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A Guide to Bars & Nightlife in Durham

Durham comes alive when the sun goes down. Here's a guide to the city's vibrant bars and nightlife with the best music, drinks, and atmosphere to keep the party going strong.

Call a babysitter. Gather all your friends. You’re overdue for a late night out on the town.

When it comes to nightlife, Durham has plenty of options to match your perfect evening mood. From late-night eats and dive bars to celebrated craft cocktails and venues hosting nationally touring acts and homegrown bands, the Bull City’s energy will keep pace with you through the wee hours. Night owls rejoice – it’s time to responsibly enjoy all that Durham has to offer.

Now that "The Bullpen," Durham's social district is live, downtown's walkability is more convenient than ever for bar hoppers and evening explorers. Within less than a mile, guests will find a wide range of options with “ground-to-glass” cocktails, innovative flavors, and so much more inside the district's boundaries.

The Bullpen is an open container-friendly district that allows guests to order to-go drinks from participating bars and restaurants and enjoy them as they walk throughout the area until 10 p.m., entering other participating businesses along the way. We've got all the details on the best ways to enjoy the social district, and what to know before you go.

Durham’s Late-Night Bar Scene

An instant classic in Durham’s craft cocktail scene, Kingfisher gained national acclaim as one of the best new cocktail bars in the country in 2019. Cozy up in one of the private booths and sip on drinks like the Bee Durham with honey-infused Conniption Navy Strength Gin from Durham Distillery. Grab dinner beforehand at Alley Twenty Six, a 2022 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Bar Program. You won't want to miss a drink made with their hand-crafted tonic on a trip to Durham.

Just a few blocks away, try hand-crafted concoctions at Bar Virgile. Boasting one of the largest spirit selections in the Triangle, Bar Virgile offers a wide variety of classic and modern cocktails with whiskey, gin, rum, tequila and mezcal, and other spirits. Find Bar Virgile’s sister bar, Annexe, in the basement below. For those carrying on into the night, enjoy the familiar favorites like the French 75 or forgotten classics like curacao-stained Blue Hawaiian, the Singapore Sling, and the Appletini. If you bring a record with you on Wednesday evenings, they’ll even play it for you on the turntable.

If you're looking for a dance party or activity to accompany your cocktail, Arcana Bar and Lounge is your go-to. Depending on the night, you can sit for a tarot reading, practice your still-life drawing skills, dance around a disco ball or relax with live music at this speakeasy-style spot with its entrance at the rear of its Main Street home. One thing is certain – creative and tasty alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails are always on the menu.

Named for both the classic gin cocktail and its setting in a former coffin shop located beneath Durham Distillery's Washington Street space, Corpse Reviver Bar and Lounge is designed to showcase Durham Distillery & Conniption Gins at their best. Enjoy a cocktail and "revive your spirit." along with shareable snacks often made in collaboration with local chefs and bakers.

Drink Like a Local: Where Bourbon Expert Che Ramos Orders a Cocktail

Aside from cocktails, there are a few more beer- or wine-focused options downtown, too. Pour Taproom, for example, offers a unique self-serve system that allows you to try a large variety of beer, cider, and wine on their patio at CCB Plaza. Across the plaza, Brunello Wine Bar is known for its diverse menu of natural wines made by small winemakers from lesser-known corners of the winemaking world. On East Main Street, the cozy, art-filled Killer Queen Wine Bar offers an intimate setting inside or on their back patio for wine by the bottle or glass with small plates and snacks. On the other side of downtown, West End Wine Bar is tucked away in between downtown’s city center and the Brightleaf District featuring one of the area’s largest wine-by-the-glass selections. West End Billiards, just next door, offers lots of entertainment with TVs, pool tables, bocce, and more in an industrial, brick-lined space.

Once you arrive at Rubies on Five Points and Remedy Room, you have very little reason to leave. Owned by the innovative team behind Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas, Rubies is a lively upstairs bar and music venue that's open seven days a week. With its dark wood and tiled interior, Remedy Room occupies the downstairs space with a lounge and a drink menu offering a large variety of cocktails, beer, and wine.

If you’re looking for more of a hole-in-the-wall type vibe, sidle up to the bar with the regulars at the divey 106 Main, named for its address, where you'll find a vast array of beer and spirits on the wall and a constant stream of music videos on the tv. Mosey down towards Rigsbee Avenue to try Kotuku Surf Club. Open to those 23 and up, the bar offers plenty of outdoor seating, bocce courts, and an impressive rotating draft beer selection. Accordion Club is about a block away and is known by locals for their late-night pimento cheese hot dogs and Sunday morning burritos, Accordion Club typically has a cocktail on tap as well as a wide-ranging beer selection.

