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There’s nothing better than date night, except for when it’s free. Here are some of the best free date ideas in Durham, NC.

Visit Duke Chapel

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!

Take a behind the scenes tour of DPAC 

dpac durham nc holiday shows

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

Explore the Museum of Life and Science on a Free Durham Community Day

Museum of Life & Science

It’s not just for kids. 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.

Spend an afternoon at the Nasher Museum of Art

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

The Nasher Museum is an awesome, inexpensive (sometimes free!) option to soak up some really cool art and history.

General admission for everyone is free on Thursdays for the permanent exhibits, and all you Duke employees, students, alumni, active military members and family, kiddos under 15 are free everyday!

Scope out some of Durham’s murals together

Photo: Katelyn Belch, Best of the Bull©

We walk past them every day, but how often do we stop and actually enjoy some of the street art around Durham? There’s some fantastic murals that can truly brighten your day. A few are even tucked away so you have to do some searching. Grab your walking shoes and get a few Instagram-worthy shots to show off. Check out a list of Durham murals here.

Go on a Pony Bike Ride that ends at Ponysaurus Brewing

Photo: Instagram @ponysaurusbrewing

No, we don’t mean actual ponies! The Pony ride is a social, leisure ride that begins at Major the Bull in Downtown Durham and after winding around downtown will end at the Ponysaurus Brewing Co. tap room and beer garden for pints, dumplings from Chirba Chirba and a chance to win prizes and hang with good folks. Pony ride happens on the second Tuesday of each month.

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.

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. Cocoa Cinnamon is in walking distance, so grab a free churro with any drink from the menu using your Shop Durham card afterwards.

Explore the discovery garden at Duke Gardens 

Discovery Garden at 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 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.

Take in the art at 21c Museum

This is not your typical hotel. If you’re ever looking for an all in one night out or just an air-conditioned afternoon, check out the ever changing art exhibits at the 21c Museum Hotel plus their Counting House restaurant.

This building was once the Suntrust building so there is picture-worthy bank vault in the basement that you can lounge in. In the city center and almost equidistant from every venue. Make sure to take a selfie with one of the iconic pink penguins.

Scroll through 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 Bees house, relax in the rocking chairs under the Lucky Strike Tower. Check out the free music concerts on the lawn in the summer!

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.

Take the dogs to the park

durham nc dog parks

There’s several dog parks in the area. See them here. Our favorites are Northgate and Piney Wood Dog Park.

Note: There is a $17 fee to register your dog annually and you can register online here.

Do a coffee tasting at Counter Culture

Counter Culture Coffee Tasting

Every Friday at 10am Counter Culture hosts a free tasting at their headquarters on Mallard Ave. It’s a lot of fun to learn about their process and be guided through different coffees and brewing methods. If you’re both coffee lovers this is a must.

Take a 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!

Go on a bike ride on the American Tobacco Trail

American Tobacco Trail Photo: Kaitlin Martin

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.

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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.