Grab Your Jackets Travel Blog: A Devil Of A Time In Durham
Duke is a strange gameday experience for several reasons. Although it is seen within the limits of Durham, North Carolina, the Duke campus itself is a separate entity from the city. This makes exploring the area a bit more complicated but still fun. Duke is also a school that tends to put more effort into basketball than soccer. This means that while there is always a turnout for football, the atmosphere is significantly less energetic for football than it is at other times of the year. That said, the Duke community loves all of their sports teams and are fun people to chat with. Duke is just a fun, relaxed campus to walk through before a game where you can watch GT beat the Blue Devils. Let’s get into it.
How to travel: go from Atlanta to Durham
From downtown Atlanta, the trip to Durham takes approximately 6 to 7 hours depending on the route you take. Go up I-85 through Charlotte, then switch to I-40 once you approach it, or cross I-20 to Columbia, SC and head towards the north on I-77 to Charlotte. Freeway I-20 has less traffic but is longer so I recommend going up I-85 but they feel pretty much the same at the end of the day.
Flights from Atlanta to RDU with Delta currently cost around $ 150 to $ 200. The downside is that RDU is still about 15 minutes from Durham and 20 minutes from Duke. For this particular trip, a car is important, so despite the extra time it takes, the car may be a better option. There is Uber and Lyft, but you’ll be moving around a lot, so the price of using these services can add up over the weekend.
Durham city center is a five-minute drive from Duke on the highway. Parking in downtown Durham isn’t too difficult, but general parking at Duke is scarce. Keep in mind that you will likely be parking right outside campus for the game and will have to walk the rest of the way. This shouldn’t be a problem for adults, but try to keep this in mind if you have children.
Hotels in the area generally have a price range of between $ 100 and $ 150 per night. Unlike Clemson, there is availability at most of these hotels near game day (for football I can’t speak for basketball). There are a few hotels within walking distance of the university. Reviews seem to indicate that the quality of hotels near the university is slightly lower than in downtown Durham. Hotel prices are in the same range, so the decision will depend on whether you like being close to the activities of downtown Durham or closer to Duke University for the day-long gaming experience.
The closest hotels to campus are the University Inn, the JB Duke Hotel, and the AC Hotel by Marriott. JB is more for Duke alumni (hence the name) and is the only hotel I struggled to find availability with on game weekend, although there are vacancies in week. I’m not 100% sure, but JB may not be an option for away fans (at least on game day). The AC Hotel and University Inn are closer to Duke Hospital, which means a slightly longer walk to the current stadium. The AC and University hotels are, however, closer to the center of the campus, which means that you will pass through the gardens or the chapel to get to the stadium if you are staying with them.
Downtown Durham has more options for hotels. The highest rated hotels I could find were the Durham Hotel, Unscripted Durham and the 21 C Museum Hotel Durham. These 3 hotels are located in the heart of downtown Durham, where all the restaurants, shops and museums can be found (although further from Bull’s baseball stadium). With that in mind, none of these hotels are a bad choice.
Airbnb is also an option. There are many studios available for weekend rental in this area. If your heart desires it, you can also stay at Chapel Hill as it is a short drive away. Since Chapel Hill is the home of UNC, I’m not really talking about it today, just know that there are options in that direction. Raleigh is also around 30-40 minutes away, so feel free to take a look if you want.
Must see: Durham City Center
Durham is full of restaurants, brasseries and activities worth a visit. Keep in mind when walking around Durham that you need to be aware of your surroundings. Similar to downtown Atlanta, downtown Durham can change its atmosphere quickly depending on which block you are in at the time. Again, never had a problem, but maybe be careful if you decide to walk downtown on your own.
Durham Bull Stadium is outside of the city center but worth a visit. The Bulls are the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and the stadium is also where the movie “Bull Durham” was filmed. The ACC Baseball Championship was played here every year (before a contract dispute moved it to Charlotte). I don’t think there are usually games in the fall, but it might be worth considering if you come back in another season.
The Durham Performance Arts Center (or DPAC for connoisseurs) offers many plays and concerts. On the weekend of the game, the musical “The Band’s Visit” will air. Check if you like musicals.
There are a lot of options for food. Pizzeria Toro is a beautiful wood-fired pizzeria. The Viceroy serves Indian cuisine. Taberna Tapas offers Spanish tapas options. Copa is a Cuban tapas bar. Bull City Burger and Brewery is a tapas burger bar… no, actually they just serve good burgers (they got into a groove with the tapas thing). There’s also Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, The Pit BBQ, and M Koko Korean food.
For bars, head to The Roof, which, as the name suggests, is a rooftop bar with great views of the city. Boxcar Bar + Arcade is a bar with many arcade terminals to play while drinking. Motorco is a cool bar that occasionally features local bands and comedies. The Fullsteam and Ponysaurus breweries are also popular breweries worth a visit.
Things to see: Campus highlights
The first thing you will notice as you walk around the Duke campus is the architecture of the buildings. The buildings on the West Campus are all designed in the ‘Collegiate Gothic Style’, so the campus evokes images of castles and churches in Old England. All buildings on the West Campus are constructed from local stone quarried from Hillsborough, North Carolina, better known as “Duke Stone”. The combination of the stone and the style of the building allows the whole campus to maintain a uniform but alien appearance compared to other campuses.
The Duke building that most embodies the Gothic style is the one that was designed first but built last: the Chapel. The chapel is a holdover from Duke’s Methodist history. Although the Duke family are Methodist, the chapel is a sanctuary open to all, regardless of their religious background. The chapel is a beautiful piece of architecture and history that must be seen on campus.
More modern buildings and some sections of the campus use Georgian style or more modern architectural techniques as you move away from the center of the campus. Part of the reason is that Duke is made up of combined campuses that have been brought together. Another reason is due to the limited amount of Duke Stone available for constructing buildings. The limited resources of Duke Stone have led to building designs that need to become more creative in how they use the material.
Other sights on campus are the Duke Botanical Gardens. The gardens are home to a wide variety of plants from all over the world. Since you will be visiting in the fall, not all of these plants will be in bloom, but it is a beautiful place worth checking out.
There is also the Cameron Indoor Stadium, which is the home of Duke basketball. The stadium is usually closed, but there is a Duke Sports History Museum on the side which is worth a visit. If you walk into the stadium, you might notice how small Cameron feels compared to our very own Thrillerdome. Part of what makes Cameron so intimidating is how many people Duke’s fan base can fit into such a small space. It’s quite difficult to get tickets for a basketball game at the stadium, so try taking a tour while you’re in the area instead.
There is so much to see and do near Duke before and after watching Saturday’s game. Duke’s fan base is also quite relaxed compared to other big shows. Duke fans love to greet other fans, learn more about them, and chat about the region (at least until the game starts… Hell, some even continue to be nice during the game). I know Duke isn’t at the top of the places to go list, but it has a lot to offer. If you get the chance, check it out, and if you’re already going, I hope you have a great weekend up there. GO THE JACKETS !!!