Top Attractions, Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina

Big Tobacco's Legacy Burns Anew: Hot Restaurants, Nightlife, Shopping

Duke University Chapel
Chris Townsend, Apex NC / Getty Images

Durham, North Carolina, is a wonderful example of economic transformation. A town once dominated by tobacco factories has become a cultural center for food, music and the arts, with former tobacco warehouses enjoying new life as centers of dining, shopping, and entertainment. With much of its original architecture still intact, Durham retains its colorful character. Durham is part of the Triangle, encompassing, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Here in no particular order are some recommendations for things to do in Durham.​

01 of 08

Duke University

Durham, NC 27708, USA
+1 919-684-8111

Duke University is one of the nation's top universities and arguably one of its most beautiful campuses. The Gothic architecture of West Campus is anchored by the Duke Chapel tower. In contrast, East Campus is Georgian in design and is centered by a rotunda auditorium. A free bus is available to take people between the campuses. However, if the weather is beautiful, it is also a lovely walk.

02 of 08

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens

420 Anderson St, Durham, NC 27708, USA
+1 919-684-3698

Duke Gardens occupies 55 acres and is adjacent to Duke's West Campus and the Duke University Medical Center. They are a destination in their own right, attracting more than 300,000 visitors per year from all over the world. Duke Gardens is recognized as one of the top public gardens in the United States, renowned both for landscape design and the quality of horticulture.

03 of 08

The Durham Bulls

409 Blackwell St, Durham, NC 27701, USA
+1 919-687-6500

The Durham Bulls are Durham's AAA minor league baseball team, currently affiliated with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This family-friendly activity is tons of fun and a great way to while away the hours with the boys of summer.  The Bulls play at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in the American Tobacco Historic District.

04 of 08

American Tobacco District

300 Blackwell St #104, Durham, NC 27701, USA
+1 919-433-1566

The former warehouses of American Tobacco, which was at one time biggest tobacco company in the world and was the maker of Lucky Strikes, Pall Malls, and Tareytons, have become the home of Durham's entertainment district, with many restaurants, theater, special events, and concerts. And it's the home of the Durham Bulls baseball team.
The American Tobacco District is also a prime wedding venue.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Brightleaf Square

905 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701, USA
+1 919-682-9229

Brightleaf Square, whose warehouses are also a legacy of American Tobacco, now is the place to go in Durham to find fine local restaurants, fun shopping in locally owned stores and nightlife. The two warehouses, built in the early 1900s, face a courtyard, just perfect for eating alfresco.

06 of 08

Central Park

501 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701, USA
+1 919-794-8194

Central Park in downtown Durham is hopping with live music, food trucks, restaurants, shops with art made by locals and a farmer's market. The farmer's market is in the Pavilion in Central Park and is open year-round; the main season hours are 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday and 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Motorco Music Hall, a repurposed mid-century car dealership, serves up eats, drinks and nationally touring acts in its 450-seat venue that showcased new cars in its previous life.

07 of 08

Streets at Southpoint

6910 Fayetteville Rd, Durham, NC 27713, USA
+1 919-572-8808

The Streets of Southpoint is a regional shopping destination anchored by top-notch national retailers like Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, and Restoration Hardware. Restaurants include California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, and Firebird's Wood FiredGrill. There's a P.F. Chang's in the adjacent shopping area across the street.

08 of 08

Museum of Life and Science

433 W Murray Ave, Durham, NC 27704, USA
+1 919-220-5429

Highlights at the Museum of Life and Science are an enchanting butterfly house, outdoor dinosaur trail, North Carolina native habitats for bears and wolves, and fabulously fun, nationally rotating hands-on exhibits.

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Top Things to Do in Durham, North Carolina