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10 Can't-Miss Things To Do in Durham This Winter

Estimated Read Time:
3 min

Chill out. We've got plenty of ways to keep you and your crew entertained this winter.

Posted By Kristin Bedinger on Jan 10, 2023

Everyone knows that summers in Durham are incredible, but wintertime has its perks, too. Instead of hiding out under your covers waiting for the warm weather to return, put on those boots with the fur and head to the Bull City for an unforgettable wintertime adventure.

1. See Some Art.

Days when the weather outside is less than inviting are ideal for taking a contemplative moment to appreciate some art. The Nasher Museum of Art and 21c Museum Hotel are among Durham’s top sites to get your dose of culture, and admission to both is free. The permanent collection at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University is a groundbreaking exhibition of contemporary art particularly focusing on works by historically underrepresented artists, including emerging artists, self-taught artists and regionally local artists who contribute to the creative community of the South. The Nasher also hosts top international touring exhibits that you don’t want to miss. The Museum at 21C is open 24 hours with a lineup of inspiring temporary exhibitions including the deeply thought-provoking “This We Believe,” on view until May 2023.

A guest views St. John the Baptist II, by Kehinde Wiley at The Nasher Museum of Art.

A guest views St. John the Baptist II, by Kehinde Wiley at The Nasher Museum of Art.
Photo: Discover Durham

On the third Friday of every month, local art galleries throughout downtown Durham create a festive atmosphere to display art and mingle with artists. Explore “Winter Wonders: Gallery Members Exhibit,” the current exhibition at 5 Points Gallery, with works by Triangle-based artists in a range of mediums including painting, sculpture, fused glass, and mixed media. The studios at Golden Belt are always the place to be, with dozens of artists displaying work in their studios and in the main hall. You can mingle and even purchase the art on the spot from the artists themselves.

2. Take a Spa Day.

The couch IS warm and inviting but immersing yourself in a setting that takes care of your mind, body and soul is next level. Winter is naturally a time to slow down and take care of us, and a spa day is the ideal way to do just that. Want to chill out with a pal or a group? You won’t want to leave Durham Salt Cave & Salt Suite, with Halotherapy (Dry Salt Therapy) sessions including sound baths, earthen walls, zero gravity memory foam loungers and herbal tea. Count us in.

Auroraflow is a new spa that works to facilitate accessible wellness with a safe space for historically marginalized groups, particularly people of color and those in the LGBTQIA+ community. There, you can relax with various massage styles and practitioners, facials, and more. For reliably phenomenal massage and esthetics services in a bright, inviting space downtown, check out The Retreat.

3. Explore New Nightlife.

Durham’s bar and nightlife scene continues to grow with new venues to suit all tastes. Warm up this winter at Queeny’s, a uniquely Durham gathering place for late-night eats, drinks, and conversation. The Waiting Room brings new nighttime interest to American Tobacco Campus with craft cocktails perfect for a quick drink before a show or a nightcap after dinner. La Mala serves Mexican-inspired cocktails in the heart of downtown, and Rubies on Five Points is one of Durham’s latest spots for live music, dance nights, cocktails, and revelry. The Daily Beer Bar is your newest all-day hangout for low-key beers, natural wines, and snacks. Before 10 p.m., you can plan to check out a few participating spots with drinks to go thanks to The Bullpen, Durham’s social district.

There are also frozen cocktails and non-alcoholic frozen beverages loaded with sweet treats at The Slush, a bar and lounge bringing some fun to the Bull City, and you can order margaritas the size of your head at Mezcalito, the new restaurant across from Ponysaurus that’s the life of the party. Whatever you’re looking for, the Bull City’s bar and nightlife scene will keep pace with you through the wee hours.

4. Book a winter weekend Getaway.

It’s the perfect time to book your winter getaway and stay at one of Durham's exceptional hotels or short-term rental properties. Experience a unique combination of timeless European design and true authentic Southern hospitality at the newly-opened AC Hotel Durham, or getaway in style at Springhill Suites by Marriott, a new hotel that’s just a block from downtown with spacious suites and modern amenities.

