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Photo of Downtown Durham, NC, at Golden Hour

19 Things to Know About Living in Durham

Thinking about moving to Durham? Ranked as one of the best mid-size cities in the U.S., this East Coast city offers exceptional university options, interesting food and drink establishments, and local history that can’t be beaten. But that’s not all! Durham’s temperate climate means there’s plenty of time for outdoor activities in its many parks and recreation areas. Here are 19 things to know about living in Durham!

Find Affordable Living on the East Coast

View of Downtown Durham, NC. Photo by Instagram user @mediabyprince

Photo via @mediabyprince

The city of Durham’s cost of living is 5% lower than the national average, and it’s located in one of the largest innovation centers in the country! Compared to surrounding areas like Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Durham is an affordable, thriving metropolitan city while being a natural haven for green space. The median home price is on par with the country’s average at $183,900, whereas nearby-Raleigh’s median home price is 18% higher than the national average. The median rental price in Durham is also 3.8% lower than the national average, while Chapel Hill is 1.8% higher. It’s no wonder Durham is considered one of the best cities for young professionals—living costs are fair and attainable!

Continue Your Education at a Top-Rated University

Duke University Campus. Photo by Instagram user @thisisduke

Photo via @thisisduke

Durham’s position in Research Triangle Park fosters education growth and student opportunities with nationally acclaimed local universities. Duke University‘s most popular majors include computer science and economics, and the school ranks in the top 20 national universities. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is considered one of the best universities in America with many students majoring in communication and biology. Attending Watts College of Nursing allows students to experience small class sizes with one-on-one learning opportunities with professors while obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). About 85% of students receive financial aid at Durham Technical Community College, where Liberal Arts and Humanities are popular fields of study. Additionally, North Carolina Central University ranks in the top 50 regional universities. These programs have propelled Durham’s percentage of students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree to be 59% higher than the national average!

Innovation Happens in Durham

Aerial Shot of a Building in the Research Triangle in Durham, NC. Photo by Instagram user @kevinpughmedia

Photo via @kevinpughmedia

Living in Durham means you step into one of the country’s largest research and technology spheres. Research Triangle Park (RTP) is a 7,000-acre region surrounded on three sides by the cities of Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. The park contains The Research Triangle, or The Triangle, which is dedicated to collaboration and research efforts in medical and life science development. Over 55,000 innovators gather in The Triangle daily to encourage collaboration between Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and head industry companies. Cybersecurity professionals working with IBM use The Triangle as an education and innovation center. Medical professionals, including those working in programs like vaccine creation at Pfizer, utilize The Triangle to conduct research or manufacture drug therapy. As the United States’ largest research park, RTP sees constant innovative breakthroughs, from the creation of astroturf in 1965 and the 3D ultrasound in 1987 to RTI International successfully curing an HIV patient in 2013.

Healthcare Is Huge in The City of Medicine

Exterior of the Duke Regional Hospital. Photo by Instagram user @huthphoto

Photo via @huthphoto

With a nickname like “The City of Medicine,” it’s no surprise that Durham’s healthcare systems are top-notch. Medical studies can begin as early as high school with institutes like City of Medicine Academy, which is dedicated to preparing students early for medical careers. The city boasts more than 300 medical and health-related companies and unique graduate programs with hands-on, fast-paced learning. The Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) and Duke University School of Medicine are both highly accredited programs that have ranked third nationally in their respective categories. Additionally, the Center for Nursing Discovery at DUSON received a five-year accreditation from the Society for Simulation in Healthcare and Council for Accreditation of Healthcare Simulation Programs, making it the only North Carolina school with such an accreditation. Doctor of Medicine students at the Duke University of Medicine follow a three-year curriculum where their final year is dedicated to a scholarly research project. Both programs are a part of Duke Health, a world-class healthcare network that works with regional hospitals, including Duke University Hospital and Duke Regional Hospital.

