Each year, nearly 5,000 events take place in Durham, covering everything from music and food to history and art. Check out the following list of major annual events and you'll see why it's is hard to pick just one reason to come to Durham.
Review the list below for inspiration, and search the full event calendar to find out which events will take place during your visit.
Hosted by the Incriminators Scooter Club, which advocates for keeping vintage scooters in use, the Freeze Your Balls Off Scooter Rally is a wintry celebration of the Incriminators' favored mode of transportation. It includes group rides for those with their own two-wheeled vehicles (motorcycles, mopeds, and more are welcomed as well) in addition to dance parties, musical performances, bar meet-ups, and other events. Visit event website.
Celebrating both the holiday season and Durham's diversity, the African American Dance Ensemble's annual KwanzaaFest is a time to enjoy family, community, and culture. Kwanzaa itself is a seven-day holiday that celebrates African-American heritage and a different principle each day. KwanzaaFest is celebrated on the seventh day of the holiday, which is dedicated to Imani, or faith. Features include a marketplace, live entertainment, dance classes, face painting, and free health screenings.
The Hayti Heritage Center celebrates Durham's African-American heritage and its historic Hayti community, which was a thriving enclave in the early 20th century. This annual film festival furthers that goal by showcasing diverse works by and about people of African descent. It includes both short and feature-length films from an international cast of directors, as well as classic feature films.
Founded in 1999, the Nevermore Film Festival is a three-day event dedicated to the dark, the gory, and the macabre. It includes brand new films, both feature-length and short, from around the world, including many that will never be released at US theaters. Genres include horror, suspense, violent crime films, and everything in between. The festival takes place each year at the Carolina Theatre. Visit event website.
Experience life as a Civil War soldier by walking through a living history encampment with re-enactors from both sides of the war. Talk with soldiers about their roles and living conditions, watch military drills, see cooking demonstrations, and more. The Bennett Place State Historic Site is where Generals Johnston and Sherman negotiated the largest troop surrender of the war, and now houses reconstructed buildings and a museum to preserve its history.
Aiming to "stimulate and educate your palate," the Bull City Food & Beer Experience features food samples from 30 Durham restaurants and beer tastings from 50 breweries. It is a great opportunity to sample food and drink from local vendors and to meet the people behind them. The event also includes live music, and it all takes place inside of DPAC, Durham Performing Arts Center. Visit event website.
The biannual Durham Art Walk gives art lovers a chance to browse and buy locally-made art. Find jewelry, painting, clothing, ceramics, glass, and other unique goods to spruce up your wardrobe, brighten a room, or give as a gift. The event also features live entertainment and activities, all in Downtown Durham. Visit event website.
Full Frame is a four-day, international festival featuring nearly100 documentary films, along with the directors, producers, and subjects who take part in making them. Each year the film lineup includes world and US premieres, Academy Award contenders, as well as films that may have limited distribution. In addition to film screenings, fans can take part in Q&As, an awards barbecue, and discussions about the state of documentary filmmaking. The Full Frame organization also presents free documentary screenings throughout the year. Visit event website.
Art of Cool is a three-day festival featuring more than 20 world-class jazz performances. Past performers include: Anthony Hamilton, a platinum-selling artist; Grammy Award-winner Snarky Puppy; Maceo Parker, known for his work with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic; as well as a mix of local and up-and-coming acts. Events take place at five venues, expanding Durham's jazz offerings in the heart of downtown. Visit event website.
For over 40 years, this annual event celebrates African and African-American culture. Activities include food, arts and crafts, kids' activities, and music. Both local and national acts are included, with past headliners including hip-hop legends Da Brat and Biz Markie.
Featured on the show Man v. Food, the Doughman is a team relay quadrathlon combining eating with a traditional triathlon. Local and out-of-state participants compete to raise money for community organizations. Put together a team and join in the fun, or cheer from the sidelines. Visit event website.
This annual festival brings together headlining musical acts in a celebration of electronic music, as well as panel discussions and presentations of new technology of interest to musicians, enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and industry insiders. Past headliners include The Flaming Lips, Dan Deacon, Moby, Passion Pit, Santigold, and Explosions in the Sky. Visit event website.
Called "the world's greatest dance festival" by the New York Post, the American Dance Festival (ADF) brings two months of modern dance to Durham every summer. The festival features over two dozen dance companies and hundreds of choreographers, writers, and students participating in classes, seminars, and performances. Throughout the year, the ADF organization also offers educational opportunities and community projects to promote modern dance. Visit event website.
The Beaver Queen Pageant is an annual Durham fundraiser and a local favorite event. This beauty pageant features contestants dressed in elaborate beaver-themed costumes, and allows bribing of the judges for a good cause (with the proceeds going to the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association). You can also find food trucks and other fun at this family-friendly event. Visit event website.
