Presented by Unscripted Hotel and Shop Durham

We want to help you kick off your own Durham staycation with a giveaway from Unscripted Hotel. They’re hooking up one lucky winner with a one night stay in a City View King, breakfast for two and a couple of Shop Durham cards to help you experience more of Durham. Head to our Instagram to enter!

It’s funny to think about being a tourist in your own city. You live here, you get set in your everyday ways and commutes, but when you step out and do something a little differently, you feel brand-new and see things in a whole new way. A staycation in Durham is the perfect opportunity to splurge on all of your favorites that you don’t normally get to do or new some new experiences!

Here’s your guide to planning a walkable staycation in Downtown Durham

Where to stay

Unscripted Hotel

Our number one pick for where to stay on your staycation in Downtown Durham. Unscripted Hotel is located in City Center and is central to so many great restaurants and shops, making it walkable to pretty much anything you want to experience Downtown. The rooms are gorgeous, spacious, and clean. There’s a rooftop pool making it the perfect spot to sip cocktails in the warmer months. Even when the weather is cooler, the rooftop is a great spot to catch the sunset.

Photo: Unscripted Hotels
Photo: Unscripted Hotels

Head downstairs for breakfast in the morning for a full espresso bar and some light eats then there’s food available all day serving up sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts. It even turns into a cocktail bar at night so you can grab a nightcap after you’ve explored all Durham has to offer.

They also have a local’s only staycation special that includes Parking and a 2pm late check-out.

Other great accommodation options include: The Durham Hotel, 21c Hotel, Aloft, and even Airbnb

What to do

Experience the Arts

Downtown is a mecca of art and culture. Start with the many art galleries like 21c Museum, where you’ll find rotating visual and contemporary art exhibitions. Admission is free and it’s open 24/7. Pleiades Arts showcases some of the Bull City’s best and brightest local artists. Then head to the Durham Arts Council, which is loaded with paintings, ceramics, fiber arts, glass art, jewelry, digital photography, and other mixed media from Durham and the Triangle’s most talented artists. Stop by Discover Durham to pick up a guide to the city’s many murals and try to spot them all. Get out and explore it all.

Catch a Show

Carolina Theatre
dpac durham nc holiday shows

DPAC presents hit Broadway-quality performances like HamiltonThe Book of Mormon, and Wicked. Since 1926, the Carolina Theatre has put on performances of award-winning comedies, treasured classics, and musical acts. 

Listen to Live Music

For live music check out Pinhook. It’s a DURM staple with great live performances and inexpensive drinks. (Tip: Head upstairs for delicious Pie Pushers pizza!) And for national and local acts alike, head to Motorco Music Hall.

Take a bus tour

Starting in the Spring, Bull City Laughs will guide you on a tour of Durham filled with history and lots of laughs. The tour departs from 9th Street, BYOB and settle in for a 90-minute tour of spots like Duke University, NCCU, Duke Gardens, and more. You’ll learn something new — maybe even about your own street.

Head to the Farmer’s Market & Art + Crafts Market

If your staycation is planned for a Friday night, head down to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. It’s just a few blocks from Unscripted Hotel. Grab donuts from Rise or one of the many food trucks and do some shopping at the Arts & Craft Market. The Liberty Arts Foundry also does tours on Saturday mornings.

Explore American Tobacco Campus

kid friendly things to do in durham nc American Tobacco Campus free things to do
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. (Tip: Check out the free music concerts on the lawn in the summer!)

Take a tour of the Durham Distillery

Durham Distillery durham nc date idea
Durham Distillery

Durham Distillery is home to award winning Conniption gins, cold distilled cucumber vodka, and decadent Damn Fine liqueurs. They were even named the No. 1 Craft Gin Distillery in the US! Their tours are perfect for date nights or just a fun evening with friends!

Bonus: You can get 50% off distillery tours with your Shop Durham card!

Do Yoga Together

La Vita Yoga Class Durham Hotel

There’s so many great yoga studios in Durham like Community Power Yoga, Global Breath, Yoga off East, or warm up with some hot yoga at Arrichion. A great option within walking distance of Unscripted is yoga with LaVita Yoga on the rooftop of the Durham Hotel on Saturday Mornings ($10/each) or at Bull City Ciderworks ($12/ea includes a pint of cider, cidermosa, or kombucha after class).

Play Games

Photo: Urban Axes

With a space spanning over 10,000 square feet, Boxcar Bar + Arcade features a full bar (including 24 American craft drafts), 70+ arcade games, and wood fired pizza kitchen. Head over to Urban Axes to test your ax throwing skills, and Quarter Horse Arcade to play even more retro arcade games.


Brightleaf Square Durham NC
Brightleaf Square
Letters Bookshop

If you want to shop in Durham, downtown is one of the best spots to do it in. Most obviously, you’ll want to hit Main Street, where you’ll find a seemingly endless line of unique local shops, including Dolly’s, Bungalow, Letter’s Bookshop, Exotique, and Vert & Vogue. Just one street over, you’ll find the always fabulous Chet Miller, Everyday Magic, and the Artisan Market. For the aesthetics and great shopping, peruse Brightleaf Square, a historic district featuring the must-visit Morgan Imports, Parker and Otis, Song of Sixpence, and Indio.

Go on a Preservation Durham Tour

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.

  • Murals by Bike – 1st Saturdays
  • Durham’s Tobacco History – 2nd Saturdays
  • Durham’s Civil Rights History – 3rd Saturdays
  • Architecture and the Urban Landscape – 4th Saturdays

Discover some amazing art at Third Fridays

Durham Arts Council

Third Fridays are one of our favorite date nights because you get to explore so many different art galleries, shops, and restaurants in one outing. There’s free admission at art galleries like Golden Belt Campus, Pliedes Arts, and Durham Arts Council plus live music on street corners downtown.

