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Durham, N.C. - Places To Go

Several years ago a producer friend attended the Full Frame International Film Festival, and gold-starred it as a "destination festival." Not only was its host city of Durham, N.C. "beautiful," he clucked, but it offered so many "Things to See and Do."Bennnet's Recruiters -- that is Raiders

Having grown up there, I'd never heard anything more preposterous. Except perhaps Thomas Wolfe's assertion that you can't go home again; any place where the grocery checkout girl asks how you'll be fixin' your Granny Smiths and pecans bears revisiting. But the hick town of my Boone's Farm-soaked youth, a tourist attraction?

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

I got to reckoning that my friend — and Durham's five and a half million annual tourists — had a point. Red clay; pines silhouetted against the Carolina sky; magnolias by the Eno River (and sass like "We Southern magnolias grow in dirt"): pretty soon I'd slopped together a mess of arguments for the Bull City's appeal, not only for its scenery, history and cuisine, but as a whole heap of culture to boot.    

Bennett Place
Soon after General Robert E. Lee's Appomattox 1865 surrender, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union General William T. Sherman met at James and Nancy Bennett's farm to effectively end the Civil War. Stick around for a week after Full Frame (April 8-11, 2010) and catch the 145th Anniversary Surrender Commemoration (April 17-18) at the exact spot where the War's largest troop capitulation was signed. Tack, anyone?
4409 Bennett Memorial Rd.
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 383-4345
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The Chapel at Duke UniversityDuke University Chapel
As Duke students know, getting high needn't involve chemistry lab. Rising 210 feet above West Campus, this neo-Gothic stone chapel has been elevating souls since the Depression. Climb up to its 50-bell tower, and if the view of Duke forest guilt-trips you over next year's Christmas tree, repent downstairs at a church service accompanied by the 5,200-pipe Flentrop Organ.
100 Chapel Drive, Duke University
Durham, NC 27708
919-681 1704

Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens

Everything comes up rosy at Duke University's botanical gardens, offering lovers great make out spots since 1934. Wander its five miles of paths through exotic leafy things, and toss a Frisbee on the South Lawn. Fun factoid: the 36th Parallel of Latitude cuts through here, a 1988 discovery giving new meaning to the Terrace Garden's landscaping model, the globe's seven lines of latitude. Renovation is currently underway to de-scuzz the famed lily pond stocked with Koi, comets and goldfish.
Campus Drive at Bynum St
426 Anderson Street
Durham, NC 27708
(919) 684-3698

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

I just happened to be visiting the Nasher when a terrific show of Andy Warhol photos was up, featuring, among other beautiful people, Nancy Nasher. The Duke grad and her family are to thank for opening their alumni association envelopes. NLemurs of  Durhamow five pavilions radiate out from a huge sky-lit hall, giving Durham a respectable museum. Permanent collections span Medieval, Renaissance and pre-Columbian art plus contemporary works with my new favorite assemblage, Petah Coyne's haunting tangle of decayed flowers, birds and found materials known as “Untitled #1111 (Little Ed’s Daughter Margaret).”
2001 Campus Dr
Durham, NC 27705  

Duke University Lemur Center
If you like the animated film, Madagascar, you'll love this research center dedicated to lemurs and other prosimian primates. Ring-tailed lemurs, galagos and even those real-life cartoons, Aye-Ayes, make up the roughly 250 frat members of Duke's best behaved animal house. Who says they're the evolutionary predecessors to monkeys, apes -- and humans? Call in advance to schedule a tour.
3705 Erwin Rd
Durham, NC 27705

Eno River State Park
Escape the quiet of Durham to the quiet of Eno River State Park, heading due northwest. Outdoor enthusiasts will find canoeing, fishing and 21 miles of well-maintained hiking trails to feed body and spirit before cracking into the gorp. To bivouac in its riverside campsite, make reservations in advance.
6101 Cole Mill Rd
Durham, NC 27705  

American Tobacco
Gone are the days when a kid could wake up to the sweet smell of tobacco spicing the town, or score a foot-long cigarette at a field trip of a cigarette factory. But not all is lost: the former Lucky Strike cigarette factory now anchors an entertainment, shopping and restaurant complex in the heart of downtown. Parent company American Tobacco Company also built the nearby Watts and Yuille tobacco warehouses, which was recycled 20 years ago as a hotspot, Brightleaf Square.

318 Blackwell St.
Durham NC 27701
(919) 433-1566

Brightleaf Square

Once used to store, age and ferment tobacco, the neo-Romanesque brick warehouses of this indoor/outdoor mall date from the early 1900's. Like Bullington Warehouse, the restored site is on the National Register of Historic Places.
905 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 682-9229

North Carolina Museum of Life and Science
Interactive exhibits, a railway ride and a dinosaur trail are part of the hoopla to be had at this 70-acre swath in northern Durham. Flit around the Magic Wings Butterfly House in the recreated tropical rainforest, or ferret out ampler creatures – like bats, gators and owls -- in the Carolina Wildlife zone. The Museum's newest resident is a black bear yearling named Yona, whom you'll find cavorting in the bear yard of Explore the Wild.
433 Murray Ave
Durham, NC 27704  

Bullock's Bar B Cue Inc

For folks like me who colonized Durham prior to the advent of the bagel, this southern establishment with its heavenly hush puppies gave us our daily bread. Comfort food doesn't get homier than Bullock's overcooked green beans and saucy barbecue brought out – s l o w l y – by waitresses with piled hair. Romantic décor and snappy service may be in short supply, but clear your innerds for the heaping flavors of the Carolinas preserved within these 60-year-old walls.  
3330 Quebec Dr
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 383-3211

For a related article on Full Frame Film Festival, see

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