Life in Durham

 

View of Durham skyline at night.

Visit Duke in Durham

Read about some of our students’ favorite Durham places below, and check out the Duke in Durham site for even more about living, working, playing, and getting a world class education in Durham. 

Visit

 

Getting Outside

The beautiful views of Duke’s campus and of Durham’s abundant green space make the 6th floor of TSCHE a favorite study spot. When it’s time for a study break, there are plenty of opportunities to step out of the medicine bubble and into North Carolina’s natural beauty. These are some of our favorites.

Explore Durham

  • Duke Gardens: A ten-minute walk from TSCHE with access to campus Wi-Fi, Duke Gardens is a great place for a picnic between classes or an outdoor study session. Enjoy the seasonal blooms and the Gardens’ many events—biannual plant sales, the Festival of Mums, Music in the Gardens and more.
  • Duke Forest: An extensive network of woods and trails in Duke’s “backyard,” used for running, biking, and the annual MS1 “Neur-runs” and “Neur-hike” with neuroscience professor Dr. White.

  • Durham Central Park: Located in downtown Durham, DCP hosts a variety of community events including the weekly Durham Farmer’s Market, a summer concert series, food truck rodeos, and the annual Durham Iron Pour.

  • Eno River State Park: A popular hiking site with nearly thirty miles of trails stemming off the Eno River, just a fifteen-minute drive from campus.

Explore the Triangle

  • American Tobacco Trail: Over twenty-two miles of paved trail traversing Durham, Chatham, and Wake counties. A great out-and-back route for running and biking.
  • Umstead Park in Chapel Hill: Seven beautifully maintained sand volleyball courts available for open play, basketball courts, walking trails and more.

  • Umstead State Park in Raleigh: Just a twenty-minute drive from campus, Umstead is another popular option for running, boasting over twenty miles of trails.

  • Dorothea Dix Park: An urban park in downtown Raleigh, home to a variety of community events as well as a much-beloved sunflower field.

Explore North Carolina

  • Blue Ridge Mountains: Located about three hours west of Durham, these mountains form part of the Appalachian Mountain range and are full of scenic trails and camping sites – Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia is a highlight with wild ponies! Asheville, a self-described “edgy, artsy mountain town,” is a popular destination for weekend trips.
  • North Carolina Beaches: The NC coast is about 2.5 hours east of Durham and is home to a number of beautiful beaches. Popular options include Wrightsville Beach just outside of Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Oak Island, and the Outer Banks.

Food and Drink

Durham is known nationally as a place for foodies to get their fill of fantastic food and drink. We, as Duke Med, agree with this designation and would love to share some of our favorite places with you. Below is a list of some local Durham restaurants and bars that we enjoy and suggest you try when you visit! Links to the restaurants’ homepage are included for further exploration.

As we cannot name all of the amazing restaurants and bars here, visit this page for a more complete list of places to try.

If you are interested in a deeper dive into Durham’s food scene, check out this PBS special.

Sit Down Restaurants

Pompieri PizzaPompieri Pizza

Pompieri Pizza: Neapolitan-style, handmade and wood-fired pizza, located in Downtown Durham

Foster's Market: Café and food market with great breakfast, sandwiches and soup and a relaxed atmosphere

DashiDashi

Dashi: Delicious ramen and Japanese small plates with a fantastic atmosphere for a small group hangout

Saltbox Seafood: Delicious, fresh seafood that is a local favorite

The Pit: Sandwiches and classic NC BBQ to get you acquainted with Southern cuisine

Quicker Meals

Heavenly BuffaloesHeavenly Buffaloes

Heavenly Buffaloes: Chicken wings and fries to-go, known for their delicious vegan wings

Alpaca Chicken: Peruvian Rotisserie-style chicken and healthy alternatives for side dishes

GuasacaGuasaca

Guasaca: South American arepas (pictured below), bowls and salads; a favorite for Duke sponsored events

Quickly: Boba tea house and snacks, located only a short drive from Duke University

Bars/Nightlife

Luna NightclubLuna Nightclub

Luna Nightclub: Latin American club with plentiful drinks, music and salsa dancing, owned by one of our own Duke med students and her husband

Boxcar: Durham’s bar + arcade, pinball and free console games

PonysaurusPonysaurus Breweing Company

Ponysaurus Brewing Company: Taproom and beer garden with a comfortable atmosphere for prime beer tasting

Pour Taproom: Self-pour beer hall with enough flavors to satisfy any level of beer drinker

Bull City Ciderworks: A bar for the non-beer drinkers, seasonal offerings of cider and you can bring your dog; could this get any better?

