Top 10 Fun Things to Do Outdoors Near Me

Craving fresh air and a dash of adventure? Our guide cuts through the clutter to reveal the top “things to do outdoors near me”. From tranquil trails to spirited sporting activities, we’ll help you uncover local spots perfect for a quick getaway or a full day of exploration—no lengthy trip planning required.

Discover Local Parks and Trails

The charm of the outdoors is often rooted in the humble park, essential to both urban and rural communities. If you desire a tranquil corner to enjoy a book, a vast field for a family frisbee game, or a series of trails for a dash of adventure, local parks and trails have a wealth of outdoor activities to offer.

The Eno River State Park and West Point on the Eno stand as beacons of natural beauty in the Durham area, inviting explorers to discover the scenic and recreational opportunities that unfold within their realms.

Family-Friendly Parks

Forest Hills Park, recognized as one of Durham’s top family-friendly parks, provides a sanctuary for a day filled with fun and relaxation. Picture your little ones laughing as they swing from the playground, or your entire clan gathered around picnic tables, sharing stories over a home-cooked meal.

Adding a hint of adventure, Hideaway Woods and Into the Mist feature outdoor play areas where children can ascend treehouses, traverse through streams, and interact with innovative mist controls. These parks are not just playgrounds for kids but sanctuaries for adults to unwind and reconnect with nature.

Hiking Trails for All Skill Levels

Durham’s hiking trails cater to all, from accessible routes for novice hikers to strenuous paths that test even the most experienced trekker. Here are some examples:

  1. Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail: a 2.2-mile journey through flat terrain that is as inviting to a toddler’s first hike as it is to a grandparent’s leisurely walk.
  2. Brumley Forest Nature Preserve North: offers moderately challenging treks that are rich with wildlife and historic elements.
  3. Holden’s Mill Trail at Eno State Park: another moderately challenging trail with beautiful scenery.
  4. Umstead State Park Trail: a more demanding path that offers a longer and more challenging hike.
  5. American Tobacco Trail: an extensive trail that stretches out to welcome the most resilient of hikers.

Scenic Walking Paths

For those fond of exploring on foot without the challenge of steep inclines, Durham’s picturesque walking paths are an ideal choice. The Sarah P. Duke Gardens Path and the Southpoint Path are picturesque routes that offer accessibility and a blend of natural and urban scenery.

Longer walking routes such as those in Brumley Forest Nature Preserve North and the American Tobacco Trail invite leisure walkers to immerse themselves in varied landscapes and the tranquility of nature. Whether it’s a walk through Duke University’s East Campus for an urban hike experience or a trail that leads to the Lamprey River, each path holds the promise of a new perspective on the town’s natural beauty.

Water Adventures

The allure of the water is undeniable, enticing adventurers to plunge into a realm of water-based activities. Berks County lays out a watery playground where you can swim, paddle, and fish to your heart’s content. The Cape Fear River, with its diverse paddle sports, stands out as a destination for everyone from the stand-up paddleboarding novice to the yoga enthusiast seeking balance on the water.

Embark on a journey to discover the top locations for aquatic excitement and exploration.

Lakes and Rivers for Swimming

On a hot summer day, a swim in a natural body of water provides the ultimate refreshing respite. In Durham, places like:

  • Falls Lake
  • Jordan Lake
  • Eno River
  • Lake Michie

beckon with their cool waters and family-friendly amenities. These locations offer a respite from the heat, with their inviting waters and picturesque surroundings.

Imagine yourself:

  • Floating in the calm waters of Rolling View at Falls Lake Recreation Area
  • Listening to the playful laughter of children in the background
  • Soaking in the sun and the serenity of the moment

Boating and Kayaking Spots

For paddle enthusiasts, the boating and kayaking opportunities at Rolling View State Recreation Area and Lake Michie are undoubtedly must-experience activities. With rentals readily available, you can glide across the water’s surface, exploring hidden coves and enjoying a picnic on the water.

As you navigate through the tranquil waters, the gentle lapping against your boat or kayak becomes a meditative rhythm, harmonizing with nature’s chorus.

Top Fishing Locations

Anglers, too, will find their paradise in Durham, where fishing spots like Eno River State Park and Lake Michie Recreation Area offer a quiet sanctuary for those seeking the thrill of the catch. With a variety of species, from largemouth bass to bluegill and crappie, these top fishing locations provide not only a bounty of fish but also the chance to commune with nature.

Whether you’re casting a line at the break of dawn or watching the sunset with a rod in hand, the experience is as much about the peaceful surroundings as it is about the excitement of reeling in your next big story.

