With some of the best things to do in Durham, NC, why wouldn't you want to visit! 

The East Coast has so much going for it. For starters, some of the most beautiful beaches that the United States has to offer can be found right on the East Coast. Not only that, but the atmosphere and the vibe of this Southern state is one that is so charming. It is no wonder that it brings visitors back year after year. Today we are going to dive deep into one specific city in this charming state. That city is Durham, NC. Today, we are going to take an in depth look at some of the best things to do in Durham, NC. From seasoned travelers to outdoor enthusiasts to food lovers. North Carolina has a little bit of something to offer every type of traveler there is. Let's dive into this year's list of best things to do in Durham NC.

1. Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Things to do in Durham, NC - Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Credit: Sarah P. Duke Gardens / Facebook

One of the most beautiful and easily one of the best things to do in Durham, NC is to visit the wonderful Sarah P. Duke Gardens.  This stunning Garden draws out nearly 300,000 visitors from all over the globe annually. It is no wonder why either. Not only is admission free, but the gardens are open every single day of the year. If you are traveling on a budget, then this is a wonderful place to take advantage of. 

The 55 acre garden boasts a landscape that is simply stunning. Around every turn, you will find something that is mesmerizingly beautiful. The Sarah P. Duke garden is home to a collection of gardens that feature their own unique atmosphere. Take, for example, one part of the garden that is known as the Asiatic Arboretum. This garden is fantastic for so many reasons. For starters, the iconic red Japanese style bridge that connects visitors from one side of the pond to the other is simply stunning. This lovely red bridge is the perfect place to snap some stunning shots on.  

Not only that but here you will find a landscape that is typically associated with Asian gardens. Coupled with the beautiful red Japanese arch bridge, you can explore the quaint stone pathways, stone lanterns, and water fixtures that make this garden a simple beauty.

Another part of the gardens to explore is the Doris Duke Center Gardens. Some main attractions that you can expect to find here include the Virtue Peace Pond. What makes the Virtue Peace Pond so stunning is the beautiful water lilies that bloom here each year. The lily pads and their beautiful flowers create a scene that is simply out of this world.

Once you are done being mesmerized at the Virtue Peace Pond, you must make your way to the Paige Rollins White Garden. This garden is a collection that plays homage to the many white flowered cottage gardens that are found all over England. For the most part, only white flowers bloom here. The aim of this landscaping choice is to highlight the simplicity and beauty of such plans. If you are traveling with a photographer in tow, then it is a must that you snap some shots here. The stunning backdrop of white flowers makes for some of the most beautiful intimate and candid photographs ever.

Overall, these stunning gardens have so much to offer. Without a doubt, visiting the gardens is easily one of the best things to do in Durham, NC.

2. Durham Performing Arts Center

Things to do in Durham, NC - Performing Arts Center

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You can not pass through Durham, North Carolina without visiting the iconic Duke Performing Arts Center. In fact, for many travelers who are passing through, one of the best things to do in Durham, NC is to catch a live performance show here.

The Duke Performing Arts Center first opened its doors in 2008. Since then, it has been the go to place to catch some of the best shows in our nation's modern history. In fact, Pollstar magazine has listed the Dukes Performing Arts Center as the number four best ranked theater in the United States. It is no wonder why. With all that goes on in this 2,700 seater Performing Arts Center, it has very well earned its praise.

When it comes to the center itself, its mission is pretty straightforward and crowd pleasing. The center's main mission is to provide visitors with a unique experience of live entertainment. With the many different shows that have been put on here over the years, it has lived up to its promising mission statement. Every year the Performing Arts Center hosts more than 200 performances. These wonderful performances include highly sought after Broadway plays. Most recently, the play Hamilton was a crowd pleaser that drew out hundreds.

Not only that, but many comedians and artists have called this place home for a show as well. Currently, visitors can catch popular performances by the hilarious Russell Peters. Not only that but at the end of January of this year, visitors can look forward to performances by the much loved Toni Braxton.

Before you head out on your fabulous adventure to Durham, be sure to check out the Duke Performing Arts Center. No matter the time you come, you are sure to find a riveting event going on here that you cannot miss out on. To get a detailed list of the events that are happening, be sure to visit the Dukes Performing Arts Center website. Here you will find a detailed breakdown of all the popular performers, speakers, and authors who are planning to come. No matter when you choose to come, you will certainly be impressed by this location that is one of the best things to do in Durham, NC.

3. Duke University Chapel

Things to do in Durham, NC - Duke University Chapel

Without a doubt, Another one of the best things to do in Durham, NC is to visit the iconic Duke University Chapel. For starters, this chapel is simply stunning both inside and out. The Duke University Chapel is located on the University's west campus. The chapel was first constructed in October of 1930. In a little under two years, the chapel was finally completed and opened its doors to the public. 

