WEEKEND TRAVEL GUIDE: DURHAM, NC
"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains" - Bull Durham (1988)
One of my favorite quotes (above) comes from the movie Bull Durham. The film, set in Durham, NC, depicted the players and fans of the Durham Bulls, the minor league baseball team in Durham, NC. I moved to Raleigh 5 years ago and I've visited Durham quite a few times, but I've always wanted to plan a longer trip. I mean, you know how much I love fashion and food. Durham was voted "Tastiest Town in the South" by Southern Living and "North Carolina's Hippest City" by Vogue, so of course it was on my top destinations list.
We went to dinner Friday night and then returned Saturday morning and stayed through the weekend. It was such a fun trip! We tried to fit in as much food and activities as we could. I've created a guide sharing my favorites:
During our trip, we stayed at 21c Museum Hotel Durham. The hotel is in the center of downtown Durham. We were walking distance or within a short drive of so many places we visited over the weekend. 21c is described as an art museum meets boutique hotel. I couldn't agree more. As soon as we walked into the lobby, I felt like we were walking into a work of art. There is art everywhere you look. There was even beautiful art in our room and of course, the signature fuchsia penguin was there too (each 21c has a signature colored penguin.) I am a sucker for unique hotels. Our room had purple lights around the mirror in the bathroom, a cute rubber ducky in the shower and the coolest gift shop I've ever seen. I also got a chance to visit the spa and it was just what I needed. I never get massages even though I need them. I scheduled a 60 minute Swedish Massage. Afterwards, I returned to my room, ordered cookies and milk and took a much needed nap.
Mateo Bar de Tapas: On Friday night, we visited Mateo in downtown Durham. I've been wanting to try Mateo for quite a while and was excited to visit the popular tapas bar. The food was AMAZING. The bar is housed in the old Book Exchange. The food is best described as southern style small plates with a Spanish flair. We ordered calamares fritos (the best calamari I've had in a long time), gambas, patatas bravas and queso frito y huevo. For dessert we ate blueberry hand pie and cinnamon donuts with chocolate sauce. We also ordered the Alyssa Milano (a drink) and it was delicious! They change around their menu often so if you see this drink on the menu, definitely give it a try! Seriously every dish was more delicious than the last. We were full but not overly so. I wanted to order everything but thought it was best to keep it light since we had a super late dinner.
True Flavors: I actually went to True Flavors for the first time a couple weeks before visiting again last weekend. I think it's safe to say I had a great visit. When you visit NC you one of your meals has to be southern, duh! True Flavors does a great job of taking classic diner menu staples and amping them up. Both of my visits have been for brunch but I plan to visit for lunch during the week soon to sample some of their lunch options. We ordered a single pancake, side of cajun style grits with sausage and shrimp, skillet potatoes and spicy fried chicken benedict and a side of skillet vegetables.
Counting House: For dinner on Saturday we planned to eat at Counting House, the restaurant inside of 21c. Like the rest of the hotel, Counting House is covered in art. You can grab and drink and view exhibitions while you wait for a table. We ate dinner around 10:30 (super late!) so there was no wait at all. We ordered based on our server's recommendations. We ordered smoked duck breast for an appetizer, the counting house burger, the halibut and peach mousse for dessert. I usually order something chocolate for dessert but I loved the peach mousse! We also had breakfast from Counting House delivered to our room the next morning. I am obsessed with room service. Blame it on my love for Home Alone 2.
Dame's Chicken & Waffles: Dame's is a personal favorite of mine. I've been to all their locations, Durham, Cary and Greensboro and have been posting about them since 2012. It is a must on my list whenever I'm in Durham. So many people tell me they have never tried chicken and waffles anywhere but it's honestly a genius combination. The schmear will change your life (in a good way!) I order the same thing every time: a Classy Hen with blueberry waffle and vanilla almond schmear and a side of greens (so spicy and so good).
The Parlour: My sweet tooth is real, so I had to add The Parlour to our itinerary. I've heard so many good things and they have vegan options. I try and test out vegan-friendly restaurant options so I can take one of best friends when she visits. I ordered a waffle cone with cookies and cream ice cream but I made sure to sample every flavor. Seriously, the vegan chocolate and vegan toasted coconut were SO good. I couldn't tell the difference between the vegan ice cream and the other flavors. I've been stalking The Parlour instagram ever since my visit and dreaming of an ice cream cake, I just need to find a special occasion.
Pizzeria Toro: Many people say Pizzeria Toro is the best pizza in the Triangle. They're not lying. This pizza is GOOD! We shared a salad (escarole, anchovy, olives, valtellina casera) and a pizza (san marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and we added prosciutto) for dinner. I wanted to get another pizza to go but I'm trying to do this summer diet thing and failing miserably.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens: Duke Gardens has been around for more than 75 years! I saw some of the most beautiful flowers when we visited on Saturday morning. It's a photographer's dream and we saw many engagement and family photos being taken when we were there. There's over five miles of pathways through the gardens so there's no shortage of beautiful blooms.
Durham Cycles: We own bikes and love to ride them around town so we thought it would be fun to rent a pair from Durham Cycles. The guys at Durham Cycles are so knowledgable about biking and local trails. We were able to rent bikes for half the day for $20 each and they helped us adjust our bikes. We brought our own helmets from home but you can rent those too!
Durham Bulls Baseball Game: I've been attending Durham Bulls games for years and they are always so much fun. You also get to witness where they filmed Bull Durham. Did you catch my quote at the beginning of this post?
Duke Campus: Although I'm a Carolina fan, I can admit that Duke has a pretty beautiful campus! We rode through some pretty cool parts, including a graffiti-covered bridge and through a beautiful wooded area. It would be a great place to walk too if you want to get some exercise (after eating all my recs) and tour the Duke Campus.
Ninth Street: I've visited Ninth Street since I used to take dance classes at Ninth Street Dance. This weekend we actually got to explore Ninth Street a bit more since we stopped there to visit Durham Cycles. There are cool boutiques, coffee shops and bookstores. There are also great places to stop and get a bite to eat like Vin Rouge and Elmo's Diner.
The Durham Hotel Newsstand: On Sunday morning, I was on the hunt for a Sunday newspaper. We were directed to The Durham Hotel's outdoor newsstand. I was surprised to find a Sunday newspaper and a copy of my favorite magazine, Kinfolk. There's even a place to sit and get a shoe shine.
21c Museum: Located within 21c, the Museum is free and open to the public year-round and you can also take a guided tour on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5pm. I loved roaming through the Museum after a late dinner.
Burt's Bees: Burt's Bees, one of my favorite brands, is headquartered in Durham. You can find them in the American Tobacco District. I personally love the bee mural on the exterior the warehouse!