Explore the South in Durham
As a progressive city with two universities and a strong tech sector, Durham attracts people from all over the globe.
Posted By Discover Durham Staff on Oct 20, 2016
But at its core, Durham is a Southern tobacco town, with a rich culinary tradition, friendly locals, and fascinating history.
In addition to checking out the The Nasher Museum of Arts’ newest exhibit, Southern Accent, you can discover Durham’s Southern side by eating and exploring your way through the Bull City.
- Enjoy Eastern Carolina barbecue at Bullock’s and Backyard BBQ Pit. Want more barbecue? Take a trip down Durham’s barbecue trail.
Tip: For even more barbecue, attend a Barbecue Revival at Green Button Farm on October 28. Enjoy cooking classes, bourbon tasting, and lots of barbecue!
- For a hearty Southern meal, dig in at True Flavors Diner, where you can find shrimp and grits as well as soda shop-style milkshakes. Or join the line down Main Street to experience fried chicken and delectable sides at the ever-popular Dame’s Chicken and Waffles.
- Chow down on biscuits at Rise Biscuits and Donuts, a breakfast and lunch spot with locations in South Durham and downtown. We recommend the fried green tomato biscuit with pimento cheese. You can also grab a buttermilk biscuit at Scratch, where add-ons include pepper relish and bacon jam.
- Folks looking for a taste of old-school Durham will enjoy fried chicken at Chicken Hut, a family-owned restaurant that’s been open since 1957. For soul food, head to Roy’s Kountry Kitchen, down the road from the Hayti Heritage Center.
- For a twist on Southern cuisine, visit Piedmont, a fine dining restaurant that sources ingredients from Coon Rock Farm, its partner farm in Hillsborough. Picnic, in northern Durham, delivers new-school whole hog barbecue.
- Find Southern seafood at Saltbox Seafood, a casual walk-up joint that specializes in fresh, sustainable seafood caught on the Carolina coast.
- Explore the South and all of its challenges and contradictions at the Nasher Museum of Art’s Southern Accent exhibit, which runs through January 8, 2017. The exhibit features the work of 60 artists and includes perspectives from both within and outside the region.
- For a dose of Southern history, visit Durham’s historic sites, including Bennett Place State Historic Site, home to the largest troop surrender and effective end of the Civil War. You can also tour preserved slave quarters at Stagville, which was once a 30,000-acre plantation. Now the site is dedicated to preserving and studying African-American history. Duke Homestead, where Washington Duke’s tobacco empire originated, is now a national historic landmark where you can view Duke’s restored family home, tobacco barns, and original factory.
- On Saturday mornings, meet at the downtown Farmers Market for a free walking tour with Preservation Durham. Tour topics include Durham’s tobacco history and civil rights.
- Hear live blues music in Durham at The Blue Note Grill and Beyu Caffe. Every September, local and national blues artists gather in Durham for the annual Bull Durham Blues Festival, a two-day event hosted by the Hayti Heritage Center.
Learn more about the history of the Piedmont blues in Durham
- Pick up a copy of the African-American Heritage Guide, available at the Visitor Info Center, for an inside look at historic sites around Durham. Visit the Durham Civil Right History Mural, Black Wall Street, and North Carolina Central University to learn about the events and people who have shaped Durham’s identity.
- See rotating exhibits at the Museum of Durham History. Current exhibits include Finding Each Other in History: Stories from LGBTQ+ Durham and Durham A-Z: I is for Innovation.
- For goods that reflect the region’s artisans, check out boutiques that are stocked with locally made items. Visit The Makery at Mercury Studio for products that are exclusively made in North Carolina. Parker & Otis, a restaurant and gift emporium, sells many locally made items – and serves a fabulous pimento cheese sandwich, a southern staple.
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- Durham’s three farmers markets feature bountiful agricultural products, including seasonal produce, meat, and cheese. Visit the Durham Farmers’ Market, South Durham Farmers’ Market, and Durham Roots Farmers’ Market to shop for delicious local food products.
- Shop at Runaway, Durham’s hometown clothing designer. Designs tout Durham’s unique identity and local pride. Their flagship store is located next door to the Visitor Info Center, so you can pick up a uniquely designed hat or shirt while exploring the city.
- Purchase unique local art from Durham galleries, including Pleiades and Claymakers.
See all Durham art galleries
- Experience Southern hospitality at one of Durham’s bed and breakfast inns. Relax in northern Durham at Arrowhead Inn, a restored 18th century plantation, or stay in walking distance of Duke and downtown at The King’s Daughters Inn.
See all of Durham’s bed and breakfast inns
- Get a feel for Durham’s unique story by staying at one of its historic hotels. The Durham is housed in a 1968 bank building, with décor that embraces its mid-century aesthetic. 21c Museum Hotel occupies a 17-story art deco skyscraper built in the 1930s. Once a bank, you can now sip cocktails in a restored bank vault. In 2017, you’ll be able to stay in Unscripted, the newly restored 1960s-era Jack Tar Hotel.
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Looking for more things to do in Durham? Check out our guide to fall weekends in the Bull City!