If you want to have fun but you don’t want to spend anything, you will love the free things to do in Durham, NC.
Durham is a city with a lot of fun activities and great sights, and the city is also great to visit if you’re on a budget. Whether you love music, art, science, or something else, you can have a great time in Durham without spending a dime.
From attending an event to doing a tour to visiting a museum, this Durham free things to do guide consists of the most fun activities in the city that are completely free!
Free Things To Do in Durham, NC
Go to the Museum of Life and Science on Durham Community Days
The Museum of Life and Science, one of the best museums in Durham, is a science museum that is located at 433 West Murray Avenue. On Durham Community Days, which take place many times each year, all adults living in Durham can visit the museum for free with up to five children.
At the museum, you can find various indoor and outdoor exhibits that are great for all ages.
One of the exhibits that you can find here is the “Aerospace” exhibit where you can see real space artifacts from the Apollo program and lots of other objects.
Another indoor exhibit that can be great to check out is the “Carolina Wildlife” exhibit. Through this exhibit, you can learn about the animals that live in the state of North Carolina. There are reptiles, mammals, birds, and lots of other animals.
One of the outdoor exhibits is the “Explore the Wild: Red Wolves” exhibit. Here, you can see red wolves, which is a species that is endangered but that was once common in the state.
Besides these, there are many other exhibits at the museum, and there often also are interesting activities. Going to the Museum of Life and Science is also one of the best things to do with kids in Durham.
Address: 433 W Murray Ave, Durham, NC 27704
See Art at the Nasher Museum of Art
The Nasher Museum of Art is a museum that belongs to Duke University and visiting the museum is one of the best free things to do in Durham. It is an art museum that is located on the campus of the university.
The museum has a large collection of contemporary works of art from all across the world. The museum is dedicated to showcasing works by artists who have been traditionally underrepresented.
The collection includes works by many famous artists such as Robin Rhode, Alma Thomas, and Fred Wilson. The collection also includes a lot of works from the state of North Carolina and neighboring states.
The Nasher Museum of Art also includes works from many other periods in history, and often there are temporary art exhibitions. These temporary exhibitions show works that are about a common theme, that are made by specific artists, or that were made in certain regions of the world.
Address: 2001 Campus Dr, Durham, NC 27705
Attend a Free Event at the American Tobacco Campus
The American Tobacco Campus is a former tobacco factory that dates back to the year 1890. It was transformed when it was no longer used as a factory and, nowadays, the complex is home to many restaurants, entertainment venues, and stores.
You can stroll the American Tobacco Campus for free and see the historic buildings that are located here.
You can also often attend free events at this place. Throughout the year, many diverse types of events take place at the American Tobacco Campus that are free for the public.
For example, sometimes there are free live concerts.
You can also go to the Durham Night Market for free. This is a market with entertainment, local vendors, and much more.
Do a Tour of Bennett Place
Bennett Place is a historic site in the city of Durham. This is a former farm and homestead that was owned by James and Nancy Benett. The reason that the farm is well-known is that it was the place where the last surrender of the Confederate Army took place.
At Bennett Place, Confederate General Johnston and Union General Sherman signed the surrender papers for the armies in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Nowadays, you can find a replica of the historic farm at Bennett Place.
It is possible to do a guided tour of the building, which is a tour that lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. There is no admission fee, so this is a great free thing to do in Durham, but donations are appreciated.
In addition to that, you can visit the Visitor Center, where you can find a gallery with exhibits about the Bennett Family and the events that took place at Bennett Place. The exhibits include historic objects, such as farm tools, weaponry, and other objects related to the Civil War.
Address: 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Do a Free Docent-Led Tour of the Duke University Chapel
You can see the iconic Duke University Chapel for free when you are visiting Durham. This is a chapel that you can find on the campus of Duke University.
The structure is a Christian chapel that was built in the Collegiate Gothic style in the year 1932.
You can see the inside of the Duke University Chapel by joining a free docent-led tour. These tours take place on Sundays and lasts approximately 45 minutes.
In addition to that, it is possible to see the impressive exterior of the chapel for free which is also one of the best things to do in Durham.
Listen to Free Music During the Music on Main Event at The Streets at Southpoint
Music on Main is a concert series with free concerts that take place at The Streets at Southpoint.