Today, the chapel is fully operational with services and events going on daily. Many of these services extend beyond the student body as they encourage locals and visitors to join. You do not have to participate in any of these services or events to thoroughly appreciate the beauty of this chapel. Instead, you can opt to take a stroll on the outside that will allow you to experience this architectural masterpiece.

Along with the architectural design, visitors can expect to be greeted with Neo Gothic architecture that is in the English Style. This architectural style is visible due to the large stone piers, the pointed arches, the flying buttresses, and the ribbed vaults that make this chapel what it is.

Along with that, visitors may be interested to know that the chapel is made out of beautiful volcanic stone. This volcanic stone was sourced from a quarry in the nearby Hillsborough,  North Carolina. This unique building material has only enabled the enhancement of the beauty here. If you do choose to go inside, you will be greeted with a similar amount of beauty. The chapel hall features a beautiful collection of stained glass windows that are simply magnificent.

4. The Museum of Life and Science 

Things to do in Durham, NC - Museum of Life and Science

Credit: Museum of Life and Science / Facebook

If you are traveling with children, or are going on a family adventure, then one of the best things to do in Durham NC is to visit the wonderful Museum of Life and Science. This Museum features everything that the science lover in your group will appreciate. Although there are many activities that are geared towards children here, it is certainly a museum that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. 

In its entirety, the museum boasts 84 Acres of pure fun. For starters, there is a two story interactive science center that lets visitors get hands on with their learning. If you are looking to see the beauty of butterflies, and you will be pleased to know that this museum is home to one of the largest butterfly houses in all of the East Coast. Along with that, there are nearly over 60 different species of animals call the museum home. Lastly, there are plenty of informative and detail exhibits to help visitors get a better understanding of the world around them.

For the most part, a museum is open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. But of course, there are restricted hours due to certain holidays. Price for admission is typical $20 for a standard ticket. However, there are discounted rates available for both children and seniors too. If you plan on visiting one of the best things to do in Durham, NC, then you will want to plan your trip accordingly. Because this is a hot spot for locals, it is not uncommon for this museum to be boasting with visitors. To beat the rush of visitors, you can try to avoid coming during the weekends, and during the summertime. Instead, some better days to visit are anytime during the weekdays.  Typically, Mondays are one of the best days to try and beat out the school crowds and buzzing tourists.

5. Stroll Through Duke University

Things to do in Durham, NC - Duke University

Credit: Ilyse Whitney

Another one of the best things to do in Durham, NC is to take a stroll through the prestigious Duke University. Duke University is known nationwide for their academic and athletic accomplishments. If you are going to be in Durham, then it is a must that you pop into one of the nation's most loved universities.

The reality is, there is no right or wrong time to visit the university. Every season offers a unique opportunity to see the university in a different light. During the fall, the university becomes a beautiful backdrop with the stunning colors from the beautiful fall foliage. In the springtime, everything comes alive with a lush green vibrance as the plants and flowers bloom throughout. However, if you are traveling during the winter, you are in for a treat. Duke University during the winter time transforms into a winter wonderland when an unlikely snow storm hits. And lastly, the summertime offers some of the best tranquility for strolling around the university in peace.

No matter when you come, you are sure to enjoy the stunning architecture that encompasses Duke University. The architectural style of the western part of the university is a Gothic style design. You can immediately pick this out in the detailed stone work and structure that architect Julian Abele put forth when designing it.

When you are strolling around the grounds, there are a couple of hot spots that you need to check out. For starters, the Duke Lemur Center is a hotbed for many visitors. Along with that, the Nasher Museum of Art is home to a wide range of artistic Treasures. Lastly, do not forget to stroll around the Sarah P Duke Gardens that is open all year round. With so much that is offered here on the grounds, Without a doubt, strolling around Duke University is one of the best things to do in Durham, NC if you have the extra time.

6. Visit the Historic Stagville 

Things to do in Durham, NC - Historic Stagville

Credit: Stagville / Facebook

What makes Durham, North Carolina one of the most unique places to visit is the fact that there is so much history here. If you want to experience one of the best things to do in Durham, NC, then it is a must that you visit the historic Stagville. For history buffs all over, this is a travel destination that you simply can not leave off your travel list.

The historic legacy of Stagville lies in the fact that it is a state historic site that is home to what once used to be the largest slave plantations in all of North Carolina. Today, the preservation of Stagville has enabled the many visitor the ability to see the remains of this vast plantation site.

The history of the plantation site dates all the way back to the Bennehan – Cameron family. This well known family owned nearly 900 people who were enslaved on their property. The slaves here not only lived but they worked on the vast 30,000 acres of land here. Today, visitors can take a trip back in time and visit the original slave quarters that was built in 1851. Along with that, there is also a barn in that dates all the way back to 1860. This barn also serves as a  popular site to visit here. And of course, the Bennehan family house is a popular landmark here too. The family house was constructed in 1799 and has encapsulated the history of what it meant to be a slave owner.

