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Family-Friendly End-of-Summer Bucket List

Parents, we've got your back. Here are 11 fun things to do with the crew before the temperatures drop.

Posted By Christina Riley

In the blink of an eye, the back-to-school bell will be ringing, and it will be time to bust out the backpacks and lunch boxes. Soak up these last days of summer with a quick family weekend getaway to Durham filled with new adventures.

To bring you the ultimate family-friendly end-of-summer bucket list, Discover Durham teamed up with Christina Riley, a local mother and co-owner of NC Tripping. From picking blueberries to hanging with the lemurs, this list will help you make long-lasting end-of-summer memories with your little ones in Durham.

1. Visit the Museum of Life and Science

With 84 acres of hands-on learning for all ages, the Museum of Life and Science is the perfect summer stop for kids of all ages. Experience the four-billion-year-old story of how mountains rise, rocks turn to sand, and water reshapes the planet at the Earth Moves exhibit. Discover the science behind clouds at Into the Mist and trek through Hideaway Woods, a two-acre nature discovery environment featuring treehouses, a flowing streambed and more. For all our tips on enjoying the museum, check out or blog.

2. Plan a trip to Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Stunning year-round, Sarah P. Duke Gardens is a magical garden wonderland offering a range of fun and imaginative programs for children and families. With numerous open green spaces and pavilions, it's the perfect spot for a picnic. Explore the discovery garden, meet the chickens or adventure around the 55 acres of specialized gardens filled with unique plants and flowers. Our blog post dedicated to the gardens will give you the full tour.

3. Go on a Mural Hunt

A mural scavenger hunt is a fun and creative way to get the kids out of the house. Create fun clues and help your kids discover murals around the Bull City.

The mural guide, made in partnership with Mural Durham, highlights 26 of the city's incredible murals. Take the crew to Satellite Park, a park full of eight decommissioned satellites painted by local artists, and UHill Walls, a commercial space with 40,000 square feet of murals.

4. Grab a Local Cold Treat

It's hot out there, so cool down with a sweet treat from one of Durham's best ice cream shops! Enjoy a popsicle from Locopops or try a unique flavor at Pincho Loco Ice Cream. Get your ice cream dipped at Simon Says Dip This or indulge in a scoop (or two) from The Parlour. Head to the newly opened Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream to sample flavors like the signature brambleberry crisp.

5. Take a Dip in the Eno

End your summer with a splash at the Eno River. The Eno River flows through Durham for 33 miles before tumbling into Falls Lake on the eastern edge, reachable by five different access points. Both West Point on the Eno and Fews Ford Access are easily accessible with shallow and calm water for all ages.

6. Tour the Duke Lemur Center

Plan a visit to the Duke Lemur Center, the world's largest sanctuary for endangered lemurs, to see lemurs up close. Reserve a ticket online for a tour that allows families to walk through the lemur’s habitat. Get all the details on the 14 lemur species at the center, tour information and more, on our blog post.

7. Visit the New Durham County Main Library

A visit to the new Durham County Main Library should definitely be on your summer bucket list. Check out the children's area complete with an interactive large lite-bright board and book time to check out the sensory room. Explore all four floors of the library to see other installations that encourage vibrant, modern learning and then spend some time on the terrace that has patio chairs and tables.

Enjoy the local programming, family-friendly spaces and rows of books filled with adventure at the six other libraries around Durham as well.

8. Spend some time at Durham Central Park

With a beautiful view of the Durham skyline, Durham Central Park is an excellent park in the heart of downtown that features a playground, plenty of open green space, a covered pavilion and many community events. Durham also has 68 other amazing public parks with open green spaces for adventures, picnics, and more.

9. Stop by the farm

Spend some quality time with your kids and pick some fruit at a local farm. Herndon Hills Farm in South Durham has u-pick blueberries, blackberries, and muscadines. Head to Elodie Farms for a private tour to meet friendly goats and savor a five-course farm dinner, hopefully with a cameo by JoJo, the farm’s mini donkey. Or mark your calendar for an open farm day. It is a delicious activity that's perfect for summertime fun. The best part is creating yummy ways to use your fruit at home (if you have any left).

Both Waller Family Farm and Bahama Bluebs are closed for the season, but bookmark them for their 2024 season.

10. Awaken the Musician

Take the energetic crew to Notasium, an interactive, music-based play space where kids can bounce, sing, beat and slide on structures and instruments. From toddlers on up, kids will enjoy sliding down a giant guitar, bouncing around in the enclosed drum bounce houses and playing music notes on the interactive wall.

Sign up to become a member or get a day pass to enjoy the open play from Monday to Friday 9:30 a.m.- 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9-11 a.m. (They also offer birthday parties and camps!)

The surrounding 15-501 corridor is home to lots more family-friendly dining and entertainment, so check out our district guide to plan a full afternoon.

11. Eat at Family-Friendly Restaurant

Ticking off all of these summer activities is sure to bring an appetite! Durham is a city filled with families and foodies, so it's no surprise that there are incredible local restaurants that cater to families.

Add extra whipped cream to your French toast and sit in a comfy booth at Elmo’s Diner, a family-friendly diner on Ninth Street. Sit outdoors, get a coloring sheet, and expand your kid’s tastebuds at Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas on Main Street.

About the Author

Christina Riley

Christina Riley is a writer and photographer at nctripping.com and spends most of her time lost in the woods with a camera. If she isn’t hiking around North Carolina then Christina is probably in a brewery or a barbecue joint.