Fantastic Things to Do in Durham North Carolina: Art, Baseball, Craft Beer, and More

Things to do in Durham NC include a vibrant art scene, local cuisine & craft beverages, historic preservation & recognition, & all things Duke University.

Thank you to Durham CVB for hosting McCool Travel.

Fantastic Things to Do in Durham North Carolina

1. Durham Bulls Athletic Park

More than just a place to watch a baseball game, the magnificent Durham Bulls Athletic Park is the centerpiece of a downtown revitalization and hosts meetings almost every day of the year.

visit the home of Bull Durham at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
visit the home of Bull Durham at Durham Bulls Athletic Park

The Durham Bulls baseball team is pretty good, though, as they won the Triple-A championship last year. Like in the movie Bull Durham, when a player hits the bull in the outfield, the bull snorts and the player wins a prize (a gift certificate to a local steakhouse).

For more information about Durham Bulls Athletic Park: website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

2. American Tobacco Campus

Like it or not, the tobacco industry once dominated the Durham landscape. The Duke family, namesake of the great university, earned their fortune in tobacco. The huge factory, once owned by the Duke family and their partners, across the street from the Durham Bulls Park has been repurposed. American Tobacco Campus now houses a eclectic mix of start up tech companies, local eateries, art shops, and more.

things to do in Durham North Carolina. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
American Tobacco Campus is one of the best places to visit in Durham NC. Photo by Julie McCool

ATC serves as corporate HQ for Burt Bees, and Burt’s cabin from Maine was actually moved here. Throughout the year outdoor music and other events are hosted in the courtyard.

visit Burt Bees HQ in Durham's American Tobacco Campus
visit Burt Bees HQ in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus

For more information about American Tobacco Campus: website | Facebook | Twitter

3. Downtown Durham Art

Snap an Instagram worthy photo with the iconic bull statue in downtown Durham.

things to do in Durham North Carolina. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
one of the best things to see in Durham NC is the bull statue

A few steps away is 21C Durham, an art museum with an attached hotel. You gotta see it and definitely visit the bank vault room in the basement.

things to do in Durham North Carolina. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
cool things to see in Durham NC: Durham 21C Art Museum

The Durham Hotel and Unscripted boutique hotels are a homage to midcentury modern design and are hip and cool additions to downtown Durham. Public bicycles are more than just a way to get around town. Single or batches of brightly colored bicycles randomly appear throughout Durham because the bikes do not have to be returned to a station.

brightly colored Lime bicycles
public bicycles in downtown Durham NC. Photo credit: Julie McCool

Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) is nearby and has the largest performing arts theater between Washington, DC and Atlanta. If you score an extra ticket for Hamilton, let me know and I will meet you there!

4. Nasher Art Museum

For a more traditional fine arts experience, head to the Duke University campus and visit the Nasher Art Museum. I was surprised to see my high school in a photo during a recent exhibition. So, I can truly say that you never know what you will find. Also nearby is Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The Nasher Art Museum Cafe serves wonderful fresh and tasty dishes.

For more information about Nasher Museum of Art: website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

5. Duke Homestead

Learn about the history of the tobacco industry and the involvement of the Duke family at the Duke Homestead State Historic Site and Tobacco Museum. Free guided tours cover the Duke family history while exploring the property, where they lived before and after the Civil War and during the formative years of their business.

learn about Durham NC history at Duke Homestead State Historic Site
learn about Durham NC history at Duke Homestead State Historic Site

For more information about Duke Homestead: website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

6. Places to Eat in Durham NC

Sampling tasty local food should be high on your list of things to do in Durham North Carolina. The city has a hopping foodie scene with a great range of experiences from artisanal donut shops to swank, romantic venues. We recommend these spots on the casual side of the restaurant spectrum.


Donuts are not the only treat at Monuts, but they are definitely worth a try (the lavender was yummy). This popular breakfast and lunch spot also offers sandwiches, salads, coffees, and beer.

Cocoa Cinnamon

Continue the treats at one of three Cocoa Cinnamon locations in Durham. The Chapel Hill location combines artisanal coffee roasting with authentic, house-made churros, in a bright and airy communal space.

Nasher Museum Cafe

As mentioned above, Nasher Museum Cafe is an excellent stop for lunch with a side of art. They serve fresh salads, sandwiches, and daily specials including a wonderful butternut squash ravioli special on the day of our visit.

Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter

When dinner time rolls around, head to the downtown area and you’ll have your pick of several excellent restaurants. We loved the elevated comfort food and luxe diner feel at Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter. Our favorite Southern staple, shrimp and grits, is on point.

things to do in Durham North Carolina. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter. Photo by Julie McCool

See also our article about Great Places to Eat in Charlotte North Carolina

7. Craft Beverages and More Food in Durham NC

Fullsteam Brewery

Craft beer leads the menu at Fullsteam Brewery, bolstered by an inventive bar menu. This Durham staple offers a wide selection of excellent brews, 10% local ingredients in every beer. Deliciously unique flavors include the Brumley Forest, featuring black walnuts from the local namesake forest, and Deep Chatham, a paw paw flavored ale. Read an interview with Sean Wilson, Fullsteam Brewery’s owner.

The Bullpen Restaurant

NOTE: as of September 3, 2018, The Bullpen only hosts events.

The Bullpen at American Tobacco Campus in Durham NC

Elevated ballpark food, crisp brews, and a space right next to the Durham Bulls ballpark welcome guests to The Bullpen Restaurant. The menu features standards like delicious grilled cheese and bbq sandwiches, then goes beyond with excellent fried green beans and a bulgur-based Grain Bowl salad. The beer is also a star, and it comes from the only brewery in an American ballpark.

Black Twig Cider House

Sample from the largest hard cider menu in the southeast, with 80 to 110 ciders at any time. For a special experience at Black Twig Cider House, try Txotx—a Basque cider that spurts from a barrel that participants catch in their glasses. A lot of fun! Owner Mattie Beason also serves delicious food items from an artisan menu including delicious locally sourced sausage.

things to do in Durham North Carolina. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Black Twig Cider House: places to drink in Durham NC. Photo by Julie McCool

Durham Distillery

Inspired by a lifelong love of gin, the Conniption Gin and Navy Strength gins at Durham Distillery are both multiple award winners. In fact the Navy Strength, a 114-proof style, has been the highest rated in the world since 2015. The custom-made, all electric German still turns out up to 1000 bottles of consistent and pure bottles a day.

things to do in Durham North Carolina. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Durham Distillery: places to drink in Durham NC. Photo by: Julie McCool

8. Where to Stay in Durham NC

In addition to the above mentioned boutique properties, Durham offers many other lodging options. Stay at the Aloft Durham attached to the Durham Arts Center after May and you might see Lin-Manuel Miranda (McCool Travel disclaimer: maybe not).

On this trip, we stayed at the King’s Daughters Inn across the street from Duke University. The property earned a AAA Four Diamond Award and locals voted it best in the area for five straight years. The King’s Daughters Inn is a popular venue for weddings. No two rooms are alike and our large, comfortable room has a fireplace and cool, art deco tiled bathroom.

McCool Travel note: unfortunately, King’s Daughter Inn is now closed.

See our video of our room at The King’s Daughters Inn.

The made-to-order breakfasts at King’s Daughters Inn are fantastic.



Have you been to Durham NC? Let me know other things to do in Durham.

Durham North Carolina USA. Things to do in Durham NC include a vibrant scene of arts, local cuisine and craft beverages, historic preservation and recognition.

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11 thoughts on “Fantastic Things to Do in Durham North Carolina: Art, Baseball, Craft Beer, and More”

  1. Durham is such a cool spot! I went ages ago and loved it, so many hidden corners. I also went to the 21c in Arkansas, they are the most interesting hotels.

  2. Durham sure promises a lot of experiences that are different from the ordinary. I for one am fascinated by the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the snorting of the bull. The art museum is another place that seems really interesting. In shore the promise of some really interesting times is what Durham seems to offer.

  3. I’ll have to visit Durham when I get back to NC, sounds like there’s quite a lot of cool things to do. I’m not a big tobacco person myself, but I do find it interesting visiting places of industry which played such a huge role shaping the economic landscape in the past. And it sounds like a really hip spot now that the factory has been repurposed 🙂 The bull statue reminds me to the bull in Chicago! And, so cool that they randomly have bikes laying around – that’s public trust in not locking them up!

  4. I am from Durham England and now I know my city has a namesake in the US! While it’s an historic small town in Europe, it looks like the city is much more action and I am a big Churros fan and your picture got me right there… @ knycx.journeying

    • You are from Durham England? Nice! I visited a couple years ago and absolutely loved the cathedral and walled areas. It was a pleasantly two days and I did a lot of walking around the river area and around the university. So historic!

  5. How interesting how the Duke family dominates Durham! How did we miss this city during our RVing days? We drove I40 from Asheville through Greensboro on the way to the Outer Banks!!!

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