If you haven’t heard of Durham, North Carolina, it is time to take notice. This relatively small city is home to around 267,000 people, the Research Triangle Park, Duke University and world-class hospitals, research and healthcare facilities. Combine that with plenty of local parks, the Durham Performing Arts Center and an active music scene and it is easy to see why Durham is a great option for travel nurses looking for a fun city without the stress of a big metropolitan area. If you are interested in a city that will provide plenty of professional opportunities along with affordable housing and a rich culture, Durham is worth a closer look.
Raleigh and Durham are both home to James Beard award winning chefs and the food scene rivals that of New York and Los Angeles. There is a focus on local, seasonal ingredients and you don’t have to spend a lot to experience excellent food. Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is the perfect place to start and enjoy some Southern cuisine. If you’ve never tried chicken and waffles, this Southern staple is a great combination of sweet and salty. The shrimp and grits is another popular dish or they even have some great salad options if you prefer something lighter. For a fine dining experience, head over to Vin Rouge for some French cuisine paired with fine wines. Getting a table last minute can be difficult, so it is a good idea to call ahead and make reservations. The menu features classic dishes to showcase fresh seafood that is brought in daily from the North Carolina coast. Nana’s is another dining destination that attracts foodies from all over the state and the country. Chef Scott Howell has received eight James Beard nominations and proudly serves a variety of American style dishes that rely on fresh, local ingredients. The menu changes with the seasons, so you can always come back for a different experience.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, NC - Photo by Mark Hough, 2016
The temperate weather in North Carolina means that there are plenty of outdoor activities and attractions to enjoy throughout the year. Whether you have a green thumb or you simply enjoy a stroll in beautiful surroundings, a visit to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University is a must. The gardens cover 55 acres of landscaped woods, fields and gardens with flowers, trees and shrubs from all over the world. There is a stunning rose garden, a terraced section that blooms with colorful tulips and even an Asiatic area complete with bridges and ponds. You can walk the 5 miles of trails and visit the gift shop and see if you can find a tiny plant to take on your travels. While spring is a particularly nice time of year to visit, there is plenty to see and do throughout the various seasons. You can even make a day of it by bringing a picnic and enjoying lunch in the beautiful scenery.
While you are on Duke’s campus, take the time to visit the famous chapel which sits right at the center of the University. The chapel showcases the English Gothic architectural style and was designed by Julian Abele, who is one of America’s first famous black architects. Construction began in 1930 and was first used in 1932. Today, it hosts ecumenical services and supports the faiths of all people on campus and in the community. It is open for visits throughout the day and definitely worth a look while you are in town.
The Museum of Life and Science provides a great way to spend the day. The museum is also part park and sits on 84 acres that includes plenty of hand-on exhibits that allow guests to interact with animals and learn about nature and the world. You can spend some time at the butterfly house, get up close and personal with bears and pet a variety of farm animals.
If you are an avid concert goer or you love to see live shows, the Durham Performing Arts Center and the Carolina Theater both offer packed schedules throughout the year. DPAC is known for hosting its SunTrust Broadway series, which allows residents to enjoy the best shows Broadway has to offer. The Carolina Theater is a small venue that hosts big name musicians, film festivals and special movie nights. Both venues are located in downtown Durham and within walking distance of plenty of bars and restaurants, so you can make an evening of it and enjoy dinner and a show.
Durham is also home to a vibrant local music scene. Any night of the week, you can visit Motorco or the Pinhook to see up and coming bands and artists. Both locations offer unique shows and concerts for a small cover fee. From pop culture icons, like Big Freedia, to acoustic artists, like Heather McEntire, you never know who you might find on stage. The intimate setting at both venues puts you front and center and the drink specials are friendly to any travel nurse who may be on a budget.
