Get ready for family fun in Durham, North Carolina with three activities sure to be crowdpleasers. From an ice cream shop to to a science museum to a university garden, Durham has all the elements to put together an active family adventure that will not break the budget. And did I mention ice cream?
Durham, North Carolina. Home of Duke University and the Durham Bulls. A sojourn to Durham is well worth it for the entire family. After an overnight stay in this North Carolina city, we found some favorite spots for family fun that didn’t break the bank, had us moving around, and gave us lots of outdoor time.
3 Fun Things to Do in Durham
1. Explore the Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Located on the Duke University campus, the Sarah P. Duke gardens are an oasis of flowers, greenery and scenic spots. Not surprisingly, locals flock to this public space for meals, exercise, and relaxation. We even spied a rabbit that loved the gardens and likely calls them home.
I’m no gardener–more like a black thumb–but even I could appreciate all the effort put into this multi-sectioned green space. From an Asia-themed arboretum to the historic gardens, there are so many delightful colors and sounds that I forgot I was in an urban setting.
The best part is the price: admission is free! Plan on paying for parking and lots of walking to take in every section of these sprawling gardens. Want to learn more about the surroundings? Then take a guided tour or trolley tour.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street, (919) 684-3698
Gardens hours: The grounds are open 365 days a year, 8 a.m. to dusk.
Doris Duke Center hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Winter hours (Nov. 15 through March 15) 5:00p.m. close
2. Experience the Museum of Life + Science
The Museum of Life + Science‘s tagline is “Know Wonder.” That s perfect description of how adults and kids will feel at this expansive 84 acre property with over 60 species of animals. Lemurs and wolves and bears, oh my!
One of the newest additions is the Hideaway Woods, an in-the-woods, up-in-the-trees playground. It’s two acres which are dubbed a “nature discovery environment featuring treehouses, a flowing streambed, and fanciful nature sculptures.” OK, I’m gonna go there and say it: The Treehouse Village in this outdoor area reminds me of the Ewok village from Return of the Jedi. And believe me, that’s a compliment! Our son didn’t want to come down, and I can’t say as I blame him. I was wishing I could get up there, too!
My favorite experience was the Butterfly Release in the Magic Wings Butterfly House. I’ve always loved butterflies, and this 35-foot tall glass conservatory is an immersive experience with tropical butterflies in a lush rainforest.
Know what a lepidopterist is? It’s a scientist who studies butterflies, and one is on site during the daily butterfly release times. Also in the Butterfly House is the Bayer Insectarium, which features a rare assortment of exotic insects and spineless wonders from around the globe.
One of the first areas we did was the Dinosaur Trail. Having just watched Jurassic Park, my son was in a “fascinated with dinosaurs” phase. The Dinosaur Trail allowed us all to imagine ourselves as part of the movie. Also a welcome respite because this area is heavily shaded.
Don’t miss the lemurs. They are quite active and highly entertaining.
Tip: Membership at your local zoo/aquarium could mean 50% off or FREE entrance to Museum of Life + Science. Check this Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reciprocity list for 2017.
Also keep in mind: Durham Community Days can be crowded since Durham residents get free admission, so be sure to check the calendar to see if your date overlaps one of these special admission days.
Museum of Life + Science, 433 W. Murray Avenue, (919) 220-5429
Members – Free; General – $16; Senior (ages 65 and older) – $14; U.S. Military (With ID) – $14; Children (Ages 3-12)- $11; and children 2 and under-Free
March – September
Open 10am – 5pm Monday-Saturday
12 – 5pm Sunday
September – March
Open 10am – 5pm Tuesday-Saturday
12 – 5pm Sunday
What to Eat
3. Eat ice cream at The Parlour
My final destination for a fun activity is The Parlour. Home of the most delicious ice cream I think I’ve ever had. Yeah, it’s THAT good. This specialty ice cream parlor originally started out selling ice cream in a converted school bus, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, they were able to purchase the current downtown location.
Hint: If you are downtown and find the iconic Major the Bull, a bronze statue located in CCB Plaza, The Parlour is adjacent and should be your reward.
The most popular flavor is Salted Butter Caramel: butter, cream, and lots of coarse sea salt. Other unique flavors include Blueberry Lavender (Cedar Grove blueberries and lavender flower water); Summer Corn with Blueberry Jam; Girl Scout Mint (Thin Mint cookies and peppermint ice cream); and vegan options, like Vegan Chocolate (semi-sweet and dark chocolate in a coconut milk base).
The Parlour, 117 Market Street, 919-564-7999
Sunday–Thursday 12:00–10:00 pm; Friday–Saturday 12:00–11:00 pm
Have you ever been to Durham? What are your favorite spots? Or which one of these is highest on your travel list?
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