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There’s no shortage of things to do with kiddos in Bull City. The city is impressively kid-friendly and we tote our toddler with us to most activities and restaurants (unless it’s past his bedtime). For a family that appreciates both urban and natural outdoor adventures, the possibilities in Durham are endless.

Indoor, outdoor, and by the season. We’ve got you covered.

Whether it’s your kiddos or you’re hosting visitors, these activities are sure to be crowd pleasers, for both them and you. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly activities in Durham!

Kid friendly things to do in Durham nc museum of life and science
Museum of Life and Science

Ride the train at the Museum of Life and Science

The Museum of Life and Science is a great interactive science park on 84 acres. It includes a two-story science center, a large butterfly conservatory, and 60 species of live animals in its outdoor exhibits. 

Pro Tip: Wear some walking shoes if you are going to see any of the larger outdoor animal or nature exhibits! Also be sure to purchase tickets at the front if you would like to ride the train.

Trinity-Commons-Ad
Photo: Duke Lemur Center

Make some furry friends at the Duke Lemur Center

The Duke Lemur Center houses the world’s largest and most diverse collection of lemurs – Earth’s most threatened group of mammals – outside of Madagascar. Note: You must have a reservation in order to see the lemurs, check out some of their tour options on their website hereWe like going to their annual Lemurpalooza event that usually occurs in the Fall. It costs only one $75 Adopt a Lemur donation per car and it comes with a lemur adoption.

Eno River State Park Durham NC
Eno River State Park Photo: Kaitlin Martin

Spend the day at the Eno River State Park

A 4,200-acre North Carolina state park, it’s only 10 miles from downtown Durham but it’s one of the best places in Durham to get away from it all. The hiking trails are well-marked and there are some very nice hikes from flat trails as well as hilly areas. Take the kiddos canoeing, fishing, hiking, and even camp overnight!

kid friendly things to do in durham nc American Tobacco Campus
American Tobacco Campus

Play a game of giant chess and lounge in the hammocks at American Tobacco Campus

Once a tobacco factory, the American Tobacco Campus is home to the famous Lucky Strike Tower so many identify with Durham. It’s truly beautiful with a river running throughout the campus and a large green space. Play a game of Bull City chess, lounge in hammocks, check out the Burt’s Bees house, relax in the rocking chairs under the Lucky Strike Tower. Check out the free music concerts on the lawn in the summer!

West Point on the Eno

Explore West Point on the Eno together

West Point on the Eno is free 404-acre park along the Eno River.  Tour three historic buildings, a rebuilt operational grist mill on the site of what was once the largest mill on the river, the house of the one-time mill owners, and the old tobacco packhouse is now home to the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography.

Explore nature too with five miles of scenic trails along the river for hiking and fishing, an amphitheater used for festivals and concerts, and the river itself, with a natural play space and rapids.

Go for a family bike ride on the American Tobacco Trail

Hop on American Tobacco Trail for 22+ uninterrupted miles. It was once a railroad track that was converted into a beautiful trail for biking, walking, and running. You can even ride horses on the trail! See more about American Tobacco Trail here.

Sarah p duke gardens kid friendly things to do in durham nc
Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Feed the ducks at Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Named one of the top 10 public gardens in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is open everyday of the year and is free to all!

Be sure to check out free concerts in the spring and summer. Adult and youth programs like nature storytime and urban farm tours are also available for free.

Ellerbe Creek Family Explorers Club

Explore with the whole family at Ellerbe Creek Family Explorers Club! The Club meets one Saturday of every month at different natural areas in the community. It’s open to all families in Durham and surrounding communities. Children and an adult family member attend together.

Test your skills at the Discovery Low Ropes Course

The 13-element low ropes course is located in the wooded area adjacent to the historic Spruce Pine Lodge and Lake Michie in northern Durham County.

At the low challenge course, staff facilitators use a variety of natural and man-made elements, games, and initiatives to help groups and individuals develop trust, cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills. The minimum age for participation at the low challenge course is 10 years of age.

durham central park free things to do in durham nc outdoors
Durham Central Park

Shop at the Durham Farmer’s Market then climb Mount Merrill in Durham Central Park

Saturdays at the Durham Farmer’s Market is one of our favorite activities. We pick up dinner for the weekend, try lots of local goodness, grab coffee from Caballo Rojo, donuts from Rise, and browse vendors at the Art Market. Then you can let them run some of that energy out at Mount Merrill and play with the interactive pixel mural.

Durham Central Park

Play at one of Durham’s 65+ parks

There’s definitely not a shortage of parks in Durham, that’s for sure. You can find a sprayground at the Forest Hill’s park, a performance stage at Burch Avenue Park, and a community garden at Orchard Park. A few favorites are Forest Hills Park, Trinity Park, and Cornwallis Road Park. Check out all of Durham’s 65+ parks here.

kid friendly things to do in durham nc
Pine Cone Ice Cream at Brightleaf Square

Stroll through Brightleaf Square and grab some ice cream at Pine Cone

Brightleaf is a great place to spend an entire afternoon. You have some great options for lunch including Clouds Brewing and Little Dipper Fondue. (They’ll love dipping things in cheese, because don’t we all?) You can shop at spots like Indio and Song of Sixpence then grab some ice cream and coffee from Pine Cone. They serve the very famous and very delicious Maple View Farms ice cream.

Pro Tip: Use your Shop Durham card for 10% off each visit at Pine Cone, a free appetizer at Clouds Brewing, or a free dessert with entree purchase at Little Dipper Fondue

Durham Arts Council

Climb the blocks in front of the Durham Arts Council

There’s a lot to do downtown, check out our guide of places to eat, drink, and explore. When you need a little break from exploring there’s some climbing blocks in front of the Durham Art Council for the kids while you get 5 minutes to rest and drink that coffee.

