Aug 5, 2022 - Food and Drink

24 hours in Durham: What to do and where to eat

Illustration of the sun and moon transitioning over the Durham skyline.
Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Discover Durham

Are your parents or friends visiting Durham, and you don’t know what to do with them? Here's what we recommend for a quick trip.

Where to stay: There are a lot of options in downtown Durham, but The Durham and 21C Museum Hotel get high praises. Both have great bars and restaurants.

Breakfast: One of the most popular places for breakfast on weekends right now is Durham Food Hall, where multiple vendors are now serving up delicious options for the morning hours.

  • You can grab a coffee at one of Durham's best new entries to the coffee game, Liturgy Beverage Co.
  • Zach's take: Liturgy and Joe Van Gogh currently serve the best cold brews in town, if that's your thing.
  • For food: Try the breakfast burritos at Ex-Voto, the purple sweet potato bagel (yes, really!) at Everything Bagels, or the breakfast sandwich at Old North Meats & Provisions.

Shop: If it's Saturday, stroll the Durham Farmers' Market across the street in Durham Central Park.

  • In addition to a great collection of local bakeries (shout out to the focaccia bread from Strong Arm) and farmers, artisans set up tents here, too.
  • Next, take a tour of Durham's thriving local bookstores. There's Letters Bookshop downtown, Rofhiwa Book Café in East Durham, The Regulator on 9th Street and Golden Fig Books in the Rockwood neighborhood.
  • Zach's take: All four bookstores have great shops and restaurants nearby, so you can’t go wrong picking one.
A river surrounded by fall foliage
The Eno River during the fall. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios.

Hike: Eno River State Park.

  • You don't need to go far from downtown — around a 15-minute drive — to find a little oasis and several short, peaceful hikes.
  • While you're there, go ahead and make a stop at Picnic, one of the best barbecue restaurants in the Triangle.

Next: Check out the Nasher Museum of Art on Duke University's campus, especially now that admission is free.

  • There's always an interesting/thought-provoking exhibition at Nasher. One of my favorite museum memories was seeing Richard Mosse's “The Enclave” there.

Lunch: Would be hard to pick a better place than Saltbox Seafood Joint, whose chef, Ricky Moore, just won a James Beard award.

Stroll: As a UNC grad, I hate to keep recommending things on Duke's campus, but the Sarah P. Duke Gardens really are great. (Chapel Hill isn't a far drive, if you also want to check out UNC's Coker Arboretum and Battle Park and Forest Theatre.)

A purple-lit stage with band playing.
Little Feat playing the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios.

Catch a show or a game: In the summer, it's hard to beat a night out at a Durham Bulls game.

A negroni cocktail
A negroni cocktail at The Corpse Reviver. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios.

Pre-dinner cocktail: The Corpse Reviver, a gin-focused bar under the Durham Distillery, or Alley Twenty Six, the first North Carolina bar to become a finalist for a James Beard award.

Dinner: Try a Matt Kelly joint, like Mateo or Saint James. The Asian tapas restaurant Juju, which has great vegetarian-friendly options. Or Pizzeria Toro.

  • Don't have a reservation? You might be able to squeeze into the delightful first-come, first-serve Korean restaurant M Kokko, the little sibling of top-class sushi restaurant M Sushi.
  • Been a long day and already want to crash? Get takeout from Banh's, who serves great Vietnamese and Chinese food.

Nightcap: Take in a near-360° view of downtown Durham with a drink on The Durham Hotel's rooftop. Looking for something a bit livelier? Walk a few blocks north of downtown and grab a drink at Surf Club.

And for breakfast before you head out, there are plenty of options, like the always-popular Dame's Chicken & Waffles, Elmo's Diner or GRUB.

  • In a hurry? You can always grab something quick at the Durham Co-op Market cafe.

Check out our previous day guide to Raleigh.

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