Kid-Tested & Parent-Approved Fun
Forge lifelong memories with this one-of-a-kind three-day itinerary of family-friendly things to do 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 & Stem Play
Pro tip: There’s a 30-foot cement brontosaurus 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 donuts, 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 or, if homemade donuts sound like they'll hit the spot, check out Monuts down the street.
From Elmo’s, take the short drive to the Museum of Life and Science, the perfect stop for children of all ages. Carve out around four to five hours to discover the Dinosaur Trail, experience the Earth Moves exhibit, trek through Hideaway Woods, and more. And don't worry about leaving the premises for lunch: with seating available both indoors and on the covered patio, the whole family can rest and grab lunch at the museum’s Sprout Café. After a break, continue with the Butterfly House, aerospace exbibit and urban wetlands.
Head back to the family-friendly Hilton Garden Inn Southpoint to freshen up and get ready for familiar favorites like The Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's Little Italy and Uncle Julio's at The Streets at Southpoint. After dinner, go for a swim in the hotel pool, or treat older tweens and teens to a movie at AMC Southpoint 17 or The Carolina Theatre. For a sweet treat, try Instagram-friendly dipped ice cream treats with lots of toppings at Simons Says Dip This.
Day 2: Playgrounds, Crafts and Exercise
Thanks to Durham’s temperate climate, it’s possible to do many of your favorite outdoor activities all year round. Fill those bellies with biscuits, and go explore!
Let the adventure continue on day two with grub for your hungry crew ... and coffee for you! Start the day with biscuits and donuts from the original location of Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken next to Durham Central Park before kids barrel down to Mount Merrill, an interactive, ADA-accessible children's plant area on the eastern side of the park. A pixel wall is nearby with colorful blocks available for DIY creations on the three panels. Up the hill, a skate park awaits kids on wheels. Of the 68 parks managed by Durham Parks & Recreation, Durham Central Park steals the show in the center of downtown.
Bull City Burger and Brewery is undoubtedly one of the most kid-approved spots downtown that opens daily at 11:11 a.m. There's a 10-and-under menu, plus pickle chips and house-brewed beer for adults. Plan a trip during April to excite kids and kids at heart with BCBB's annual Exotic Meat Month options.
After lunch, walk three blocks to The Durham County Main Library, where families can enjoy and entire floor of books and activity spaces for kids and youth, as well as a multi-sensory environment, a MakerLab for youth and much more, all housed in a beautiful, LEED-gold certified building.
After checking out the library, head southwest of downtown to get inspired at the Scrap Exchange in the Lakewood District. The beloved 'Scrap' is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting creativity and reuse, and has been a much-loved community space for more than 30 years. Kids can play as long as they would like in the make-n-take room, using their creativity to repurpose donated items into their next creation.
If we know anything about kid-friendly activities, it's that exercise is crucial to burn off energy. Look no further than OC Aerial, an indoor adventure park and climbing gym catering to all people – young and old – who are serious about adventure. Test your skills on the Ninja and Aerial Ropes courses, soar on the zip line and get a thrill from going down a 21' slide.
Working up a serious appetite calls for pizza and ice cream on the lawn. In the afternoon and early evening at Golden Belt, you'll find a crowd of parents letting their kids enjoy the open space outside while they relax with a beer from Hi-Wire Brewing. Next door, Cugino Forno serves pizza and salad for the family and, across the lawn, slurp down creative flavors at Two Roosters Ice Cream.
Day 3: Muffins, Murals & Madagascar
On your last day, luxuriate over brunch, take pictures in front of murals, and “move it move it” around Durham.
The last day of your vacation calls for a hearty brunch. With biscuits, breakfast bowls, sandwiches and smoothies served until 3 p.m., plus a kids menu complete with activities, GRUB Durham is a satisfying go-to stop for the whole family.
After breakfast, dedicate an hour to see eight large decommissioned satellites 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; 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!
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!