City Guide / Raleigh-Durham

8 Fun Things to Do in Durham, NC

By Bri Hand | Nov 16, 2021
View of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a botanical garden within Duke University in Durham, NC.

Thinking about visiting or moving to Durham, North Carolina? This city is the northernmost point on what’s known as the Research Triangle (or “Triangle”) of eastern North Carolina: three cities in the Durham-Chapel Hill Metro area that include Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh.

Each of these cities is home to one of the United States’ most prestigious research universities—Duke University, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. As such, Durham, NC, residents are privileged with a wealth of resources to enjoy their surroundings. 

This guide will highlight eight fun things to do in Durham, NC, to connect, explore, and unwind in this Southern metropolis, including: 

  • Eno Park
  • Local lemurs
  • Duke University
  • American Tobacco Trail
  • Tuba museum
  • Durham Farmers Market
  • Chapel Hill
  • Raleigh

Let’s get started!

1.  Visit Eno Park

Winding around the Northern flanks of south Durham is the Eno River, where residents can enjoy a host of fun recreational activities, including:

  • Check out West Point: West Point on Eno Park is a great place to enjoy a day hike or take your kayak to spend a day out on the lazy Eno River. Here, you’ll also find the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography, which features the work of a 19th century resident and self-taught photographer who captured life in the city through portraits and quotidian scenes.
  • Go swimming: There are multiple places to swim by the Eno River. For a natural site to take a dunk, hike 10 minutes from West Point on Eno Park to Sennett’s Hole.
  • Walk through Dunnagan Graveyard: If you’re up for hale and hearty hiking trails along the Eno, be sure to make a pitstop at Dunnagan Graveyard. It’s a serene spot to retreat from the city grind, enjoy some peace and quiet, and see a spontaneous Daffodil garden crop up come spring.

The Eno River winds down from Eno State Park, with nearly 4,000 acres of forest that’s well worth a day or two of camping, too.

2. Stroll down Lemur Lane

Lemurs are the most endangered mammals on earth, native exclusively to Madagascar. However, thanks to Duke University’s research and conservation efforts, they’ve now settled quite nicely at the Duke Lemur Center.

The Duke Lemur Center, which is located on Duke’s campus down Lemur Lane, is home to over 200 lemurs and bushbabies. To tour the grounds, visit the center’s website to schedule a tour in advance.

3. Take advantage of Duke University

Looking for more fun ways to make the most of Duke’s resources? If you’re all lemur-ed out, here are a few more ways to take advantage of the university setting:

  • Sarah P. Duke Gardens: Don’t miss out on day rambling around the resplendent Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The sprawling botanical center spans 55 acres of green space, featuring the Historic Gardens, Asiatic Arboretum, a garden of native plants, a koi pond, and a butterfly sanctuary.
  • Nasher Museum of Art: The Nasher Museum of Art boasts an exquisite collection of more than 10,000 classic and modern works of art. 
  • Cameron Stadium: Duke University is home to a legendary basketball team, so if you’re living in Durham, you’ll have to catch at least one match! Stoke your team spirit and head to Cameron Stadium for some of the best women’s basketball, men’s basketball, and women’s volleyball in the collegiate game.

If you’re hankering for a meal after a long day of reminiscing about your college days, you’re in luck. Local favorites include Moe’s Original BBQ, a popular spot for lovers of all things smoked meat, the classic Elmo’s Diner, and Cosmic Cantina for wee-hour Mexican staples and margaritas.

4. Hike the Tobacco Trail

The American Tobacco Trail is a popular 20-mile stretch running from Woodcroft in south Durham to the new American Tobacco Campus in central Durham. By the time the trail deposits you at the American Tobacco Campus, you’ll find several attractions you won’t want to miss:

  • The Power Plant: Owned and operated by Duke University, the Power Plant is home to the institution’s Center for Documentary Studies. The Power Plant also contains an art gallery and theater for screenings and hosts the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
  • Durham Bulls Athletic Park: It’s time to play bull at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It may not be the big leagues, but this Minor League baseball stadium is a major point of pride for the community and a megawatt source of fun. Come for the BBQ and stay for the hometown team spirit!
  • Durham Performing Arts Center: This center is a large nearby event venue for all things performing arts, featuring touring theatre, music, comedy, and dance shows.