The main focus of the historic Stagville is to teach visitors about how life once used to be in this unassuming area of land. The aim is not only to enlighten people but to teach them about the lives and work that the enslaved people endured on the plantation. To experience the historic Stagville, you will need to bring along a vehicle. The guided tours require a vehicle for you to explore the vast land area as there are many landmarks for you to experience.

Throughout the year, there is a range of events and special performances that go on here. In order to plan your visit, be sure to check out their website in advance. Some popular events that you can look forward to including the town favorite, Stagville Under the Stars. This is when visitors get the unique opportunity to learn about this history of the plantation alongside the Morehead planetarium team. Here, visitors can learn all about the stars in the sky. All while going back in time to understanding how it played an integral role in the lives of those who were enslaved

7. Nasher Museum of Art

Things to do in Durham, NC - Nasher Museum of Art

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 What makes Duke University one of the best things to do in Durham, NC is the fact that it has so much to offer. One such location that many visitors and locals love Is the Nasher Museum of Art. The Nasher Museum of Art is a part of the University system. Although it is part of Duke University, it has so much to offer those beyond the University population. 

The museum is home to an eclectic collection of both international and contemporary pieces of art. Not only that, but the building itself is a stunning work of art as well. The building resembles a cube that is something out of the future. Inside, visitors can expect to find over 10,000 different structures, paintings, an artifacts that call this museum home.

When it comes to the art itself, The collection here is pretty vast. The art here dates from the pre-Columbian art of the Americas to Medieval art to classical antiquities all the way to modern contemporary art that is concentrated on African roots. For many art enthusiasts, it is quite easy to say that the art collection here at The Nasher Museum of Art is considered to be one of the best university collections in all of America. If you have the opportunity, then you must make it a point to check out this awesome location. If you ask any local, they will tell you that this is easily one of the best things to do in Durham, NC.

8. Go on a Food Tour 

Things to do in Durham, NC - Food Tour

This next locally loved adventure in Durham North Carolina is perhaps one of Durham's best kept secrets. When it comes to all foodies, one of the best things to do in Durham, NC is to experience the cuisine of the town and to go on a food tour.  Going on a food tour can be an exceptional experience for so many reasons. For starters, going on a food tour will allow you to experience the culture and cuisine of the specific location. Not only that, but you will get a true sense of what a city has to offer based on their food selections. When it comes to Durham, North Carolina, there are a couple of food tour companies that offer you the best flavors that Durham has going for it. From craft beer to tasty finger foods, these food tours have it all.

The first food tour company that locals and tourists absolutely love is the Taste of Carolina Gourmet Food Tour. This food tour offers a very clear farm to table mission alongside innovative cuisine. With the wide selection of restaurants in Durham, this mission is an easy one to meet. There are a couple of Tours that you can choose from with this company. The 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Durham Downtown Tasting Tour is a great way to sample everything from Pizza to delicious hamburgers. Not only that, but there are some tasty soup and sandwich pairings that you can not miss out on.  Whether you are looking for a casual snack, or great flavors for lunch, this tour certainly delivers.

For a more formal night out, travelers are sure to love the 3:15 p.m. Durham Downtown Evening Tasting and Drink Tours. This food tour features food and drinks tastings at several different restaurants and bars. Again, visitors can expect to find the farm to table approach. Not only that but the environment that you will be in is simply stunning. Many of the restaurants are located in historically renovated buildings that offer a funky and rustic vibe. To really appreciate the city and it's finer cuisine this food tour is a must.

Another great food tour company to look into is the Triangle Food Tours company.  The food tours offered with this company are a lot like the Taste of Carolina Gourmet Food Tour group. However, Triangle Food Tours expands quite a bit as far as locations go. This food tour companies give you a little more options in terms of what you can choose for your experience too. For example, you can take advantage of the Downtown Cary Walking Food Tour, the Downtown Durham Walking Food Tour, the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Food Tour, and the Raleigh Food Tour.

The Downtown Durham Walking Food Tour is a gem of a tour that easily makes it one of the best things to do in Durham, NC. For starters, this guided tour will take you along the alleyways of downtown west Durham. Not only will you get to learn all about the delectable dishes that make this city unique, but you will get to learn about the city itself. The experienced guides give you a full on detailed account of the deeply rooted history that exists in Durham.

As you discover hidden culinary gems, you are sure to be pleased with every moment. Without a doubt, foodie lovers unite when it comes to taking a food tour of Durham. Ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you that taking a food tour is easily one of the best things to do in Durham, NC.

Final Thoughts 

The 50 states have so much to offer a wide range of travelers. When it comes to North Carolina, this notion holds especially true. From the stunning beaches to some delicious restaurants, there are so many great things to do in Durham, North Carolina. When it comes to the specific town of Durham, you will be surprised at how much the city has to offer. If you plan on visiting this well hidden town, you will be in for a treat. Just be sure not to leave without your handy list of the top things to do in Durham NC. We are sure that you will not be disappointed.

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