Splurge at one of Durham’s Four Diamond Hotels with upscale style and amenities or stay at a cozy bed and breakfast. With approximately 70 lodging options, the Bull City has something unique for everyone.

5. Take a Guided Eno River Hike.

Put on your boots and head to the Eno River for a fun, free guided winter hike program designed to help you get out and discover new areas. These hikes have been highlighting the natural, historical, or cultural details found along the trails since 1971. Your vitamin D levels will thank you.

6. Make a Bull City Souvenir.

Need a one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir? Head to Crafts & Drafts NC to enjoy a drink and craft some Bull City memorabilia. Not only do they provide alcohol, but they also have a wide variety of fun projects, tools and materials. Whether you are a craftaholic, or a first-time crafter, they have something fun for you to do.

Unwind and paint with your crew at the Wine & Design location on Hope Valley Road. From birthday parties to couple’s nights, mobile events to private classes, they will help turn your getaway into a memorable celebration.

Not afraid to wield a hammer? Nailed It DIY Studio is the spot for gathering friends and making hand-built wooden décor for your home. Personalize a sign for your kitchen wall while you sip wine. Bond with your fiancé while you make custom décor for your upcoming nuptials or personalize your nursery before you welcome a new family member.

7. Try an indoor sport.

Make your rock climbing dreams come true (with help from an expert) at The Triangle Rock Club. With the largest indoor bouldering space and climbing gym in a five-state radius, they have everything you need to start or continue your climbing journey. Looking for even more adventure? OC Aerial has an indoor ropes course, zipline, ninja course and more.

Rather than speed or power, curling is a sport that requires great skill and precision. In fact, it has been nicknamed “chess on ice” for the amount of strategy involved in winning a game. Brush up on your curling fandom and try your hand at this unique sport at the Triangle Curling Club. Register for a curling class or book a private group session this winter!

8. Visit a new or newish Restaurant.

It’s a good time for foodies to visit Durham. Excitement is buzzing from the 2022 opening of headliners like Krill and Five Star, and 2023 promises more excitement on the dining scene. If you’re more comfortable dining outside, try one of these lit restaurants with a heated patio. We’ve got everything you need to know here, from restaurants to locally-made craft beverages. (And don’t worry, we won’t fault you if you don’t get to try them all in one trip.)

9. Sip Something New.

You’ve earned a night out to sit back and sip something new. Stop by Moon Dog Meadery, a new meadery adding a unique flavor to the craft cocktail scene ​by offering a curated selection of ​craft beer, wine, cider and artisan craft mead.

If you’re looking to have a night out without the buzz, several bars around town have recently added low or no alcohol drinks to their menus. Check out Arcana’s Garden of Babylon, with beet shrub, Seedlip garden, and lemon, and you’ll never miss the booze. You can also find great mocktails at Alley Twenty Six, The Durham Hotel, Clouds Brewing, and more.

Melanated Wine and Spirits is a Black-owned wine shop with a mission to demystify the complexities of wine buying so that wine can be educational, delicious, and fun for everyone. Book a tasting to try one of their wines, or grab tickets to a paint and sip event.

10. Check out a Jazz Night.

The familiar sounds of the standup bass and trumpet have returned to the air in downtown Durham, and this winter is the time to check out our local jazz musicians doing their thing. Sharp 9 Gallery is Durham’s go-to venue for jazz, and Beyu Caffe’s legendary jazz series is back with weekend lineups featuring two seatings per night. Local star Al Strong is hosting Jazz Brunch Sundays at Alley Twenty Six, and you can reliably catch the Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons Trio at Kingfisher on Tuesday nights. Check our event calendar to confirm dates.

Not convinced you can knock out all 10 things in one day? Find the perfect place to stay and take in each activity at your own pace.

About the Author

Kristin Bedinger - Sr. Manager of Content
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Lover of plants, books, wine, cooking for my friends and hanging with my pup, Arlo. Find me trying every new bar and restaurant in Durham the moment it opens.