Start Your Career in Bull City

The Triangle is not just a leader in innovation and healthcare, but it offers plenty of other job opportunities for those moving to the area or looking to change paths. Unemployment in Durham is 4% lower than the national average and the fields of medicine, education, and retail are top industry employers. The city of Durham is also considered the “Silicon Valley” of the east at the start-up hub of The Triangle. North Carolina itself has even been labeled one of the best states for business. Looking for a good place to work in Durham? Join the team at IQVIA if you’re interested in pharmaceuticals and clinical trials. Cree is your go-to company for electronics and LED manufacturing. Team up with Kimbrell’s Furniture, one of the oldest and largest furniture company’s in the Carolinas. Research environment-caused health effects with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. And the corporate office of Burt’s Bees is now headquartered in Durham!

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Take Advantage of Public Transportation

Photo fo the Front of a Bus from Go Durham. Photo by Instagram user @godurhamnc

Photo via @godurhamnc

Durham is a commuter’s dream because of the easy access to both interstate and public transportation options. With a population of roughly 200,000, The City of Medicine is the central hub of The Triangle area and is equal distance from Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary, and Apex. I-40 is the primary interstate between the cities in The Triangle, and I-85 now has as many as six lanes traveling the center of Durham in each direction. Skip driving altogether by taking one of 20+ bus routes with GoTriangle. Future travelers can also hop on GoTriangle’s commuter rail to travel 43 miles one-way around The Triangle. Explore the community and even earn prizes with ShareTheRideNC when you bike around Durham. Don’t need to travel that far? Bull City’s GoDurham bus routes transport you to closer destinations across Durham itself.

Get Away to the Parks

Durham’s natural beauty is undeniable, and North Carolina State Parks have a variety of natural wonders to explore. With a focus on conservation, the state parks system offers hiking, picnicking, and nature observation opportunities. Explore 30 miles of trails just minutes from town at Eno River State Park. Camp out at Falls Lake State Recreation Area‘s 300+ campsites, or check out its popular mountain biking trails. If state parks are too far out of town, check out some of Bull City’s other outdoor parks. Shop the Durham Farmers’ Market at Durham Central Park. Play pickleball or cool off on the sprayground at Forest Hills Park. Pack a picnic for the historical grounds found at Orchard Park. No matter what activities you’re looking for, Bull City’s parks are bound to have options for you!

Experience the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens bloom annually with flowers, plants, and animals of all kinds. With 55 acres of specialized gardens, this free activity to do in Durham attracts more than 600,000 visitors per year. Walking and trolley tours are offered throughout the year across the five miles of pathways within the garden. Enjoy the terrace gardens and fish pool in the original Historic Gardens and appreciate the Dawn Redwood, which was once thought to be extinct. Study the carnivorous plant collection in the H. L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, or discover the bird-viewing shelter within the rolling woodlands. Marvel at the simplicity found at the Page-Rollins White Garden in the Doris Duke Center Gardens. Or bask in the tranquil beauty of the W. L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, where you can take stone pathways to see Japanese cherry blossoms, maples, and bridges over peaceful waters. Consider attending a specialized event, class, workshop, lecture, or free art course if you’re interested in learning more about the gardens or the natural flora and fauna.

Check Out the Entertainment District

Fountain Outside of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Photo by Instagram user @thevegadurham

Photo via @thevegadurham

Bull City re-invented itself and its history by creating a downtown entertainment district. With ties to a former tobacco industry, the area is known as the American Tobacco Campus—a revamped community where history meets modernity and work meets play. As the center of entertainment in Downtown Durham, this area is beloved by all. Buy a Durham Bulls (MiLB) ticket to catch a game and grab a beer at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. If you’re interested in the arts, view a Broadway show and sip wine at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Continue your tour of the campus with a Sweet Potato Cheesecake Empanada at Boricua Soul. Pick up a bag of locally sourced grits at Parker & Otis. Or relax with a massage or skin therapy at Bella Trio.

There’s a Bull City Festival for Everyone

If you’re looking for things to do in Durham, the local festivities have you covered. Bull City is home to many different festivals ranging from arts and film to beauty pageants. Check out the Hayti Heritage Film Festival for a collection of new and old Black films, including A Dream for Sale, Freed, and Unapologetic. See vintage motorcycles and scooters at the Bull City Rumble rally hosted by Ton Up NC, or take in the vintage live-action thrill show with acrobatic riding on a vertical wall known as the Wall of Death. Laugh out loud and cast your vote for the best beaver personality in the Beaver Queen Pageant. Attend the annual Enofest festival to enjoy live events devoted to protecting the natural, cultural, and historical resources of the Eno River Basin. Support art lovers and creators alike at the annual Durham Art Walk Holiday Market when you admire and purchase handmade products.

