At the beginning of the month, I made the 8-hour drive to Durham, NC (North Carolina Central) for a fun holiday weekend. I had never been to Durham before but for context it’s close to Duke University. I was excited to experience this hip and up-and-coming city for myself. Today I’m sharing what I did, where I stayed, shopped, and ate in this holiday travel recap! Read on for more.
A Holiday Weekend in Durham, NC
HOLIDAY WEEKEND IN DURHAM, NC: WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in the Saunders room and had the most amazing stay. The room has a queen bed and features ivories, caramels, and citrons. Golden southern light makes contrasting textures all the more distinct. This subtlety does not, however, preclude whimsical touches, such as a rabbit lamp with polka-dot shade. In addition to a comfortable chair and ottoman in the bedroom, this room opens to a sun porch. The sun porch has a great separate seating area. Should you need to accommodate a larger party, connecting doors through the sun porch can join these rooms with the adjacent Trinity Suite.
Historic preservation and green building practices are fully compatible because both rely on the lightest touch possible. The King’s Daughter’s commitment to both environmentally responsible building and living drove them to find creative ways to offer guests sustainable lodging without sacrificing the warmth and charm of a historic inn, or the conveniences of a modern, luxury hotel.
King’s Daughters Inn had parking and was about a mile away from town. Also a short 5-minute drive to town!
When you head into town, find somewhere to park. Most meters have a 2-hour limit but some garages are free on the weekend. There was a garage called the Chappel Hill Street Parking Garage on E. Chappel Hill Street that we parked in.
HOLIDAY WEEKEND IN DURHAM, NC: WHAT TO DO
The first night we were there we went to the tower lighting at the American Tobacco Campus. This is an annual holiday celebration with community choral groups and other surprises. This year’s event included a special performance from the School of Rock.
Lucky Strike Cigarette Factory’s former home has been transformed into a one-million-sq.-ft. entertainment district, complete with apartments and offices in addition to restaurants, a documentary theater, a barbershop, a basketball court, plenty of open green common space under the iconic Lucky Strike smokestack, and more.
Durham County Restaurants include offerings of authentic sushi, Cuban tapas, and classic American. American Tobacco also puts on many of its own events, like art shows, pop-up shops, and free concerts.
I loved the vibe on this campus because it felt like such a cool community. The space had so much to offer and had gorgeous landscaping!
See the Tree of Bikes
After the tower lighting, we walked across the campus to the Tree of Bikes on display on Burt’s Bees porch. All 120 new bikes made a 25-foot tall structure and will be donated to the Durham community.
Diamond View Park
Then to Diamond View Park, to check out the debut of the ‘Home for the Holidays Playhouses.’ Fifteen ‘tiny houses making a big difference.’ These have been constructed and decorated in the holiday spirit, to be auctioned off and raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. While looking at the tiny houses and listening to a jazz band play holiday music. I saw Rudolph and Frosty for a photo opp! This Durham Public Event is a great way to learn how to give back this holiday season.
On Saturday, it was parade time! We kicked off the holiday season at the Durham Holiday Parade and Fun Fest in the center of town. There were dynamic floats, hometown bands, drill teams, city government, and public school and community groups that made their way down Main Street. The parade concluded with a special guest appearance by Santa! After the parade, you could head down to the American Tobacco Campus and enjoy snow sledding, inflatable bounce houses, arts and crafts activities, visits with Santa, train rides, music, and more.
Saturday night was the Downtown Durham Christmas Tree Lighting. Street musicians performed in CCB Plaza, with the Boom Unit Brass Band. The Christmas Tree was lit by Mayor Bill Bell, with continued performances from the Boom Unit Brass Band carrying on throughout the night. It was so magical seeing the whole plaza come to life with all the Christmas lights!
HOLIDAY WEEKEND IN DURHAM, NC: SHOPPING
Chet Miller offers curated gifts, décor, and artifacts in Downtown Durham. It features collections by Rifle Paper Co., Vietri, Collared Greens, Ozola, Veuve Cliquot, and more. I had so much fun in this store seeing all the fun decor they had for sale!
Located in the heart and soul of downtown Durham, Dolly’s was inspired by the original owner’s Grandma Dolly who made her realize how much fun dressing up can be! It’s all about finding the confidence to be yourself. The shop is a combination of vintage clothing and jewelry and new gifts, jewelry, and greeting cards, along with many, many other cool things – a combination based on a love for fun and kitsch!
Vert & Vogue’s collection presents women’s, men’s, and lifestyle/home goods, crafted and chosen with care. Signature designers in the collection include 3×1, AG Jeans, Billy Reid, Black Crane, Btw Ceramics, Coclico, Culturata, Elijah Leed, Harris Wharf London, No.6 Store, Rachel Comey, Raquel Allegra, Raleigh Denim Workshop, and Shinola.
