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A College Student's Guide to Durham

Estimated Read Time:
4 minutes

North Carolina Central University, Duke University, and Durham Tech make Durham an epicenter of collegiate brilliance.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff

And it's a thriving city in its own right with nationally recognized restaurants, a buzzing downtown, art galleries, live music, and tons of local pride. Make it your mission to get to know Durham – here's a guide to get you started.

Where to 'take your parents' (wink, wink) for a meal…

Let's be real ... we all know who's actually picking up the check (shhh, we won't tell). Durham is known for its food scene, so break away from your ramen routine. Remember, if your parents are coming to town for parents’ weekend or other popular university events, you’ll want to make dinner reservations several weeks in advance.

Celebrate your accomplishments in style at NanaSteak, Piedmont, or Parizade.

For a leisurely brunch, try True Flavors Diner, Foster's Market, or Rue Cler.

If you want to give your folks a taste of classic North Carolina cookin’, head to Bullock’s BBQ, Chicken Hut, or Saltbox Seafood Joint.

See more rad dining options

Where to shop for your next favorite outfit…

In addition to The Streets at Southpoint, a mall that houses retailers like Urban Outfitters and J. Crew, Durham is home to several local boutiques, in addition to Runaway (now only online, but still DURM).

Located on Hillsborough Road, the Smitten Boutique is a woman’s boutique that specializes in clothing, accessories, and gifts for women with a passion for fashion.

Show off your team colors with pride! For Duke Blue Devils apparel and accessories, head to the Duck Shop in Durham’s Ninth Street Shopping district or the Duke University Store on Duke’s campus. NCCU Eagles gear can be purchased at Eagleland or at the NCCU bookstore on campus.

Fifi’s of Durham
is a charming consignment shop located in the Brightleaf District, where you can sell used clothes and purchase gently used items. You can find brands like Michael Kors, Lilly Pulitzer, and Tory Burch.

See more local boutiques

Where to go for thrifty finds …

Used furniture, supplies for a craft project, or just a special find... these shops are your go-to's.

The Scrap Exchange is unlike any place you’ve ever been before. Part creative maker space, part thrift, and part craft supply store, you can spend an entire afternoon exploring its 23,000-square-foot location. It's like an IKEA for crafters. And don't miss Scrap Thrift next door and its fantastic used book section.

Shop and donate to Habitat for Humanity Restore, which offers a wide supply of gently used furniture items.

Trosa Thrift offers everything from furniture to collectibles and clothing items. Proceeds benefit Trosa’s substance abuse recovery programs.

Where to go for late-night eats…

If you’re out with friends or pulling an all-night study session, you’ll need late-night grub. Here’s where to find it.

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Heavenly Buffaloes brings chicken wings, and their vegan counterparts, to Durham’s late-night food scene. Don’t forget a side of sweet potato waffle fries. Yum.

Cosmic Cantina is open until 4 a.m. So ... yeah. Get those burritos and house-made chips.

Pie Pushers knows when the need for cheese strikes. Their late-night pizza menu is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. after regular service ends.

Cook Out is a North Carolina-based fast food chain known for its extensive milkshake menu (peach cobbler!) and an anything-goes food selection – from corn dogs to quesadillas.

The Dankery. 'Nuff Said. Get those queso fries, and get that fried chicken.

Where to go for coffee and marathon study sessions…

Mix up your study routine by getting off campus and checking out Durham’s coffee houses.

Cocoa Cinnamon has three Durham locations and a top-notch selection of pour over coffees. Coffee enthusiasts, this is your spot.

Joe Van Gogh offers three Durham locations, including a newly opened spot in a renovated gas station.

Bean Traders, located in South Durham, offers locally roasted coffee, lots of study space, and house-made treats.

Where to unwind outdoors…

Sometimes you need a break from cramped dorm rooms, the library stacks, and the campus in general. While NCCU and Duke offer beautiful outdoor spaces, Durham has a host of other parks and natural areas for you to explore.

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Only six miles north of downtown Durham, West Point on the Eno is your close-to-home nature escape. You can lounge by the Eno River, enjoy miles of hiking trails, or explore the site’s three historic buildings.

Little River Regional Park is a remote natural area in northern Durham County, with over seven miles of hiking trails and eight miles of mountain bike trails.

Enjoy hiking trails and beaches at Falls Lake, located on the eastern edge of the county.

Where to take a group…

Take your crew off campus and try something new.

Spend an hour solving puzzles and unlocking clues at Bull City Escape, an escape game within walking distance of Duke’s East Campus.

Relax and recharge at Happymess Art Studio, where you can enjoy open studio time, an adult art class, or rent out the studio for a party.

How to get there…

In addition to transportation services like Uber and Lyft, you can rent a Zipcar. The car-sharing service has two locations in Durham and is available by the hour or day. Additionally, scooter companies are vying for you to scoot from one end of the city to the other, and the downtown area is extremely walkable.

About the Author

Discover Durham Staff