The American Tobacco Trail got a bad rap in 2012 after a series of muggings, but all's been quiet since city police stepped up their presence. The fitness freaks and nature enthusiasts far outnumber the miscreants, so invite a friend to walk, bike or run all or part of the six-mile paved route from downtown to Southpoint mall. The trail picks up again south of the suburban shopping district and heads to Wake County.
Beaver Queen Pageant: The annual fundraiser for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association is quintessential Durham: an inclusive, family-friendly event in Duke Park featuring folks in drag and other costumes rife with sexual overtones. You'll laugh while the double entendres zoom over your kids' heads.
Cell towers dressed as pine trees: Artificial tannenbaum, these pseudo-conifers obscure the metal scaffolding of cell towers. Find one behind Foster's and Guglhupf on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard and another off North Roxboro in Braggtown. They don't fool the birds. They don't curb global warming. And they can't block radiation.
Downtown loop: A civil engineering goatfuck in which Ramseur veers to Roxboro which meanders to Morgan and then back again. Leave the Mobius madness: From Ramseur, turn right onto Blackwell to see the Durham Bulls, the AAA farm club of the Tampa Bay Rays. Nothing says summer like at night with the Bulls—or catch a day game after calling in sick to work. You look pale and feverish; better sit in the sun, eat a hot dog and drink a beer.
Eno River State Park: Straddling the Orange/Durham county line, the 4,200-acre getaway has a rugged landscape overlooking the beautiful, shallow waterway. Get out there and get lost.
FULL As in the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the premier spring event at which people from throughout the U.S. and the globe converge on Durham for three days of celluloid reality. As in Fullsteam, the family-friendly and hipster brewery in very happening Old North Durham. As in how you feel after you've eaten your way through the city's food trucks: grilled cheese, dumplings, pizza, gyros, ice cream. Too much, though, and you'll head to the letter R for regurgitorium.
Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: Held each August at the Carolina Theatre, the film fest runs for 10 days and features some of the best movies of the genre. The festival also hosts parties and family-friendly events to help beat those dog days of summer.
Hayti Heritage Center is the centerpiece of the historic African-American Hayti neighborhood, disjointed by 1960s "urban renewal" projects, including the construction of N.C. 147. Branford Marsalis recorded an album here—it was formerly St. Joseph's church—and the grand building hosts musical, cultural and community events.
Also under H, we can't forget heat and humidity, the hallmarks of Bull City summers.
INDY Week. That's us. For 30 years, we've been the alternative voice in Durham and the Triangle. Progressives, as long as the INDY is here, you'll never be alone, even as the Legislature destroys civilization.
Jazz programming on WNCU: At 90.7 FM, the radio station of N.C. Central University, WNCU's jazz offerings are among the best in the Triangle. (Shaw University, WSHA 88.9, also does a swell job, but the signal doesn't quite reach the Bull City.) Check out WNCU's funk and R&B shows and provocative talk programming that you won't hear on the Triangle's more well-known but straighter NPR affiliate, WUNC.
K-Ville: We can understand camping out for concert tickets—that was in the old days before the Interwebs—but Duke students live in tents for months (and leave a trail of trash behind) in order to get into certain basketball games, particularly the UNC match up. There are rules and regs that we can't keep track of, but if you're a Dookie, learn 'em: A stint in Krzyzewskiville is de rigueur for undergrads.
You're not a full-fledged Durhamite until you've eaten a paleta from Locopops. Buy the ice cream confections from the store on West Hillsborough Street or snag one from a cart at the Durham Farmers' Market. Our favorite: Mexican chocolate.
Murray, Pauli: Civil rights activist, lawyer and the first African-American woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray is one of Durham's most beloved figures. Murray, who died in 1985, was named an Episcopal saint in 2012. Her face is painted on several murals, including the side of the TROSA Frame Shop at 313 Foster St. and on the brick building at Buchanan Boulevard and Maxwell Avenue. Local preservationists are trying to resurrect her childhood home in Southwest-Central Durham.