Entertainment

If you are interested in live music, the Triangle hosts a slew of incredible artists from all genres. From the smaller, intimate venues like Motorco, Cat’s Cradle, and Beyu Cafe to world-touring shows at PNC Arena and outdoor Walnut Creek Amphitheater, you are guaranteed to satisfy your love for live music. Other popular music venues include The Ritz, The Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), and Carolina Theater to name just a few!

In addition to live music, Durham and the Triangle have several venues for performance art. DPAC is a newly constructed performance venue that holds 2,700 seats and over 200 performances per year. The rotating Broadway events ensure you never miss a beat when it comes to the latest in live theater. Raleigh Memorial Auditorium is another wonderful venue for theater performances. Lastly, The Carolina Theater is a smaller, historic venue which displays a variety of art ranging from their large movie theaters to local and traveling film festivals to touring artists – almost every artform you can imagine performed on stage.

If you would prefer to indulge in other senses, Durham is well known for its food and brewery scene. After an exam it is not uncommon to find medical students celebrating at Ponysaurus, Hi-Wire, Fullsteam, or Bull City Ciderworks, amongst others! Each brewery has its signature flair and you can stumble upon local music performers, comedians, open mics (the Monti storytelling competitions at Motorco Music Hall is a Duke Med favorite), and trivia competitions nearly every night of the week. Many of the breweries are dog-friendly and have outdoor games or even full arcades to keep you entertained throughout the evening. Beyond breweries, Durham has bars of all shapes, sizes, and vibes. You can dance with your peers at Shooters, enjoy a beer outside at Ponysaurus, experiment with unique cocktails at Alley Twenty-Six, or meander over to Raleigh or Chapel Hill to get a change of scenery! 

On the weekends, students can stock up on their groceries at the Durham Farmers Market downtown. Get your artisan coffee, fresh baguette, and locally grown North Carolina strawberries all while taking in the warm NC weather and perusing the art for sale. Even if you can’t make it during the weekend, Duke Health has its own farmers market on Friday afternoons when it’s warm out. Take a break from lecture or the wards to mingle with other students, residents, health care providers, patients, and Durham residents right outside the hospital and medical school – some of the best restaurants and local purveyors set up shop just a few feet away from where you are studying! Students and patients alike look forward to the Duke Health Farmers Market every week. 

When you want to feel closer to nature, a quick drive/bike/walk to the many forests around Duke is always a wonderful option. You can visit NC State Parks like Eno and Umstead to hike some trails, follow the river, or set up a scenic picnic. Once spring and summer hit, you will also want to check out Falls Lake, the Eno Quarry, or Jordan Lake for a chance to cool down and relax! Even within Duke’s campus you can find refuge in nature at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke Forest, or along Al Buehler trail. North Carolinians travel from all corners of the state to see the Duke Gardens in bloom, but for medical students it is just a five-minute walk from the doors of the medical school!

When medical school is not fulfilling your intellectual side, take a trip to The Nasher Art Museum on Duke’s Campus. The Nasher is free for Duke students and is a true treat for all who visit. You can also take the ten-minute drive to the Museum of Life and Science or to the Duke Lemur Center, the latter of which hosts the largest collection of lemurs outside of Madagascar. A quick trip to Raleigh will allow you to explore the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, the North Carolina Art Museum, or the North Carolina Museum of History. When you are seeking a bit of perspective, be sure to check out the Morehead Planetarium down the road at UNC!

For all you sports fans, Duke is a name you probably already know. Attending a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium is on the bucket list of fans around the country, but you can attend a game for free (or $16 at most)! Both the men’s and women’s team are consistently ranked amongst the best in the country. The experience of being inside Cameron Indoor, only a few yards from the floor, is the opportunity of a lifetime. Beyond Duke, The Durham Bulls baseball team plays right in the heart of downtown Durham. These games are affordable and fun, and afterwards you can watch Bull Durham, the movie, with your peers. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park seats 10,000 guests and also hosts events throughout the year from a World Beer Tour to musical performances and firework shows. The Charlotte Hornets and The Carolina Panthers are our professional teams so be sure to get some spirit wear and show your support for NC!

Other Durham gems include the Common Grounds Coffee Brewing Company, Burt’s Bees Headquarters, a 21c Museum Hotel, the rooftop bar at The Durham Hotel, local roasteries, and indescribably tasty food trucks on every corner.

Housing

We conduct a housing survey every year at Duke Med to determine where current students are living and how happy they are with their housing arrangements. All data listed below are from the 2019-2020 housing survey.

Where do people live?

