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There’s a lot of fun to be had in Durham without spending a ton. Here are some free things to do in Durham this summer.

Locopops Storytime

Locopops has a free storytime every Tuesday morning now! Head that way at 10:30 am for 30 minutes of air-conditioned fun.

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. Its doors are open for you to visit 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Walk over to the Brodhead Center afterward for lunch or dinner. It’s food court style with tons of great options. Not just for students!

Explore a museum

Here’s some to check out:

  • Nasher Museum
  • 21C Museum and History
  • Durham Museum of History

Check out our guide to 5 Must-See Local Art Exhibits and Museums in Durham, NC here.

Get your yoga on

Stop by Durham Central Park on Saturday morning for a free yoga class. Check out our event calendar for all dates and times.

Check out some free concerts

Summer isn’t complete without some good outdoor concerts and Durham is packed with them. You can catch free concerts at American Tobacco Campus, Brightleaf Square, Durham Central Park, and Golden Belt Campus. Check out our complete guide to all of them here.

Brightleaf Square

Take a behind the scenes tour of DPAC

The second Monday of each month you have an opportunity to tour DPAC! Check out behind-the-scenes, where the stars prepare for show time and even the view from the stage. The tour begins at 11:00 a.m. and lasts approximately 45 minutes. Learn more here

Hike at Eno River State Park

Eno River State Park consists of 4,200 acres of land and the river flows through Durham for 33 miles before ending up in Falls Lake. It’s only 10 miles from downtown Durham but it’s one of the best places in Durham to get away from it all. You can go canoeing, fishing, hiking, and even camp overnight. Be sure to snap a picture on the suspension bridge!

Eno River State Park

Hit Up a Farmers Market

There are few things as refreshing as a sunny morning in Durham, surrounded by fresh produce, colorful bouquets, hot coffee and the sound of a local musician wafting through the stalls at one of our many farmers’ markets. Check out our guide to farmers markets you need to visit this season.

Catch some free flicks

This summer you can catch free movies at various parks around Durham, with Rock the Park. Ponysaurus’s free movie series is a warm-weather staple. Nab a beer and some $1 snacks. 

Ponysaurus Brewing

Spend an afternoon walking or biking along 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!

Play at a splash pad or pool (kids are free!)

Summer is the perfect season to cool-off at outdoor pools & splash pads in the Durham. Kids can swim and splash for free this summer at Durham Parks and Recreation’s pools and spraygrounds. (Kids ages 0 to 18 are free) Learn more here.

edison johnson sprayground

Explore Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Durham is incredibly lucky to have this beautiful botanical garden. Named one of the top 10 public gardens in the U.S. by TripAdvisor, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is open every day of the year and is free to all! (Note: you may have to pay for parking depending on the time of day)

Adult and youth programs like nature storytime and urban farm tours are also available for free.

Hike in Duke Forest

Duke Forest consists of over 7,000 acres of forested land and open fields in Durham, Orange, and Alamance. Hiking, running, and fishing is permitted. Horseback riding and mountain biking are permitted on gravel paths.

Photo: Gabriel Guillory

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 splash pad at the Forest Hill’s park, a performance stage at Burch Avenue Park, and a community garden at Orchard Park. Check out all of Durham’s 65+ parks here.

orchard park durham nc free things to do in durham nc outdoors
Orchard Park in Durham

Hike at Spruce Pine Lodge

spruce pine lodge

The Spruce Pine Lodge is a 1940s vintage log building located in the Lake Michie Recreation Area. There’s hiking trails, a large lawn, play field, and a picnic shelter, as well as Lake Michie’s camping, boating and fishing facilities nearby. The lodge is 12 miles north of downtown Durham (near Bahama) and easily accessible from Interstate 85.

Canoe at Lake Michie

Photo: @dukerow

Located in northern Durham County less than 30 minutes from downtown, Lake Michie is a scenic gem that’s perfect for hiking, canoeing, bird-watching, camping and rockhounding. Park access is free; fee for boating, and fishing. The lake may only be accessed during operating hours, Friday through Monday mid-March to mid-November and with a permit purchased at the boathouse.

Explore 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!

Preservation Durham Tours

free things to do in durham nc outdoors preservation durham tour bike tour
Photo: Mural Durham

Want to learn more about Durham? Preservation Durham offers free walking and bike tours that introduce downtown Durham’s history and architecture! Tours are Saturdays, April through November at 10am.

Duke Homestead

Duke Homestead showcases the historic home, farm, and factory buildings of Washington Duke and his family as they lived on the property from 1852 until 1874. Free of charge, open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

West Point on the Eno

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.

Bennett Place

Bennett Place State Historic Site

Did you know that the Civil War effectively ended in Durham? Durham was the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. 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.

Stagville State Historic Site

Photo: @ncculture

Offering guided tours of a plantation and its beautiful surroundings, Stagville State Historic Site is a historic house museum made up of buildings from the Stagville Plantation, one of the largest plantations in the American South.

Ellerbe Creek Family Explorers Club

ellerbe creek
Photo: @ellerbecreeknc

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.

Check out a tuba museum, V & E Simonetti’s Historic Tuba Collection

Check out the number one tuba museum in Durham. Vincent Simonetti has been building this collection since 1965. The museum offers tours of 5 rooms packed with tubas dating back to the 1830’s. You may not be musically inclined but it’s so fascinating! 

Check out the championship trophies at 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.

Storytime at one of the Durham County Library branches

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. 

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Best of the Bull Staff
Author: Best of the Bull Staff

We’re here to make your life a little easier by bringing you the best things to do, places to eat, drink, and see in Durham.