Durham is a small city with a lot packed into its growing downtown and diverse neighborhoods. There are all the amenities and culture of a larger town, but without the busyness and anonymity of a big city; you’ll still run into people you know in line at the grocery. Between me and my wife we’ve lived across North Carolina – Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Jacksonville – but Durham is by far our favorite city in NC, and the place we love calling home.
Wondering where to live in Durham? You’ve got lots of options. Durham is a city of many unique neighborhoods. If you’re thinking of moving to Durham and trying to decide what is the best neighborhood for you and your family, check out my Durham Neighborhoods page.
There’s always enough going on in Durham to stay busy, but it has the feel of a close-knit community that’s very different from larger cities. Here are some useful links about the city, its services, economy and other general information:
- The official City of Durham and Durham County websites.
- The News and Observer is the major local newspaper for the Raleigh-Durham area, while The Herald-Sun is a smaller local paper focusing on Durham and neighboring Chapel Hill.
- The Durham County Library system is great, with six branches and most branches open 9am-9pm at least a few days a week.
- Durham’s transit system was recently rebranded as GoDurham and operates the bus line that runs throughout the city.
- The Bull City Connector is a free bus service that runs from Duke campus to downtown Durham.
- The city recently launched Open Durham, which has a ton of data on things like crime, traffic and other city-wide statistics (but isn’t as user-friendly yet as hopefully it will be soon.)
Demographics and Data
There are around 246,722 people living in the city of Durham, with about 40,000 more in the rest of Durham County. People ages 25-34 represent the largest segment of the population (18.4%) while people ages 35-44 make up the next-largest segment at 14.3%. The median family income is $67,400 and the median home sale price (in the first quarter of 2015) was $197,000 which is an 8% increase from a year ago.
For more Durham demographic information, here are some useful sites:
- Durham Demographics, from the official City of Durham website
- October 2015 NC Economy Update, from the Federal Reserve
- Durham County compared with NC, from US Census Bureau
- Census Data with graphs and interactive map, from CensusViewer
- Quarterly Housing Market Data, for the Raleigh-Durham area from Metrostudy
Tech and Science Hub
Duke University and Health System combined make up the largest local employer with over 34,000 employees in the Triangle area. Tech and science companies employ many Durhamites as well; Research Triangle Park is 15 minutes away and is home to companies like IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Lenovo, among many others. Last year Google named Durham one of seven tech hubs nationwide and the Triangle will be among the first areas in the country to get Google’s super-fast fiber internet and construction is underway.
Universities and Hospitals
Durham is home to Duke University, North Carolina Central University, and Durham Technical Community College. Durham is called the City of Medicine for a reason: both Duke and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (right down the road) have excellent medical schools and healthcare systems. The city has all the great stuff you’d expect in a thriving college town (cultural events, coffee shops, bookstores, great bars, college sports) plus the jobs and opportunities that keep recent grads in town and bring other young professionals here to stay. Durham has been ranked one of the 10 Best College Towns, as well as one of the Top 25 Cities for Recent Grads (neighboring Raleigh and Cary also made the list).
Durham Public Schools (DPS) is made up of 54 schools, including many unique magnet programs: there are several Montessori schools, IB programs, and even a few year-round schools. Durham is also home to the North Carolina School of Math and Science, which is a STEM-focused residential high school for students from around the state. If you have teenagers, they can get excited about the new later start times for DPS high schools for the 2016-2017 school year. There are also many excellent private schools in Durham, both religiously-affiliated and secular, as well as a number of home school support groups and co-ops. Home school laws are relatively relaxed in North Carolina and it recently became the first state where home school students outnumbered private school students.
Below is more information about K-12 schools in Durham:
- The Durham Public Schools assignment map is an interactive map where you can enter an address and see school assignment data. It’s a little confusing to look at but the information is there.
- Strong Durham Schools has stories about Durham Schools from parents, students, teachers and other community members. It also has a great explanation of the somewhat complicated magnet school assignment/application process.
- Exception Children PTA of Durham County is “a group of parents, educators and administrators working to support the EC population” in Durham.
- SAT Score Data comparing scores from DPS schools to state-wide and national averages.
- NC School Report Cards for 2013-2014. Report Cards for previous years are on a different site.
- Here are some of the many homeschool groups in Durham and surrounding counties are listed here.
- Carolina Parent‘s directory of local private schools and Private School Review‘s directory.
- UPDATED: NC School Performance Grades for 2014-2015 released 9/2/15.
The Great Outdoors
One of the things we love about Durham is living in an urban area without being isolated from nature and open spaces. We can drive 20 minutes up the road to Bahama and drive through rolling hills and farms. We can buy pastured meat and eggs from Blue Whistler Farms, watch the chickens scratch in the dirt, and then be downtown 20 minutes later. Falls Lake has a big, gorgeous lake for swimming and boating and picnics, and Jordan Lake is a 30-minute drive away. There also are some beautiful hiking and walking trails throughout the area, including the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail. One of my favorite things to do outdoors is go swimming in the quarry at Eno River State Park (this is cliff-jumping swimming and can be dangerous…Falls Lake is a better bet for the kids).
Here are some more great things to do outdoors around Durham:
- A map of Durham greenways and trails with info on where to park.
- Duke Gardens is 55-acres of walking trails, trees, flowers, a lake…we love going here with our kids for a picnic.
- Duke Forest is made up of over 7,000 acres of land in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. There are hiking trails, trails for mountain biking, places to go fishing, and other recreation opportunities.
More Great Durham Info
These are some of the blogs I keep up with and some other great resources for Durham and Triangle area information.
- Bull City Rising has been around almost ten years and does a great job covering a lot of different local topics.
- durham.io is a good, straightforward blog about local happenings and relevant news.
- Carpe Durham “is a group blog about eating and drinking in Durham, NC” with lots of reviews of local restaurants and bars plus a nifty food truck map showing where to find Durham’s food trucks.
- Stir Crazy Moms of Durham is a great resource for parents or anyone who hangs out with kids. They give a million ideas of stuff to do with kids in the area, with great details to help you plan.
school bus photo credit: woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons
About the author: My name is Matt Minor and I’m a real estate agent with Hunter Rowe Real Estate in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. I’d love to help you buy or sell a home in the Triangle. Give me a call at 919-450-5999, or email me at email@example.com if you’re thinking about buying or selling a home in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Apex, Carrboro, Clayton, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Mebane, Morrisville, Sanford, Smithfield or Wake Forest.