Check out some Events

Open Mic Stand-Up Comedy at Durty Bull- Every Friday Night

Super Secret Dance Party-First Friday Monthly 

Patchwork Market- 1st Saturday of Month at Fullsteam

Also be sure to check out our event calendar to help plan your staycation!

Also See: 16 of the best Free Dates in Durham

What to Eat


Ninth Street Bakery Photo: Melanie Ray

It should come as no surprise that Downtown is packed with eateries, and fantastic ones at that. Start with some of the city’s best brunches at Beyu Caffe, or sweetly satisfying treats at Ninth Street Bakery or Loaf. We’re big fans of Bagel Bar’s sandwiches and Rise’s biscuits. No one pulls out all the stops like Geer Street Garden does at its Sunday brunch buffet.

Here’s 11 More Breakfast Spots to Know 

Lunch & Dinner

gonza tacos y tequila durham date night ideas
Gonza Tacos

For lunch, try traditional Cuban dishes at Copa, or mediterranean cuisine at Neomonde. Head to Goorsha for traditional Ethiopian cooking like sambusa, kekel & spicy vegan stews. Check out the classic King’s Sandwich Shop for the best affordable eats you can find or Lucky’s for a New York Style Jewish Deli. And for dinner, make reservations at Mother and Sons for some of the best Italian food you’ll ever have or Gonza Tacos in West Village.

Little Dipper Fondue and Clouds Brewing are more great options.. If you’re still hungry for late night eats, Hutchins Garage offers late night pizza Wednesday-Saturday. Jack Tar Dinner serves up breakfast all day long and an exceptional fried chicken dinner on Sunday evenings.

Here’s 13 lunch spots under $10


Kaffeinate durham nc coffee shops

On Geer Street, Cocoa Cinnamon (that brews their own beans) is so cozy, try their hot chocolate in the winter and hang on their patio in the warmer months. Expand your coffee horizons at Counter Culture and check out their free tastings on Friday Mornings at 10am. At the hip Durham Hotel, it’s all about the mid-century vibes and coffee sodas. And at Kaffeinate, you have to try their specialty lattes.

Also See: Downtown Durham’s Must-Try Coffee Shops


The Parlour

The bakery and dessert offerings are just as sweet. The Parlour will change the way you think about ice cream, with unexpected flavors like Sweet Potato Pecan, Apple Pie, and vegan varieties in addition to the classics.

Ninth Street Bakery also offers irresistible baked goods alongside a cafe menu. At Loaf, enjoy some of the best cookies in Durham; at Rose’s, their ice cream sandwiches are pretty much a necessity. And the sweetness continues at Pine Cone Ice Cream, which rocks local ice cream, coffee, and baked goods.

Cocktails, wine & beer

Alley Twenty Six

Be sure to stop by Durham Hotel and watch the sunset, it’s one of the hottest patio destinations in the city. Head back to Unscripted Hotel to dip your toes in the rooftop pool and overlook downtown. At Alley Twenty Six, you’ll find unique hand-crafted cocktails and the prettiest alleyway you’ve ever seen. Check out European-inspired wine bar Bar Brunello and Bar Vigile boasts one of the largest Spirits selections in the Triangle. Head to Honeygirl Meadery for something a little different.

LouElla, is a bottle shop and bar located next to Hutchins Garage is expected to open up in February. 

There’s Durty Bull Brewing Company, Ponysaraus, or Fullsteam for beer lovers alike, and Bull City Ciderworks is the standout spot for cider. Head to Fullsteam on the 1st Saturday of the month for the Patchwork Market that showcases local markers.

Also See: 30 Dates Ideas around Durham under $25

Spots to use your Shop Durham card within walking distance of Unscripted

Shop Durham local business within half a mile of Unscripted. Click here to see more than 195 participating businesses.

Unscripted Hotel Free Small Cup of Toby’s Estate Coffee

Beer Durham 10% off non-alcohol purchases

Pour Taproom $5 off $40 or more

Bar Brunello Free Bar Brunello T-shirt with any $50+ gift card or retail wine purchase

Alley Twenty Six Exclusive Series of Specially Priced Cocktails

Durham Distillery 50% OFF Behind the Scenes Tours

Durty Bull Brewing Company 10% off all Durty Bull Brewing Company Merchandise

Kaffeinate 10% off your purchase

Beyu Caffe Save 10% on coffee & breakfast items, weekday mornings until 10:30am. (Pastries excluded.)

Clouds Brewing One Free Bar Bite

Goorsha Durham 10% off lunch fare on Mondays and dinner fare on Tuesdays

Rock’s Bar and Hair Shop $5 off for every $60 spent

Bagel Bar Buy 1 Sandwich, Get a Second One (of equal or lesser value) Half Off

Caballo Rojo Coffee 20% off 2 bags of Coffee (Find them at the Farmer’s Market)

Little Dipper Fondue Free Dessert with Purchase of an Entree

Pine Cone 10% off any purchase

NC Escape 20% Off Weekend Games

Dolly’s Vintage 10% off of one item

Exotique Boutique & Art Gallery Gift Fan with Purchase

Song of Sixpence Sundays, free bar of Possum Hollow Soaps with any purchase

Bull City Dental Free t-shirt with your visit!

Public Hardware 10% off in store purchase (not special orders)

Bungalow 10% off Wedding Invitations

Stzlife 15% off under $100/20% off $100+ in store only

Inkfinity Printing 10% off first order or get 120 shirts for the price of 100

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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.