The Ultimate Durham Checklist

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If you are visiting Durham for a few days or need help planning your Durham staycation, this ultimate Durham checklist is perfect for you. Here are our top things everyone should do while they are in the Bull City.

Have lunch and a pastry at The Mad Hatter’s Café & Bakeshop.

Photography by Beth Mann

1 Purchase local produce, meat and eggs from your nearest farmers market (see page 84 in our Visitors and Relocation Guide to find one by you) or at Perkins Orchard, a year-round farm stand.

2 Have a big breakfast at Elmo’s Diner and/or Foster’s Market

3 Visit the new outdoor space and sculpture garden that connects the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to the Rubenstein Arts Center, where you can also peruse exhibits, hear live music or see a dance troupe perform. Until the galleries reopen, the museum has collaborated with Duke Arts and Duke Health to present an outdoor exhibition and public awareness campaign by nationally renowned artist Carrie Mae Weems called “RESIST COVID / TAKE 6!,” which emphasizes the disproportionate impact of the virus on the lives of communities of color through large-scale banners and window clings, wheatpaste posters, street signs and more.

4 Stock up on drinks at Beer Durham and then hop on the Bull City Laughs bus for a comedy tour around the city.  

5 Watch a Broadway show via livestream or at the Durham Performing Arts Center once COVID-19 restrictions allow. 

6 Meet local artisans and find beautifully crafted pottery, jewelry, illustrations, woodwork and more at the Durham Craft Market or The Artisan Market at 305. 

7 Take your rambunctious youngsters to Durham’s most central playground, Mount Merrill

8 Volunteer with a local nonprofit, from Meals on Wheels Durham to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina to Habitat for Humanity of Durham

9 Have a locally brewed beer at Bull City Burger & Brewery, Ponysaurus, Fullsteam Brewery, Bull Durham Brewing Co., Clouds Brewing, Barrel Culture, Hi-Wire Brewing Co., Starpoint Brewing and/or Durty Bull Brewing Co. 

10 Walk or bike the American Tobacco Trail

11 Stop by the Museum of Durham History to learn more about the Bull City and its past.

12 Have lunch and a pastry at The Mad Hatter’s Café & Bakeshop or at Guglhupf. 

13 Entertain your little ones with child-friendly coffee shop Nolia: Family + Coffee’s storytimes, music, dancing and other family fun.

14 Take a virtual workshop on how to build a terrarium, hang macrame planters and create floral arrangements at plant and gift shop The Zen Succulent

15 Rock out at Live in the Lot and Motorco Music Hall

16 Go on a shopping spree to boutiques like Fifi’s (pictured), Exotique, Smitten, Bano, Indio, Vintage Home South, Vaguely Reminiscent, Bungalow, Parker and Otis, Chet Miller and Vert & Vogue

Photo by Nikki White Belch, Fancy This Photography

17 Become a member of the University Club on the 17th floor of University Tower. Often referred to as “The Pickle” by locals, the tower is home to offices and a penthouse restaurant and bar.

18 Attend an exhibition opening at any of our incredible galleries and at Golden Belt, a renovated former textile factory.

19 Make movie night more interesting with the unique flavors of popcorn from The Mad Popper.

20 Watch or join in the action at the Durham Skate Park – make sure to wear your helmet!

21 Check out work by African American artists at the art museum at N.C. Central University.

22 Play a game of pickup basketball on the refurbished and colorful courts at Hillside Park

23 Visit The Durham Hotel’s Rooftop Bar and watch the sunset, cocktail in hand.

24 Recycle your old technology with Triangle Ecycling, which handles computer refurbishing and has a strong youth education program with Durham Public Schools, teaching hands-on computer repair skills to students. 

25 Catch at least one performance during the American Dance Festival

26 Pick up your groceries at locally owned Bulldega Urban Market (pictured) or the Durham Co-op Market.

Bulldega Urban Market

27 Grab an interesting beer, cider or bottle of wine from Sam’s Bottle Shop, Beer Durham, Growler Grlz, The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Ramblers, The Oak House, LouElla Wine, Beer + Beverage or Hope Valley Wine & Beverage.

28 Attend a service at Duke Chapel (online and in person).

29 Take a continuing education course at Duke University or walk the campus for its Gothic architecture. 

30 Sign up for a private virtual or in-home Durham Spirits Company class.

31 Come to a blues show at The Blue Note Grill

32 Find new, used and children’s books at our local bookstores The Regulator Bookshop, Letters Bookshop, Books Do Furnish a Room, Golden Fig Books and Wentworth & Leggett Books.

33 When its season returns, take in a Durham Bulls game. 

34 Visit Bennett Place, the site of the largest surrender in the Civil War.

Bennett Place, the site of the largest troop surrender and effective end of the Civil War in Durham, NC.

35 Sample our tastiest restaurants-on-wheels by visiting a food truck at our local breweries.

36 Order from one of our local coffee roasters – Counter Culture, Little Waves Coffee Roasters, Bean Traders, Joe Van Gogh or Beyu Caffeor tea from Jeddah’s Tea (pictured).

37 A fan of vinyl? Peruse the impressive collection of LPs at Chaz’s Bull City Records, Carolina Soul, Hunky Dory and/or Schoolkids Records

38 In the middle of summer, find respite from the heat with an ice-cold, homemade Fahsyrah’s Lemonade

39 Become a member of the Durham Bike Co-op, a nonprofit where you can pay $30 a year (and an extra $20 if you want a bike) or volunteer for three hours and do two more hours and pay $10 in exchange for a bike. The cost of membership offers you access to the shop (when safety restrictions ease up), Co-op tools and assistance from volunteer mechanics.