About 50% of Duke medical students live in the Erwin Road/La Salle area, 20% in downtown Durham, 10% in old West Durham, 10% in the Ninth Street area, and 10% in other areas including South Durham. Most medical students live in large apartment complexes, although about 10% live in smaller properties with 2-9 units. Most students rent apartments (85%), but about 15% do purchase a property during their time at Duke. At Second Look Weekend, schedule permitting, prospective students have an opportunity to go on a tour of housing options in Durham.

What do people pay? 

The average rent for a studio apartment in our survey was $1070, a one bedroom was $1260, two bedrooms $1850, and three bedrooms $2150. This represents a range of prices with the most expensive apartments being those located walking distance from the medical school on Erwin road or luxury apartment complexes downtown. Less expensive apartments where rent for a studio is closer to $700-800 or less are located a little further away from the medical school at about a 10-15 minute drive.

Commuting

Based on our sample, about 40% of people walk to Duke, 40% drive, and 20% take the bus or bike. Of note, this sample is weighted towards first-year medical students, and during clinical rotations a much higher proportion of students will drive regardless of living location due to clinical hours.

Commute times vary based on location. From Erwin Road residences, Duke is within 10 minutes walking distance. From La Salle residences, Duke is within 15-20 minutes walking distance or 5-10 minutes via bus. From Downtown and West Durham, Duke is within 10 minutes driving distance or within 15 minutes via bus. From Ninth Street, Duke is within 5-10 minutes driving distance or within 10 minutes via bus.

Faith and Community

At DukeMed, we recognize and appreciate our community’s diverse religious backgrounds and faith traditions. It doesn’t matter whether you are a person of faith, of no faith, or are simply curious. We welcome the opportunity to create an environment that fosters inter-religious dialogue and promotes an understanding of spirituality as it relates to the practice of medicine and patient care.

Students can connect with their faith communities in a number of ways through programming offered through the School of Medicine. There are three main student-led groups that are regularly engaged in fostering discussion on spirituality and religion at the School of Medicine: DukeMed Interfaith (which represents and celebrates all faith groups including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism, among others), Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the Jewish Medical Student Association. The School of Medicine also offers a dedicated space for prayer and meditation on the fourth floor of the Trent Semans Center for Health Education (TSCHE) equipped with prayer mats and holy scriptures for reflection. Many medical students attend weekly services at the Duke Chapel and at places of worship in and around the Durham/Chapel Hill Area.

In addition to services provided by the School of Medicine, Duke University Hospital also offers a number of sacred spaces for comfort and support that welcome people of all religious, spiritual and philosophical beliefs. Duke University Hospital offers weekly services at the Duke Medicine Pavilion Chapel (open 24/7 for prayer) that include Jumu’ah prayers, Family Shabbat, Bikkur Cholim, Roman Catholic Mass, and Chapel Protestant Services. In addition, Duke University Hospital offers a robust chaplain services program that provides counseling and support to patients, families, caregivers, visitors, staff, and students. In the past, students have worked directly with chaplains (through shadowing programs or selectives) to learn how to better care for patients’ religious and spiritual needs. More information can be found here.

Students can also take advantage of programming offered by Religious Life at Duke University, which serves as an umbrella faith organization for all undergraduate and graduate students. Faith-specific resources offered by the university can be found at this website.

Student Experiences

“I found my spiritual home at Duke in the Duke Catholic Center, which was easily accessible off East Campus and beautifully welcoming to grad students and undergrads alike. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the grad student community there was just as strong as the undergrads! The weekly activities, dinners and bible studies were a godsend to break up the study train of the week, and I’ve made some of my closest friends there.”

“I was fortunate to find my faith community at the local Hindu temples in Morrisville (~20 min drive). I initially worried that it would be difficult to remain connected to a faith community in grad school and find a spiritual home, but the flexibility of school and the strong local community made it an easy fit. Every Sunday when I attend the temple, I feel as if I back home. It’s such a comforting feeling."

“I am new to the Christian faith and was worried that the move to Durham would make it difficult to continue growing spiritually. However, I was quickly proven wrong. The Christian community at Duke is palpable – Divinity does quite a bit with the medical school, not to mention DukeMed peers and CMDA. We even have an incredible Christians in Medicine series where professors host us at their homes for dinner and reflection each month! I joined Chapel Hill Bible Church as my place of worship, and I was welcomed with open arms into a young physician family. Overall, I feel that my community has gone above and beyond to invest in my spiritual, personal, and professional growth – helping me pursue wholeness even in this trying season of medical school.”

“When moving to Durham, I was unsure of how the faith community would be in comparison to what I was used to back home. When I started at Duke, I was pleasantly surprised at all of the options for faith resources and religious homes for students of all backgrounds. There are places, people, and clubs for people who are devoutly religious as well as places for people who are spiritual but do not have a strict faith. I feel that the community at Duke has been very welcoming to me and to all of my peers as well!”