10 Family Friendly Activities in Durham, N.C.

by Janean Flowe
Durham Tobacco Campus

By Karon Warren

For families looking for a fresh, new getaway, look no further than Durham, N.C. It’s well known as the home of Duke University and a thriving medical scene. However, this intimate city also overflows with a wealth of activities families will love. Read on for 10 family friendly activities to add to your Durham road trip*!


Bennett Place State Historic Site

Bennett Place State Historic Site


1. Tour Bennett Place State Historic Site

Surprisingly, this is the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War, which effectively ended the war. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Gen. William T. Sherman met here to hammer out the terms of surrender.

Visitors can start their visit with a short film in the visitor center that discusses the history of the surrender. Afterwards, head outside to the former home of James and Nancy Bennett, where the generals met to discuss the war’s end. Explore on your own, take a guided tour or chat with a park ranger to hear more about this historic event.

The site also contains its own nature trail through the forest, which covers former corn and wheat fields. If your family enjoys geocaching, check out the Geocaching app for a fun find along the trail. Admission is free, but the site does rely on donations. BennettPlaceHistoricSite.com


Major the bull in Durham, NC

Major the Bull


2. Snap a photo with Major the Bull

Located at City Center Plaza in downtown Durham, the bronze statue was gifted to the city in 2004. It quickly became a “must have” souvenir photo spot.


Dinner from Picnic in Durham, NC

Dinner from Picnic in Durham, NC


3. Have a meal at Picnic

Bring your appetite to this barbecue restaurant that specializes in whole-hog barbecue. The brainchild of executive chef Ben Adams, heritage-breed pig farmer Ryan Butler and barbecue man Wyatt Dickson, this spot offers a menu overflowing with pasture-raised, wood-smoked hog barbecue, brisket, ribs, fried chicken and more. Sides are equally mouth-watering, ranging from mac & cheese and potato salad to baked beans, braised collards and fried okra. You’re going to want to try it all, so make sure you come hungry. PicnicDurham.com


American Tobacco Campus

American Tobacco Campus


4. Walk the American Tobacco Campus

The former home of the Lucky Strike cigarette factory, the American Tobacco Campus now serves as one of Durham’s thriving entertainment districts. This live-work-play destination overflows with restaurants, events and open common space. Three parking decks serve the campus, with free parking on the weekends. During the week, parking usually is free for the first two hours, unless there are special events taking place. AmericanTobacco.com


Sarah P Duke Gardens

Sarah P. Duke Gardens


5. Explore Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Located on the campus of Duke University, this 55-acre public garden is a beautiful place to let the kids roam as you wander through four distinct gardens within the gardens. They include the William Louis Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, the original Terraces and Historic Gardens, the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, and the Doris Duke Center Gardens. From talking with the ducks in the ponds to counting the steps in the Terraces to learning about organic gardening in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, there’s something for kids and their parents around every corner. Garden admission is free, but parking is $2 per hour. Gardens.Duke.edu

6. Sample the flavors at The Parlour

Since 2013, The Parlour has served up ice cream goodness to kids of all ages in downtown Durham. The shop specializes in unique flavors such as orange spice cake, goat cheese and coriander, and salted butter caramel. It’s the perfect stop after a day of exploring the city. TheParlour.com


Museum of Life and Science

Museum of Life + Science


7. Learn as you play at the Museum of Life + Science

This kid-friendly attraction is the best of both worlds with an interactive science museum and an 84-acre park that includes a butterfly house, Dinosaur Trail and more than 60 live animal species. Inside the two-story science center, kids can explore space, learn about motion and energy and study the weather.

Outside, they can wander along the Dinosaur Trail, observe black bears, lemurs and red wolves in the six-acre woodland habitat, and pet domestic animals at The Farmyard. There is a lot going on, so plan to spend an entire day here in order to see and experience it all. LifeAndScience.org


Durham's Jack Tar dinner plate

Jack Tar dinner plate


8. Eat with Jack Tar and The Colonel’s Daughter

Taking the diner to the next level, this downtown diner-style restaurant features American-style diner food with a farm-to-table approach. Think pot-roasted brisket with baby carrots and potatoes, NC wild shrimp with jimmy red grits, bacon and tomato gravy and a double cheeseburger with caramelized onions and jalapenos on a benne seed bun. Bring your appetite, and be ready to eat … a lot! (Currently offering curbside takeout only.) JackTar-Durham.com


Durham Bulls ball field

Durham Bulls ball field


9. Play ball! Catch a game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park

Featuring the city’s iconic Durham Bulls Triple-A minor league baseball team, this minor league ballpark epitomizes family fun. Nothing is more entertaining than a baseball game in an intimate minor league ballpark that puts you so close to the action you feel like you’re part of the team.  Tickets are affordable, too, with many ticket options starting at just under $10 per ticket. The regular minor league season usually runs from April through August, so check the schedule to see if the Bulls are playing while you’re in town. MILB.com/Durham



Monuts biscuit sandwich


10. Start your day at Monuts

Serving breakfast and lunch, this Durham eatery features everything from, yes, doughnuts to quiche, soups and sandwiches. Doughnut choices include apple cider, blueberry coffee cake, double chocolate and vanilla bean, among others. If going for lunch, definitely try the fresh mozzarella BLT. Monuts also serves up several popular coffee drinks to pair with your meal. MonutsDonuts.com

Call your local AAA Travel Agent at 800-374-2865 or Visit AAA.com/GoTravel to plan your Durham road trip today!

*Make sure to check with each destination/attraction for updates before your trip. Operating hours and policies may change at any time due to COVID-19.

(Go Magazine Sept-Oct 2020)

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