Kid-tested & Parent-approved Fun
Forge lifelong memories with this one-of-a-kind three-day itinerary in Durham!
Move over Disney World. Durham’s got its own magical adventures for kids, and you don’t have to worry about crowds or wait in a long line.
With unlimited activities and family-friendly attractions, Durham is perfect for a family getaway. Here’s a three-day sampler of kid-friendly fun to help you plan your trip!
Day 1: Diners, Dinosaurs & Dirty Fries
There’s a 30-foot brontosaurus made out of cement hidden in the trees across the street from the Museum of Life and Science. This dinosaur’s name is Bronto, and we hear he likes fries, too.
It’s the start of your Durham vacation, so sit in a comfy booth and treat your hungry kids to French toast with extra whipped cream at Elmo’s Diner.
From Elmo’s, take the short drive to the Museum of Life and Science, the perfect stop for children of all ages. Kids can easily explore for hours or an entire day before working up an appetite for lunch. Carve out around four to five hours to discover the Dinosaur Trail, experience the Earth Moves exhibit, trek through Hideaway Woods, and more. With seating available both indoors and on the seasonal covered patio, the whole family can rest and grab lunch at the museum’s Sprout Café.
Head back to the Hilton Garden Inn Southpoint to freshen up and get ready for dirty fries (potatoes with skin) and boo burgers from the creative kid’s menu at Bull City Burger and Brewery. After dinner, go for a swim in the hotel pool, or treat older tweens and teens to a movie at The Streets at Southpoint or The Carolina Theatre.
Day 2: Pancakes, Play & Pizza
Thanks to Durham’s temperate climate, it’s possible to do many of your favorite outdoor activities all year round. Fill those bellies with flapjacks, and go explore!
Let the adventure continue on day two with grub for your hungry crew ... and coffee for you! Start the day with buttermilk pancakes and all the toppings at GRUB Durham, an old gas station turned Southern eatery with rooftop seating.
Fuel up on breakfast and then head a mile away to the American Tobacco Trail, a 12-mile-long recreational trail that extends from the American Tobacco Campus surrounded by trees and wildlife. The paved path with mile markers is great for parents with strollers as well as kids wanting to hike, bike, or burn some energy. You can keep the hike shorter for little ones or make it a little longer for tweens and teens.
From your hike, make your way over to the American Tobacco Campus for lunch and some souvenir shopping. Parker and Otis is a popular family-friendly lunch spot on campus. In addition to lunch specials, check out their collection of toys, stuffed animals, puzzles and crafts.
After lunch, cruise to Sarah P. Duke Gardens, one of the most popular gardens in the United States for hours of discovery, exploration, and inspiration! While admission is free for everyone, you do have to pay for parking.
With over 55 acres of botanical wonderland to explore, go ahead and plan for a whole afternoon of fun. Children will enjoy seeing the koi fish, ducks, turtles, chickens, fountains, and more, and there’s even a seasonal café with snacks if the kids get hungry. Check out our detailed guide to Sarah P. Duke Gardens for more planning tips.
You probably won’t be able to visit every extraordinary attraction Sarah P. Duke Gardens offers in one day, and that’s okay. Seasonal plantings ensure that each visit is an entirely new experience, so go ahead a plan another trip!
It’s been a fun and exciting day for you and your family, and now, it’s pizza time. You can’t go wrong with a slice (or two or three) from Pompieri Pizza, a casual and family-friendly spot, serving wood-fired Neopolitan-style pizza, salads, craft beer, and cocktails. (If you visit on a Sunday, ask about their family meals.)
After dinner, walk a few blocks to Durham Central Park to enjoy green space right in the heart of downtown. Whether it’s playing on the playground, climbing sculptures, spelling out words on the pixel wall, or skating at the skatepark, there’s always something fun to do.
Day 3: Muffins, Murals & Madagascar
On your last day, eat dessert for breakfast, take pictures in front of murals, and “move it move it” around Durham.
There is something exciting about fresh-baked breakfast that tastes like cake. The last day of your vacation calls for a warm muffin, doughnut, scone, danish, or cinnamon roll. You really can’t go wrong with sweet options from Ninth Street Bakery, Mad Hatter Cafe & Bakeshop, or Monuts.
After breakfast, dedicate an hour of your morning to see eight large decommissioned satellites that were painted by local artists at Satellite Park. The public space is open from sunrise to sundown.
From there, take the ten-minute drive to UHill Walls, a commercial space with 40,000 square feet of murals, restaurants, and shops. Children of all ages will receive their daily spark of inspiration as they spend the rest of the morning gazing upon more than 35 murals created by local, regional, and international artists. Grab lunch from BB's Crispy Chicken, Happy and Hale, or Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken at UHill Walls, and then, it’s lemur time.
Three miles from UHill Walls lies the world’s largest and most diverse population of lemurs outside their native home Madagascar. With more than 200 animals across 14 species, the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) offers two kinds of seasonally dependent tours. In the warmer months, you can pre-purchase tickets for a general tour, which provides an overview of the center, or a tour that allows visitors to walk through the animal’s habitat. Both are family friendly and led by trained educators!
If you visit during the winter and the DLC is closed, little ones can spend time at the children’s area of the new Durham County Main Library, complete with a large interactive lite-bright board, Magna-Tiles, and more. Older kids can explore all four floors of the library, search and sign up for 3D Printing orientations, and spend some time outdoors on the terrace.
Before you head out of town, grab a sweet treat for the road ... or plane ride! Sweets by Shayda is right around the corner from the library and they have a delicious variety of macarons and pastries. If you’re craving some ice cream on your visit, here’s the inside scoop on all our unique, destination-worthy shops where ice cream comes in an array of flavors, textures, and cones.
We know it’s time for you to head home, but we hope you enjoyed making memories with your little and big kids on your Durham adventure!
ADDITIONAL TRIP-PLANNING RESOURCES
Here’s everything you need to know about where to stay, what to explore, and how to discover Durham.