A Food-Inspired Girls’ Getaway to Durham and the Triangle

The DurhamA Food-Inspired Girls’ Getaway to Durham and the Triangle

The Durham Hotel features a restaurant led by a James Beard Award-winning chef and a rooftop bar

We’ve helped you and your friends explore the North Carolina coast and High Country. And now it’s time to rally your BFFs and head to the Triangle for a getaway centered in Durham, one of the most talked about food cities in the country. Rightfully so, this itinerary is heavy on dining, but you’ll walk (and dance) many of those calories away. Besides, what’s better for your next girls’ trip than sharing excellent food, crafted cocktails and nonstop laughs?

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Get up-close and personal with Durham during your self-guided walking tour of downtown and Duke University’s stunning campus.

Day 2: Sample five to six cuisines in just three hours while learning about Durham’s roots as you restaurant-hop with a knowledgeable guide.

Day 3: Take a day trip to visit some of the area’s most charming neighboring towns, including Hillsborough and Saxapahaw.

Day 1: City Slickers – and Shoppers

You’ll quickly see why Durham is one of “America’s Next Hot Food Cities,” according to Zagat. But first, check in to The Durham Hotel, your centrally located boutique hotel, and then pick up a detailed walking guide of Bull City from the Durham Visitor Center. During your self-guided tour, you’ll stroll past fountains, unique stores and historic buildings dating back to the 1800s. An array of art galleries will also cross your path with worthy stops like Carrack Modern Art and Pleiades Gallery, which showcases local member artists. For lunch, try gourmet soups and sandwiches from Toast, a “Best of Durham” winner. Choose from an ample offering of panini, tramezzini, crostini and salads. Since you’re on vacation, add a glass of wine from the menu starring family estate wineries from Italy.

After lunch, get ready for plenty of adorable viewing at Duke Lemur Center (reservation required). The center houses the largest and most diverse lemur habitat outside of Madagascar, and you can even “adopt” a lemur – talk about a memorable souvenir. Take time afterward to gander at the Gothic architecture that spans Duke University’s nearly 9,000 acres. Perhaps you’ll decide to work up an appetite and walk the 1.7 miles back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner, but be sure to carve out time to soak in the panoramic views with a happy hour cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop bar.

Decision time: Tequila flights and authentic Mexican cuisine at Gonza Tacos Y Tequila, or the five-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing at Nana’s restaurant? Either way, you’re kicking the night off right. And your post-dinner plans will be a treat for your ears. Ease into the evening with some live jazz at Beyu Caffé or roots music at The Blue Note Grill, then kick things up a notch at Pinhook, which features “Weekends of Musical Mayhem.” Don’t forget your dancing shoes.

Day 2: Foodie and Cultural Heaven

Grab a simple, yet delectable, breakfast in The Durham Hotel's colorful restaurant, led by James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing. Or head next door to Scratch – its name says it all with a menu featuring homemade biscuits and intriguing choices like a Chile-roasted sweet potato or fried duck egg sandwich. Also plan to take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary Rooftop Vinyasa Yoga class to gear your group up for another fabulous day in Durham.

Begin today’s sightseeing at 21c Museum Hotel, named one of the best new hotels in the world by Architectural Digest in part for its free contemporary art museum open 365 days per year. Works by local and internationally acclaimed artists line the walls of this hip urban locale. Your next destination provides an opportunity to try an entire weekend’s worth of restaurants in only three hours with the Durham Walking Food Tour. This tour mixes together intriguing Durham stories with samples from some of the city’s best culinary stars.

A girls’ getaway would hardly be complete without at least one vineyard on the itinerary, so a visit to Doyle’s Vineyard could be the perfect pre-dinner spot to soak in a little countryside 15 miles away.

Enjoy a taste of New York City tonight in Durham at the Durham Performing Arts Center, ranked one of the best theaters in America. Choose from Broadway shows like The Book of Mormon and The Lion King, or get tickets for celebrated musicians and comedians. For dinner, a seasonal menu and regionally focused craft cocktails are the foundations of the farm-to-table experience at Piedmont Restaurant. Or, tapas and wine at Mateo are ideal light dinner options after the show. Itching for more late-night action? Check out Alley Twenty Six for specialty cocktails or Motorco for more live music.

Day 3: Explore the Triangle

Time to curate the perfect road trip playlist and head to nearby North Carolina gems: head east to Wake Forest or west to Hillsborough and Saxapahaw. But first, grab a quick breakfast at a downtown Durham institution – Ninth Street Bakery, known for its organic choices such as rustic pastries and sweets.

When you arrive in Wake Forest, start with a pedicure at Body Bliss as you reminisce about the best moments of your trip so far while scrolling through your favorite photos. Wake Forest is also a great place to squeeze in a little more shopping since you can find several consignment shops along White Street, including Lulu’s Vintage Shop, MJK Treasures and Next Consignment before landing at Olde English Tea Room for lunch. You’ll be transported back to your childhood tea parties with plenty of entrée options, or go for the high, afternoon or low tea experiences.

Opt to spend the rest of your day back in Durham, or continue on to Hillsborough for some antique shopping at Antique Mall & Flea Market, Alchemy Architectural Antiques and The Shops at Daniel Boone. Nearby Saxapahaw provides two unique ways to wrap up your vacation: a stroll through Woodland Banners Poetry Walk, and dinner at a gas station that doubles as a gourmet restaurant - Saxapahaw General Store. This farm-to-service station restaurant serves locally braised beef short ribs, duck fat fries, and pan-seared fish at its unlikely setting that received a shout-out from The New York Times as helping revive the town. After filling up your tank and your stomachs, browse the aisles filled with local produce and a carefully curated selection of wines and beers to toast your final night in the Triangle region back at the hotel.

Shawndra Russell is a travel writer and novelist based in Asheville and has written for Forbes Travel Guide, BeerAdvocate and Travel+Leisure.

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