Together with Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill make up North Carolina's Research Triangle, a high-tech area where miracle drugs are discovered and inventions common to every day life, like barcode readers, are born. While Durham was once a powerful tobacco and textile center, research and education have moved to the forefront. Home to the research park, Durham is upscale, with top restaurants and lodgings. Chapel Hill has been called the "ideal college town" complete with coffee houses and cafes.
A tour of Durham usually begins in its historic downtown with a walk through Brightleaf Square, an upscale neighborhood then on to Duke University, endowed by the Duke tobacco family. A campus tour should include the university chapel, patterned after Canterbury Cathedral with 50 bells and 77 stained glass windows. Nearby, the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens feature more than 2,000 plants.
Children will enjoy North Carolina Museum of Life and Science with its nature parks and native animals. Hayti Heritage Center, set in one of the country's most prosperous African-American neighborhoods, features exhibitions of arts by African-Americans. Stop by West Point on the Eno, a city park with rebuilt 1778 gristmill plus museum, hiking trails and blacksmith shop.
Research Triangle Park, set on 7,000 acres, is home to over 100 research and development organizations such as IBM and Cisco Systems. Stop by the Durham visitors' center for information.
Accommodations range from moderate chain motels to upscale B & Bs or inns such as the historic Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. Dining options are endless; from barbecue to any ethnic cuisine, from organics to fine-dining. Pop's Durham Trattoria serves northern Italian cuisine reviewed by Bon Appetit in an old tobacco warehouse. Nightlife ranges from jazz cafes to sports bars.
Recreation includes watching Durham Bulls minor league baseball, summer collegiate baseball or Duke basketball. Eno River State Park offers rafting, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Primitive camping is available for backpackers.
Chapel Hill is home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the country's oldest state-run college. Begin a tour down Franklin Street, the "main drag". It borders campus and is sprinkled with shops, cafes and coffee houses. Nearby, Ackland Art Museum features over 14,000 works including pieces by Degas and Pissarro.
Chapel Hill Museum covers local history. Coker Arboretum, on campus, is always open for touring while Morehead Planetarium presents its Star Theater program for visitors nearby. North Carolina Botanical Garden offers 600 acres of trails and plants. To see the university itself, call ahead for a free tour.
Accommodations range from B & Bs in unique homes to the Inn at Bingham School. On the high end is Fearrington House, a 200-year-old farm reconstructed as a rural village with rooms furnished in antiques. Dining options range from barbecue to American fare to southern cooking at Mama Dip's Kitchen, celebrated in Southern Living?Michael Jordan is a fan of the restaurant.
Entertainment includes The Dead Mule and the Cat's Cradle, where all kinds of music ring out.
Durham is located roughly 30 minutes northwest of Raleigh off I-40 W then NC 147 N. Chapel Hill is located about 40 minutes northwest of Raleigh off I-40 W on NC 54 W.