Durham’s Tobacco Trail greenway is part of the city’s “rails to trails” effort, where the city has converted old, unused railroad tracks into a nature paradise. This area also nurtures local businesses to keep residents active in their own backyards.

5. Enter tuba heaven

Do you go absolutely hog wild for the orchestral brass section? Whether your answer is “No,” or a resounding, deafening “Yes!” the V & E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection is an eclectic must-see for residents.

Founded by tubist and tuba historian Vincent Simonetti, this fun boutique museum—which Atlas Obscura has included in their catalog—boasts the best and brassiest of his personal tuba collection, exhibited in a charming five-room house.

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the instrument (of which there are a staggering number of variations), a visit to the collection is sure to be an hour well spent under the auspices of one of the most knowledgeable, ambitious, and pure-of-heart museums in the area.

6. Meet your local farmer

The Durham Farmers Market is one of the most vibrant in the area, with more than 65 vendors selling homegrown, home-baked, and homemade goods like hotcakes. Browsing the tents, you’ll find unique products like:

  • “Puttin’-up” products like jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes
  • Handmade cheese
  • Foraged mushrooms
  • Backyard-brewed kombucha
  • Sustainably and ethically raised meats
  • Vegan, gluten-free, and old-fashioned baked goods
  • Garden products and potted plants

There are also plenty more products to explore within the market to fill your Saturday mornings.

7. Poke around Chapel Hill

One of the benefits of living in Durham is having access to two other North Carolinian cities at your doorstep: Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill is less than 30 minutes outside of Durham by car, and it’s a beautiful town that’s well worth an afternoon excursion. While you’re there, be sure to check out some of these beloved (and quirky) offerings:

  • Morehead Planetarium: Take advantage of UNC’s offerings and pay a visit to the Morehead Planetarium for some cosmic exhibitions open to the public.
  • Battle Park: Head toward Battle Park to stomp around the Gimghoul Historic District like it’s 1926, when the neighborhood castle, Gimghoul Castle, was built to give some medieval trim to the surrounding Colonial Revivalist homes.

Chapel Hill is also a uniquely family-friendly city, so if you have kids in tow, they’ll be sure to go wild for the city’s Kidzu Children’s Museum.

8. Take a day trip to Raleigh

Raleigh, the second-largest city in the state, will take more than a day to explore. Before you take to the open road, here are some ideas for your itinerary to visit, eat, and relish some of what Raleigh has to offer:

  • Soak in the museums: Pick an overcast weekend and make it a museum day with visits to the North Carolina Museum of Art, one of the most prestigious fine arts museums in the South. Follow up the arts immersion with a visit to the Prairie Ridge Ecostation to enjoy some environmental education and lush, rolling green meadows.
  • Order one of everything: Raleigh is steadily becoming one of the premier gastro-destinations in the South. You’ll be in for a memorable meal at Indian fusion restaurant Garland, Neapolitan mainstay Bella Monica, and regal Raleigh mainstay Angus Barn. Before you go, check out Videri Chocolate Factory for a tour and some take-home dessert.
  • Go back in time: A short drive south of town, you’ll find one of Raleigh’s most beautiful historic sites. Yates Mill Pond County Park is a Wake County forest refuge featuring a beautiful 18th-century mill. The park is also home to a small museum dedicated to the history of the area. If you can make it to Yates in the fall, it’s one of the most luminous times of year to see the leaves change.

Raleigh is one of the South’s most happening, up-and-coming cities, so it’s a good thing this lively enclave is just a 20-minute drive from Durham, NC.

Discover more with Landing

Durham, NC, is constantly in a state of evolution, feeding off its own energy as well as its fraternal cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

If you’re moving to Durham, NC, you’ll need a landing pad that feels just like home. Landing matches apartment hunters to furnished apartments across the U.S., with flexible leases and amenities tailored to their personal feelings of home.

Check out Landing’s furnished apartments in Durham to find your perfect launchpad for your North Carolina adventure.

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.