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Frequently Asked Questions About Durham

Responses to frequently asked questions about traveling to Durham.

Visit the Durham Overview & Facts page to learn more about the history and culture Durham is known for.

Where is Durham, NC?

Along with Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Durham makes up a point of the Research Triangle, known for its proximity to three major research universities: Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. Durham is located 23 miles from the Virginia border in the northeast corner of North Carolina's central Piedmont, a geographic foothills region lying between the mountains and the area where the elevation drops off to Raleigh and the coastal plain. Durham is located 140 miles from the Appalachian highlands and 130 miles from the Atlantic coast, midway between Miami and Chicago and midway between and Atlanta and Philadelphia.

What is the population of Durham?

The county population is 354,167, with 306,495 living inside the city limits (estimated by the U.S. Census as of July 2023). Durham is the fourth most populous city in North Carolina.

How big is Durham?

Durham County is the 17th smallest land unit in North Carolina at 286 square miles in area. The city of Durham is 16 miles across, 25 miles long and 28 miles from corner to corner.

When was Durham founded?

Durham was recognized in 1823 when it first was given a post office. Many date the community to 1853 when Dr. Bartlett Durham provided land for a railroad station here. Like most communities in the South, Durham was officially reincorporated in 1869 after the Civil War.

What is the makeup of Durham's population?

Durham is the most ethnically diverse of the major communities in the state, with roughly a 50/50 split between white residents and residents who are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American or other people of color. Durham County has a population that is 35.3 percent African American, 13.9 percent Hispanic/Latino, 6 percent Asian and 1.0 percent Native American as of the 2020 U.S. Census. The City of Durham has a greater makeup of minority groups than any of the five largest cities in North Carolina.

Are Durham and Raleigh one place?

No, they are two separate mid-sized cities that share and co-own an airport (Raleigh-Durham International Airport, or RDU), similar to Baltimore and Washington DC, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and Dallas and Fort Worth. They also are the core cities of two distinct metro areas — one four-county metro called Durham-Chapel Hill and another three-county metro called Raleigh-Cary. Over 75 percent of these regions' residents prefer to characterize where they live by the name of an individual town or city rather than as one big area, like Raleigh-Durham-Cary.

How do I get to Durham?

You can fly via one of the many air carriers serving RDU International Airport. (The airport is located just two miles from the Durham city limits and only 13 miles from downtown Durham. Taxi, shuttle, rideshare and car rental service is available there.) You can travel via automobile or intercity bus, reaching Durham easily via Interstate 85 from the north or south and via Interstate 40 from the east or west. You also can travel via train; Downtown Durham's Amtrak station serves passengers traveling both the Piedmont (Charlotte to Durham to Raleigh) and Carolinian (Charlotte to Durham to New York City) routes. Find out more at the transportation and travel services page, and find directions at the Visitor Info Center page.

Is it easy to get around in Durham?

The community is very compact. While Durham is North Carolina's fourth-largest city, the county is the state's 17th smallest land unit. Research Triangle Park is only four miles from Duke University and just two miles from downtown Durham. The entire city center and downtown area is remarkably walkable, surrounded by equally accessible districts nearby. Durham is served by rideshare, taxi, rental car, and intracity public transit services. (One caution: Roads in the Southeast are rarely planned on a grid system, so a Durham map is a must.)

What are the leading industries in Durham?

Durham is known as the City of Medicine because almost one in four Durham workers is employed in health care or a health-related industry. In addition, Durham is home to many leading technology companies like IBM, Cree and others located in Research Triangle Park. Those companies continue Durham's history of technology and innovation and carry forward its manufacturing heritage, which began with tobacco and textiles in the 19th century and remains a key component of Durham's economy today.

Where and what is RTP?

The Research Triangle Park (RTP) is in Durham, midway between Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709 is a Durham postal substation, but not a city. It is a private, nonprofit technology park for research-related businesses and organizations. The majority of the park exists in a special Durham County tax district in which owners and tenants do not pay city taxes. A small portion of the park extends into nearby Wake County near Morrisville. The name comes from RTP's proximity to and relationship with three major research universities: Duke University in Durham, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

What city should I stay in when visiting Research Triangle Park (RTP)?

RTP is encompassed on three sides by the City of Durham. While a small part spills into Wake County, all of the hotels and restaurants convenient to the park are in Durham County, with thousands of lodging guest rooms available. The park is only four miles from Downtown Durham and its lodging as well. Search for options that suit your needs at the hotels and inns section.

Where is Raleigh-Durham International Airport located?

It is located in Morrisville right off of I-40, midway between Downtown Durham and downtown Raleigh. Durham lodging properties are two miles from the airport. RDU is co-owned by the cities of Durham and Raleigh and Durham and Wake Counties. It is operated by an airport authority of representatives appointed by each municipality.

What food specialty is Durham known for?

Durham is increasingly recognized for its abundance of nationally acclaimed chefs. There are dozens of restaurants that have earned national or regional acclaim. Many specialize in the adaptation and evolution of regional neo-American (Southern) cooking, but Asian, African, European, and Central and South American styles are represented as well. In recent years, Durham has welcomed Ethiopian and Zimbabwean restaurants as well.

Durham is also home to several restaurants well-known for North Carolina barbecue. In Durham, you can get both the Eastern North Carolina style (with chopped pork and a clear sauce of vinegar, pepper and salt) and the Western North Carolina style (with chopped or sliced pork with a red sauce that includes ketchup and sugar, along with the other ingredients). Find out more in the restaurants section.

Is it hard to find hotel rooms in Durham?

No, Durham has nearly 8,000 guest rooms. Use our comprehensive hotel search to find an ideal property by location, amenity and more, and conveniently book online.

What are the must-sees in Durham?

Check out the must-sees page to find a list of all of Durham's most acclaimed and talked about features. To explore Durham by neighborhood, read our district guides.

I'm a newcomer. Where can I find information about schools and housing?

Relocating is exciting, but it can be complicated. Moving to a new place means getting a new license, finding a place to live, signing up for utilities, and even just finding your way around.

For additional questions, get live help from our visitor center, or call Durham One Call (919-560-1200), a call center managed by the City of Durham to provide information on a wide range of services.