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Durham Overview & Facts

Durham is a creative, innovative community that is always doing something new.

Durham is known as the Bull City, the City of Medicine, the Tastiest Town in the South, and the Startup Capital of the South. It’s a two-hour drive from the beach, a three-hour drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is North Carolina’s fourth largest city by population. Along the East Coast, Durham makes for the perfect mid-size city stopover, located conveniently along I-95. For those outside of driving distance, travel to and from is made easy as the City and County of Durham co-own the top-ranked Raleigh-Durham International Airport that services more than 45 nonstop destinations.

Durham’s rich history
grew with the tobacco fields (Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco was one of the origins of the Bull City nickname) and warehouses that formed the backbone of the economy beginning after the Civil War. A thriving hub of Black-owned businesses known as Black Wall Street blossomed at the turn of the century and established Durham’s urban epicenter as a mecca for entrepreneurs and innovators of color. The historic tobacco warehouses are now modernized hubs for living, working, eating, and drinking in our vibrant, walkable downtown. Durham’s enduring spirit and bold heart define what it is known for today — a welcoming place with a high quality of life and reasonable cost of living, first-class health care, sports teams, arts, dining, and entertainment.


Durham is called the City of Medicine not only because of its more than 300 outstanding medical facilities but because of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) based in Southeast Durham, with extensions now spilling into Wake County toward Cary and Morrisville, whose 7,000 acres now house more than 300 companies including science and technology firms, government agencies, academic institutions, startups and nonprofits. The world-renowned hub for innovation, ideas and collaboration, RTP was created by the major research universities housed in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (“The Triangle”) and has led to developments like the barcode, AstroTurf, AZT, LED Lighting and UPCs, and major advancements in life sciences, medical and agricultural biotech and new drug discovery.


Duke University, one of the world’s most prestigious research universities, and North Carolina Central University, consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top historically Black universities and the nation’s first public liberal arts institution for African American students, enrich the city with art museums, performances, talks, sporting events, and visitors from all over the world.  


Discussion and debate on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusiveness are part of every community conversation. Durham is proud to be a community with no racial majority: we are 43.4% white/non-Hispanic, 35.9% African American, 13.8% Hispanic. We’re also known as a welcoming place for the LGBTQIA+ community, with Pride events, the renowned annual OutSouth Queer Film Festival, and the LGBTQ Center of Durham.


Shop small and support local are values you can see and hear as business owners greet their customers and friends in any of the locally-owned restaurants, bars, retail shops and entertainment venues that line our streets. From stats pulled by our friends at Downtown Durham, Inc., we know 90% of downtown’s retail, restaurant and personal service businesses originated in NC and 70% started right here in Durham. Our Farmers’ Market is open year-round in the heart of downtown with more than 65 local vendors who proudly produce an abundance of produce, meat, dairy, grains, baked goods, seafood, and crafts. Durham is ranked the #7 city with the highest percentage of female business owners and the 4th best place to start a business.


Durham’s best qualities are becoming well-known; our accolades and recognition highlight the qualities we in Durham already know to be true — #1 for best places to live in NC — #6 in the country, #22 for best places to retire, #10 best-run city in the US, #2 for life sciences talent, #3 for career opportunities, #2 smallest gender wage gap, top 5 best cities for artists, and the list goes on to include many praises for individual businesses in our community. We’re a top-ten city in the country where Black Americans fare best economically and are witnessing a resurgence of Black-owned businesses opening.

Tiffany Griffin poses outside the new storefront of Bright Black Candles on the day of the ribbon cutting.

Tiffany Griffin of Bright Black Candles. Photo: Discover Durham

Keen readers will notice how we didn’t say what makes Raleigh-Durham, Raleigh-Durham. If you follow us on social media, you very well know that we tease those who think “Raleigh-Durham" is a place beyond the airport’s boundaries. We are on numerous of these lists because we are so closely connected to our neighbors in Raleigh and Chapel Hill as part of the Triangle. We love being a part of the Triangle. But unapologetic about being one city located within the Triangle. For a bit more reasoning as to why we care about correcting the misnomer, read more about it here.


Discover Durham Visitor Services

Discover Durham's Visitor Info Center and the Discover Durham offices are located at:

212 W. Main St. #101Durham NC 27701
(downtown Durham, I-85 Exit 177)

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