This story is proudly presented by Shop Durham. Get the most out of Durham with a Shop Durham card with discounts and deals at hundreds of independent, locally owned spots.

Summer has arrived, along with the heat. Here are the 30 coolest things to do this season in Durham.

Cheer on the Bulls

DBAP | Schedule | $8+

The Durham Bulls games are a summer must-do, even if it means melting in the stands or on the hill while you enjoy Bull Durham Beer. Check out the promotional calendar for upcoming events, which include Bark in the Park and Friday Night Fireworks.

Experience Taste the Event

June 26-20 | Durham Armory

Why you should go: It brings more than 30 local culinary professionals (ranging from chefs to distillers to chocolatiers) together for an unparalleled opportunity where local foodies can taste all the best dining options from across the Triangle under one roof. Guests also have the rare chance to meet the chefs and artisans who make our favorite culinary establishments possible.

This year’s events features a craft beer garden in addition to wine and spirits, a 6-Course Southern Feast Dinner, and a brunch event featuring 5 local chefs.

Play in the treehouses at Adult Summer Camp at the Museum of Life and Science

Why you should go: Take a journey back to your childhood summer camp experience: make friendship bracelets, hit the target with archery, race your friends to the top of the 28′ climbing wall, make s’mores, and create a perler bead masterpiece all while enjoying your favorite adult beverage. Play in the treehouses or ride the train while sampling drinks and food that evoke your inner kid. Hideaway Woods, Farmyard, Butterfly House, and Train will be open.

Dates: June 13th + July 25th

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.

Bull City Mini Golf

Bull City Mini features a seven-hole, indoor-outdoor course with community-designed holes and a bar serving local beer, wine, and FROSÉ! The course extends outside onto the patio, flanked by an outdoor living room and sensory table for kiddos to enjoy before or after playing. (They really thought of everything!) Golf at Bull City Mini costs just $7 and kids under 5 are FREE. We are PUMPED to see an affordable activity brought to American Tobacco Campus by an awesome local couple, Julie and Ben!

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

Share a beer at a local brewery

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly vibe or a millennial-centric patio, the city’s ever-expanding brewery scene has something for everyone. Some top picks: Bull City Burger and Brewery, Durty Bull, Fullsteam, Ponysaurus, Clouds Brewing, Barrel Culture, Beer Study. Check out our list of must-visit breweries here.

Durty Bull 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!

Take a dip in one of Durham’s swimming pools (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

Cool down with a cone (or scoop) of delicious ice cream

Find classic soft serve at The Parlour (Vegan options available), pops at Locopops ($2.75) and handmade ice cream sandwiches at Rose’s. Stop by for the deliciousness that is Paleteria La Monarca Michoacana. See more local sweet spots to cool off

Paleteria La Monarca Michoacana
Paleteria La Monarca Michoacana

Take the family to a free concert

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

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

Grab a rooftop drink and take in Bull City views

This time of year, there’s nothing better than enjoying dinner and drinks on an open-air patio. BOTB Picks: Guglhupf, Namu, The Durham Hotel, Unscripted, Foster’s, Parts & Labor, see them all here.

Alley Twenty Six

Get your yoga on

Stop by Durham Central Park on Saturdays for a free yoga class or start your day with a class on top of The Durham Hotel, $10 drop-in fee for locals.

There are so many great yoga studios in Durham like Community Power Yoga, Global Breath, Yoga off East, or warm up with hot yoga at Arrichion. We love doing yoga with La Vita Yoga at Bull City Ciderworks on Sunday mornings. Bonus: your class includes a cider afterwards.

La Vita Yoga Class Durham Hotel

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

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.

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.

Play games, drink beer, and eat pizza at Boxcar

With a space spanning over 10,000 square feet, Boxcar Bar + Arcade includes a full bar (including 24 American craft drafts), 70+ arcade games, and a pizza kitchen. Draft beers are plentiful, and regular drink specials mean you’ll always have spare change for the arcade games.

Note: The space is dog-friendly and kids are allowed until 9pm

Be sure to check out our events calendar and subscribe to our mailing list below.

Join our mailing list to get the inside scoop on the
best things to do in Durham and a guide to Durham’s top monthly events

Have you downloaded our app yet?
It’s free on the App Store and Google Play!
Get local guides, events, explore things to do, and discover our “Shop Durham” rewards.

Katelyn Belch
Author: Katelyn Belch

Founder of Best of the Bull and Shop Durham. It’s my chief goal to keep you in the know about all things Durham.