Welcome to Durham, North Carolina – a city that's as charming as it is vibrant. This thriving urban hub, affectionately known as the "Bull City," has a little bit of everything, from a rich history and renowned educational institutions to beautiful parks, fantastic dining experiences, and welcoming communities. It's a city that consistently ranks high in national livability scales, offering an unparalleled quality of life that attracts folks from all walks of life.
Durham, in tandem with its neighbor city Raleigh, has once again proven its distinctive appeal by earning a prominent spot on a national ranking of the best places to live in the United States. The cities jointly secured third place in the esteemed US News and World Report's Best Places to Live Rankings for 2023-2024, a testament to the high quality of life they offer. The only cities outperforming them were Huntsville, Alabama, which claimed the second spot, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, which topped the list.
The methodology behind this reputable ranking includes assessing critical aspects of living in these cities. Key elements such as quality of life, job market health, value of living or housing affordability, overall cost of living, and the population's desire to live in these cities were meticulously analyzed.
Despite some traffic congestion and a lack of commuter rail linking the two cities, Durham and Raleigh were lauded for easy access to various museums and theaters, a thriving restaurant scene, an abundance of parks and greenways, and the presence of college and professional sports teams. These features collectively contribute to a rich, vibrant lifestyle that residents can enjoy.
But the accolades for Durham don't stop at the general ranking. Alongside its #3 position as the best place to live in the country, the city also garnered recognition in a series of other rankings by US News. Durham was ranked 29th in the best places to retire, reinforcing the city's appeal for individuals across various life stages. Furthermore, it secured the top spot as the best place to live in North Carolina, clearly indicating its supremacy within the state.
Durham was also acknowledged for its quality of life, securing the 13th spot in this category. This speaks volumes about the city's commitment to ensuring residents enjoy a high standard of living. Finally, Durham was identified as the 21st fastest-growing place, signaling its ongoing development and increasing appeal.
With these numerous high rankings, Durham, North Carolina, continues to demonstrate its unique and compelling charm, making it one of the most desirable cities to live in America.
Durham, NC, has a rich and multi-faceted history, beginning with its Native American origins with the Eno and Occaneechi tribes. Early European settlers recognized the region's fertile potential, leading to a wave of colonization and agriculture during the 18th century. The following years were marked by significant political and social upheaval as the city bore witness to the Revolutionary War, the establishment of plantations during the Antebellum period, and the Civil War's conclusion at Bennett Place in Durham.
However, it is the city's more recent history that truly underscores Durham's dynamic evolution. Following the Civil War, Durham's industry flourished, notably with the discovery of brightleaf tobacco. This led to the rise of major corporations, boosting the local economy and making Durham a significant player in the tobacco industry.
The civil rights movement was a crucial chapter in Durham's recent history, with the city playing a prominent role in pioneering sit-in movements. It was during this period that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his impactful rallying cry, "Fill up the jails," during a speech in Durham.
Durham's journey into the realm of research and innovation took a significant leap with the creation of the Research Triangle Park in the mid-20th century. Today, this park houses numerous research and development companies, further reinforcing Durham's status as a hub for technological advancement.
Durham has a long history of proud academia. North Carolina Central University, established in 1910, holds the distinction of being the nation's first publicly supported liberal arts college for African-Americans. And even today, the city is well-known as the home of Duke University.
One of the jewels of Durham, Duke University is a shining example of academic and research excellence. This private research university, which boasts a rich history tracing back to 1838, is one of the city's most renowned institutions. The university, established by Methodists and Quakers, was originally located in the city of Trinity before relocating to Durham in 1892. It was renamed Duke University in 1924 to honor Washington Duke, the father of the industrialist James Buchanan Duke. The campus, stretching over 8,600 acres, is a testament to architectural beauty, with the majestic 210-foot Duke Chapel at its heart and its unique blend of Gothic and Georgian-style architecture.
Duke University's reputation extends far beyond Durham, with two concurrent schools in Singapore and China. As one of the most selective universities in the United States, Duke sets a high bar for educational achievement. The university, known for its research prowess, spends over $1 billion on research annually, earning its place among the top ten largest research universities in the country. The academic and extracurricular programs at Duke University are expansive and diverse, allowing students to explore their interests in a supportive, innovative environment. It's the alma mater of a US President, several billionaires, and numerous scholars, making it a notable highlight of Durham.
Durham, NC, boasts countless treasures hidden in the city's nooks and crannies, with a world of experiences and destinations waiting to be discovered. While it would be impossible to list them all, we've curated a list of must-visit attractions in the “Bull City,” each one offering a distinct flavor of Durham's vibrant culture, rich history, and natural beauty. Whether you're a local or a visitor from afar, don’t miss out on these iconic Durham locales!
