Two summers ago, our not-so-very-big house grew a little tighter and a whole lot more fun when my sister-in-law, Jourdan, and her husband, Andrew, came to stay with us for a month. Andrew was completing hospital rotations in his fourth year of medical school, and our family was fortunate that he got to do one at UVA. The following spring when they were matched to Duke University, Graham and I quickly counted the driving time between us—3 1/2 hours was a whole lot better than a grueling 15 to Chicago! The Fairchilds have planted their stake in Durham and have gone on to have their first Fair Child—our niece Sloane born last November. Thanks for the tour around your cool new town, sis! Next time I come for a visit, I’m leaving the kids at home.
by Jourdan Fairchild
My husband Andrew and I moved to Durham last summer after a combined 11 years in New York and Chicago. We’d read about its old tobacco factories repurposed as offices, award-winning restaurants, and lively arts scene, so we were thrilled when Andrew scored a residency spot at Duke University. It meant leaving behind friends and work opportunities and the many positives of big-city living, but we were having a baby and my family would be nearby, so it felt like the right move at the right time.
Durham is the kind of place that’s always marched to its own little progressive beat. During the early 20th century, the city’s “Black Wall Street district” was the most successful African-American community in the country. The city’s diverse population continues to grow, and our own neighborhood is an amalgamation of black, brown, and white families. Living in Durham has given us access to history, culture, and community—for a lot less money (we could actually afford to buy a house on a resident’s salary!).
In the months following my baby’s birth, I met my mom friends at a beer garden to bond over delicious $3 craft beers and complain about how little sleep we were getting. And when I crave a date night, there are plenty of great options to choose from, plus even more in Raleigh and Chapel Hill just down the road. Here’s a sampling of my favorite Durham spots, organized by outing type. So whether you’re desperate for date night or a day date with girlfriends, Durham is down. Just let me know when you make it to Pizzeria Toro so I can steal a slice of pizza.
These spots are all within two blocks of each other downtown, so go ahead and wear those heels.
Kick off the night with sunset cocktails on the roof of The Durham Hotel, a recently renovated midcentury modern hotel with impeccable design. The roof is often full, but unlike popular big city spots, you shouldn’t have trouble snagging a table. Side note: Swing by the hotel lobby during the day for one of their famous “coffee sodas.”
Seven years of pizza eating in NYC taught us this: nothing truly compares. BUT the pies at Pizzeria Toro are about as good as you can get anywhere else. Start with the ricotta dumplings or crispy pigs’ ears before indulging whatever pie suits your fancy (I’m partial to the prosciutto and olive option).
More in a sushi mood? M Sushi is a hot spot with a romantic vibe that’s quickly become a favorite of locals.
What’s better for washing down pizza than homemade ice cream? Pretend you still have room and get a single scoop at The Parlour, a local ice creamery with radically delicious flavors such as Moroccan rose and Vietnamese coffee.
Day Date with Your Girlfriends
Start your weekend morning off with yoga on the rooftop of The Durham Hotel, then fuel up with brunch at Scratch Bakery, a sweet spot with delightful pastries and decadent egg dishes like Shakshuka. I’m partial to the donut muffins (yes, you read that right).
Walk around the corner until you reach Chet Miller + Tiny, a pair of shops that are packed with the kind of stylish merchandise you’d find in a big city. Chet Miller carries more men’s gifts and tabletop accessories while Tiny sells ridiculously cute children’s apparel and toys.
Other cool shops in the area: Zen Succulent and Everyday Magic, two businesses that share a space and sell plants, crystals, and more.
Before you leave this strip, grab an artisanal loaf of bread for breakfast tomorrow at Loaf.
Treat yourself to some Rachel Comey clogs or a stunning silk jumpsuit at Vert & Vogue. If you’re more of a vintage digger like myself, head to Durham Rescue Mission for clothes or The Scrap Exchange for literal fabric scraps, bits, bobbles, and other random finds. True story: I once found a pair of black Chanel flats here for $3!
Balance out the shopping with a little culture at the Nasher Museum on Duke’s campus. The exhibits here are relevant and well done, and given the museum’s small size, I can make it through them without getting museum legs.
Day Date with the Kids
Head to Parker & Otis for brunch. The kids can browse the aisles of toys and treats while you shop for funny cards and stockpile gifts.
Swing by Rose’s Meat Market & Sweet Shop for ice-cream sandwich that everyone in the family will enjoy (last time I had the insanely good white miso gingersnap, and it left me speechless…no, really, it was so enormous it took me a long time to finish it).
Craving nature but don’t feel like getting the kids too dirty? Head to the always-popular Museum of Life and Science or the stunning Duke Gardens. Otherwise hop in the car and drive 12 miles to the Eno River State Park, where you can hike easy trails and wade through streams.
If you’re in a sporting mood, get tickets to a Durham Bulls game. Or see a game without forking over any cash at the old Durham Bulls stadium, which hosts occasional college games for free.
Close at the day over beers at Ponysaurus, a beer garden with plenty of yard space for kids and dogs to run wild.
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