On several Saturdays in the year, you can enjoy great live music on the Cinema Circle Stage, which is an outdoor stage at The Streets at Southpoint.
The concerts can be great to check out with the whole family.
The Streets at Southpoint is an indoor mall with more than 170 diverse stores that you can find at 6910 Fayetteville Road. There is also a movie theater at this mall.
You can also shop at this mall when you are going here to listen to free music. Although this is not a free experience, you can have a great time when you do both.
Address: 6910 Fayetteville Rd, Durham, NC 27713
Visit the Museum of Durham History
The Museum of Durham History is a history museum that you can visit for free in Durham. You can find this museum in downtown Durham at 500 West Main Street.
At the museum, you can find various exhibits through which you can learn about the people and the places of Durham.
One of the exhibits that you can find at the Museum of Durham History is one about the early beginnings of Durham. Another exhibit lets you learn about the city through time with multimedia displays.
In addition to that, the museum has outdoor exhibits throughout the city of Durham. For example, the “Faces of Durham” exhibit is an exhibit through which you can learn about famous and lesser-known people who played an important role in Durham’s history.
Address: 500 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
Go to a Free Event at Brightleaf Square
Brightleaf Square is a historic area of Durham where you can find warehouses that used to store tobacco. Nowadays, these warehouses house restaurants and stores, such as Emmy Squared Pizza, Clouds Brewing, and AR Workshop Durham.
Brightleaf Square is a historic place that is one of the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Historic Brightleaf District. The historic buildings are beautiful and are great to see, and you can see the historic buildings of Brightleaf Square for free.
In addition to that, sometimes there are free events at Brightleaf Square.
For example, during the holiday season, you can go to the Holiday Market at Brightleaf Square, where you can find all kinds of local vendors and from where you can see the Durham Christmas parade.
Go to a Free Event at Duke University
Durham is home to Duke University, a large private university that dates back to the year 1838. Throughout the year, many events take place at Duke University, and many of these can be attended for free by the public.
You can learn about the specific events that take place by using the event calendar of Duke University.
There are many different types of events that you can attend at the university and this is amazing if you’re looking for free activities in Durham.
For example, there are public lectures during which you can learn about art or other topics. There also are discussions, talks, and performances.
In addition to these events, each weekday you can hear a 15-minute recital on the bells of the Duke Chapel tower when you are visiting the university’s campus.
Attend a Live Music Event at Durham Central Park
Durham Central Park is a 5-acre park that you can find in Downtown Durham.
Throughout the year, there are many free events that take place at Durham Central Park that you can attend.
There are often free concerts during which you can listen to great live music. For example, you can go to a performance of the PLAYlist Concert Series, which takes place every first Friday from May to October.
There are also free yoga classes that take place at The Pavilion. These sessions take place for several months each year.
Many annual festivals that have free admission also take place at Durham Central Park. The types of events are very diverse.
Check Out a Free Event at Duke Homestead
The Duke Homestead State Historic Site and Tobacco Museum, or the Duke Homestead, is a historic site where you can find a farm, factory buildings, and a historic home that belonged to Washington Duke and his family at the end of the 19th century.
Throughout the year, various free events take place at Duke Homestead.
For example, it is possible to do the “Tobacco’s Laborers Tour” several times per year.
You can also visit Duke Homestead during the Bright Leaf Harvest Day, during which you can learn about the state’s farming culture and history. During this event, you can also see the harvest of tobacco and see a demonstration.
It is also possible to do a guided tour of Duke Homestead. These tours are not free but have a fee of $2 per adult and $1 per child.
During a tour, you can learn about the early farming life of the Duke family and the start of the tobacco business of the family. These tours take 45 minutes in total and during them, you can visit various historic buildings.
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Durham Free Things To Do Tips
For an even better time in the city, you can consider doing two or more of the activities of this Durham free things to do guide in one day. For example, you can go to the Nasher Museum of Art and go to a free event at the campus of Duke University, as you can find the museum on the campus as well.
Also, there are ways to have even more fun for a small fee at the locations that I mentioned in this article. An example of this is the guided tours at Duke Homestead. Also, at many of the mentioned places, you can get food or drinks for a small fee.
Free Things To Do in Durham Map
This was my list of free things to do in Durham, NC. As you see, there’s a lot to do if you don’t want to spend anything!