Outside of downtown, there are a few more late-night options to try. West 94th St. Pub in South Durham has karaoke every Friday. Off University Drive, in what used to be Doyle’s Sports Bar, you’ll find DJ's Dive. This newer sports, arcade, and billiards bar has an eclectic atmosphere. Made famous for scenes in the movie Bull Durham, the Green Room is a longtime Durham haunt with pool tables on Broad Street.

Fill up on Late Night Food Options

Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub has one of the most convenient locations downtown with an expansive patio great for enjoying cooler evening air right at the historic Five Points intersection. Don’t miss the fish and chips or perfectly seasoned fries offered till 11 p.m. every Monday-Thursday and Sunday, and even later on Fridays and Saturdays.

Nearby is COPA, a Cuban restaurant with Cuban-inspired plates, tapas, and a craft cocktail program that highlights the best of Cuban culture. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but the Cuban meatballs and the lamb burger will change your life. Wash it all down with La Diosa Negra (The Black Goddess), which channels Ursula Lambert, a Haitian woman who moved to Cuba in the 1800s and instituted reforms so radical that people, awed by her power, said she must be a “Black Goddess.” COPA is open until midnight on weekends.

Upstairs from Kingfisher, Queeny's is a bar and restaurant with a diner-style menu filled with comforts like sheet pan nachos, English pub-style chicken tenders, and a great caesar salad. You'll find a community of Durhamites and visitors hanging out at bar stools and high-top tables until 2 am. Until 10 p.m., you can take advantage of The Bullpen by ordering to-go cocktails from the streetside window at Queeny's.

In the Brightleaf District, you have your pick of a few local favorites. The Federal offers drool-worthy nachos, Buffalo chicken sandwiches, and burgers. Next door, the James Joyce Irish Pub fare includes wings, fried soft pretzel bites with beer queso, steak and cheese sandwiches, and numerous burger options. Devine’s Restaurant & Sports Bar has a menu of bar food staples, plenty of drink options, and TVs to watch sports. Their patio is often filled with live music acts on the weekend, too. Justin’s Bar and Grill, formerly Skewers, is located just up the block. It's a great option with regularly scheduled live music. Justin’s menu includes everything from hot dog combos to black bean burgers with French fries. The Living Room is the latest spot to open in the Brightleaf District with a dynamic space that offers VIP sections, a dance floor, hookah, and bottle service.

Music & Entertainment Spots

Live events have returned to the Pinhook. Known as a safe space for marginalized groups, the Pinhook offers everything from karaoke and drag shows to nationally touring acts and dance parties. The Fruit is an art space and creative playground on Dillard Street, near Bull City Ciderworks and Ponysaurus Brewing Co. The 22,000-square-foot warehouse complex is home to festival programming, special events, and visual and performing arts that include dance, painting, photography, and drama.

Over by Surf Club and Accordion, it's hard to miss Motorco Music Hall and its accompanying restaurant Parts & Labor with picnic tables and stringed lights facing the street. If you’re looking to party into the night, head a block over to Boxcar Bar & Arcade. It's open late and brimming with arcade and console games, pinball machines, table tennis, and other activities to accompany its full bar and pizza menus.

Pairings with Places to Rest Your Head

For those of you who don’t want to think about coordinating logistics or rides home, stay the night at one of Durham’s fabulous hotel options.

The Roof at The Durham Hotel has one of the best nighttime skyline views around. Take in the view while sipping craft cocktails and snacking on their late-night menu.

Across the street, Unscripted Durham also has a rooftop deck overlooking CCB Plaza. The Patio is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the ambiance of poolside cabanas, seasonal bites, and cocktails day into night. Unscripted also hosts live music in the first-floor studio area on some weekends!

The 21c Museum Hotel, housed in the historic Trust Building catty-corner from Unscripted on CCB Plaza, has a contemporary art museum on its first floor that’s typically open to the public 24/7. Grab a nightcap cocktail from the lounge, then check out the latest exhibit and explore the historic bank vault in the basement below.

Lastly, meet up with friends for an evening cocktail or night cap in the relaxed ambiance of the Bull Durham Bar at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. Spend the night and wake up refreshed and ready to play a round of golf at the course on-site, or spend the day exploring Duke University’s beautiful campus.