The Museum of Life and Science, located just outside downtown Durham, offers an 84-acre campus teeming with educational attractions. You can explore the Dinosaur Trail, gaze upon exotic butterflies in one of the East Coast's largest conservatories, or marvel at Apollo-era NASA artifacts. As an AZA-accredited zoo, it's also home to diverse wildlife, including rescued black bears, lemurs, and endangered red wolves. And during Durham Community Days, Durham County residents get in free with proof of residence.
Satellite Park in the Burch Avenue neighborhood is a hidden gem adorned with decommissioned satellites transformed into murals by local artists. These murals, colored with vivid, nature-inspired hues, were painted during a community festival in 2018. You can stroll through the park and appreciate the artists' diverse styles while enjoying the Duke Arts Annex, a community cornerstone for arts programming.
The Nasher Museum of Art is a cultural hub within Durham. Since its opening in 2005, the museum has committed to exhibiting works by diverse artists historically underrepresented in mainstream art institutions. Apart from featuring a collection of contemporary art, the museum also offers dynamic programs, including performing arts events, lectures, gallery talks, and social gatherings. Thanks to the generosity of Jennifer McCracken New and Jason New, everyone can enjoy free admission.
Durham Central Park, a 5-acre city-owned park, serves as a vibrant, urban community space. It houses a number of fascinating features, including The Pavilion, a large covered event space, and Mount Merrill, a handicap-accessible play area for children. There are also many areas for relaxation, such as the Sister Cities Grove, where trees are dedicated to Durham's sister cities, and The Great Lawn, a sprawling green space for outdoor activities. The park is open every day from dawn to dusk.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a premier public garden in the heart of Duke University, offers 55 acres of specialized gardens to explore. Open all year round, the gardens feature four distinct areas: the Historic Gardens, the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, and the Doris Duke Center Gardens. Visitors can also explore the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden and five miles of scenic walks and pathways. Admission is free and all are welcome.
After a day full of exploration and adventure, you might have worked up an appetite for the culinary treasures of Durham. As a vibrant city with a diverse food scene, Durham boasts an array of gastronomic delights, so don’t miss the chance to explore some of the most exceptional dining establishments the city offers.
Leading the list is a unique culinary experience: Zweli's, one of the only Zimbabwean restaurants in the entire country. Having amassed a dedicated following since its establishment, this eatery is the brainchild of Chef Zwe Williams. Williams transitioned her successful catering business into a tangible location where visitors can delight in a variety of dishes, including samosas, piri piri chicken, jollof rice, and much more. A favorite among many customers is chakalaka, a spicy tomato and bean relish. With a new location set to open downtown in August 2023, Zweli's continues to expand its reach.
The menu at Zweli's is a testament to Zimbabwean culinary culture. The scotch egg is a dish of smoky sausage wrapped around a soft-boiled egg and served on a bed of seasonal mixed greens with a mustard sauce. The vegan and gluten-free dovi rice bites are savory crispy treats served with a mild pepper sauce, homemade peanut butter, and fresh herbs. The roasted golden and red beets offer a delightful combination of peach chutney, roasted pistachio crumbles, and whipped goat cheese. And for cauliflower lovers, the dovi cauliflower, smothered in creamy peanut and coconut curry sauce, is a must-try.
Taqueria La Vaquita is a delightful Mexican establishment in Durham County, renowned for its authentic flavors and wide-ranging menu. The local catchphrase, "Just drive down the road and look for the cow," has become a fun and easy guide to finding this gem of a taqueria, recognized as the best in the county.
The restaurant has a charming, casual setting with a distinctive cow statue – a fun landmark and photo op for locals and visitors alike. The indoor area is modest and clean, with most of the seating available in a large, outdoor patio, perfect for enjoying beautiful North Carolina weather.
As for the menu, Taqueria La Vaquita offers a mouth-watering selection of appetizers, tacos, tortas (Mexican sandwiches), traditional plates, and more, staying true to Mexican cuisine. Their cheese dip, chori queso, and guacamole are crowd-favorite starters, while the variety in tacos is unparalleled. The tacos come with hand-made soft corn tortillas and are filled with various fillings, such as asada, pollo, lengua, and barbacoa, to name a few.
Taqueria La Vaquita has established itself as an indispensable part of Durham's culinary landscape, blending tradition with unique flavors and a convivial atmosphere. The combination of delicious food, friendly service, and an inviting ambiance guarantees a delightful experience for all who visit.
The city of Durham, North Carolina, continues to emerge as one of the best places to live in the United States. Its high rankings in quality of life, growth, and desirability as a place of residence are a testament to its thriving culture, rich history, and abundance of recreational and educational opportunities.
Duke Forest Manufactured Home Community, operated by MCM Communities, fits seamlessly into this vibrant cityscape. Located a short drive from downtown Durham and surrounded by scenic beauty and educational institutions like Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this community provides an appealing, stable environment for both long-term residents and newcomers. For those seeking the tranquility of a mature, family-friendly community within easy reach of urban conveniences, Duke Forest is an ideal choice. It's not just about the quality housing and strategic location but also about being part of Durham's unique narrative, a city that offers the perfect blend of a rich past and a promising future.