-Cameron family.

The famous Stagville Plantation was one of the largest plantations in America at that time.

It's a charming place to immerse yourself in history.

Catch a Game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Exterior of Durham Bulls Athletic Park
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A trip to Durham is incomplete without making your way to the famous Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

The city’s minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls, calls this park their home.

A baseball game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
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Game nights are the most highly anticipated events here, so if you plan to catch one, it would be best to book your seats ahead of time.

If it turns out you're unable to get a ticket, don't worry—Durham Bulls Athletic Park has other amazing experiences to offer.

Not far away from the stadium, you'll find the filming location for the iconic film Bull Durham.

The field of Durham Bulls Athletic Park
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Visit the Durham Performing Arts Center

Exterior of Durham Performing Arts Center
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When in Durham, you must check out the Durham Performing Arts Center.

It's not only one of the most attractive spots in the city, but is also considered one of the best live entertainment centers in the country.

A singer at Durham Performing Arts Center
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It ranks among the top three performing centers in the US that earn handsomely from ticket sales.

The center holds more than 2,700 people and hosts almost 200 shows per year.

Tourists and locals love visiting this legendary place for a taste of the real Durham.

Explore the Durnham's Past at the Museum of Durham History

The Museum of Durham History is where you'll get to learn about the city's vibrant past and the simple things that pique the attention of those who come to visit.

Furthermore, the Durham County Museum of Past and Culture is devoted to educating the public about Durham's rich history and encouraging an appreciation for the city's diversity.

An exhibit on Durham's history, a gallery of Durham tales, and a wealth of knowledge on the city's historical landmarks are all displayed with pride at the museum.

The museum is also home to 150 Faces of Durham, a touring exhibit that showcases some of Durham's most well-known and lesser-known residents.

Hang Out with Your Family at West Point on the Eno

Nature trail of West Point on the Eno
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West Point on the Eno is a 404-acre municipal park on the Eno River north of downtown Durham.

It's home to the 1850s McCown-Mangum farmstead, a museum situated in a replica colonial mill, and a photography museum containing old photographs from the 19th Durham's centuries, all of which are on the National Register city'storic Places.

Exterior of West Point on the Eno's mill
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The park also comprises a five-mile hiking track and an amphitheater.

You may go on a hike or embark on a kayak trip, which are among the popular activities to enjoy in the area.

A dam at West Point on the Eno
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Have a Picnic at Durham Central Park

Wall mural of Durham Central Park
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Take a break from the city and unwind in Durham Central Park.

The five-acre urban park has well-maintained landscaping.

There are many opportunities to get some exercise and fresh air while taking in the landscape and the park's numerous facilities.

It features themed gardens, a playground, enough parking, spotless toilets, a large lawn, and a skate park for the younger set.

Stroll through its beautiful garden parts, sit on the bench to read, watch your children have fun at the playground, have a picnic, join yoga classes, and many more.

Try the Local Mead at Honeygirl Meadery and Tasting Room

Honeygirl Meadery is situated in Durham's downtown district and serves award-winning, tummy-warming mead.

They make their mead with flowers, herbs, seasonal fruits, and honey, all tied to the industrious honeybee.

Mead connoisseurs and craft beverage fans are invited to visit the tasting room on weekends to experience the meadery's distinctive and tasty wares.

In addition, Honeygirl Meadery offers visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the process of honey fermentation.

Try the Blueberry Mead, Orange Blossom Mead, and the Spiced Apple Cyser, some of their most popular offerings.

Unleash Your Inner Viking at Urban Axes Durham

For a fun night out with friends or family, Urban Axes Durham is where you can test your ax-throwing skills.

Escape the daily grind at Urban Axes Durham, which is open to grown adults.

As a bonus, visitors may enjoy the strangely pleasurable experience of throwing an ax and then hearing it connect with the board with a pleasing thunk.

There is no need to be concerned if you are a first-time visitor, as there will be knowledgeable staff ready to assist you.

Final Thoughts

Travelers visiting this landlocked city will find various activities and relaxation choices to keep themselves and their companions happy.

Take a much-needed trip to Durham and escape the bustle of everyday life!