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Durham Is Proud to Be Progressive

Durham prides itself on its accepting and welcoming of all attitude. A history packed with African-American history and civil rights activism creates a “y’all means all” atmosphere in a progressive-leaning city. Visit the Hayti Heritage Center to learn more about Bull City’s inclusive history. Attend a workshop hosted by Organizing Against Racism (OAR) to learn about unjust and institutionalized behavior. Or visit the annual Pink & White Festival to celebrate stylish Black professionals. Durham is also the home of Pride: Durham, NC, an annual celebration of community and acceptance in the state. Support the OutSouth Queer Film Festival, which happens to be the second-largest LGBTQ film festival in the Southeast. Continue pushing the movement forward by advocating for projects such as Project Fam!

There’s a Museum for Every Interest

Art Installation at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Photo by Instagram user @_aliciana

Photo via @_aliciana

If museums are your thing, you’re in luck! There are many museums in Durham for your next day trip into the city. Dedicated to serving The Triangle for more than 75 years, the Museum of Life & Science connects scientists of all ages to their community and the world. If history is more up your alley, check out Duke Homestead, which chronicles the early life of the Duke family and their tobacco manufacturing business. Discover the city’s history through personal stories and exhibits like Votes for Suffrage: 100 Years of Women & Durham Politics at the Museum of Durham History. Examine 21C Museum Hotel‘s collection of rotating contemporary art, exhibition, and event space—and a fuchsia penguin you can’t miss! Support historically underrepresented artists like Korakrit Arunanondchai and his piece Untitled at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Duke Basketball Is the Talk of the Town

Duke Basketball Players Practicing. Photo by Instagram user @dukembb

Photo via @dukembb

Sports Mania is certainly not lacking in Bull City. Duke University’s Blue Devil Men’s Basketball team is one of the city’s most popular attractions. More than 100 seasons of competition have led to five NCAA tournament championships—the most recent in 2015. More than 100 former Duke players have been drafted into the National Basketball Association, with 26 current players on the rosters. It’s hard to forget just how heated the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry is, but this hometown competition makes for exciting events! Join “The Biggest Carolina-Duke Party Ever” for a pre-game party and a livestream event! Cheer for the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium, or be a rebel and root for the UNC Tar Heels Men’s Basketball team, if you’re looking for things to do in Durham.

Enjoy Activities with Your Family

Bull City is a family-friendly city in many ways! The Museum of Life & Science offers indoor and outdoor exhibits like the Dinosaur Trail and adventures in Aerospace to keep your kids occupied all day. Experience the most diverse population of lemurs—outside their natural habitat—at the Duke Lemur Center, where nearly 4,000 animals across 31 species have been protected and can be “adopted” by your family! If your kids love music, consider spending a day at Notasium in the interactive, music-based play area. Test your wits by reuniting lost jewels or solve a detective’s case at Bull City Escape. Book a class at My Little Farmer, where you and your kids can spend time learning about animals and farming that keeps young ones excited and wanting more. Spend one Saturday a month at Carolina Theatre to enjoy the Family Saturday Series, which features local artists and musicians. Your family’s days will be packed with activities while spending time in Durham!

Sit Back & Enjoy the Arts

Men Acting in the Choir of Man. Photo by Instagram user @dpacnc

Photo via @dpacnc

Durham may be known as The City of Medicine, but you can’t forget its fine arts scene! Durham School of the Arts, Durham’s arts magnet school, is partnered with the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and allows students in grades six through 12 to attend master’s classes and study a specific concentration from chorus to film! The DPAC has become North Carolina’s go-to for live entertainment, and showings of Broadway concerts, comedy, and family shows mean there is something for everyone at DPAC. Catch a film screening, live production, or stand-up act like comedian Theo Von at Carolina Theatre. Don’t miss the fun at Motorco Music Hall with shows from artists like Hellogoodbye, Citizen, and Fruit Bats. Attend a concert series, workshop, or class to promote jazz programming and musicians at Sharp 9 Gallery Jazz Club.