Biking Excursions

Cycle through Durham’s picturesque landscapes, where a range of biking trails are ready to accommodate cyclists of all levels. From those seeking a leisurely jaunt to adrenaline junkies craving rugged mountain trails, the area offers a rich tapestry of paths that beckon two-wheeled explorers.

The American Tobacco Trail is a standout, offering a seamless journey through Durham’s core and beyond.

Leisurely Bike Routes

The American Tobacco Trail is a cyclist’s dream, offering 22.6 miles of scenic beauty, perfect for families, friends, or solo riders looking for a peaceful escape on wheels. The Third Fork Creek Greenway, White Oak Creek, and Black Creek Greenways are extensions of this leisurely biking experience, offering paved paths that wind through charming towns and vibrant communities.

These routes are more than just paths; they’re a journey through the heartbeat of the region, where every turn offers a new vista to savor.

Mountain Biking Trails

For the more daring cyclists, Durham’s mountain biking trails offer the thrill of the ride. Some popular trails include:

  • Buckeye Loop
  • RTP
  • Kids Loop (beginner-friendly)
  • Fire Road (more intense)

There’s a route to match every skill level and desire for adventure.

As your tires grip the terrain and your heart races with every bump and turn, the thrill of conquering nature on two wheels is an unmatched exhilaration.

Bike Rentals and Tours

Not every adventurer comes equipped with their own steed, which is why Durham Cycles offers a fleet of rental bicycles to suit every preference. For those looking to delve deeper into the area’s rich tapestry, Preservation Durham’s ‘Murals by Bike’ tour offers a captivating glimpse into the city’s historic murals, tobacco, and civil rights history, all from the unique vantage point of a bicycle saddle. It’s these pedaled tours that turn a leisurely ride into an educational journey, one where every pedal stroke brings a new story to light.

Wildlife Encounters

‘The call of the wild’ is more than a phrase; it’s an invite to explore the habitats of all creatures, large and small. In Durham, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves provide a sanctuary for both animals and humans, where the beauty of nature can be observed in its purest form.

From the majestic flight of bald eagles to the diligent osprey, Jordan Lake is a hub for wildlife enthusiasts looking to connect with the natural world.

Wildlife Sanctuaries and Reserves

Jordan Lake not only offers prime fishing but also serves as a viewing stage for an array of wildlife, including the iconic bald eagle and the skilled hunter, the osprey. These sanctuaries and reserves are not just havens for wildlife; they are also places of education and recreation, where visitors can learn about conservation efforts while enjoying the great outdoors.

Birdwatching Hotspots

Birdwatching is more than a pastime; it’s a gateway to the delicate balance of our ecosystem, and Durham’s birdwatching hotspots are a testament to this. The Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve stands out as a sanctuary where bird enthusiasts can trail-walk under rare Hemlock trees while observing a multitude of bird species in their natural habitat.

These hotspots provide not only a chance to spot the vibrant plumage and hear the sweet calls of our feathered friends but also to appreciate the diversity and complexity of avian life.

Guided Wildlife Tours

Guided wildlife tours elevate the nature experience to new heights, offering educational insights into local ecosystems and conservation efforts. Whether it’s a birdwatching tour that allows visitors to learn about local and migratory bird species or a night-time safari that offers a rare glimpse into the world of nocturnal animals, these tours provide unique exploration opportunities for all.

For those drawn to the marine world, specialized tours offer a chance to observe a variety of sea creatures up close, making every encounter an unforgettable chapter in one’s outdoor adventures.

Tee Off at Nearby Golf Courses

From peaceful fairways to testing bunkers, golf – a game steeped in tradition – continues to captivate a multitude of enthusiasts. In Durham, golfers of all skill levels will find a course that suits their swing, thanks to the 25 diverse golf courses within a 15-mile radius. With both public and private options available, these courses are a testament to the region’s love for the game.

Top-Rated Golf Courses

For those who relish a top-tier golfing experience, Durham’s top-rated golf courses offer remarkable designs and stimulating challenges that will captivate even the most seasoned players. These esteemed courses have earned recognition in Golf Digest’s Places to Play, marking them as destinations of high quality and player satisfaction. Some of the top-rated golf courses in Durham include:

  • Course 1
  • Course 2
  • Course 3
  • Course 4

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, these courses provide an exceptional golfing experience.

Whether it’s mastering the perfect drive or sinking a challenging putt, each course provides a unique encounter with the sport, making Durham a prime destination for golf aficionados.

Beginner-Friendly Golf Courses

For those new to the greens, Durham extends a warm welcome with its beginner-friendly golf courses. These well-maintained courses are designed with the novice in mind, offering a congenial environment where one can learn and enjoy the game without the pressure of perfection.

