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

Estimated Read Time:
3 min

Chill out. We've got things to do in Durham to keep you and your crew entertained this winter.

Posted By Kristin Bedinger on Dec 07, 2023

Sure, the long days, blooming flowers and festivals might make the warmer months alluring, but Durham's relatively temperate winters and amazing food, entertainment and art scenes make the season a low-key winner for a visit to Durham. 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. It's possible to experience work from local, regional, emerging, underrepresented and world-renowned artists in Durham at any time of day and, in many cases, absolutely free of charge.

  • The Nasher Museum of Art – 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 regionally local artists who contribute to the creative community of the South. The Nasher also hosts top international touring exhibits you don’t want to miss
  • 21c Museum Hotel – the 24-hour Museum at 21c has a lineup of inspiring temporary exhibitions including the mind-bending “Truth or Dare: A Reality Show,” on view until March 2024.
  • NCCU Art Museum – the newly renovated art museum on the campus of North Carolina Central University displays over 1,300 pieces in its permanent collection, along with numerous special exhibits each year.
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.

  • 5 Points Gallery showcases 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.
  • Ella West Gallery – new to Parrish Street in 2023, Ella West Gallery is an ambitious community space elevating the work of underrepresented artists committed to redefining art history. Check the gallery's website for current exhibitions.

There are many more opportunities to immerse yourself in Durham's art scene at Third Friday. Check the organization's website for featured events each month.

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.

  • Durham Salt Cave offers Halotherapy (Dry Salt Therapy) sessions, including sound baths, earthen walls, zero-gravity memory foam loungers and herbal tea. Count us in.
  • Auroraflow 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.
  • The Retreat is your go-to for reliably phenomenal massage and esthetics services in a bright, inviting space downtown.

3. Explore New Nightlife.

Durham’s bar and nightlife scene continues to grow with new venues to suit all tastes. Change up your routine and warm up this winter at these new(ish) watering holes –

  • Velvet Hippo this indoor/outdoor rooftop bar leans into winter with fire pits and aprés ski vibes. Seasonal specialty cocktails and vegetable-forward bar snacks make it a highlight among downtown bars.
  • Lonerider Distillery and Taproom offers the opportunity to taste the product and experience the processes of distilling and brewing firsthand.
  • Proximity Brewing Durham's first Black-owned brewery and is the newest name on this list, so head to East Durham to check out the space at 491 S. Driver St.
  • DSSOLVR Durham's newest taproom is a dog-friendly space serving a broad spectrum of beer types brewed in the Asheville flagship location. Check the calendar for weekly events.
  • The Common Market this multifunctional space is a sandwich shop, retail space, outdoor dining area, ice cream shop, bar and bottle shop! Stop in for breakfast or lunch and stay for a drink in the funky downstairs bar area.
  • Glori this underground bar space has a seated-drinking-only policy, meaning you can enjoy your cocktail without fighting a crowd or leaning in a corner – if you can get a coveted table.
  • 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.
  • Rubies on Five Points is one of Durham’s latest spots for live music, dance nights, cocktails, and revelry.

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 and refer to our guide to bars and restaurants with heated patios to find the perfect spot to embrace the brisk air with a bite or a drink. Whatever you’re looking for, the Bull City’s bar and nightlife scene will keep pace with you through the wee hours.

Bars with Outdoor Heaters & Fire Pits

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Three friends walking under twinkle lights and laughing with to-go drinks.

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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. Using our recent guides to Durham's lodging properties, you can get away in style with luxurious stays, put together an event with 50 of your closest friends or take a mini vacation complete with a dip in a pool.

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The indoor pool at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Durham

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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, and you'll be free from worry about pesky summer pests.

6. Make a Bull City Souvenir.

Need a one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir? Head to one of Durham's make-and-take businesses for a fun afternoon or evening spent socializing and flexing your creative muscles.

  • 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.
  • Wine & Design on Hope Valley Road is the perfect spot to unwind and paint with your crew.
  • 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.

7. Try an indoor sport.

Durham boasts some of the largest and most unique locations in the region for indoor recreation with the largest indoor bouldering space and climbing gym in a five-state radius, an aerial ropes course and zipline, a curling club and more. Visitors of all ages can get a thrill and catch some air while avoiding the elements.

  • The Triangle Rock Club will make your rock climbing dreams come true (with help from an expert). They have everything you need to start or continue your climbing journey.
  • OC Aerial has an indoor ropes course, zipline, ninja course, 21-foot slide and more.
Triangle Rock Club Durham offers top-rope climbing, expansive bouldering terrain, and fitness space and equipment.

Triangle Rock Club. Photo: Discover Durham

  • Triangle Curling Club brush up on this strategic sport known as “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 with a curling class or a private group session this winter!
    The Triangle Curling Club is a non-profit organization with the goal of expanding the sport of curling in North Carolina

    Triangle Curling Club. Photo: SP Murray

    8. Visit a New Restaurant.

    It’s a good time for foodies to visit Durham. Excitement is buzzing from this year's long list of exciting openings like Little Bull, Seraphine, Mike D's BBQ Smokehouse & Retail, Nikos, Szechuan Mansion HotPot and more, and 2024 promises more excitement on the dining scene. Make some progress on your must-visit list this winter, and don't forget to include some well-known Durham originals!

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    Durhamites enjoy lunch at Rose's Noodles, Dumplings and Sweets.

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    9. Sip Something New.

    You’ve earned a night out to sit back and sip something new. Durham's craft beverage scene boasts more than just great cocktails, we've got all sorts of brews to relax you, energize you, and delight your tastebuds.

    • Moon Dog Meadery adds a unique flavor to the craft cocktail scene ​by offering a curated selection of ​craft beer, wine, cider and artisan craft mead.
    • Have a night out without the buzz, several bars around town have excellent drink lists with low or no alcohol. 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.
    • Da Kine's Kava is Durham's source for the stress-relieving, non-alcoholic beverage and offers a welcoming atmosphere for non-drinkers to relax and socialize.
    • 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 their wines and nosh on snacks from local charcuterie pros Meat & Graze.

    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.

    Later this winter, the hotly anticipated Missy Lane's Assembly Room will open with a great lineup of live jazz, a bar, community events and more. Stay tuned for details.

    Durham's music scene not only has a rich jazz history. Our theaters, venues, bars and outdoor stages host big-name touring acts, local indy and folk musicians, rap artists and so much more. Check out our Music Lover's Guide to Durham to explore.

    11. Follow The New York Times's Durham Itinerary

    This fall, The New York Times told travel section readers how they like to spend a weekend in Durham. The itinerary hits the high notes, regardless of season, and we wrote a companion piece with alternatives, additions and insider tips. Why not find out how many spots you can cross off the list in one weekend this winter?

    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.