New to Durham or visiting for a few days? This ultimate checklist, which covers the 85 top Bull City must-dos, is for you.
Photography by John Michael Simpson
Are you planning a visit to Durham, North Carolina, and are wondering what to do during your stay? Or are you a local in search of new and exciting activities to enjoy in your city? Look no further than our Ultimate Durham Checklist, which highlights all the ways to explore Durham’s vibrant food scene and experience its rich history and culture. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, museums or the local nightlife, our checklist has something for everyone. So grab your friends and family, and start checking off these unforgettable experiences.
1 Go canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, picnicking and swimming at Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, Lake Michie or the Eno River State Park.
4 Take a workshop on how to build a terrarium, hang macrame planters and create floral arrangements at plant and gift shop The ZEN Succulent.
5 Volunteer with a local nonprofit, from Meals on Wheels Durham to the Durham Literacy Center or from the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina to the Durham Partnership for Children. Or, work with The Triangle Nonprofit & Volunteer Leadership Center to find the organization that best matches your goals for giving back!
7 Catch a Broadway show at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
10 Stop by the Museum of Durham History to learn about the Bull City and its past.
12 Take your rambunctious youngsters to Durham’s most central playground, Mount Merrill.
13 Play a game of pickup basketball on the refurbished and colorful courts at Hillside Park.
14 Spend a spring afternoon at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
15 Stock up on bottles of beer, cider or wine from Melanated Wine, Wine Authorities, Sam’s Bottle Shop, Beer Study, Growler Grlz, The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Ramblers, The Oak House, LouElla Wine, Beer & Beverage, Brunello Wine Bar or Hope Valley Wine & Beverage.
16 Attend an exhibition opening during Third Friday, Durham’s monthly art walk and gallery crawl.
17 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.
18 Have a locally brewed beer at Bull City Burger and Brewery, Ponysaurus Brewing Co., Fullsteam Brewery, Bull Durham Beer Co., Clouds Brewing, Hi-Wire Brewing Co., Starpoint Brewing, Flying Bull Beer Company, Tobacco Wood Brewing Co., Gizmo Brew Works, The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Der Nachbar and/or Durty Bull Brewing Co.
20 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.
21 Visit The Durham Hotel‘s rooftop bar and watch the sunset, cocktail in hand.
22 Make movie night more interesting with the unique flavors of popcorn from The Mad Popper.
24 Check out work by African American artists at the art museum at N.C. Central University.
26 Come to a blues show at The Blue Note Grill.
27 Take a continuing education course at Duke University or walk the campus for its Gothic architecture.
28 Attend a service at Duke Chapel.
29 Sign up for at-home cooking classes with Season to Taste‘s chef John Eisensmith.
30 Watch or join in the action at the Durham Skate Park – make sure to wear your helmet!
31 Purchase local produce, meat and eggs from your nearest farmers market or at Perkins Orchard, a year-round farm stand.
32 In the middle of summer, find respite from the heat with an ice-cold, homemade Fahsyrah’s Lemonade.
33 Get crafty at creative reuse center The Scrap Exchange, and visit its thrift store while you’re there.
35 Visit Bennett Place, the site of the largest surrender in the Civil War.
36 Sample our tastiest restaurants-on-wheels by visiting a food truck at our local breweries.
37 Catch at least one performance during the American Dance Festival.
39 Check out the latest exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and visit the outdoor space and sculptural garden that connects it to the Rubenstein Arts Center, where you can also peruse exhibits, hear live music or see a dance troupe perform.
40 Take a tour at the Duke Lemur Center, which houses the largest group of these endangered primates in the world.
42 Or sign up for the free Durham, NC parkrun, a weekly timed 5K race that takes place every Saturday – rain or shine – at Southern Boundaries Park.
44 Trek around Duke’s East Campus with your dog while raising money for the Animal Protection Society of Durham during the annual Walk for the Animals.
45 Better yet, adopt a shelter pet from APS of Durham.
46 Catch a live show – from avant-garde dance to chamber music – with Duke Performances.
48 Get a season pass to the Museum of Life and Science and take the kiddos often. Or, leave the kids at home and attend an adults-only AfterHours event.
49 Have your tarot read at underground bar and lounge Arcana.
50 Get a cocktail on tap – or a Miller High Life – and a Frito pie at The Accordion Club.
51 Take a picture with Major the Bull in CCB Plaza.
53 Support artists from around the globe at Bull City Fair Trade.
55 Enjoy a popsicle on the front steps of LocoPops – a dessert cafe that serves Mexican-style frozen treats – and explore its sundries shop.
57 Raise a glass at Durham’s first Black- and woman-owned winery, Melanated Wine.
58 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.
59 Hear ordinary people tell extraordinary stories at The Monti.
60 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.
61 Explore our burgeoning craft beverage scene: Try Bull City Ciderworks‘ Sweet Carolina cider, Durham Distillery‘s Conniption American Dry gin, Greybeard Distillery‘s Bedlam Vodka, The Brothers Vilgalys‘ Krupnikas, any variety of mead from Moon Dog Meadery and Bottle Shop and Honeygirl Meadery and Mystic Bourbon Liqueur.
63 Get a library card at your closest Durham County Library branch (especially the newly renovated Main Library!).
64 Walk, run or bike the American Tobacco Trail.
65 Tour Duke Homestead State Historic Site, the early home, factories and farm where Washington Duke first Grew and processed tobacco.
66 Pick out some plants for your home at a few of our local garden centers like Barnes Supply Co., Durham Garden Center, For Garden’s Sake, Gunters Greenhouse, Stone Brothers & Byrd and Witherspoon Rose Culture.
67 See a retro movie at the Carolina Theatre.
68 Grab a sandwich at Toast and have lunch on the patio as you watch the hustle and bustle of Five Points.
71 While you’re there, take a dip in the pool at Unscripted Durham‘s Patio Lounge.
72 Pick up a bottle of Alley Twenty Six’s homemade tonics or syrups, or try it in a cocktail at the bar.
73 Get a scoop (or two) of Vietnamese coffee or salted butter caramel ice cream from The Parlour.
74 Go on a date night at Boxcar Bar + Arcade.
75 Watch the movie “Bull Durham.”
76 Visit the chef-driven restaurants, coffee shop, bakery, bar and event spaces – all under one roof – at the Durham Food Hall.
77 Go to a Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
78 Take your pick of the day’s catch – delivered fresh from the Carolina coast everyday – at Saltbox Seafood Joint.
80 Visit NorthStar Church of the Arts for a performance, art exhibit, movie screening or Sunday service.
82 Take your craft cocktails, beer and wine to-go at several participating bars and restaurants within our city’s social district, The Bullpen.
83 Join or volunteer with the Durham Bike Co-op, or become a member to access tools and assistance, learn mechanical skills, or get a used bicycle.
84 Watch an oversized vehicle get caught on the “Can Opener” bridge, a 12-foot, 4-inch tall bridge at the corner of Peabody and Gregson streets. Viral videos of tall trucks smashing into the low-hanging bridge have caught the attention of millions online at 11foot8.com.
85 Walk through American Tobacco Campus, home to the famous Lucky Strike Tower, an eclectic mix of restaurants and retail, a beautiful green space and quarter-mile long river.
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