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.

Duke Gardens
April Xayavong and her daughter, Josie, (she was 7 months old in August 2021),
smell the flowers at Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Photography by John Michael Simpson

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

2 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.

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

4 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.

5 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.

6 Have a locally brewed beer at Bull City Burger & Brewery, Ponysaurus Brewing Co., Fullsteam Brewery, Bull Durham Brewing Co., Clouds Brewing, Barrel Culture, Hi-Wire Brewing Co., Starpoint Brewing, Flying Bull Beer Company, Tobacco Wood Brewing, The Glass Jug Beer Lab and/or Durty Bull Brewing Co. 

7 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.

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

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

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

11 Watch a Broadway show at the Durham Performing Arts Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bulls took on the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in front of a crowd of 2,737 during their May 11, 2021, home opener.

19 Pick up your groceries at the locally owned Bulldega Urban Market or the Durham Co-op Market.

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

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

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

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

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

26 Attend a service at Duke Chapel (in person or online).

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

28 Sign up for in-home private classes with Durham Spirits Company.

29 Come to a blues show at The Blue Note Grill

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

31 Catch at least one performance during the American Dance Festival

Bull City Soul Struck rounded out American Dance Festival’s The Stars Are Out show at Mystic Farm & Distillery with an audience-engaging hip-hop performance in June 2021.

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. 

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

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 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.

38 A fan of vinyl? Peruse (either online or in person) the impressive collection of LPs at Chaz’s Bull City Records, Carolina Soul or Hunky Dory

39 Catch a live show with Duke Performances.

40 When it reopens in the spring 2022, take a tour of the Duke Lemur Center, which houses the largest group of these endangered primates in the world.

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

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.

Durham, NC parkrun celebrated its eighth anniversary on June 26, 2021. The free, timed 5K takes place every Saturday at 8 a.m., and runners just need to register online to participate.

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

44 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

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

46 Spend a spring afternoon at Sarah P. Duke Gardens

47 Celebrate our nationally renowned food and beverage scene at Sip + Savor, an annual culinary event hosted by Durham Magazine, Chapel Hill Magazine, Chatham Magazine and Heart of NC Weddings.

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

49 Have a hearty burger at King’s Sandwich Shop, Dain’s Place, Bull City Burger & Brewery, Only Burger, Burger Bach and/or QueenBurger.

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.

52 Take your pick of the day’s catch – delivered fresh from the Carolina coast every day – at Saltbox Seafood Joint

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

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

55 Take a selfie at the Duke Arts Annex’s Satellite Park.

56 Hear ordinary people tell extraordinary stories at The Monti

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

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

LocoPops
LocoPops serves delicious Mexican-style popsicles, known as paletas.

60 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

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

Eric Cooper, Banks Cooper, Tatum Cooper
and Sheena Cooper walk down the
Durham County Main Library’s light-filled
central staircase.

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

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

66 Virtually attend the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, a renowned international event that features dozens of new films.

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.

69 Watch the movie “Bull Durham.”

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

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

72 Pick up a bottle of Alley Twenty Six’s homemade tonics or syrups (pictured), 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 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.

75 Go to a Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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

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

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

79 Appreciate live music of all genres at Motorco Music Hall or The Pinhook.

80 Visit NorthStar Church of the Arts for a performance, art exhibit, movie screening or Sunday service (programming offered online and in person).

81 Go on a shopping spree to boutiques like MODE Consignment, Exotique, Smitten, Bano, Indio, Vintage Home South, Vaguely Reminiscent, Bungalow, Parker & Otis, and Vert & Vogue

82 Keep an eye out for estate sales from Everything But Grannie’s Panties and go on treasure hunts for antiques, collectibles and salvaged goods.

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.

“A dream of mine,” owner Jennings Brody calls the new Parker & Otis space at American Tobacco Campus, one that brings out the fun-loving child in every adult.

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