Who better to tell you about the best things to do in Durham, NC other than the locals, right? We asked our readers to tell us what they’d do if they only had 24 hours in Durham. Here’s their top answers of the best local attractions, every meal of the day, coffee shops, desserts, shopping, brews, where to stay, and even how to get around town.
So whether you’re in town for a day or a weekend, need an itinerary for your visitors, or just moved here, this list is a great place to start!
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 Bee house, relax in the rocking chairs under the Lucky Strike Tower.
Duke Chapel is at the very center of the Duke University. You have to see its breathtaking beauty in person to truly appreciate it. Constructed from 1930 to 1932, the Chapel seats about 1,800 people and stands 210 feet (64 m) tall, making it one of the tallest buildings in Durham County.
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.
Baseball is part of Durham’s DNA. The Durham Bulls are a Triple-A minor league baseball team and the 2017 National Champions! They even have their own microbrewery, the first one located inside of a minor league baseball stadium. Of course, baseball season runs late March/early April to late September/early October so you can catch them then!
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, Eno River State Park. The park has multiple entrances and parking lots that allow access.
You can go canoeing, fishing, hiking, and even camp overnight! There are no fees to enjoy the park!
Major the Bull
Everyone’s favorite Bull. Named after George Watts Hill, who had a key role in the socioeconomic development of Durham and whose nickname was ‘Major’. You have to get a picture with him! Located in the CCB Plaza, 201 Corcoran St, Durham, NC 27701. Just a short walk away from The Parlour, Unscripted Hotel, Pour Taproom, and The Durham Hotel.
You may not be able to say the name correctly or even remember how to spell it when you’re telling your friends to meet you there, but Guglhupf is pure magic. A German-style bakery serving up breads, pastries, and desserts, they’re an award-winning local favorite. But it’s much more than just a bakery, you can also grab brunch, lunch, and dinner. They do all of them to perfection. We love their outdoor seating that’s accompanied by a water foundation and tons of greenery.
Located on Ninth Street, Elmo’s is the spot for families in the area, and for nearby students to sit down and enjoy a good meal. From brunch to dinner, Elmo’s is warm and welcoming at any time of the day.
Foster’s is a Durham staple that is known for their breakfast, scratch-made soups, salads, sandwiches, and casseroles. Be sure to check out their desserts as well. They have at least a dozen pies, cakes, or baked goods variety on any given day. They have plenty of picnic tables and outdoor seating making it the perfect spot to enjoy that piece of pie
Loaf is a great little spot downtown and is worth all the raves it gets. An elaborate daily selection of sweet pastries, savory pastries, cookies, and also so many varieties of fresh-baked bread. Everything is very reasonably priced, especially given the quality here.
Ninth Street Bakery
A staple in downtown Durham, very popular breakfast & lunch spot. Cakes to croissants to fresh baked bread to muffins. Eat in or take out, little outdoor patio. Something different every day.
Super cool old gas station retrofitted into a great for brunch spot. Plenty of seating options inside and outside. Deli-style ordering at the counter and then your food is brought to you. Serving sizes are filling. Especially the pancakes.
Right across from Durham’s City Hall, this is the spot for your excellent breakfast bagel.
Heavenly Buffaloes. The wing joint you’ve been looking for. Amen to that. This place is AMAZING. We are big fans of their boneless wings and fries with garlic parmesan dry rub. Plus they have VEGAN wings. Their location is take-out only, but there are picnic tables available on the side of the building.
King’s Sandwich Shop
Almost everything on this menu should allow you to stay within budget. Based on the suggestions of some regulars, I ordered an all beef hot dog, a fried bologna sandwich, and a side of tots. The best burger joint in Durham, no comp. Food is always cooked fresh (as soon as you order) and couldn’t be tastier. Even the fries are salted just right. Bonus: the staff greets you warmly both upon ordering and on your way out. Easy to see how King’s has been in business for 75 years, and still going strong. A must-visit Bull City treat.
Parker and Otis
This quirky sandwich bar inside a store should be on everyone’s list of places to go in Durham. You can’t go wrong with anything you order.
Eastcut Sandwich Shop
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles
It’s a Southern Thing
One of the best patios in Durham. Don’t let the outside fool you. They have a gorgeous bamboo garden topped off with a water fountain and koi pond, tons of outdoor seating that is pet and kid friendly. Plus, they have some unique coffee drinks you may not find otherwise.
If you love coffee, you have to come here. No questions. Voted the best coffee shop in Durham County by Indy Week, Cocoa Cinnamon has 3 Bull City locations and each has their own unique character. Their coffee will rock your world and we love that they are so focused on community and environmentally friendly.
The Lakewood location (pictured above) has fresh churros and they even have a roastery here! Cocoa Cinnamon has their own coffee brand, 4th Dimension, that is served at all locations and is available for purchase.
Kaffeinate is such a quaint little Brightleaf-adjacent coffee shop with amazing coffee. Hand-crafted, unique drinks and plenty of outlets to set up shop for an afternoon. You can now get 10% off your purchase at Kaffeinate with your Shop Durham card!
It may be located in a strip mall, but don’t let that fool you. It’s surprisingly large inside with plenty of seating and they have some of the funkiest decor in Durham. We love that they roast their own beans and have such an interesting menu with drinks like Phunky Monkey, Chocolate Habanero, and Dirty Hippie. If you just want an americano, they do that to perfection as well!
Beyu Caffe is much more than a spot to grab coffee. Brunch, lunch, great music. They have it all. We love the atmosphere anytime. Whether that’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the afternoon or some jazz in the evening.
We love this spot on 9th street because it tends to be quiet and there is plenty of seating. There’s actually two floors- I prefer sitting upstairs because of the natural light. The baristas are friendly, the coffee is good, and the prices are reasonable. There are plenty of outlets which also makes it ideal for working or studying.
Small-batch, hand-crafted ice cream. We’re drooling just thinking about it! They have unique flavors that rotate to match the season, and they even have some vegan options. And not just any old vegan options, we’re talking award-winning vegan ice cream here. Salted butter caramel is a personal favorite!
East Durham Bake Shop
You can’t go wrong with LocoPops. Everything from Mexican Chocolate to Mighty Mojito to Malted Maltball. Their pops are made with ingredients that are as fresh and local as they can get. They also offer ice cream, pies, and coffee. Our go to’s are strawberries & cream and cookies & cream. Classics done right. We also love that they have baby size pops. Bonus: There is a small kids play area!
Be sure to get one of Rose’s ice cream sandwiches this summer! Prepared fresh daily. The flavors include everything from Vanilla Stracciatella to White Miso Gingersnap to Strawberries and Cream to Butter Pecan. The ice cream is SO COLD when you get it you can’t get bit into it, but it makes for a much more pleasant experience when it’s not melting all over you.
At Pine Cone, they serve the essentials: Maple View Farm ice cream and Joe Van Gogh coffee. That being the case, sometimes I’m here twice a day! AND you get 10% off with your Shop Durham card!
The Beer Scene
Alley Twenty Six
Durham Farmer’s Market
Where to Stay