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Life in Durham

Durham, We Love You.

Below you’ll find the student choices for best: Things To Do in Durham, Outdoor Adventures, Food, Study Cafes, Bars, Music Scenes, and Transportation information for you as a Duke student. Enjoy!


Durham Things to Do

Durham has many unique “Durhamesk” events that make this town so lovable. You will never be bored!

  • Durham’s Event Calendar – From Film Fests, Culture Fests, the Eno Celebration to the Gay Pride Parade, Durham is the best big small-town ever.
  • Durham Bulls Games – Does it even matter what the score is? Watch the sunset over the stadium, eat to your heart’s content and see how the Bull lights up when a ball hits him. Life is good.
  • Museum of Life & Science – For all ages, packed with exhibits – they even have live bears!
  • Duke Lemur Center – More species of Lemurs live here than you even knew existed! Take a tour.
  • Durham Performing Arts Center – From headliner bands to comedy to Broadway shows! Check out the website for student discounts.
  • Durham Historical Walking Tours – This place is packed with history. Saturdays April – November.


Duke Forest – 7,000 acre working forest, used for research by Duke staff and students.  Full of trails, history and adventure!

Eno River State Park – If you love forests, creeks, hidden cabins, swingy bridges, and wildlife: this place is heaven.


American Tobacco Trail – A 20 mile long trail that cuts straight through durham, transforming the old railway lines into a useful recreation path. 

Yummy Food

Whether you’re a foodie or just a hungry son-of-a-gun, Durham is the place to eat. The list below is just a small sample of the restaurants and cafes this locavore town has to offer! In no particular order.

Check out another option of the best restaurants in Durham!

  • Toast – The simple goodness of sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads have never been this tasty!
  • Scratch Bakery – De-freakin-licious. OMG. Stop it. Seasonal & Local. I can’t stop eating!
  • Parker & Otis – You came for a sandwich? You left with a tea-pot, a teddy bear, and a hot-air balloon pillow. This place is too cute to bear, and the grub is superb!
  • Lilly’s Pizza – What may be the best pizza ever made on planet earth. No seriously. Try the “Aristocrat”.
  • Geer Street – If you want Durham’s hands-down favorite joint, this is the place.  Full bar, picnic benches, twinkle-lights outside.
  • Vin Rouge – French, Chic, pricey.  Where to take your date to impress or your parents when they visit.
  • Watt’s Grocery – Attractive & colorful – almost all the ingredients come from the Durham Farmer’s Market!
  • Elmo’s Diner – This place is a legit diner. Yes, Durham has that too.
  • Revolution – Tops the list for upscale in Durham. A bit overpriced, but a very fun date special-occasion place.
  • Mateo Tapas – You will swear these tapas were imported from Spain!
  • Dame’s Chicken & Waffles – Wowee is this stuff tasty! Dig in to your hearty plate while enjoying the tasteful atmosphere.
  • The Cupcake Bar – For sure the swankiest cupcake joint I’ve ever been to. Flavors change daily!
  • Durham Food Trucks – Food trucks celebrate the best of Durham: creative, local ingredients made by Durham characters with stories to share. Inexpensive & delicious!
  • Durham Farmers Market – Saturday mornings, open year-round! Amazing local food & people.
  • Carpe Durham – Blog written by some folks at Duke Law. Check it out for fun and detailed reviews and updates on Durham food joints.

Study Cafes

  • Mad Hatter – Great food and dessert, and lots of tables! Though it can be tricky at times to find a charger outlet.
  • Francesca’s – Where Duke Students go to study on 9th Street.  Sells a few hearty goods and lots of sweets.
  • Bean Traders – Also on 9th Street.  This place may look tiny from the window but the secret stairway will take you to a study haven of tables and couches downstairs!
  • Beyu Cafe – When live jazz isn’t on stage, this cafe is a comfy study spot with gourmet desserts.
  • Foster’s Market – A country-style house turned into a restaurant and bakery. My mouth is watering just thinking of their sandwiches, smoothies and biscuits! Lots of quiet space to hit the books.

The Bar Scene

Fullsteam Brewery – Local. Beer. Durham. Here’s the truth: everyone loves Fullsteam. If you want to plunge yourself into the heart of Durham culture, just hang out here. 

Alivia’s Bistro – Duke students galore. New to town: Liv’s Food Truck


Dain’s Place – Good food, tasty beer, random stuff on the walls. A chilax with friends and watch the game or just chat is up kind of place. 


Whiskey – It’s 1922 and you’re entering Durham’s finest speakeasy, assuming you’re 23 or older that is. The man in a vest and fedora behind the counter sells you a cigar as you tap your foot to the live jazz music.  They have the biggest selection of bourbon in the state, with an upstairs club room if you can afford it. A classy night for a classy Duke student. 


Tobacco Road Cafe: Durham  – Sports junkies: you had found your haven. This restaurant/bar is filled to the brim with flat-screen TVs, comfy leather chairs – AND it overlooks the Bulls Stadium to boot. Watch a bulls game live while screaming at your favorite Duke athletes on TV. 


Tyler’s Taproom: Durham –  Sports bar, games, grub. Everyone in the group will be entertained and you can keep your eye on the game. 


The Green Room – Pool tables and other classic games abound! This place is Dirty Durham at it’s best, always a good time.

The Drinks & Music Scene


The Tavern – Sports, Food, Games, Karaoke, Live Music, Comedy. This place looks super sketch from the outside, but is a vibrant community hub on the inside. Very much your “neighborhood bar”. 


Motorco – Then: Warehouse. Now: Bar & Entertainment. Indy music scene, theater, comedy, poetry, craft fairs… they’ve got it all.


Cat’s Cradle – Big names, little names, music is here. In Carborro – an easy taxi ride away!


Durham’s Dance Clubs


Shooters – If you’re looking for class, you’ve come to the wrong place.  Mechanical bull, dance cage, pop music & sweaty students. This place is always packed and full of adventure!


Surf Club – This bar is new and still finding it’s niche. Located on the same street at Fullsteam and Motorco, it’s worth a stop in for the dark ambiance and solid full bar.  Some Nic students had one heck of a dance party here!


Trinity Lounge – Let’s be honest: No one goes here. BUT – I don’t know why! Outside: shady. Inside: Swanky  hookah lounge, bar, and a large dance floor with show lights & DJ. If you want a private dance party with your best pals, go here. 


Cuban Revolution – A restaurant by day, a Salsa Dance Club by night… Thursday night that is, from 9pm – 12am.  Free salsa class from 9 – 9:30pm.