Bennett Place State Historic Site

Explore Bennett Place

Home to the biggest surrender of the American Civil War troops, Bennett Place Historic Site offers guided tours. Along with the museum, there are walking trails, outdoor exhibits and a picnic area for you to enjoy.


kid friendly things to do in durham nc

Ride the carousel at Northgate Mall

Northgate Mall has a carousel in the middle of the mall that’s a lot of fun for the kids to ride on. It’s also next to Cinnamonster so you can get a treat for everyone afterwards.

Play at the kid’s area at Southpoint Mall

The play area at Southpoint is geared towards younger kids. There’s a small slide and some low-to-the-ground climbing objects, plus benches line the area so you can take a load off. The mall does have free wi-fi so you bring your laptop and work a little while the kiddos play. One of the negatives is there’s not a gate so kids can tend to want to wonder off in the direction of the escalators (aka my kid) so be sure to keep an eye on them.

Flip into a foam pit at Defy Gravity

Defy Gravity is a 13,000 sq. ft. trampoline park with wall-to-wall steel-frame trampolines including Angled Wall Trampolines, an expansive Olympic Foam Pit and one of the largest Trampoline Dodgeball cages in America. There is a kid jump time for kids 6 and under, $8/kid and parent jumps free- Monday-Friday 9am-12pm.

Notasium

Play together at Notasium

Notasium is an indoor music-based play space. There’s a climbing wall, interactive music exhibits, and a bounce house. Free wi-fi for you and a small coffee bar.

Bonus: Get free open play with a trial music lesson using your Shop Durham card.

Duke Basketball Hall of Famr

Visit the Duke Basketball Hall of Fame

Check out decades of Duke University’s athletic achievements showcased with visual and audio exhibits, theatre and trophies of national championships at the Duke Basketball Hall of Fame.

Scrap Exchange

Make-n-Take something together at Scrap Exchange

The Scrap Exchange is a true treasure. They have a retail store, classes, an art gallery. Drop in and check out the Make n Take Room, make anything you want using the materials in the space, and take it home!

Rollerskate at Wheels Fun Park

Wheels Fun Park has an indoor climbing gym, games, mini-golf, go-karts & a roller rink. 

Pick out some books at the Durham County Library

Our favorite branch is the Southwest Regional. They also have a train table and coloring station for the kids. Most Durham County Library branches offer storytime for babies, toddlers and families. These aren’t your traditional book-only storytimes, instead they incorporate music, puppets, toys and learning throughout the session. 

Paint a picture at Bull City Craft

A locally owned art supply and craft store that also has classes! You can drop in and do a craft with your little ones or if you need some time to yourself drop them off during Parents’ Morning Out! They have tons of classes available for all age range. Be sure to use your Shop Durham card to get 10% off retail purchases and Paint-it-yourself projects.

Carolina Theatre

Catch a play or movie at Carolina Theatre

Check out the Arts Discovery Series at Carolina Theatre for kids

Photo: Durham Garden Center

Pick out some plants at Durham Garden Center

Have them pick out a plant they can take care of! Whether you’re a gardener or a plant enthusiast that can’t keep anything green alive, Durham Garden Center is for you. Not only are they super friendly and helpful when you pop in, they also host educational workshops and many of them are FREE! Bonus: Use your Shop Durham card to get 10% off your purchase.

Parker and Otis durham nc coffee shop
Parker and Otis

Find something unique at Parker and Otis

Life would be much duller without Parker & Otis. I always find something so very ‘Durham’ here and a greeting card that makes me laugh out loud. They have a great toy section that will keep the kids busy. I always let my little guy have a special treat like a giant cookie and pick out a book.

Duke Chapel

Visit Duke Chapel

Duke Chapel is at the very center of the Duke University. You have to see its breathtaking beauty in person to truly appreciate it. It’s doors are open for you to visit 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Walk over to the Brodhead Center afterwards for lunch or dinner. It’s food court style with tons of great options. Not just for students!

Discovery Garden at Sarah P. Duke Gardens ©Katelyn Belch

Explore at the Duke Gardens Classroom

Sarah P. Duke Gardens has a classroom with a variety of programs for kids and families. They have a open class in the learning laboratory for ages 3 and up on Tuesdays 1pm-3pm and other classes available like a free drop in Nature Storytime for ages 3-5.


By the Season

Fall

Pick out pumpkins at Ganyard Hill Farm

Grapes at Herndon Hills Farm (August til October)

Winter

duke chapel kid friendly things to do in durham nc
Duke Chapel

Celebrate Christmas by Candlelight at Duke Homestead

Children’s choirs performances at Duke Chapel (If they can sit still!)

Spring

kid friendly things to do in durham nc waller family farm
Waller Family Farm

Pick strawberries at Waller Family Farm

Waller Family Farm is a real working strawberry, vegetable and beef cattle farm, located in Durham County.

We love coming here to pick our own strawberries. Picking starts around the last week of April, through May and into June. They provide cardboard flats to pick in, or you can bring your own containers.

Check their site often for dates, times and availability of berries during the strawberry season.

Summer

Durham Bulls Game

Put on your baseball gloves and cheer on the Durham Bulls

Cool off at one of Durham’s 5 spraygrounds

Pick your own blueberries at Herndon Hills Farm


Presented by Shop Durham. Get the most out of Durham with your Shop Durham card. Get freebies and deals at hundreds of locally owned Durham businesses!

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Got more kid-friendly things to do that we should know about? Send us a message!


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