This story is proudly presented by Downtown Durham, Inc– our partner in exploring the Bull City.
There’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Durham, the city is impressively kid-friendly. This list of must-do family activities in Downtown Durham includes unique museums, baseball games, a skatepark and some seriously cool renovated tobacco factories like American Tobacco Campus to explore. Whether it’s your kiddos or you’re hosting visitors, these activities are sure to be crowd-pleasers, for both them and you. Here’s your guide to a kid-friendly Downtown Durham.
Spend the morning at Durham Central Park
Durham Central Park boasts a pavilion, skatepark, a children’s play area, an interactive pixel wall mural, and ample room for recreation. Hit it up for packed calendar of special events, including the Farmer’s Market, stage performances, festivals, movie screenings, pop-up markets, group yoga, and more.
Saturdays at the Durham Farmer’s Market is one of our favorite activities. We pick up dinner for the weekend, try lots of local goodness, grab coffee from Caballo Rojo, donuts from Rise, and browse vendors at the Art Market. Then you can let them run some of that energy out at Mount Merrill and play with the interactive pixel mural.
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!
Put on your baseball gloves and cheer on the Durham Bulls
The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is home to the beloved Durham Bulls. Cheer them on while you sip on Bull Durham Beer (made right there in the stadium) and be sure to give Minor League Baseball’s favorite mascot, Wool E. Bull a high five! You also can visit the old Bulls Stadium down the street at the Durham Athletic Park (location of the ever famous Bull Durham movie) off Morris Street.
Go on a Self-Guided Walking Mural Tour
There’s some fantastic murals and public art that can truly brighten your day all over Downtown. A few are even tucked away so you have to do some searching- make it a scavenger hunt with the kids! Check out our walking tour of Downtown Durham’s public art here.
Take a Preservation Durham Tour
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.
Take a picture with Major the Bull
You have to get a picture with one of Durham’s favorite Bulls. Sitting in the city’s center, the statue is an icon. Give him a rub for good luck.
Spend the afternoon at Brightleaf Square
Brightleaf Square is a great place to spend an entire afternoon. You have some great options for lunch including Clouds Brewing and Mount Fuji. You can shop at spots like Indio and Wentworth & Leggett Books then grab some ice cream from SugarKoi.
Experience the arts
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.
When you need a little break from exploring there’s some climbing blocks in front of the Durham Art Council for the kids while you get 5 minutes to rest and drink that coffee.
Play arcade games at Boxcar Bar & Arcade
With a space spanning over 10,000 square feet, Boxcar Bar + Arcade includes 70+ arcade games, a full bar and a pizza kitchen. The space is dog-friendly and kids are allowed until 9pm. Draft beers are plentiful, and regular drink specials mean you’ll always have spare change for the arcade games.
Catch a play or movie at Carolina Theatre
Check out the Family Saturday Series where admission is only $5. The series includes fun, interactive musical performances and magic shows. See their event calendar here.
Pick out some books at the Durham County Library
The main branch located Downtown has undergone a major expansion and renovation. It’s due to open early 2020. 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.
The second Monday of each month you have an opportunity to tour DPAC, the largest performing arts center in the Carolinas. 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 something at the Museum of Durham History
Durham has a seriously fascinating history with some up’s and down’s. Learn all about it at numerous spots around town, most of them free, like the Museum of Durham History. Don’t let the size fool you. It’s packed with lots of cool history and the exhibits change often so there is plenty of reason to come back and continue to learn more.
Check out Durham’s foodie & shopping scene
Family-friendly restaurants in Downtown aren’t hard to find, head to Bull City Burger Brewery for some of the best burgers around and they even have a small play area. The kids will also love the chicken and waffles at Dame’s or the pizza at Pie Pushers. And there are many other local spots to choose from that you AND the kids will love, see them all here.
For kids with a sweet tooth—so, just about every kid—the bakery and dessert offerings are seriously sweet in Downtown. 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.
Create a terrarium together at Zen Succulent
The Zen Succulent offers a DIY terrarium bar in their shop and it’s a perfect craft to do together with the kiddos! They’ll help you pick the perfect plants (either succulents or tillandsia air plants) and glass container. They’ll even guide you in a quick 5-minute DIY tutorial on proper building techniques, favorite tricks for planting, and maintaining and displaying your terrarium. You’ll leave with your creation, assembly & care instructions, and all the knowledge you’ll need to recreate this project!
Find something unique at a local shop
Parker & Otis is a cross between a really good restaurant and a seriously cool gift shop. You can always find something so very ‘Durham’ here and a greeting card that makes you laugh out loud. They have a great toy section that will keep the kids busy. P.S. check out the giant cookies for sure! Head to Dolly’s for a combination of vintage clothing and jewelry and new gifts and greeting cards, along with many, many other cool things.
Letters Bookshop might catch your eye with its creative storefront signage when you’re strolling down Main Street. With a well-organized selection of used and new books, you’re sure to find some your little readers will love. For even more shopping Downtown, head here for a complete list.
For more help planning your day in Downtown Durham, visit DowntownDurham.com, and for more guides to kid-friendly spots in Durham check out the rest of BestoftheBull.com!
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