Things to go, see and do in Durham: Part 1

December 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 12, 2015

Recently, I was asked about things to visit and do in Durham, where I’ve lived for about seven and a half years. I’ve split my response, which has been lightly edited, into three blog posts — this one about Duke-related places, a second one about Durham’s non-Duke stuff, and a third one covering miscellaneous items. Enjoy!


Duke University Chapel
401 Chapel Drive, Box 90974, Durham, NC 27708

I haven’t spent much time at any of the Triangle universities, but I personally find Duke’s grounds to be the most distinctive and the best of the Big Three for just walking around and soaking in the college atmosphere. (Note: This applies to West Campus, which some consider the institution’s heart, and to East Campus. Central Campus is best not mentioned, unless you’re visiting the Nasher or Sarah Duke Gardens.) For young kids, the best part of Duke to visit is probably the university chapel. Check in advance for tours or musical performances. The chapel is closed for renovations until spring 2016.


Cameron Indoor Stadium
115 Whitford Dr, Durham, NC 27708

College basketball fans either love or loathe the Duke University Blue Devils, which plays in one of the most famous arenas in the NCAA. I believe Cameron is generally open to the public for visits. During parts of the season, you can find Krzyzewskiville — a campsite inhabited by rabid student fans — set up outside the building. A museum and hall of fame is located next door to Cameron in the Schwartz/Butters Athletic Center at 306 Towerview Dr., Durham, NC 27708, 919-613-7500; it’s free of charge and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most weekdays, with additional hours tied to basketball and football games.


Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
2001 Campus Drive, Durham, NC 27705

The Nasher recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. It occupies a fantastic one-story modern building that is adjacent to a parking lot. (Being near a parking lot is important when you’re visiting Duke.) The Nasher has a wide variety of art. Check in advance for exhibitions or activities that might be kid-appropriate. Be aware that there is a moderate hill separating the parking area from the Nasher entrance. The museum has an outdoor sculpture area for visitors to explore.


Sarah P. Duke Gardens
420 Anderson St., Durham, NC, 27705

The Triangle is blessed with public gardens; Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham have one. The only one I’ve visited is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a fantastic area on the Duke University campus that has a variety of landscapes. Admission is free, but the university does charge for parking. The lots can get very crowded during spring and summer weekend mornings and afternoons. Check in advance for tours or kid-friendly activities.


Duke University East Campus
712 Broad St, Durham, NC 27705

Duke’s East Campus was the university’s original home in Durham. (The institution originated as Brown’s Schoolhouse in 1838 in rural Randolph County before moving to Durham in 1892 at the behest of local tobacco baron and philanthropist Washington Duke, whose family name the university now bears.) East Campus served at one time as the university’s Women’s College; for the past two decades, it has been the freshman campus. It is the closest campus to downtown Durham and is flanked by two shopping and entertainment areas: Ninth Street is to the west, Brightlight to the east. A popular 1.6-mile walking and jogging trail runs along the East Campus perimeter. The western and central parts of the campus are probably the most interesting visually, and Ninth Street is arguably a more kid-friendly area to wander along.


Duke Lemur Center
3705 Erwin Rd., Durham, NC, 27705

I have not been, but I probably will go the next time I have family or friends in town. There are two Erwin Roads in western Durham, so make sure you check the location carefully before you start your drive.


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