With a variety of courses available, beginners have ample opportunity to practice their strokes and gain confidence in their newfound hobby.

Mini-Golf and Driving Ranges

Mini-golf and driving ranges offer a delightful and inclusive outdoor activity that transcends ages and skill levels. At mini-golf courses, families can putter around pirate ships or navigate jungle-themed obstacles, while driving ranges provide the perfect backdrop for honing your golf skills, with some even offering the convenience of nighttime practice.

Not only do these activities foster family bonding, but they also introduce the younger generation to the joys of golf, ensuring the sport’s legacy continues to flourish.

Outdoor Sports and Activities

Durham’s array of outdoor sports offerings is where the thrill of competition and the pleasure of physical activity come together. With a diverse range of activities, from hiking at Eno River State Park to family-friendly fun at Durham Central Park, there’s an outdoor pursuit to match any interest.

Whether you’re riding along the 22.6-mile American Tobacco Trail or immersing yourself in the serene surroundings of Lake Michie, Durham’s outdoor scene is a playground waiting to be explored.

Baseball Fields and Games

Baseball, America’s pastime, thrives in Durham, where multiple fields are dedicated to the sport. Whether you’re looking to play a casual game, watch children’s leagues, or bask in the camaraderie of community sports, these fields are perfect venues for baseball-related activities.

Wrightwood Park, in particular, is a community gem, offering a youth baseball field where the next generation of athletes can hone their skills and learn the values of teamwork and sportsmanship.

Disc Golf Courses

Disc golf enthusiasts will find their niche in Durham, with courses like West Reading Disc Golf and Angelica Parks offering the perfect blend of sport and nature. These courses are not just for casual play; they also provide a competitive arena for those looking to test their skills against others.

And for those who prefer their adventures on two wheels, Cornwallis Loop’s unpaved paths offer a fantastic mountain biking alternative.

Horseback Riding and Rock Climbing

For those seeking a connection with animals or the thrill of ascending new heights, horseback riding and rock climbing are activities that promise adventure and excitement. Brightleaf Stables offers horseback riding excursions on over 56 acres of trails, catering to riders of all levels. Meanwhile, rock climbing enthusiasts can challenge themselves at indoor facilities like Reading Rocks or the natural cliffs of Birdsboro Climbing Quarry, where over 150 routes await.

Whether you’re riding through tranquil woods or scaling rocky outcrops, each activity offers a unique way to engage with the great outdoors.

Winter Wonderland

When a blanket of snow adorns the landscape, Durham’s trails and greenways morph into a winter wonderland, ready for discovery and enjoyment. The cold season brings with it a host of activities that turn the chill into a warm invitation for fun, from the silent glide of cross-country skiing to the laughter-filled slopes perfect for sledding.

Cross-Country Skiing Trails

The Sweet Trail beckons cross-country skiing enthusiasts with its lengthy stretch through forests and wetlands, offering a serene yet invigorating workout amidst nature’s winter splendor. This popular trail provides an opportunity to embrace the crisp winter air and experience the tranquility of a snow-covered landscape, all while engaging in a healthy and enjoyable outdoor activity.

Snowshoeing and Sledding Spots

Duke Park becomes a winter playground for snowshoeing and sledding, where families can enjoy the simple pleasures of a snowy day. While the laughter of children echoes across the hills, it’s important to keep safety in mind, steering clear of trees and other obstacles to ensure a fun and secure sledding experience.

Ice Skating Rinks

As temperatures drop, ice skating rinks in Durham open their doors, offering a classic winter pastime that is both enchanting and exhilarating. Whether it’s a child’s first time on the ice at the Polar Ice House or a seasoned skater practicing their spins, these rinks cater to a range of abilities and provide a variety of activities, including hockey and skating performances, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Family-Friendly Outdoor Attractions

Family time becomes even more delightful when immersed in the wonders of nature and the thrill of outdoor attractions. Durham’s offerings, from the nurturing gardens of Durham Central Park to the interactive exhibits at the Museum of Life + Science, ensure that every family outing is filled with discovery and delight.

Amusement Parks and Theme Parks

The Ellerbe Creek Railway invites families to step back in time with nostalgic train rides that weave through scenic landscapes, providing an idyllic setting for outdoor entertainment that delights both young and old.

Zoos and Animal Parks

Zoos and animal parks are not just places to see exotic creatures; they are vital centers for education and conservation. Through interactive exhibits and educational programs, families can learn about wildlife and the importance of preserving our natural world. Evening bat watches, butterfly gardens, and safari-like tours add to the allure, creating experiences that are both fun and informative.

Botanical Gardens and Farms

The natural beauty of botanical gardens and farms, such as the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the North Carolina Botanical Garden and Coker Arboretum, offer a peaceful retreat for those looking to connect with the land.