Durham's annual Juneteenth celebration, sponsored by Spectacular Magazine and the Triangle Cultural Awareness Foundation, celebrates African-American Independence Day. Visitors will find live entertainment, artists, vendors and exhibitors, and food at this outdoor fair. Visit event website.
Experience Independence Day the Durham way with the Festival for the Eno. Situated on the banks of the West Point on the Eno park, the festival features dozens of musical acts on multiple stages, along with art, hands-on crafts, food and beer, and water activities. The music includes folk, bluegrass, and similar styles. Visit event website.
Bull City Rumble is a vintage motorcycle and scooter rally hosted by Ton Up NC on Labor Day Weekend. Downtown Durham fills with the sights and sounds of vintage scooters, motorcycles, and enthusiasts from around the world. The weekend includes a juried bike display, burlesque dancers, rock and roll music, and food and drink. Visit event website.
Held at the historic Carolina Theatre, NCGLFF is the second-largest gay, lesbian, and transgender film festival in the Southeast. The films range from features to documentaries to shorts, highlighting directors from across the country. In addition to screenings, the schedule includes a kick-off party, family-friendly events, and food trucks. Visit event website.
Every year, Durham celebrates its place in blues history with the Bull Durham Blues Festival. The two-day event features both national and local acts, including leading artists in blues, bluegrass, and folk. Past performances include Big Daddy Wilson, Claudette King, Jimmy Haggard, John Dee Holeman, and Buddy Guy.
For over forty years, this art and community-focused street festival brings Downtown Durham to life with arts, crafts, entertainment, food, and fun. Dozens of artists from across the country display their works in clay, drawing, glass-blowing, printmaking, photography, painting, jewelry, and more. CenterFest is presented by the Durham Arts Council. Visit event website.
The NC Pride Parade is the Tar Heel state's annual gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered festival, taking place each year in Durham. The parade draws thousands of costumed marchers alongside decorated floats and vehicles. Additional activities include a 5k run, festival vendors, speeches, and parties taking place around the Triangle. It's a great opportunity to support an inclusive community. Visit event website.
This annual event is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors to meet, discuss diversity in entrepreneurship, and learn from each other. With panel discussions and pitch competitions, Black Wall Street: Homecoming celebrates the legacy of Black innovators in Durham, while bringing together the next generation of entrepreneurs. Visit event website.
Hosted by All About Beer Magazine, this festival brings together more than 250 world-class beers from breweries around the world, as well as food vendors and great music by local and regional artists. Sample rare and unique beers, learn about ingredients and pairings, and hang out with fellow beer enthusiasts at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Downtown Durham. Visit event website.
Browsing unique local artwork and crafts is always a fun time, but when it doubles as holiday shopping as well, it's even better. The biannual Durham Art Walk's winter edition does just that, providing patrons with the chance to buy one-of-a-kind pieces from local artists. Visit event website.
A two-day comics and film festival headquartered at the Durham Convention Center. Meet the illustrators, writers, and creators behind your favorite comics and characters. Events include panel discussions, a costume (cosplay) contest, the Comiquest Film Festival at Carolina Theatre, and more. Visit event website.
Experience Christmas in the 1870s at Duke Homestead and discover how one of the most important families in Durham history would have celebrated. Costumed interpreters take guests on a candelit tour of the historic site, decorated for the season. Enjoy live music and dancing in the Third Factory; then move to Washington Duke's historic home for stories, carols, cider, and other holiday traditions. Visit event website.
This annual holiday event at Historic Stagville, one of the antebellum South's largest plantations, stays true to Stagville's larger mission of educating the public on the lives of both the enslaved population and the plantation's owners. It includes living history demonstrations, music, food, and decorations to show visitors what a typical Christmas was like at Stagville - for all parties.
Bennett Place was a simple farmhouse before it became the site of the largest troop surrender of the Civil War. Those joint legacies are honored each year when the historic site hosts living historians who decorate the site with traditional Christmas cheer, cook traditional Christmas meals, and show what soldiers visiting home from the front would have done and thought. The event also includes caroling, music, cookies, and cider.
Don't miss the SunTrust Broadway Series, a lineup of direct-from-Broadway hit shows in the state-of-the-art DPAC, Durham Performing Arts Center. Each season presents Tony-winning productions and fan favorites from some of Broadway's most accomplished writers and directors. Past shows include The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, The Wizard of Oz, and Jersey Boys. Visit the DPAC website for details and tickets. Visit event website.
The Durham Bulls season kicks off every April and runs through early September, with plenty of opportunities to catch a home game. Enjoy special promotional events throughout the season, including $1 concessions nights, Star Wars night, food truck fests, and Bark in the Park. All Friday and Saturday night games end with a firework display over Downtown Durham. Visit the Durham Bulls website for the current schedule. Visit event website.