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Where you choose to stay when visiting a new city can make or break the experience. Who wants to stay in a dingy, uncomfortable or just flat-out dirty hotel when you’re on a fun weekend getaway?! To me, there is nothing better than crawling into fresh, crisp hotel sheets after using all the high-end toiletries in the spa-inspired bathroom after a day of exploring. I’m glad you’re here because I’m putting all those subpar hotels to rest by highlighting some of the best in Durham.
After a day of trying delicious food, going to the museum, shopping, and catching a show at the Durham Performing Arts Center, you want to be in a hotel that reflects the fun and excitement of your day, right? Luckily, Durham has some amazing places to stay whether you want to be in the heart of downtown, on Duke University’s campus, or a little outside the city. As a (almost) lifetime resident, I’ve got the lowdown on the best hotels in Durham, NC.
Keep reading to discover some amazing gems for your next Durham stay!
Why visit Durham, NC?
Durham, North Carolina is a bustling city located near the center of the state. It forms part of what is known as “the triangle” encompassing Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. What used to be a city you wouldn’t want to travel to has now become a lively place with art, a great food scene, and so much to explore.
Durham has been around far longer than it ever had a name, with 2 native tribes calling this area home. The Eno and Occaneechi tribes lived here until the European settlers began creeping in in the 1700s. After the revolutionary war, Durham was home to many plantations and grew in large part thanks to tobacco production. Following the end of slavery and tobacco production, Durham quickly became a hub for education and research with Duke University (formerly Trinity College) and many other universities calling the triangle home.
Today, Durham brings thousands of people here for the research triangle park, the large medical center at Duke University, and its own unique flavor. If you come to Durham, you’ll quickly understand… This place is something special!
Over the last decade, Durham has undergone a HUGE revitalization effort. There are hundreds of new restaurants, boutiques, and events all over the city. As a child, I think we ventured downtown only a handful of times. Now, Durham’s downtown has become a beacon for young professionals and older residents alike to stroll, eat, and play. There’s a culture and vibe in Durham that is hard to explain… you just need to come experience it for yourself!
Where to stay in Durham
Best hotels in Durham NC
Durham has a myriad of different neighborhoods and hotels you can choose for your visit. This article is broken up into 3 main areas: Downtown and near Duke University, and just outside Durham. For a first time visitor, I recommend downtown! You can’t beat being able to walk to some of the best restaurants and events from your hotel. Being near Duke University will provide you with a few more options steeped in the rich history of Duke and Durham’s beginnings as a tobacco town. Duke is conveniently located to many attractions and restaurants so if you want something a little more historical, that will be the area for you.
Visiting Durham but just after a luxurious stay? Some of the nicest hotels are actually just outside of Durham. These hotels and B&Bs are perfect for stay-cations, mini-moons, or spa retreats!
The Durham Hotel
The Durham is a boutique hotel decked out in cute mid-century modern decor. The rooms are spacious and feature local items like Raleigh Denim blankets, Counter Culture coffee, and a gift from Burt’s Bees. You never even have to leave the hotel with a coffee bar, bespoke restaurant, and one of the best rooftop patios in the city.
Who doesn’t love a rooftop pool?! Unscripted in downtown Durham is a small boutique hotel with rooms decorated in a trendy, bright mid-century style. There are several on-site restaurants and lounges. My favorite part is that in the warmer months you can enjoy the pool to escape the heat with some drinks and apps from the awesome bar menu. And in the cooler months, Unscripted puts up fun igloos perfect for hosting a small group for a holiday party!
21c Museum Hotel
The 21C Museum Hotel is located right downtown and makes for a super cool stay. The rooms are modern, clean, and bright with huge windows overlooking downtown Durham. The most unique twist is that you get a hotel stay and a museum visit all in one! 21C features local and unique exhibits right in the lobby that is open to anyone. The adjoining restaurant, The Counting House, is a super hip location for drinks and apps, too.
Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast
Having a small, bed and breakfast experience in the downtown of a city is not usually an amenity you stumble upon. But at Morehead Manor*, that’s exactly what you get. Originally built for a CEO, the colonial style home has just 4 guest rooms that ensure you a personalized, intimate experience. Of course, breakfast is provided along with snacks, desserts, and nonalcoholic beverages. You’re within walking distance of the ball park, the DPAC, and so much more!
*Not an affiliate link
Aloft Durham Downtown
If you’ve stayed in one Aloft, you’ve stayed in them all but there’s something to be said for consistency! I love the Aloft for its convenient location in comparison to the Durham Performing Arts Center. This would be the perfect place to stay if you want to eat downtown (try Nanasteak!) and then catch a show at the DPAC.
