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Weekend Trip to Durham, North Carolina 2023 (Go Duke!)

North Carolina has been "home" for me in many different ways. Growing up, vacation consisted of traveling to the Outer Banks every summer. It quickly became my favorite place on Earth; my family, the ocean, seafood, running, pirates, ghost stories, lighthouses, dolphin sighting and all the Christmas stores. If you know me, you know these are all of my favorite things.

When I was in elementary school, my Nana (my rock) moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Visiting her became a multiple-time-a-year treat. I fell in love with everything she took me to like her neighborhood 4th of July parties and the yummy restaurants. The southern charm was everywhere.

I loved everything about North Carolina; so when I found an internship at Duke University pop up on, I applied right away. I wasn't sure how I was going to make an unpaid internship in Durham work out, but it was worth a shot. Not to toot my own horn, but with my GPA and prize interviewing skills (chef's kiss), I got the job. The next minute I am searching Craig's list for someone who needed a sub-lease.

I won't give all the crazy details of how that went down nor my time in Durham, but I will tell you this is yet another town I fell madly in love with. Maybe it was the "independency" that made me really enjoy Durham, but none the less it is truly a treat every time I get to come back here.

Little Amanda in 2015 at Cameron Indoor

Sunday | the drive, what to do in the rain, Sundays in the south

We lucked out that the rainiest day of the trip was the day we drove 3 hours to Durham. I'd rather it be raining while we are stuck in the car compared to trying to explore. It takes around 3 hours from Fort Mill to get to Durham. I've never truly experienced "traffic" during this journey (I've made it a few times now) but if it is raining, you will want to take it slow as the roads are super slick.

Before checking into our hotel, we decided to go straight to the Duke University bookstore to get our hands on a jersey. The bookstore will come up in your Apple Maps, so simply follow the prompts to get there. The only precaution to take is that there is no parking; so you'll either need to do so illegally or walk. We may or may not have turned our hazards on and went inside, but we came out without a ticket. You didn't hear it from me!

If you are able to spend some time here, check out the entire building. It's a bit older but it serves as the student center with places to study and eat. I always like checking out these parts of Universities.

I snagged an awesome black Duke jersey and a refillable Duke water bottle. Perfection!

We checked into the AC hotel located conveniently near Cameron Indoor. It was brand spankin' new! It had a lovely covered garage, fitness center, and huge bar. We unloaded and freshened up before grabbing a drink at Dram and Draught. This cocktail bar was also new in Durham, but had several other locations around Raleigh and Chapel Hill. The bartender was also from Ohio; he was super nice and we reminisced on how much Ohio has grown. The other bartender was the sweetest college senior student. I loved my drink, but I loved the company even more!

Dram and Draught

This happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, and I had originally planned for us to go to Tobacco Road Sports Bar. This bar overlooks the Durham Bulls baseball park and is decked with TVs and sports paraphernalia on the inside. I thought it would be perfect. Little did I realize, everyone in Durham also thought it would be perfect. After trying to get in, we went to five more places before throwing in the towel and diverting to a spot that had no TV's but had good food and drinks. This spot is the tried and true, Counting House. I've been here at least ten times; and although I wouldn't tell anyone to spend their Super Bowl Sunday here, it served Mike and I well as always. The Counting House is inside the 21C Museum Hotel. Just as cool as it sounds, this hotel doubles as a museum, with artwork that is changed out seasonally and follows a specific theme. You can order your drinks at the Counting House then venture into the hotel and check out all the amazing art. This specific Sunday, we opted to order our food and stay put. However, if you try it out I recommend the full experience of the 21C.

Food (left to right): My order, the swordfish with the side chicory green salad; Mike's order, the drunken noodles w. tofu; our appetizer, the mezza rigatoni

Collecting wins: MOVEMENT: opting to walk around looking for restaurants instead or driving. NUTRITION: choosing a seafood (protein) and greens salad (fiber) as my meal over heavy fat or carbs. WELLNESS: prioritizing sleep and not staying out late!

Monday | working, exploring Duke, Yoga, and fun food

Monday morning was a typical work-filled day. I started at 5 am with a virtual client, and didn't stop until 11 am. However, I had one hour from 6-7 am in which I ran to the fitness center and got cardio in. I opted to do the elliptical for 45 minutes and listen to Rihanna's greatest hits (Super Bowl performer, what can I say!?).

AC hotel gym

Around 9 am, I guzzled a protein drink with powder from SwissRX . I like their protein powder when I am traveling because it has a bit of protein, carbs and fat from great ingredients. It's also a vegan protein source with a complete amino acid profile because it uses other vegan sources like chia seeds and brown rice. It also has Quercetin, a supplement I regularly take to fight inflammation and sickness. It's got everything I need in one packet.

Around noon, I went on my favorite walk around Duke's East Campus, the Duke Wall Trail. It's one of my favorite walks because it goes in a loop, has parking (in Whole Foods) and their are other trail connections. I love the tunnel (pictured below) because students graffiti it with mostly beautiful things. Every time I return, the walls look different.

