Durham, North Carolina will challenge all of your preconceived notions about the South. The historic tobacco town, once primarily associated with Duke University, has quickly developed its own, distinct identity. Following its recent revival, Durham has become a marriage of the old and the new. From boutiques housed in old tobacco factories to pop-up wine bars and yoga sessions on rooftops, the eclectic city has become the hub for creative entrepreneurs; whether it be award winning chefs, artists, designers or hoteliers.
9am: The Durham Hotel
Start your Saturday morning with some deep breathing and rooftop yoga at the Durham Hotel. Limited to a small group, the classes feel intimate and personalized, topped off with a moderate $10 price tag. With complimentary water and towels, be prepared to downward dog with views of the city skyline. Our favorite moment is by far the shavasana at the end aka the sleeping part.
315 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC
11am: Scratch Bakery
Nestled on the back streets of downtown Durham, locally owned Scratch Bakery is the city’s answer to a real farm-to-table brunch experience. With wholesome staples such as homemade biscuits to weekend specials (think Shakshuka; a middle eastern concoction of tomato braised eggs) scribbled on the blackboard above the in-house baked goods, there is no better place to escape the hustle and bustle of college life. Not only does the Mexican Malted Cream Pie sell out within minutes but owner Phoebe Lawless is relocating the business to Lakewood by the end of February, so try and get there quick!
111 Orange St, Durham NC
12pm: 21C Museum Hotel
After brunch, explore three-stories of eccentric art at the 21C Museum Hotel. Founded by contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, the Hotel has a vision to re-invigorate sleepy downtown areas with a unique combination of locally-focused dining and contemporary art. With rotating exhibits, expect to see anything from cutting-edge virtual reality to a room adorned from floor to ceiling in hand-woven textiles. The unexpected, interactive space encourages you to immerse yourself in the art. Don’t hesitate to play with one of the life-sized, fuschia penguin sculptures scattered throughout the hotel.
111 Corcoran St, Durham NC
Take a five minute stroll to the Runaway flagship store; the brainchild of Durham native and fine artist, Gabe Eng-Goetz. The apparel and lifestyle brand speaks to the idea of “running from convention” with t-shirts, hats and beer cozies that ooze the artistic aura of Durham’s growing creative community. In an ode to Gabe’s fine-art background, the space doubles as an art gallery. So while you shop, admire the original art pieces that punctuate the store’s bright, minimalist interior.
212 W Main St, Durham NC
Skip North Carolina barbeque, and dig into mouthwatering seafood at this no-frills joint instead. At first glance, you might not be able to identify the unassuming shack, camouflaged into its industrial surrounding, but the friendly hospitality and perfectly seasoned fish make the challenge of finding Salt Box worthwhile. Everyday, fresh fish delivered from nearby Wilmington NC provides inspiration for its rotating daily menu of grilled and fried fillets and open-faced sandwiches. Their lemon-based coleslaw and thinly sliced fried potato wedges have accumulated a cult-following.
608 N Magnum St, Durham NC
4pm: Ponysaurus Brewing Company
Watch the sunset from the rooftop of the Ponysaurus taproom with a locally crafted beer in hand. With the slogan “beer that beer would drink if beer could drink beer”, it’s evident that the team behind the brewery are confident that their drinks are the best in town. Choose from a rotating list of seasonal brews and long-standing favourites. For the more adventurous, try the Oyster Saison, brewed in collaboration with seafood restaurant Saint James in an homage to the sea. At Ponysaurus they ask you to “savour, contemplate and philosophise” their drinks. We just say sit back and savour some of Durham’s finest beer.
219 Hood St, Durham NC
Gocciolina, an unpretentious Italian restaurant, twelve minutes outside of downtown Durham, is the city’s best kept secret. Portions may be on the small side but what the food lacks in size it makes up for in quality. Start with the LaQuercia ‘Nduja (a spicy spreadable salami made in house) and follow up with their Spicy Seafood Spaghetti (an inventive dish of octopus-shrimp sausage, oyster mushrooms and calabrian chilies). For the meat lovers, the tender grilled grass fed steak won’t disappoint. Save room for the Chocolate Almond Tart with a bruleed meringue and almond crust.
3314 Guess Rd, Durham NC
After dinner head to Motorco to catch a performance by up-and-coming indie, electronic or rap artists. The intimate venue, built in a refurbished auto-repair garage, is sure to be packed with an eclectic mix of hipsters, families, dogs, and techies. Sip on one of their many craft beers or PBRs and if you’re hungry, head to the outside patio to sample their internationally-influenced bar menu.
423 Rigsbee Ave, Durham NC
Words by Sonia Fillipow and Sophia Parvizi-Wayne
Photos by Tommaso Babucci, Sonia Fillipow, Fallon Grayson and Joseph Kim