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Got Tweens or Teens? Here's How to Blow off Steam in Durham

Estimated Read Time:
5 minutes

A foolproof list for "kids" of all ages.

Posted By Veda Gilbert on Oct 23, 2020

Let’s face it, tweens and teens can be a little challenging to entertain at the best of times. Too grown up for some things, but not grown up enough for others. And now there's a pandemic thrown in to make things a little more complicated. So as Durham phases up, we’ve compiled a foolproof list for kids of all ages on how to blow off steam after being cooped up for way too long.

Get Outside

The American Tobacco Trail is an uninterrupted 22.6-mile trail, 12 of which are in Durham. It runs along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s. The trail is a 10-foot wide asphalt paved greenway with loose gravel shoulders and a pedestrian bridge over I-40 that connects the northern and southern segments of the trail.

While you’re out and about walking, here's a guide to explore all of downtown Durham by foot, whether you have a spare hour or an entire afternoon.

In Northern Durham, Eno River State Park and Little River Regional Park & Natural Area feature hiking and biking trails along winding rivers and hills. The Eno River flows through Durham for 33 miles before eventually ending up in Falls Lake on the eastern edge, with entry through one of five access points. Little River Regional Park & Natural Area boasts 391 acres of park and natural area developed from tobacco farmland with seven miles of hiking trails, eight miles of single-track mountain biking trails, and a birding trail taking you through hardwood forest and around the flowing waters.

West Point on the Eno City Park includes a historic mill and farmhouse surrounded by trails with beautiful views of the Eno River. There are also urban pathways lined with nature preserves, trails through protected forests, and more.

Love the water? Frog Hollow Outdoors hosts canoeing and paddling excursions in and around Durham’s waterways and nature areas, rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking too. Or grab your favorite bait and head to Falls Lake or to Little River Lake for dock or bank fishing.

If your tween or teen is into something a little bit more active, shoot hoops at one of Durham’s public basketball courts, whack a tennis ball or perfect your swing at Durham’s seven public and semiprivate golf courses that feature a diverse range of course settings.

Educate Without a Screen

Don’t @ me. Yes, the Museum of Life + Science is a hit with the under 12 crowd (that dinosaur trail, am I right?), but that doesn’t mean that the wild lemurs, black bears, and red wolves don’t deserve a look in for your tween or teen, too. Another highlight for all ages is the Ellerbee Creek Railway, an old-time train ride that does two laps of the museum’s gorgeous natural surrounds.

Durham’s local history museum, the Museum of Durham History features exhibits on Black Wall Street, North Carolina Mutual, and a timeline featuring key historical figures and pivotal moments of Durham’s history. Be sure to check out their website for information on rotating exhibits, upcoming events, and their Durham Stories series.

Bring History to Life

Fun fact, Durham is the only county in North Carolina with three state historic sites. What's even better is that admission is free, though donations are welcomed and encouraged.

Historic Stagville was one of the largest plantations in the South, with 900 enslaved people and 30,000 acres. Today the site is devoted to the preservation and study of African American culture and offers free tours of the original slave quarters, barn, and the Bennehan family house.

The Duke Homestead State Historic Site, home of the self-made tobacco tycoon Washington Duke, features a restored mid-1800s home, tobacco barns, an original tobacco factory, and a museum. The site interprets the early farming life of the Duke family and the beginnings of their tobacco manufacturing business on the property after the Civil War.

Union General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnson met at the Bennett farmstead in 1865 to arrange the largest troop surrender of the Civil War, 17 days after General Lee’s surrender. Today, Bennett Place Historic Site includes a tour of the reconstructed farmhouse, outbuildings, an interpretive center, and museum.

An African American entrepreneurial enclave that developed along Parrish Street in the early 20th Century, it was nationally cited as one of three such areas to be exceptionally prosperous. Black businesses such as the NC Mutual Life Insurance Company, M&F Bank, and others were established here. Later known as Black Wall Street, the area created an unprecedented black middle class acclaimed by black scholars Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Look for the bronze sculpture commemorating the history of the street and read more in our African American Heritage Guide.

Engage the Art Enthusiast

Duke University’s focal point for visual arts is the 65,000 square-foot, Rafael Viñoly-designed Nasher Museum of Art. With a permanent collection that includes Medieval art, pre-Columbian American works, classical pieces, and an ever-growing list of modern and contemporary works, the Nasher is always an exciting and fascinating destination (their sculpture garden is a must too).

Next to the Duke Arts Annex on Gattis St, you'll find a unique art exhibit called Satellite Park. Eight decommissioned satellites, which delivered educational programming for Duke Cable Television in the 1990s, were transformed by local artists to create a one-of-a-kind community park in Durham’s Burch Avenue neighborhood. The park is open from dawn until dusk.

Soak up vibrant, bigger-than-life murals on a stroll through the Bull City with Mural Durham's Mural Map, a map that connects Durham through creativity, one mural at a time. Many of these incredible murals have a back story about Durham’s colorful past and rich heritage, while others prove for a truly Instagrammable spot!

Speaking of murals, UHill Walls is a dense, walkable art experience with over 40,000 square feet of murals on 15 contiguous acres. It is the driving force behind University Hills, a mixed-use redevelopment of an abandoned strip center with award-winning food, drink, wellness, and residential living.

Burn Off Steam

Unearth clues, crack codes, solve puzzles, and escape at one of Durham’s many escape rooms. Whether it’s from a submarine attack at Escape on Purpose, a beach rental during a hurricane at Mission X Escape, aliens from a cryogenic chamber at NC Escape, or solving a murder with Bull City Escape, there’s no shortage of options to keep minds active.

Alternatively, at Augmentality Labs tweens and teens can don a VR headset and immerse themselves into casting spells, blasting zombies, or exploring new worlds in both single and multiplayer games.

Xtreme Park Adventures is the ultimate outdoor adventure destination offering fun for all ages. Current attractions include Xtreme Lazerz laser tag, Xtreme Kombat airsoft & paintball, and Xtreme Zipline.

Triangle Rock Club’s state-of-the-art facilities offer both lead and top rope climbing, expansive bouldering terrain, and comprehensive fitness areas. Their goal is to create a strong community of individuals who share a passion for climbing and fitness.

Explore Our College Town

As teens get to a certain age, college can become a main focus. With not one but three higher education options to choose from — North Carolina Central University, Duke University, and Durham Technical Community College — Durham is one of the most highly educated destinations in the country.

Founded by Dr. James E. Shepard, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) became the first state-supported liberal arts college for African Americans in the country. Today it's home to a public art museum, biomanufacturing and biomedical research institutes, an award-winning marching band and competitive athletic squads that compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Duke is one of the most prestigious universities in the country, with some of their most highly regarded programs being law, medicine, the humanities and social sciences. It is also home to the world-renowned Duke Lemur Center, the breathtaking Duke Chapel, the highly-curated Nasher Museum of Art, legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium and beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Durham Tech has offered affordable and convenient career and technical education for over 50 years. They offer associate degrees that act as a springboard to four-year colleges, continuing education, certificate programs and other programs in welding, electrical systems technology, nursing, dental laboratory technology and more.

Pandemic or not, getting outside provides more than just a fun break for tweens and teens. It's also advantageous for their physical and mental health. Even a simple walk outside - socially distanced of course - can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, not to mention boost energy levels. So get those endorphins endorphining (yes, we know that's not a word ... but it should be) and blow off some steam in Durham.

About the Author

Veda Gilbert - PR Manager
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Australian import, mother of two teens, Eastern NC BBQ, and Sazerac fan. Thrilled to call Durham home.