My travels within the South haven’t been complete. There are some holes in my map and the area known as “The Triangle” is one such. Made up of three cities, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, this part of North Carolina is home to dozens of universities and research centers. I decided early on in my high school days where I would go to college (Charleston, if you’re just now joining us), so I skipped the traditional college tours that would have brought me here. But in the past few years, I’ve made up for lost time with grown up visits to places like Oxford, Mississippi, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and, most recently, Durham, North Carolina.
I checked into the stylish Unscripted Durham, a previously abandoned hotel in the heart of downtown now accented with graffiti art. It’s been renovated to bring back its midcentury style, complete with Jonathan Adler accents and the original tile work. I loved their rooftop pool and restaurant, which hosts drag queen brunches on weekends, and menu that included pork dumplings and the Impossible burger. The hotel also has a coffee shop that serves Toby’s Estate coffee, an Australian company, and one of the best breakfast sandwiches around. This is only one of a handful of stylish hotels downtown.
The city is a foodie destination in its own right, named by Southern Living as one of the South’s Tastiest Towns. Much of my itinerary involved food and for good reason. I started my day with a big breakfast bowl at Jack-Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter, one of the hippest new restaurants. In addition to a delicious sandwich at the Nasher Museum’s cafe, I also had a pork ramen bowl at Dashi.
But that’s not where the “tasty” reputation ends. Durham is also home to a number of breweries, including Fullsteam and Ponysaurus, as well as Bull City Ciderworks. I went to Fullsteam on my first night to attend Love at First Pint, their hilarious live version off The Dating Game. They also have a running club, live music, and trivia. I didn’t make it to Durham Distillery, but got to sample their award-winning gin.
There are many places in the South like Durham that relied on an industry but were forced to adapt when that changed. I saw it in the steel mills in Birmingham, the railroad in Atlanta, and the tobacco industry in Durham. But because of the nearby Duke University and its young, creative population, the city has transformed these spaces into new ones like apartments and offices. The best example is the American Tobacco campus, made up of dozens of buildings previously used to create cigarettes that are now the headquarters of Burt’s Bees, one of the studios of WUNC, and countless others. The complex is also alongside the Durham Bulls stadium, the new home of the iconic minor league team.
Durham is one of those millennial destinations that doesn’t brand itself as such and doesn’t use any hokey marketing tactics. They have an official mural map, which showcases the city’s best walls. The city also has their own shopping passport, which allows you to pick up stamps along the way to win a prize. Both can be picked up at the visitor’s center.
Have you visited Durham, North Carolina?
My visit was assisted by Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau and Unscripted Durham.