Nasher Museum of Art: Part of Duke University, this home to modern art is the ideal place to rest—and expand—your mind. The range of exhibitions is nearly boundless: Alexander Calder, The Vorticists, Barkley Hendricks and more. On view through June: "Exposing the Gaze: Gender and Sexuality in Art." And after your exercise in mind expansion, stop by the cafe for lunch and enjoy it on the patio.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parade: Second to the Pride Parade, this Latino-themed promenade exemplifies Durham's cultural vibrancy. It occurs every December in Durham's West End and honors Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as La Virgen de Guadalupe, an icon in Mexican culture. With traditional music, colorful banners and a teenage girl dressed as La Virgen, the parade starts at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on West Chapel Hill Street and winds through Southwest-Central Durham.
Formerly known as Black Wall Street, Parrish Street was the headquarters of Durham's African-American financial district from the 1890s to the 1960s. Several black-owned businesses remain, including Mechanics and Farmers Bank and Blue Coffee Cafe. Now it's also home to storefront Latino churches and bail bondsmen as well as hipster bakeries, breweries and doughnut shops.
The Q Shack, officially known as The Original Q Shack, serves barbecue "tender as a mother's love." Also try the beef brisket, hush puppies and cole slaw. Bathe in the macaroni and cheese.
ESP, psychic phenomena, paranormal and out of body experiences: The Rhine Research Center explores the frontiers of consciousness. Learn more at monthly meetings and regular events—on May 31 check out a presentation on the federal government's ESP research known as Project Star Gate—and visit the Alex Tanous Library, one of the largest in the country devoted to parapsychology.
A fixture of the annual Pride Parade—a testament to Durham's inclusiveness—Skating Jesus dresses in a white robe and carries a rainbow flag. He accepts all and rejects none, just like we're told the real Jesus behaved. At the 2011 parade, Skating Jesus graciously approached a man dressed as a traditional Jesus. Traditional Jesus, who was "carrying" a cross—although a wheel on the heavy end was a cop-out—scowled and rebuffed Skating Jesus. Not very Jesus-like.
You might think we would choose Tobacco, but in the spirit of lung power, we've opted for The Tuba Exchange, the quirky shop on Chapel Hill Road. Look for the canary-yellow building to find a large selection of tubas, euphoniums, French horns and sousaphones.
Ugly buildings: The Pickle, as University Tower is known, was built by a Texas developer, thus earning its other nickname, the Dallas Phallus. Erect, it's 17 stories tall. Driving in from the west, you'll see it looming over U.S. 15-501. Is that a skyscraper in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Runner-up: Built in the 1960s, the Mutual Community Savings Bank on East Chapel Hill Street is like a mangy dog, so ugly it's cute. It has a white facade with gold pencil-shaped appendages pointing toward the ground. Yeah, man, acid is groovy.
VOICE, The Durham: A community media outlet covering Northeast Central Durham, is a joint project of the UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. Central journalism programs and Durham residents. The online publication covers important social and cultural issues—and positive news—in this often-neglected area of the city.
I know of just one person who has seen Wool E. Bull with his head removed, and no amount of prodding will convince her to disclose what she saw. The beloved mascot of the Durham Bulls, Wool E. (the E. stands for Education) can light up the face of any fan—especially when he's "racing" the bases against toddlers (he always loses). I embraced him once. I never wanted to wash again.
Xylophone player John Beck of Durham's Mallarmé Chamber Players toured the U.S. as a soloist with several bands. If you'd rather hear underground indie rock, check out 'XDU—that's WXDU—Duke's college radio station at 88.7 FM.
Find peace on the eight-planked Yatsuhashi Bridge at Duke Gardens. The low, wooden footbridge is built in a zigzag pattern, which, according to Japanese lore, prevents evil spirits (who apparently can't turn a corner) from following you.
Zuiker, Anton: If you follow Anton on Twitter (@mistersugar) or his blog (mistersugar.com), he'll fill your head with lots of scientific esoterica and random thoughts that add up to ... something. Zuiker (it means "sugar" in Dutch) co-founded the annual ScienceOnline Together conference. He also hosts Talk Story, a live storytelling performance similar to The Monti.