The storefront resides in a historic building, re-imagined with fixtures and furnishings handcrafted by local artisans. The V&V Holiday Bazaar, an in-store-only market, will run until December 24 and features a collection of pottery, blown glass furnishings, and a wide range of gifts and price points.
Founded in 2011 by visual artist Gabe Eng-Goetz, the brand is inspired by those who pursue their passions in search of something greater than themselves. Runaway Clothing has evolved from an online startup to a brick-and-mortar store. Runaway makes items that represent the Durham Bulls City and is especially known by its “DURM” line. Through a combination of apparel, art exhibitions, concerts, documentary filmmaking, and more, Runaway is pioneering a new wave of creative hustle in North Carolina and beyond.
Liberation Threads, a women’s boutique in downtown Durham, features only fair-trade and/or American-made clothing/accessories. At Liberation Threads, you can shop without guilt. Women around the world have been paid fair wages for their artisanship to create our beautiful collection, often with eco-friendly production processes. Love the story behind your clothes, and know that your purchases are helping uplift people and the planet.
HOLIDAY WEEKEND IN DURHAM, NC: WHERE TO EAT
The King’s Daughter’s Inn had the best breakfast! We enjoyed pancakes, waffles, and all sorts of yummy breakfast treats! The dining room was also gorgeous with big tables and so much sunlight.
Beyu Caffe (pronounced be-you) is a cool and hip American cafe that also features live music. Beyu is located in the heart of downtown Durham’s 5-Points area and provides a warm and community atmosphere serving great food, a full bar, amazing specialty coffees, and wonderful entertainment and community events. Its mission is simple: to be the ultimate community gathering place.
Basan features modern Japanese cuisine focusing on specialty sushi, seafood, appetizers, and sake. The interior design features a mix of rustic materials and modern design, like the pagoda-style booths made of raw sealed lumber beams.
Guests can sit on the large patio which overlooks the grassy expanse next to DPAC and the Aloft hotel, enjoy sake at the bar, or sit right at the sushi bar and watch the sushi chefs in action. Large tatami rooms line the side of the restaurant. Thrillist named Basan the best sushi restaurant in Durham, praising its “sweet and sharp” kizami wasabi.
When the Boston Globe visited Geer Street Garden, they said, “Owner Andy Magowan transformed a dilapidated brick building and onetime gas station into a hopping dining and drinking spot. Favorites include the Reuben sandwich and fried chicken plate.”
Southern Living News also called out Geer Street as being one of the “best bites” when it named Durham the Tastiest Town in the South, citing the large pasture-raised burgers. Other options include old-school chicken and dumplings, a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, and tamales.
Founded by James Beard-semifinalist Phoebe Lawless, Scratch is a bakery that offers both savory and sweet pastries, pies, crostatas, and other baked goods. They also offer lunch, brunch, and coffee, with an emphasis on local, sustainable ingredients and classic Southern techniques. The revolving menu includes items like chili-roasted sweet potatoes, shirred eggs, Mexican chocolate cream pie, and lemon chess pie. It’s a menu that’s made fans of Southern Living, The New York Times, and several other national food magazines.
Take in the atmosphere and deliciousness of a local favorite – Cocoa Cinnamon’s newest location in the Lakewood neighborhood. Cocoa Cinnamon strives to be a vessel for discourse and sustainability. Coffee, chocolate, and tea are age-old lubricants for ideas. The new location only serves coffee, drinking chocolate, and handmade churros.
Using apples from a family-owned orchard, Bull City Ciderworks crafts hard ciders in the heart of Downtown Durham. The ciders are sold at restaurants around town and are available from Bull City Ciderworks’ facility. They usually have five varieties available. Ciders vary in taste and style – the ‘Smooth Hoperater’ is dry-hopped, ‘Rhize Up!’ includes fresh ginger, and ‘Cherry Tart’ is semi-sweet to tempt your taste buds.
Motorco Music Hall and Parts & Labor Garage Bar Space
Located at the heart of the Central Park District of downtown, this former midcentury car dealership features a large patio, eclectic GarageBar space, delicious and affordable food from its Parts & Labor kitchen, and a showroom that is Durham’s largest music venue with a 450-person capacity. At Motorco, you can see nationally touring acts and the area’s biggest headliners, as well as take in a local favorite food and bar spot.
This brewery is a craft beer brewery and is devoted to a “plow to pint” philosophy of using local produce to make their beers. Fullsteam produces several beers with North Carolina ingredients like sweet potatoes, figs, and even basil. Their product is on tap in restaurants up and down the eastern seaboard with a growing national following. The brewery also serves as a bar offering an authentic slice of the local scene. Kids are welcome early in the evening.
New places are popping up in Durham all the time so do your research before hand and edit down what you want to see.