Sports fans will also have plenty of options to choose from in and around Durham. The famous Durham Bulls minor league baseball team plays at the stadium located in the heart of the tobacco warehouse district. This expansive complex features office space along with restaurants and bars. Even if you aren’t attending a baseball game, the area is perfect for a nice evening stroll and enjoying a cocktail on one of the many outdoor patios. If you do end up staying till the end of the game, you will be treated to an impressive fireworks show. If you travel with a furry companion, be on the lookout for their special dogs in the park nights where visitors are allowed to bring their four-legged friends to the game
If you aren’t a big baseball fan, there are a lot of other sports teams in and around Durham. The Carolina Hurricanes professional hockey team plays at the PNC Arena, which is just a short drive east from Durham. College basketball is also popular in the area. Be sure to plan ahead if you want to make it to a game, but the North Carolina Tarheels and Duke Blue Devils are both near Durham. These two teams have an epic rivalry and a long history of winning championships, which means that you might get a glimpse of future NBA stars as they play against other highly competitive ACC teams. Finally, football fans have plenty to choose from when it comes to watching games in person. You can catch a NCSU, Duke or UNC game or take the train to Charlotte to watch the Carolina Panthers.
If you don’t want to worry about the hassle of bringing your car with you on assignment, Durham is a pedestrian-friendly city with plenty of public transportation. The city streets are lined with bike lanes and biking to work and other destinations is a big part of the local culture. You can safely and easily traverse the city on bike and this provides a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather and get to know the area. In addition, while the city is growing rapidly, the downtown area is fairly compact, making it a walkable city depending on where you live.
When you do need to venture outside of central Durham to one of the local hospitals, there are regular bus lines that help transport residents and employees.. There is also an express bus that runs between Raleigh and Durham, so you could even expand your housing search to include Raleigh as well. If you are looking for a fun weekend trip, the train provides another affordable transportation option and offers stops in Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville and other cities that may be on your list of must-visit places during your travel nurse assignment.
One of the reasons Durham is growing so rapidly is the affordable cost of living. As a bonus for travel nurses, it is also home to several well respected medical facilities. The area attracts some of the brightest minds from across the country and offers excellent professional opportunities. The Duke Regional Hospital serves the community by offering cancer care, cardiology, obstetrics and other essential services.
For pediatric travel nurses, the Duke Children’s Hospital is located in Durham and is ranked among the top 50 children’s hospitals in the country. This cutting-edge hospital is leading the way when it comes to finding unique ways to diagnose and treat pediatric issues. The expansive Duke health system has other offices and facilities throughout Durham and Raleigh, so if you are looking to work as a travel nurse in the area you may have options outside of the main hospital.
Although Durham is becoming an increasingly popular destination, there are still affordable housing options for travel nurses. Whether you want to rent a whole house, apartment or condo or share a space with a roommate or fellow travel nurses, you can choose from a long list of fully-furnished, short-term rentals from landlords who want to host travel nurses. You can even search properties based on specific amenities you want, proximity to work and other important factors. Here is a quick glimpse at the type of housing options you will find in Durham:Duplex Apartment Close to Duke/Durham
If you are working at Duke and want to stay near downtown, this is a great example of private furnished housing in the area. You will enjoy a two bedroom/one bath duplex in the Trinity Park complex. It comes fully furnished and also has an in unit washer and dryer which is always an added bonus for travel nurses. This property offers the right amount of space and privacy while still putting you in the thick of it all so that you can experience the best that Durham has to offer.
For those who do bring a car, there are two off street parking spots for your use. Otherwise, the bus stop is just a short walk away. The property comes fully stocked with all the kitchen, bath and linen essentials so you don’t have to worry about cramming your car with too much stuff on your way out to your assignment.Beautiful Home to Share
One of the best ways to save money while travel nursing is to rent a room in a home. For those who may be looking for more spacious accommodations that provide a quiet respite from work and the city, this newer home is nestled in a peaceful neighborhood and surrounded by woods. There are two rooms listed in this landlord’s home, so you may end up having a fellow travel nurse as a roommate. You will enjoy full access to the deck, fireplace, grill and you can take advantage of the community pool and tennis courts to help you unwind after a long shift.
Some other perks that come with this property include: your own private bathroom, full access to the kitchen, and a washer and dryer in the home. Although this option is a little further from the hospitals in Durham, the price reflects this and allows you to trade a little extra money in your pocket for a slightly longer commute.
Durham is a truly unique city with a spirit all its own. The city has a thriving art and music scene and is surrounded by city and state parks, so whether you are a city person or like to get outdoors you can find something to keep you busy in between shifts. It doesn’t hurt that the area is also home to major hospitals, universities and research centers.
Amy M. Blitchok is a professional writer with years of experience covering a variety of topics that range from aging in place to travel to business and marketing. Her insatiable appetite for knowledge means that she spends most of her days reading and then sharing what she has learned through her writing.