Near Duke University
Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club
The luxurious Washington Duke Inn was designed to reflect the ambiance of an English country estate. How charming! The hotel has been open since 1988 and has served both the University and those traveling to Durham for business. This is the perfect place to stay if you want to catch a Duke football or basketball game and want to play a round of golf while you’re at it.
JB Duke Hotel
The JB Duke hotel is located right on Duke University’s campus. If you’re in town for a Duke event, it doesn’t get more convenient than that! The hotel is a brother property to the Washington Duke Inn but here, you’ll find a more modern design. Aside from a gym, amenities are sparse so this is great if you just want no fuss and a location on Duke’s campus.
Just outside Durham
The Siena Hotel, Autograph Collection
The Siena Hotel is a luxury hotel located on the famous Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This is arguably one of the nicer hotels in the area and isn’t far from Durham. You’re conveniently located in South Durham with easy access to Southpoint Mall.
A tiny B&B in northern Durham with excellent food and ambiance? Sign me up! We actually spent the night at the Arrowhead Inn after our wedding and it was the perfect, quiet romantic B&B to start our marriage! Highly recommended for a special occasion. The location is about a 20-25 minute drive from downtown Durham.
Umstead Hotel and Spa
Want the ultimate luxury in the Durham area? The Umstead Hotel and Spa* is one of the only 5-star accommodations in the area and includes a restaurant and spa on site. You’ll feel secluded in the beautiful resort area even though you’re just 5 miles from the airport! I love the idea of staying here for a babymoon, girl’s getaway, or even a solo staycation. Hmm… maybe I need to book a staycation here?!
*Not an affiliate link
What to do in Durham
To be on the smaller size, Durham is absolutely packed with amazing things to do during your visit. Here are just a few ideas:
If the weather is nice, hit up the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for a baseball game! This is one of my favorite things to do with friends when the weather warms up.
The Museum of Life & Science
While this museum is geared towards kids, adults will have tons of fun, too! There are interactive science exhibits, outdoor exhibits, and the famous butterfly house. Be sure to allot at least 3 hours to wander the museum.
Visiting over the weekend? Head to Central Park to check out the farmer’s market and support local farmers and vendors.
American Tobacco Campus
Located in the heart of downtown, the American Tobacco Campus is a modern restaurant and retail space located where the tobacco plants used to be! Check out all the cool restaurants and my beloved Burt’s Bees while you’re in the area.
Durham Performing Arts Center
Catch a show at the DPAC while you’re in town! From Wicked to Hamilton to orchestras and comedians, there’s sure to be something good in the lineup at DPAC during your visit.
What to eat in Durham
Durham is a foodie haven! I am constantly on the hunt for the best restaurant and there’s always new places popping up. You can check out my full guide of what to eat while in Durham, but here’s a few ideas to get you started.
For the best coffee, check out the new 321 Coffee in Downtown or my personal favorite Cocoa Cinnamon.
Ready to brunch? I LOVE Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter downtown or Elmo’s Diner on Ninth Street.
Classic barbecue lovers will love Moe’s Barbecue on Ninth Street. If you prefer a great burger, look no further than Bull City Burger in Downtown.
If you’re looking for a nicer meal, Nanasteak is right downtown. Pair it with a show at the DPAC for a great date night. In the mood for French food? Vin Rouge on Ninth Street is a Durham staple.
Can’t forget dessert! Two Roosters has the best ice cream of almost anywhere I’ve EVER had. If you are staying downtown, The Parlour is my favorite for unique flavors and classic soft-serve.
Lastly, here are a few of my favorite breweries and cocktail bars in no particular order: Ponysaurus, Full Steam Brewery, Kingfisher’s, The Durham Hotel rooftop bar, and Bar Virgile.
Final thoughts/recommendations on Best Hotels in Durham NC
Durham, North Carolina makes for a perfect weekend getaway located right in the heart of the state. No matter your budget or style, there are so many local and one-of-a-kind hotels all over Durham! You can choose to stay at the fun Unscripted Hotel in downtown, a bed and breakfast, or just book a spa getaway at the Umstead Hotel & Spa! Some of the best hotels are located downtown, right on the doorstep of all the amazing things Durham has to offer. Get to packing and book your favorite from this article of the best hotels in Durham, NC!
Whoa, you’ve done some serious staycationing – I loved reading about all of these great places to stay! – and you’ve inspired me to get out and spend the night away from home here in Charlotte.