40 Visit the seven chef-driven restaurants, coffee shop, bar, florist and apothecary, and event space, all under one roof at the Durham Food Hall.

41 Get crafty at creative reuse center The Scrap Exchange, and visit its new thrift store while you’re there. 

42 Enjoy a beer while you wait to get a haircut at Rock’s Bar and Hair Shop

43 Catch a virtual show with Duke Performances.

44 When it reopens, take a tour of the Duke Lemur Center, which houses the largest group of these endangered primates in the world.

45 Join the Fullsteam Ahead! Run Club with Bull City Running Co. or join Fleet Feet’s Ponyrun at Ponysaurus.

46 Go canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, picnicking and swimming at Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, Lake Michie or the Eno River State Park

47 Rent Giant Jenga or Giant Connect Four from Triangle Lawn Games for some at-home fun.

Enjoying some at-home fun from Triangle Lawn Games makes the ultimate Durham checklist.
Caleb Rushing and Marie Muir enjoy Giant Jenga provided by Triangle Lawn Games.

48 Get a season pass to the Museum of Life and Science and take the kiddos often.

49 Explore our burgeoning craft beverage scene: Try Bull City Ciderworks’ Smooth Hoperator cider, Durham Distillery’s Conniption gin, Graybeard Distillery’s Bedlam Vodka, The Brothers Vilgalys’ Krupnikas, Honeygirl Meadery and Mystic Bourbon Liqueur

50 Trek around Duke’s East Campus with your dog while raising money for the Animal Protection Society (APS) of Durham during the annual Walk for the Animals

51 Better yet, adopt a shelter pet from APS of Durham. 

52 View exhibits or take a class in the documentary arts at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies.

53 Get a cocktail on tap – or a Miller High Life – and a Frito pie at The Accordion Club

54 Take a picture with Major the Bull in CCB Plaza.

55 Take your pick of the day’s catch – delivered fresh from the Carolina coast every day – at one of Saltbox Seafood Joint’s two locations. 

56 Visit North Star Church of the Arts for a performance, art exhibit, movie screening or Sunday service (program currently offered online).

57 Spend a spring afternoon at Sarah P. Duke Gardens

58 Celebrate our nationally renowned food and beverage scene at Sip + Savor and TASTE, two annual culinary events hosted by Durham Magazine, Chapel Hill Magazine and Chatham Magazine

Bull City Burger & Brewery makes the ultimate Durham checklist

59 Enjoy small bites and a rosé flight (or your own favorite style of wine) at The Wine Feed

60 Have a hearty burger at King’s Sandwich Shop, Dain’s Place, Bull City Burger & Brewery (pictured), Only Burger and/or Burger Bach

61 Support artists from around the globe at Bull City Fair Trade.

62 Play a round of golf at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club and/or the Hillandale Golf Course.

63 Go on a treasure hunt at Everything But Grannie’s Panties – a Victorian home on Guess Road filled to the brim with antiques, collectibles and salvaged goods.

64 Spend a night at unique local hotels JB Duke Hotel, Washington Duke Inn, Durham Marriott, Unscripted Durham, 21c Museum Hotel, Morehead Manor, Arrowhead Inn or The Durham Hotel

65 Take a selfie at the Duke Arts Annex’s Satellite Park, and attend a free arts workshop. 

66 Hear ordinary people tell extraordinary stories at The Monti

67 Get a library card at your closest Durham County Library branch.

68 Step back in time with a tour of the working West Point Mill at West Point on the Eno. While you’re there, visit the McCown-Mangum House and the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography.

69 Take a dip in the pool at Unscripted Durham’s Patio Lounge.

A stay at Unscripted Durham Hotel makes the ultimate Durham checklist
Vacationers enjoying the pool at Unscripted Hotel. Photo by Cornell Watson

70 Attend the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, a renowned international event featuring more than 100 films, or catch one of its year-round events at the Full Frame Theater at American Tobacco Campus

71 See a retro movie at The Carolina Theatre

72 Get creative at the Durham Pixel Wall at Durham Central Park.

73 Cut into a fresh slice of pizza with your own pair of scissors at Pompieri Pizza; housed in Durham’s original fire station, pompieri means firefighter in Italian.

74 Enjoy a Cranberry Jalapeno popsicle on the front steps of LocoPops – a dessert cafe that serves Mexican-style frozen treats.

75 Tour Duke Homestead State Historic Site, the early home, factories and farm where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. 

Purchasing homemade tonics or syrups from Alley Twenty Six makes the ultimate Durham checklist.

76 Grab a doughnut from Monuts and/or a biscuit from Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken.

77 Shop for interesting gifts at Dolly’s Vintage and Gibson Girl Vintage.

78 Go on a date night to Boxcar Bar + Arcade.

79 Pick up a bottle of Alley Twenty Six’s homemade tonics or syrups, or try it in a cocktail at the bar.

80 Get a scoop (or two) of Vietnamese coffee or salted butter caramel ice cream from The Parlour.

81 Rent a scooter and ride down Black Wall Street. Along the way, stop to read the signs on Parrish Street and learn about the historic hub of African American businesses and financial services.

82 Grab a sandwich at Toast and have lunch on the patio as you watch the hustle and bustle of Five Points.

83 Watch the movie “Bull Durham.”

84 Go to a Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium and Wallace Wade Stadium.

85 Grab a cup of drinking chocolate and churros, or a coffee with black lava salt, at Cocoa Cinnamon’s Lakewood location.

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