At this point, I was near Cosmic Cantina; a Mexican burrito spot that stole my heart while working at Duke years ago. What really happened was, every Friday I worked at a farmers market for the Duke Hospital employees and Cosmic Cantina had a food truck. They'd sell out of their burritos every Friday except the nice worker always saved me a vegetarian burrito (so he says, "saved"). He'd give me a burrito every friday and I loved it. If I didn't eat it that night, it'd be waiting for me in the fridge after a shift at Fishmongers. I decided Mike needed to try Cosmic Cantina's burritos so I finally went to the hidden spot and was not surprised with how "rustic" their joint was. I was a bit nervous actually going up the steps into what seemed to be an apartment space, to find an awesome hole-in-the-wall fiesta.

After returning to the hotel, I brought Mike his burritos and ate their cheesy salad with a side of chips and guacamole. I had never been so full. I decided it was a great time to walk to the Duke Chapel and get more steps in. From the AC hotel, the Duke Chapel is about 1.5 miles away. It was easy and very walk-able. It felt nice walking amongst students since it was a class day!

I walked back to the hotel around 3:30 and legit rested until my 5pm yoga class. I was so tired, I had officially walked 16,000 steps by this point. At 5, I headed to a yoga class at Global Breath. I had been to Global Breath at their old studio one time to support a friend teaching and I fell in love with it! I went back and enjoyed a vinyasa class with 3 other men. The class wasn't too fast and felt good to be guided through breath and movement.

Just when you thought I had done enough for the day, we don't stop here. Mike and I quickly got ready at the hotel and headed to a 7:30 dinner at Parizade. I had never been to this restaurant before but it was around when I worked here years ago, so I figured it would be a good one! And that it was. Parizade was an upscale Mediterranean restaurant. Although the appetizers sounded scrumptious, I was still pretty full from lunch. We ended up ordering just our main courses and wine.


Collecting wins: MOVEMENT: moved all day! I decided to walk everywhere and get in as many steps as possible. NUTRITION: starting my morning with a great protein source with excellent ingredients plus hydrating with my new, reusable Duke water bottle. WELLNESS: calming my body and mind with an evening yoga class at Global Breath

Tuesday | Valentine's Day, Raleigh adventures, Duke basketball game

And so, the big day has arrived! The entire reason we made our way to Durham was to attend the Duke vs. Notre Dame basketball game. This was my first game ever and I couldn't have been more excited. Not only were we attending the game, but my husband took the whole day off to spend it with me!

We both slept in until 8-9am, which is much later than I am use to. I headed to the gym to get cardio in before Mike and I headed to Raleigh for the afternoon. I am unfamiliar with Raleigh and Mike had never been, so we decided this would be fun to check out. I had gone to the State Farmer's Market many times before and thought that would be a perfect place to start.

We got a seat at the State Farmer's Market Restaurant; a joint known for their large biscuits. It was incredible, but think all things diner and hometown cooking. I opted for a grilled chicken salad and Mike got a breakfast plate. After breakfast we crossed the street to the market where a few vendors were up and running. Even on a Tuesday, the produce was beautiful and fresh.

State Farmer's Market Restaurant

We headed to O2 Fitness in Raleigh for a lift. These local gyms are all over the research triangle area. I like them because they are well kept and have everything you need for both cardio and strength. Since I hadn't lifted in a few days, I was eager to hit some heavy weights with Mike.

O2 Fitness- cardio area

After our lift, we went to downtown Raleigh but didn't find much. Unfortunately, when I don't plan or research ahead of time, we get kinda lost on what to see and where to go. We headed back to the hotel to rest until our early dinner.

Dinner was at one of my favorite pizza spots, Pizzeria Toro . I remember the first time I brought Mike to Durham, we barely knew each other! This restaurant was our date night and it still felt so romantic to this day. We ordered a red and white pizza along with side salads. Everything was exceptional.

We headed to Cameron Indoor which was a mile walk from our hotel. The air was crisp and the sun was warm. It was so exciting to walk inside and find our seats. We laugh, but our seats were actually the highest point in the entire court. However, it is so small inside that there isn't a bad seat in the house. We didn't move after finding our seats; no need for pop or snacks, we were thoroughly enjoying the game. Couch K was even sitting on the floor below us!

If you ever have the opportunity to see a Duke Basketball game in this historic place, go do it. The energy, the students, the history.. was all incredible. I hope to do it again someday, but I am so grateful to have gotten that amazing experience. And, we won!

Collecting wins: MOVEMENT: lifting weights at the Raleigh gym NUTRITION: getting a big chicken salad for lunch, preparing for a pizza + wine dinner. WELLNESS: spending all day outside at the Farmer's Market and walking to/from the game, absorbing rays and vitamin D
Durham Favorites:

Things to do:

  • Tour / Walk Duke University's campus

  • Walk Sarah P Duke Gardens

  • Duke Basketball

  • Bull's Baseball

  • Tobacco Road District/Shops

  • South Gate mall

  • Tobacco Road Trail

  • Durham Performing Arts Center

  • 21C Museum Hotel

Places to eat:

  • Counting House

  • Mateo Tapas

  • Happy + Hale

  • Cosmic Cantina

  • Pizzeria Toro

  • Luna

  • Alley Twenty Six

  • Parizade

  • Tobacco Road Sports Bar

Gyms + Studios:

  • O2 Fitness

  • Global Breath Yoga


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