The 21c Museum Hotel is situated in the heart of revitalized downtown Durham, this former bank building (the vault is still intact and is used as a lounge and event space) lights up the skyline with a purple glow casting through the windows. We later learned that glow was from the bathroom vanity mirror. Check-in is on the second floor in the midst of an art gallery. Rooms are modern and chic with space-efficient closets and drawers and comfortable, low flatform-like beds. Bathrooms are expansive with large, double vanity sinks, a huge walk-in shower big enough for two, and a rubber ducky to keep you company. Bath products are by Malin + Goetz. Oh yes, and that purple light lighting up the back of the vanity mirror can be set to cast a club-like glow or turned off for a more classic atmosphere.
Eat and Drink
There are nearby karaoke bars, but if you’re looking for more of a sophisticated setting head to the bar on the rooftop of The Durham Hotel with sweeping views of the revitalized downtown.
Another option is to cozy up to the bar at the Counting House. We began (and ended) our nights there. We started with perfectly-crafted classic martinis, mine a little dirty brightened up with a garnish of olives with a bright green hue and a mild, buttery flavor. They accompanied an assortment of raw oysters perfectly. We couldn’t resist the interesting selection of bar snacks and chose an assortment of tobacco-cured tuna (after all, Durham is known as tobacco land), trout terrine, and a scallop appetizer special. We proceeded to Mateo for tapas, Spanish wine, and a Port flight. It did not disappoint. The scene is bustling and lively with a bar that spilled out into the dining room occupied with high cocktail tables and closely arranged dining tables. We tried Datil, which are dates, goat cheese, and country ham; Patas Bravas, fried potatoes with a spicy sauce; and Crispy Chicken Skins accompanied by green tomato & cabbage escabeche, aioli, and piquillo hot sauce. Not the healthiest of options, but so incredibly good!
The Durham Performing Arts Center, otherwise known as, DPAC, is a stone’s throw from the hotel right in the heart of downtown. National acts perform on a regular basis and a full schedule of upcoming shows can be found here. While we didn’t make time to squeeze in a show, it gives us great reason to return!
Our other form of entertainment did include a walk to the Duke University Gardens. It was a healthy walk from the downtown, but an enjoyable one and made us feel not so guilty about the decadent dinner at Mateo the night before. This breathtaking 55-acre garden is open to the public to enjoy and is equipped with an an outdoor amphitheater. This is a sight not to be missed!
While there were other shops to be discovered, in our short time there we did not seek out clothing stores. What we did do is come across Parker and Otis while looking for a light afternoon snack to hold us over until dinner. It’s a spot worth mentioning! We walked into the revitalized warehouse store to find an abundance of specialty food items, wine, gifts, chocolates, and a deli case of beautifully prepared salads to go. We were back the next day for morning coffee and a light breakfast and the place was bustling with what looked like brunch time regulars. I could have spent hours in the place, it has a little bit of something for everyone and is a utopia for foodies.
While we couldn’t do it all in this short weekend trip, Durham is definitely a destination to add to your list and experience some of the gems we mentioned above and so much more.