Duke University, one of our nation’s most prestigious schools, is nestled on 9,000 sprawling acres in Durham, North Carolina. Top academics, a beautiful and socially vibrant campus, plus one of the best and most successful Men’s Basketball programs in the country make this a great place to call home for four years. The school is located in the heart of “The Research Triangle,” a geographical locale that includes nearby towns such as Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Downtown Durham is in the midst of an urban renewal with new construction, a booming restaurant scene, fun local shops, breweries, and bars.
Transportation: Duke's campus is only a 20-minute drive from Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU). It’s best to take a taxi or rent a car for your visit. As the Durham area (inclusive of the Research Triangle Park) is geographically expansive and not linked by a metro or rail line, we think the best way to see it is by renting a car. There is also a Greyhound and Amtrak station near campus in downtown Durham.
Stay: Set on 300 acres within the Duke campus, check in to the Washington Duke Inn, resembling an English country estate. The Inn boasts a Robert Trent Jones golf course, indoor pool, Fairview restaurant and Bull Durham Bar. A sister hotel, the more contemporary JB Duke, opened this past January just across the street. Both hotels are owned and operated by the University and are the most convenient options. Downtown Durham is a quick 10-15 minute drive from Duke and comprised of seven distinct sub-districts that flow into each other. For a unique stay in the city center, check into the funky and eclectic 21C Museum Hotel. More than just a boutique hotel, the property also serves as a contemporary art venue with a 10,000 square feet exhibition space, thought-provoking exhibits and art lining the walls of the rooms, restaurant, and lobby. Also in the heart of downtown, the Durham Hotel, converted from a mid-century bank, is another stylish option with a chic rooftop bar serving small plates and crafty cocktails amidst 360-degree views of Durham. Other options include Aloft Durham, Hilton Garden Inn Durham, Marriott City Center and Hampton Inn and Suites.
Coffee: If you have time in the morning head to Cocoa Cinnamon, recently listed on Buzzfeed’s list of 24 coffee shops to visit before you die. There are two locations: one downtown and one close to East Campus. The cool industrial spaces and the community-minded spirit, along with signature espresso drinks such as the Al Mohka and Dr. Durham make this the place to go. On campus, local coffee shop Joe Van Gogh has a branch right at the Bookstore or head to Au Bon Pain in the West Union Student Center.
Breakfast: Close to East Campus in the Ninth Street District, Monuts Donuts has a cult following - some say they’re among the best in the country. This hip bakery and café also has a small breakfast menu if you want more than donuts. Looking for more traditional fare popular Elmo’s Diner, also in the Ninth, is for you. If you’re staying downtown, it’s hard to beat the fried chicken biscuit with a spread of pimento cheese at take-out Rise Biscuit and Donuts. If you’re in town on the weekend—head to brunch at Rue Cler. Parker and Otis in an old warehouse by Brightleaf Square, is a gift store, coffee shop and restaurant all in one. Allow some time you’ll want to browse.
Lunch: After your tour head to the West Union Student Center, an architecturally dazzling space and a center of activity where students come to eat, study and hang out with their friends. London-based Grimshaw Architects completely restored the stone façade of the 1920s building, and it reopened in 2016 to rave reviews, not just for the innovative design, but also for the quality of its food. There are 12 dining venues to choose from, many in collaboration with local vendors—this is not your standard college food court. Choose amongst the Skillet for Southern Cookery, Il Forno Italian Kitchen, Tandoor for Indian or Ginger and Soy for Asian--just to name a few. For a sit-down experience on the rooftop, head to The Commons, the most upscale option in the Union. Downtown there are some great examples of Durham’s emergence as one of the South’s tastiest towns. You can’t beat the North Carolina BBQ at The Pit, burgers at Geer Street Garden, or excellent Italian Paninis at Toast. Brave the line at tiny Saltbox Seafood Joint, where the fish is delivered fresh each day from the Carolina coast. Served grilled or fried, you order at the window and dine on picnic tables; it doesn’t get more casual than that.
Casual: A long time Duke alum loved his recent meal at Bar Virgile downtown, featuring a constantly changing small plates menu. The cocktails are the stars at Alley Twenty Six, but there is a complete menu to go along with your drinks. Everyone we spoke to loves Pizzeria Toro for delicious wood-fired pizzas, ricotta dumplings, and refreshing salads. Savor empanadas and wood-fired meats at Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas in downtown Durham, with a menu described as South American meets the American South. Chef Matt Kelly has a mini restaurant row downtown with three hot spots: NY style delicatessen Lucky’s (good for lunch), buzzy Mother and Sons serving homemade pasta, creative bruschetta’s and larger entrees and Mateo for tapas and small plates. At Mateo, don’t miss the Cheerwine Sangria—Alton Brown was so enamored of it, he recreated the recipe here. Kelly’s most recent endeavor, Saint James Seafood was one of the most anticipated Durham restaurant openings this past year, thanks to the chef’s popularity and track record. You could make a meal out of the many selections from the raw bar, but it would be a shame to miss some of the small seafood plates and more substantial entrees. Note: while the ambiance is casual, the menu and prices are more sophisticated.
A Step Up: Many of the ingredients on Piedmont’s regionally sourced menu come from their farm--Coon Rock Farm—talk about local! Thirty miles from her original restaurant Lantern, James Beard award winner Andrea Reusing is helming the Durham Restaurant at the Durham Hotel. Sushi lovers make a reservation (a must) at M Sushi. Over in the Ninth Street District student favorites include JuJu Asian Tapas and Bar, Vin Rouge, and Blu Seafood and Bar, some of the best seafood in the triangle.
Sweets: It can get hot in Durham so cool off with a gourmet frozen pop at Locopops--try one of the more unusual guest flavors of the month. Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop is one of those special places you wish was in your neighborhood. It’s an acclaimed butcher shop with excellent to go sandwiches and pastries. We came for their lauded white miso, gingersnap ice cream cookie, and yes, you should too!
Local Attractions: The Duke Chapel is a landmark, an icon of the university, built on the highest ridge in West Campus and inspired by English Gothic design. It’s fresh off an extensive renovation and well worth a visit. Don’t miss The Nasher Museum, an impressive art museum on Duke’s campus that curates cutting-edge exhibits in a 65, 000 square-foot glass and steel gallery space. (The Nasher Café is a lovely spot for lunch.) Wander the 55 acres of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, one of the premier gardens in the U.S. where students often run the 5 miles of walking paths. Book a tour, well in advance, at the Duke Lemur Center, home to the largest living group of these endangered primates outside of Madagascar. Consider yourself lucky if you’re in town on a Wednesday or Sunday to stop by the Durham Farmers' Market, where 70+ vendors sell their local products. The Durham Performing Arts Center, Brightleaf Square, and American Tobacco Campus are other noteworthy attractions. Sports fans plan a visit to the Duke Basketball Museum or check if the Durham Bulls are in town.
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DUKE FAST FACTS
White and Duke Blue
Average - 1540
Average - 33
Medium - 6,500 Undergraduates
2138 Campus Drive
Durham, NC 27708
(p) (919) 684-3214
NCAA Division I
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