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Affectionately known as “The Bull City,” Durham, North Carolina, is bustling with a rich cultural, culinary, and natural landscape that’s the perfect destination for families. Nestled in the Research Triangle region and home to Duke University and historically Black North Carolina Central University, Durham is also an educational and tech hotspot for some of the world’s brightest minds. Here are five stops you must make on your first or next visit to the city.
Take A Walking Tour of Downtown Durham & Its Historic Black Wall Street
Learning the history of any city on your travel itinerary helps provide a greater appreciation for all of your present-day adventures. Connect with the Discover Durham Visitor’s Center to schedule a downtown walking tour, complete with an interactive local Black history mural and incredible Black Durham stories. You’ll learn about M&F Bank, North Carolina’s oldest Black-owned bank and the second oldest minority-owned bank in the United States. Founded in 1907 to serve the Black community, they continue this work today with branches across North Carolina.
For a fun twist: you’ll also see the inspiration for Marvin Gaye’s iconic I Want You album cover. It was created by Durhamite and bonafide renaissance man Ernie Barnes. The original piece, called “The Sugar Shack,” is now owned by Eddie Murphy and was inspired by Ernie’s experiences at Black-only dance nights right at the downtown Durham Armory.
Find A Wealth of Knowledge at Rofhiwa Book Café
Rofhiwa Book Café co-founders Beverley Boitumelo Makhubele and Naledi Yaziyo are inspiring young entrepreneurs who are helping pioneer the city’s new Black Wall Street with their Afropolitan arrival to East Durham.
To say these purveyors of African literature took their time designing the space is an understatement. As soon as you walk through their doors, you’ll be greeted by colorful, modern, and culturally-inspired decor (including lyrics to one of their favorite South African songs written beautifully in script on the cafe’s columns and borders). The furniture is all sourced from Black-owned vendors and makers and local Black artwork covers the walls. A map of Durham’s historic Hayti district—an independent Black neighborhood founded shortly after the Civil War—is even hand-carved into each wooden tabletop used for customer seating.
Naledi curates the bookstore with reads from across the diaspora, ensuring that the space reflects the true diversity of Black thought and creativity and also responds to the world as it shapes and shifts around us. From children’s books to adult non-fiction, the selection is wide and eye-catching.
Stop in for an author talk, mind-expanding read, Hibiscus Refresher, or fresh baked goods with a cup of coffee from Black-owned brewers.
Dine on North Carolina’s Best Catch at Saltbox Seafood Joint
With a name like Saltbox, you may think this popular seafood joint is home to the heavily salted, deep-fried, sleep-inducing fare the south is commonly known for. But everything James Beard Award-nominated Chef Ricky Moore touches here is fresh, mouthwatering culinary gold.
The locally caught seafood and whole foods-based sides are divinely seasoned—you’ll leave feeling more than satisfied, still light on your feet, and already planning for your next visit. Try the grilled mahi-mahi for a spicy touch of jerk-induced heat or the fried trout for a juicy, lightly crisped entree. Finish it off with a side of their seasoned sliced potatoes with green peppers and onions or tender, chewy Hush Honeys and a few sips of their housemade sweet and slightly tart lemon punch.
Go Plant-Based at Pure Soul
If your family enjoys a walk on the savorier side of the plant-based lifestyle, Pure Soul will not disappoint. Order their perfectly flavored and textured vegan North Carolina BBQ sandwich (the “meat” is derived from local North Carolina soybeans) or their spot-on vegan shrimp for a meatless bite without the guilt.
If you’re skipping meat alternatives, you can’t go wrong with a crisp Big Kale Salad or slow-cooked local cabbage and collards (called Bilbo’s Greens). Even the vegan and gluten-free Snickers cupcake doesn’t miss a beat!
Get Back to Nature at the Museum of Life and Sciences
There’s nothing better for the soul than being immersed in nature. The Museum of Life and Sciences is home to one of the largest butterfly houses on the east coast, with butterfly varieties from all over the world. The Museum also offers a wealth of kid-friendly, interactive STEM activities in its main building, as well as an educational Carolina Wildlife exhibit.
Want to see a mini-tornado form right before your eyes? Pet a sleeping butterfly? Vibe out in a sound garden? Get up-close-and-personal with farm animals? You can do that, plus more, at Durham’s 84-acre Museum of Life and Sciences.
Do you know any other must-see gems in Durham, North Carolina? Drop them in the comments below.
Jessica E. Boyd and Steven M. Hughes of Journey Black Home are a couple of digital nomads and travel content creators, on a mission to inspire their community to travel more domestically, explore more locally, and reimagine what’s possible in their daily lives. Follow their adventures traveling Black America at www.journeyblackhome.co, on Instagram and TikTok at @journeyblackhome, and on Twitter at @journeyblkhome.