The Farmyard allows visitors to immerse themselves in a working farm environment, providing an authentic experience that brings agriculture and nature to life.

Explore Your Town’s History

A town’s history unfolds through its historical landmarks, outdoor museums, and guided tours. In the town of Durham, the echoes of the past resonate at Bennett Place, where significant Civil War events unfolded, and history buffs are invited to step into the shoes of those who shaped our nation.

Historical Sites and Landmarks

The Bennett Place stands as a monument to history, marking the site of the largest Confederate army surrender during the Civil War. This place, along with Eno River State Park’s historic structures, offers a tangible connection to the past, providing an educational backdrop for visitors to learn about the region’s indigenous and colonial history.

Outdoor Museums and Exhibits

Outdoor museums and exhibits in Durham offer a dynamic learning experience, whether it’s coming face-to-face with life-sized dinosaur replicas on the Dinosaur Trail or exploring urban wetland ecology on a boardwalk.

The Reedy Creek Greenway, in its picturesque trail connecting Umstead State Park to downtown Raleigh, seamlessly integrates outdoor recreation with art appreciation as it passes by the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Guided Historical Tours

Guided historical tours in Durham offer a profound understanding of the town’s rich history, from the achievements of the African American community highlighted in Whistle Stop Tours to the landmarks of the tobacco empire showcased by Tobacco Road Tours. These tours provide an immersive experience, bringing to life the stories and achievements that have shaped the area’s identity.

Plan a Perfect Picnic


Picnicking, a beloved outdoor tradition, marries the delights of a meal with the splendor of nature. In Durham, the perfect picnic can be found among the scenic views of Sarah P. Duke Gardens or the historic setting of West Point on the Eno, where nature’s backdrop enhances the flavors of each bite.

Scenic Picnic Areas

Some picturesque spots for picnicking in Durham include:

  • The American Tobacco Campus lawn, with the iconic Lucky Strike water tower providing a historic ambiance
  • Sarah P. Duke Gardens, with over 55 acres of lush plant life and a Historic Gardens area
  • Duke’s East Campus, which offers quaint spots complete with wooden benches and a gazebo for a laid-back outdoor dining experience.

Parks with Picnic Facilities

Durham’s parks come equipped with picnic facilities designed to make outdoor dining convenient and enjoyable. From the picnic areas of Wrightwood Park to the shaded lawns of Forest Hills Park, there’s no shortage of spots for a delightful alfresco meal.

These best parks provide not just tables and grills but also a sense of community and connection as families and friends gather to share food and laughter in the huge space of the great outdoors.

Tips for Planning a Picnic

To ensure a successful picnic, consider packing essentials like sunscreen, water bottles, and extra snacks, and don’t forget utensils and a good book for a leisurely read after the meal. When picnicking with young children, opt for a picnic bag over a traditional basket for practicality, and bring along a wagon for easy transport of supplies.

Keep picnic snacks simple yet satisfying, and include a favorite treat to delight your family. To keep the little ones entertained, pack games such as Frisbee or board games, ensuring your outdoor meal is accompanied by joy and play.


As we conclude this journey through the great outdoors, it’s clear that the opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and family fun are as vast as the horizon itself. Whether you’re traversing a scenic trail, paddling down a tranquil river, teeing off at a lush golf course, or exploring the rich tapestry of your town’s history, there’s an outdoor activity to suit every interest and passion. So step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and embark on your own outdoor adventure—let nature’s playground inspire your next unforgettable experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most popular outdoor activity?

Running is considered the most popular outdoor activity, with nearly 58 million Americans participating every year, followed closely by hiking with around 58 million participants per year as well. So, running and hiking are the top choices for outdoor activities.

What are some family-friendly parks in Durham for outdoor activities?

Durham offers family-friendly parks with amenities like playgrounds and picnic areas, such as Forest Hills Park and Hideaway Woods, perfect for outdoor activities with kids.

Where can I find hiking trails suitable for different skill levels?

You can find hiking trails suitable for different skill levels in Durham, such as the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail for a gentle hike or the trails at Umstead State Park and the American Tobacco Trail for more challenging options. Happy hiking!

Are there any guided wildlife tours available in Durham?

Yes, there are guided wildlife tours available in Durham that offer educational insights into local ecosystems and conservation efforts, including specialized tours for birdwatching and night-time safaris. Check them out if you’re interested!

Can you recommend any historical sites or landmarks to visit in Durham?

You should definitely visit Bennett Place in Durham, which is a key historical site marking the largest Confederate army surrender during the Civil War. Also, check out Eno River State Park for its historical structures and exhibits. Enjoy your visit!