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6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Summer time is the time for family vacations. As soon as the temperatures start to warm up, I get antsy for our next adventure. In between our 1 or 2 big trips each year, we like taking shorter trips within the Southeast: my husband and I are big believers in exploring the beautiful region we call home, so when I had the chance to visit Durham, North Carolina, with my two kids, I loaded up the car and headed up I-95.

Over 2 days, we hopped, ran, ate, and explored our way through as many of the kid-friendly spots in and around Durham that we could squeeze into our packed schedule. Here are our favorite picks for your next family trip to the fun, eclectic, and unique Bull City!

Duke University Campus

The last time I visited Durham, I was a half-excited, half-terrified high school junior touring Duke University and University of Chapel Hill. While I decided to go to Clemson in my home state of South Carolina instead, both of those campuses left their mark on me.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Everyone knows that you have to wear a backpack when you're visiting a college campus!
While a college campus might not be the first place you'd think of to take two small kids, I'm here to assure you that Duke really does need to be on your Durham itinerary.

The grounds of West Campus are absolutely stunning with their neo-Gothic architecture, and the buildings will remind you of much older European campuses like Oxford and Cambridge. My daughter kept asking me if Harry Potter lived there since the campus draws from the same architectural history as the movies' set design.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The Duke Chapel is an excellent place to introduce the concept of Gothic architecture to your kids.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

You can talk about the barrel vault ceilings and how that allowed for much taller, bigger cathedrals than ever before, the stained glass windows, and the intricate carvings in and outside the chapel.

Both the campus grounds and the chapel are free and open to the public. The closest parking is the Bryan Center garage ($2 per hour). 

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

We could've easily spent hours wandering the massive gardens, so pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings.

The Gardens are divided into four major areas: the Doris Duke Center and surrounding gardens, the Asiatic Arboretum, the Historic Gardens, and the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
The entrance way to the Asian Arboretum
You'll want to choose one or two of the sections and focus on those since the gardens cover 55 acres, and you won't be able to see it all in one go.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

During the summer, there are concerts held outside the Doris Duke Center: families are welcome to these evening concerts, so bring a few lawn chairs for a fun night out.

The gardens are free and have public restrooms and water fountains in the Doris Duke Center. Parking is available at the Center ($1 per hour, free after 5 p.m.). The gardens are open from dawn until dusk daily. 

West Point on the Eno River

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Just off bustling Roxboro Road, this city park cover 400 acres, and is a perfect place to introduce your kids to the lush greenery of central North Carolina. There are plenty of easy, kid-friendly trails winding along the Eno River, as well as picnic tables for snacks and lunch.

If you're there on the weekends, learn about the area's history through the property's 3 historic buildings.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

The West Point Mill served the community continuously from 1778 to 1942, when it was damaged in a flood. By the early 1970s, the building had collapsed, but was carefully rebuilt using local stones from other mills and guidance from old photographs. Today, the mill is back in operation, and you can even take home corn meal and flour that was ground here.

The McCown-Mangum House was built by the mill's owner and later sold to a local postmaster. Nearby, you can view captures from local photographers at the Packhouse and Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography. This structure once was used in tobacco production, a major industry for Durham in the first half of the 20th century.

Park is open from 8 a.m. to dark daily. Parking is free. Historic homes are open 1-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from April to December.

Durham Farmers Market

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Whenever I travel, I enjoy supporting local restaurants and shops as much as possible. While in Durham, I was able to take that one step further and support the local farmers!

All of the vendors at the Durham Farmers Market come from a 70 mile radius around the city center, so you know that you're buying locally sourced produce, meats, flowers, and baked goods. This is a great place to teach kids about food supply chains and how farmers are crucial to our well being.

We had a quick snack of peach ice cream made with the peaches from Kalawi Farms, and then wandered around looking at the handmade cheeses, freshly baked muffins, gorgeous bouquets of wildflowers, and pints of plump blueberries.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

This summer, the Farmers Market hosts the Sprouts Kids Club, which helps visitors ages 5-12 learn about the importance of healthy, locally grown foods. Once kids complete the daily activity and sample a few fruits and veggies in the 2-Bite Club, they will get a $3 voucher to spend on their own healthy foods from the market. Sign up at the Kids Club table next to the Market's info booth between 3 and 5 p.m. each Wednesday.

Free. The Market is held Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon year-round, with an additional market on Wednesday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. during the summer. Free parking is available along Roney Street.

Durham Central Park

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Once our tummies were filled with fresh ice cream and a few pieces of fruit, we set out to explore the rest of the Central Park area. There's a massive playground for little ones at Mount Merrill, as well as 3 beautiful interlinked gardens just behind the Farmers Market shed. Older kids might enjoy the 10,000 square foot skate park.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

You should also visit the Garden of Eatin', a free public garden that invites residents to pick their own fruits, herbs, and vegetables from the bushes and trees here. This is a great way to tie in what you learned at the Farmers Market!

Free. Parking is available along Roney, Foster, Hunt, and Rigby Streets.

Museum of Life and Science

Come prepared to stay awhile because once you arrive, your kids aren't going to want to leave! I've been to my fair share of kid's museums while traveling, and this is definitely one of the coolest ones I've seen yet.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Learning about butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion
Once you're inside, you can find interactive indoor exhibits on everything from allergies to hurricanes. My 4 year old loved running around the dance floor at Soundspace, playing with fog at the Weather exhibit, and learning about moon missions in the Aerospace area.

In addition to the indoor space, the museum also has an incredible 84-acre outdoor space that could easily fill up a visit on its own. You cannot miss a visit to the Butterfly Pavilion (try to make it to one of the daily butterfly releases for an up close look at these beautiful creatures), the largest of its kind in the U.S. My dino-loving kid had a great time learning about prehistoric giants on the Dino Walk: leave time so your kid can play into the paleontological dig site towards the end.

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Hideaway Woods has a wading stream and giant treehouses (even I could get in the Treehouse Village!): my preschooler loved the treehouses for big kids, but was a little apprehensive about the rope bridges, so younger kids might enjoy the nearby Young Explorers treehouses better.

The Museum also has a miniature 10-minute train ride around the outdoor space, a farmyard where kids can see alpacas, pigs, and miniature Hereford Cattle, and a boardwalk area where black bears roam.

Tickets are $18 per adult and $13 per child (3-12). Train rides are $5 per person. Parking is free. 

Have you been to Durham, North Carolina, yet? Which of these activities would your family like the best?

6 Kid-Friendly Spots in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


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