Experience the Food Truck Scene

Person Holding Dumplings Outside of Chirba Chirba Dumpling Truck. Photo by Instagram user @chirbachirba

Photo via @chirbachirba

Food truck popularity continues to thrive, and the mobile eatery scene in Durham is booming. You can pick up breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert across The Triangle area all from the side of a truck! Curb your craving for morning waffles at the Belgium Waffle Crafters. Lunch is served by Bull City Street Food and their more-than-20 soups and chowders! Chow down at Chirba Chirba Dumpling for dinner with their Juicy Buns. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a treat like edible cookie dough from Captain Cookie. Discover the hype of the fried green tomato with The FGTBurger at Only Burger. Devour a gourmet melt and the love of cheese at American Meltdown, which specializes in pimento cheese for all occasions. Times and locations vary, but Durham is serious about its food truck community!

Eat Your Heart Out in Bull City

Chicken and Waffles from Dames Chicken & Waffles. Photo by Instagram user @theeatsheetnc

Photo via @theeatsheetnc

Labeled the South’s Tastiest Town and America’s Foodiest Small Town, it’s no question that the food and restaurants in Durham are top-notch. Get your brunch fix with dishes like Barnyard Honcho, Mimi’s Sassy Shrimp, or Blackened Salmon from Dame’s Chicken & Waffles. Chow down on classics like the Cubano, BLT Sandwich, or Thai Chicken Wrap at Foster’s Market. Looking for a fine-dining option? Taste luxury Mediterranean food at Bleu Olive: Mediterranean Bistro, which offers private dining and an extensive wine and beer menu that pairs well with their specialty dishes like Moussaka. Check out the exclusive menu at Nana’s Restaurant, which offers delicious upscale dining. If you’re in the mood for pizza, check out the classic wood-fired pizza from Pizzeria Toro that patrons have said is “the way pizza should be,” with options like Sweet Fennel Sausage and Lex’s Favorite Bacon. If you’re still hungry, head over to the city’s New Zealand-inspired gastro pub called Burger Bach and pick up a Wellington, South Lamb, or Queenstown burger.

Don’t Miss the Local Breweries

Beer from Durty Bull Brewing in Durham, NC. Photo by Instagram user @durtybull

Photo via @durtybull

Local pubs in Durham are a can’t-miss attraction! Brewing and selling local beverages is a Durham special, and there are dozens of bars and breweries to choose from. Observe Durty Bull’s 15-barrel production brewery and tasting room. Visit Fullsteam Brewery if you’re interested in locally sourced ingredients from farmers and foragers. Looking for a brewery with fun and games? Hi-Wire Brewing offers full-sized shuffleboard courts, soccer pool tables, and ping pong! Head on over to Flying Bull Beer Company for a “beer community” created specifically to celebrate the accomplishments of the Durham metro.

Nightlife Is Booming

Drink from Arcana in Durham, NC. Photo by Instagram user @arcanadurham

Photo via @arcanadurham

If nighttime is your scene, check out the Durham bars and nightclubs! Many establishments offer a variety of social events, like Luna Nightclub’s dance socials and Salsa Class nights. Don’t miss a trip to visit Arcana, Durham’s underground bar and lounge, to receive a tarot reading or sip on a Black Manhattan. Drop by 106 Main and choose from a collection of lagers, beers, wines, and liquors to satisfy any type of thirst. Engage in friendly competition or just have fun at Boxcar Bar & Arcade‘s more-than-50 arcade cabinets and 15+ pinball machines. If comedy is more your style, ComedyWorx premieres its signature show, The ComedyWorx Show, every evening followed by an improv party! Or support local Indigenous folks and members of the LGBTQ community when you visit or host an event at The Pinhook.


Moving to Durham? Extra Space Storage has storage facilities throughout The Triangle to make your move as easy as possible. Find self storage in Durham!

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About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.