Durham is better known for technology than tobacco these days, but its cultural identity is a nice hodgepodge of modern urban living and old-style, Southern hospitality.
Research Triangle Park is the envy of the nation for scientific research and health care. Duke University is an academic powerhouse. The city’s urban redevelopment is a model for all of America. Durham’s pulsing nightlife, art museums, music scene, colorful history and outdoor recreation draw around 9 million visitors each year.
History of Durham
Durham’s stately trees, rolling hills and abundant waterways inspired an English explorer to describe it as “the flower of the Carolinas” in 1701.
Plantation owners’ African-American slaves are to thank for much of the music, dance, art and cuisine that distinguish the city today. Slaves and freemen alike took part in the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Civil Rights movement.
Durham history was forever altered when leaders at Duke University foresaw the decline of the tobacco industry way back in the ‘50s. They persuaded the state legislature to purchase a large tract of land for what they called a science park.
The Triangle now boasts approximately 250 companies and 50,000 employees. It is a global leader across a wide range of industries.
Enjoy your stay in this exciting, historically rich city.
Durham restaurants are also heavily awarded and rarely disappoint.
Gocciolina dishes up authentic Italian cuisine made from scratch. Spaghetti carbonara with smoked pork belly is the chef’s signature dish.
Vin Rouge French Bistro has caught the attention of Wine Spectator, the Boston Globe and other national media. Steaks, poultry and regional seafood staples get classical French treatment, and the wine list is extensive.
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is as iconic in Durham as they come, and you won’t regret waiting in the long line.
If you walk a block in any direction, you’ll find at least one barbecue joint. The Backyard BBQ Pit was declared the best in the state by Yahoo Travel. All the meats are smoked over hickory and oak wood for fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Go all out and order a couple of starchy sides.
Durham is a great city for doing what makes you hoppy.
Full Steam offers samples of one-of-a-kind test batches. With terrific beer, live music, movies and a variety of food trucks, you can’t go wrong.
Ponysaurus calls its products, which include Weissbier and Fig Saison Ale, “the beer beer would drink if beer could drink beer.” Reserve a grill online, order your food items and do your own cooking in the beer garden.
Durty Bull deserves kudos for old-world aging techniques and noteworthy sour beers. In 2016, Beer Advocate named it one of the best new breweries in the country.
Bull City Burger is known for award-winning craft beers, all-natural food ingredients, delicious burgers and environmentally sound practices.
Most Durham breweries offer tours and tastings.
Things to Do in Durham
American Tobacco, formerly the home of Lucky Strike, is now a 1-million-square-foot historic and entertainment district. It encompasses the Durham Bulls Athletic Complex, a movie theater, restaurants, bars and green space for free summer concerts.
21c Museum is a vibrant modern venue for contemporary art, films, live theater, music and poetry readings.
Contact Eno River Paddle Trips for a canoe tour that runs through Durham and all the way to Falls Lake. The Eno River is also ideal for kayaking, tubing and nature hikes.
History buffs will engage at Bennett Place State Historical Site. The largest troop surrender in the Civil War took place here, effectively ending the conflict. Tours and special events are free.
Carolina Theatre books more than 180 events every year. Look for high-profile concerts, touring Broadway shows, popular comedians and much more.
If you get a chance to see the Duke Blue Devils play, take it. If not, at least tour the impressive Duke campus before you leave town.
Durham offers more than 7,500 guest rooms in every price range.
Luxury hotels start at around $200 per night and offer impressive amenities. The Washington Inn & Golf Club sits on 300 pine-wooded acres and has won the coveted AAA Four Diamond award for 16 years straight. The Durham Hotel is within walking distance of shops, restaurants and attractions. Its rooftop bar gets high marks. The King’s Daughters Inn and 21c Museum Hotel are also highly rated.
As for bed-and-breakfasts, the Arrowhead Inn, established in 1775, sets the stage for romance with fireplaces in guest rooms. Morehead Manor, featuring exquisite decor and fine works of art, is admired for its business amenities.