Fun and Cheap Things to do in Durham, NC

Durham is a city in North Carolina that has been booming over the last few years. It’s part of the Research Triangle Region, known for its technology companies and scholarly institutions. I looooove North Carolina (Asheville is a dream).

With the help of some locals and research, I was able to find some of the best things to do on your trip to Durham. Since I’m always on a budget, I was looking for some fun and cheap things to do in Durham while there. Here you have my list of the best things to do in Durham that won’t break the bank!

Disclaimer: Special thank you to Visit Durham for the suggestions and tickets while I was visiting your awesome city! 

Want a luxury option for where to stay? We stayed at the Washington Duke Inn and Hotel. It was so charming and is a historic hotel right near Duke’s campus.

1. Duke Basketball Museum and Hall of Fame free

Duke is home to so many (13) national basketball championships. They have a really awesome hall of fame you can walk to and see the history of basketball at the college. While we were there, we were able to go into the stadium as well and onto the court. It is a pretty special experience to see it so up close like that! The stadium itself was small compared to many other college campuses I’ve seen.

Visit between 9 – 5 pm for free.

2. American Tobacco Company free

This area used to be home to the Lucky Strike Cigarette Company but has been transformed into a huge retail and dining area right in downtown Durham. It’s super fun to walk around and check out all the different spots. There are all types of excellent restaurants, from Cuban to sushi. The wedding we went to actually happened right in one of the facilities in the evening, and it was magical!

There are tons of activities to do around there during the day as well like giant chess or enjoying a beer outside. It’s definitely a fun and trendy spot right there near downtown. It’s also right next to the Durham Bull’s stadium so it’s a great spot to stop before a game if you’re heading that way.

3. Walk Duke University free

Duke’s campus is gorgeous and is definitely worth walking around. While there, check out the Duke Chapel. They have daily prayers open to the public and it is a lovely, decadent place. The buildings are fun to walk around it honestly really reminded me of Oxford in certain spots.

4. Nasher Art Museum $7 or free Thursday

This art museum is located on Duke’s campus and is easily worth the $7 admission. The collection includes art from around the world and is constantly rotating. The building itself is really beautiful and is surrounded by the woods which gives it an even more calming feel. There is a cafe in the museum as well that is nice for a visit. While I was there, a live exhibit was taking place in one of the rooms and it was so cool to see artists interacting in the museum. It was a really interesting and fun experience!

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday – 10 AM to 5 PMnThursday – 10 AM to 9 PM (General admission is free all day.)nSunday – Noon to 5 PMnMonday – closed

Parking is $1 an hour.

5. 21 C Art Museum free

This museum is really interesting. It’s located on the second floor of a modern and new(er) hotel in Durham. I spent about 30 minutes there checking out modern art. It is definitely an innovative and interesting idea to have the art in a hotel.

The location was a little difficult to find because everything was actually located on the second floor (including hotel check-in) so do not be fooled by the odd building’s outside. Once you go in, go to the left up the stairs and you’ll find the museum and hotel check-in on the second floor.

I stayed at the Washington Duke Inn during my trip which I loved too!

Park in a garage or on the street for $2 an hour.

6. See the Durham Bull free

Bulls have been the symbol of Durham since the 1800s so a trip to Durham isn’t complete without a stop at this famous statue! It’s definitely a very instagrammable spot and I actually saw a proposal happening as I was about to try and take a picture! It was the sweetest thing and I just love love. I actually had to leave because I felt like I was up in their business, but I came back later to really read about the Bull and take my pic.

PS It’s right next to 21C Art Museum and tons of murals in Durham!

7. Eat Ice Cream at the Parlour $2 – $5

I thought this shop was so adorable! It was pretty cold and rainy while I was there, but I still found a way to fit in a sweet treat that was recommended to me by so many! The Parlour actually has lots of different ice cream flavors made in-house and has many vegan options. I got an affogatto because who doesn’t need an afternoon pick me up. I had my espresso with salted caramel ice cream and it was delicious.

Visit 12 pm – 10 pm.

PS It’s right next to the Durham Bull and 21 C Art Museum.

 8. Sarah P. Duke Gardens free

These gardens were something I did not want to miss! I had heard they were some of the best gardens in the US and I am a sucker for some beautiful flowers so I went despite the rainy conditions! I am so glad I did. The cherry blossom trees just started blooming and so did the tulips. The gardens are really large and in nice weather, you could spend a long time here.

We had fun walking around and seeing what was in bloom. We were sad we had not come even just a few weeks later because things were just starting to bloom. I’m sure they are gorgeous now because they were starting to be while we were there!

Visit 8 am – dusk

Parking for $1 an hour onsite or free in overflow lot a short walk away.

Explore Durham on a budget with these cheap and fun activities. Discover the best things to do in Durham without breaking the bank.
Explore Durham on a budget with these cheap and fun activities. Discover the best things to do in Durham without breaking the bank.

I hope you found this list helpful and have a great visit to Durham! With history, great food, and lots to do, you’ll have fun no matter what.

If you’re looking for more to do in North Carolina, look no further! Here’s 5 weekend getaways in NC to check out.


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