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Best On-and Off-Campus Hotspots: Duke University

Estimated Read Time:
3 min

We tracked down a recent Duke grad for the scoop on where to go and what to do on and off campus.

Posted By Dillon Patel

Everyone knows that location plays a major role in the college experience. While you spend a lot of time in classes, you also get to participate in all sorts of activities on-and-off campus. Thankfully, Duke University is in Durham, a city with small-town charm chockfull of unique things to do.

From rock-climbing walls to the best places with Wi-Fi, there are plenty of places to explore in Durham. First-year students have the advantage of beginning their college experience on Duke’s East Campus, situated perfectly between Durham’s Ninth Street District and historic downtown.

With the help of Dillon Patel, a Duke alumnus and regular on the Bravo show “Family Karma,” Discover Durham created a list of spots to help other Blue Devils enjoy the Bull City.

Eno River State Park

6101 Cole Mill Road

The Eno River State Park is just a short drive from downtown Durham. Whether you’re into hiking, swimming, fishing, paddling, or just wandering through the forest, there is no shortage of things to do. Take a short mile hike to the crystal-clear rock quarry and cool off on a hot summer day. Head to the Cox Mountain River Loop for a longer hike with a scenic and relatively flat path.

Motorco Music Hall

723 Rigsbee Ave.

Motorco Music Hall is a hip music venue with one of the best patios in town. With delicious food options from their restaurant Parts & Labor, it’s a step above your traditional bar bites. Do yourself a favor and try the hipster poutine and vegan samosas. Be sure to check out their website for their full slate of events!

Sushi Love

2812 Erwin Road #204

Sometimes high-quality, well-priced sushi is exactly what you need. Sushi Love has long been an unpretentious and convenient staple in the growing Durham food scene. With generous portions, unique rolls, and great specials ─ it’s hard to go wrong. Be sure to try the Blue Devil roll (shrimp tempura rolls topped with delicious filet mignon) created for all my fellow Blue Devils.


117 W. Main St.

Pinhook is an electric dive bar with a loyal fan base, best known for its indie music events, karaoke nights, and epic drag shows. While not specifically an LGBTQ+ bar, it’s run by a group of fabulous queer folks who created an inclusive space, where people can “be whoever they are and feel powerful while surrounded by art and fun and wildness.” Many of their online reviews echo their family-like environment. They also rent their space out for private parties at reasonable rates, so be sure to hit them up the next time you’re looking to plan a fun event!

Duke Arts Annex

404 Gattis St.

The Duke Arts Annex first opened in 2012 as a small space for creative students who wanted to make dorm art with the drawers of free canvases, acrylic paints, and art supplies. Over the years, it’s become a hub for art with dance rehearsals and all sorts of weekly programming. Also, make sure to check out the eight decommissioned satellite dishes outside that were painted by local artists in an ongoing Duke Arts movement.

Wilson Recreation Center Climbing Wall

330 Towerview Road

The Wilson Climbing Wall may be one of the most underrated places on campus. Start your experience with a free belay class, or better yet, enroll in a semester-long rock climbing course. The wall stands at 35 feet and has 11 ropes and dozens of changing routes; thus, it’s intentionally built for various skill sets. While the daily rate for a typical climbing gym can quickly get pricey, all equipment, including climbing shoes, harnesses, and belay devices, are available for use at no cost to Duke students.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

420 Anderson St.

No best spots list at Duke could be complete without the mention of Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Many Duke applicants joyfully mention the gardens in their applications, but few take advantage of this beautiful haven in the center of campus. Best of all, the Duke Gardens is free and open to the public. While beautiful year-round, watching the flowers bloom in spring is truly magical. Also, Duke Wi-Fi covers many garden areas, making it the perfect student spot!

We hope Dillon’s incredible list helps you get out and explore the Bull City. Go Blue Devils!

About the Author

Dillon Patel - Dillon Patel

Dillon is a tech strategist, entrepreneur, & LGTBQ+ TV personality. He studied Economics at Duke University then moved to San Francisco, where he began his career in software strategy and operations.