Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Read the full disclosure policy here.
You’ve researched and made all these great plans for how to spend your weekend in Durham. Hiking in the Eno River State Park, listening to a band at the American Tobacco Campus, enjoying the beautiful Duke Gardens, renting a bike to ride the American Tobacco Trail, drinking a local beer while watching the sunset from the rooftop of The Durham Hotel…
And then it happens … it rains, all weekend long (or it’s too hot or too cold!). Don’t cancel your trip! Don’t fret! Instead, enjoy some of these fabulous indoor activities!
Third Friday – As the name indicates, on the third Friday of every month, from 6 to 9pm, explore galleries and artists studios. If it happens to be nice out, you can walk within a 5 to 10 minute distance from the middle of town. But if the weather is uncooperative, consider the larger indoor exhibits like Golden Belt, Durham Arts Council, 21C Museum Hotel.
A map of all locations can be found here: Third Friday map.
Even if your trip doesn’t coincide with Third Friday, explore these exhibits and galleries:
Durham Arts Council
The Durham Arts Council offers art classes and exhibits work by both local and traveling artists. Whether watching a dance troupe, enjoying a photography exhibit, or seeing the children’s summer camps exhibits, there is something for everyone. Galleries are open to the public from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday and Sunday 1 to 6pm. There is a fee for most of the exhibits, or a suggested donation.
21C Museum Hotel
The public areas of the downtown 21C Museum Hotel features multiple exhibits with contemporary art. Art is even displayed at Counting House restaurant, making for a fun meal. And while the exhibits are free and open to the public every day of the year consider enjoying a guided docent tour on Wednesday and Friday at 5pm.
Nasher Museum of Art
The Nasher Museum over by Duke University Campus features many forms of art – check their website for their current exhibits. If your Durham visit includes a Thursday, definitely consider visiting during the extended 10am to 9pm hours as general admission is free all day. It is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sunday, noon to 5pm. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for non-Duke students with a student ID. The museum is incredibly generous with free admission for children 15 and under, active duty military and veterans and up to five family members! It is closed on major holidays, so keep that in mind.
Power Plant Gallery
If you’re in the American Tobacco Campus (or near it), you should check out this gallery sponsored by the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. Created as a lab for documentary and experimental art practices, the Power Plan shows the work of Duke students, faculty and staff. The facility features a state-of-the-art screening space. The exhibits are open 11 am to 5pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and Saturday. Shortened hours on Wednesday. Admission is free.
Catch a show!
Unfortunately, this usually takes a little advance planning but you should plan to get tickets for any weekend performance:
Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC)
Aside from the national and Broadway shows that perform at DPAC, the architecture of this building is amazing and worth the visit. Plus, I’m amazed at the job the women restroom attendants do in getting everyone through there during intermission!
This historic theater hosts concerts and national acts. In early April, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is based here and worth a visit.
Listen to music!
Durham is known for its music scene – just about anywhere you go, there will be a live music act!
Like jazz? Beyu Caffe and The Blue Note Grill should be high on your list.
Prefer something with a little more edge? The Pinhook on Main Street hosts new and edgy acts.
Local acts regularly perform at many of the local bars and breweries, including the Bullpen.
Enjoy a drink!
While there are many fancy bars that should be tried while you’re in Durham (Alley Twenty-Six, the rooftop at The Durham, Bar Virgile), you should not miss the iconic breweries and distilleries of this area! If you want to make it easier on yourself, consider going on a craft beer tour, otherwise, checkout these top three destinations:
Fullsteam started the craft beer movement in Durham and has spearheaded the North Carolina beer scene. They create beer that taps into the local flavors. Fullsteam features a large open space where you can sit, a kitchen provides small bites, and kids and dogs have plenty to keep them occupied.
Bull City Ciderworks
For those who don’t enjoy beer, who enjoy gluten free, or who prefer cider, will enjoy this place. While there are no tours to speak of, you’ll be able to sit inside at some picnic tables, enjoying food from a food truck. There are plenty of board games to enjoy while you sample the cider.
A relative newcomer to the Durham area, the Durham Distillery makes gin, liqueurs and vodka. You can take a tour for $15 on Saturdays, and some Friday nights. You’ll visit the back of the distillery to learn about the science and art of how the gins and liqueurs are made. After the one hour tour, taste six products and receive a souvenir shot glass. You can also take a Quick Tour which does not include a behind-the-scenes look on Friday evenings and Saturdays for $10.
Don’t despair if your trip to Durham calls for rain in the forecast! This list should give you plenty to keep you occupied during the weekend. Check out these other blogs for specifics about Durham locations we’ve reviewed: Ponysaurus and Bull City Ciderworks.
And let me know if you find something else that you enjoyed doing indoors while in Durham!
Annick, The Common Traveler