A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Settled among 300 acres of pines and hardwood trees, the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club evokes a welcome as ahh-inducing as the manicured greens on which the property sits.

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Settled among 300 acres of pines and hardwood trees, the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club evokes a welcome as ahh-inducing as the manicured greens on which the property sits.

A Getaway to Durham

Settled among 300 acres of pines and hardwood trees, the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club evokes a welcome as ahh-inducing as the manicured greens on which the property sits. Outside, guests are greeted by a pair of stately alabaster lions. Inside, rich, English manor elegance meets famous Piedmont charm and warmth.

Meanwhile, just across the street, the Inn’s chic counterpart, the JB Duke Hotel, shines, looking every bit an ode to mid-century modern architecture with its shining glass exterior and sophisticated — but welcoming — lobby and guestrooms.

Together, the hotels make up two thoroughly luxurious escapes just 10 minutes north of downtown Durham — and what else would you expect in a world-famous tobacco town turned modern Southern city? The Washington Duke Inn first opened its doors to serve the needs of Duke University and Durham’s growth as an innovation capital more than 30 years ago, and the JB Duke Hotel began carrying on that spirit of hospitality in 2017. Today, both hotels’ grounds have become known for much more, serving as the perfect home base for those exploring the beautiful campus, thrilling food scene, and welcoming shops of the Bull City.

We certainly won’t blame you if you never leave the grounds (or your cozy room!) — but check out our itinerary to plan an unforgettable weekend in Durham.



Check in to the Washington Duke Inn or the JB Duke Hotel: Treat yourself to a stay at one of two upscale hotels flanking the southern edge of Duke University’s campus.

The Washington Duke Inn offers a luxurious yet comfortable stay, where history and heritage are a part of the experience in all aspects of the space. The 271-room inn pays homage to Washington Duke, the tobacco tycoon for whom the hotel, university, and forest are all named: Duke family artifacts and photographs dot the hallways, and inviting guestrooms are appointed with elegant furnishing. The best part? All guestrooms and suites have stunning views of the golf course, beautifully landscaped grounds, or Duke Forest.

The Inn’s nearby sister property, JB Duke Hotel, equally impresses — with a slightly more modern spin. Named after Washington Duke’s son, James Buchanan, this contemporary destination is home to 198 guestrooms, pulling design inspiration from North Carolina’s natural surroundings and Duke University’s royal-blue-and-white palette. Windows throughout the hotel fill spaces with natural light and offer views of the surrounding Duke Forest, landscaped courtyards, terraces, and plazas. And did we mention it’s steps away from Cameron Indoor Stadium?

Stroll the Al Buehler Trail: Once you’re settled in, leave your bags behind and get acquainted with the grounds. Surrounding the Washington Duke Inn, the Al Buehler Trail is a three-mile walking/jogging trail that meanders through Duke Forest and offers breathtaking views of Duke Golf Course. If you travel the loop in a clockwise direction, opposite the navy-blue signposts, you’ll encounter a small bridge. Upon crossing, you can take a left to add on the Sally Meyerhoff fitness loop, which is about another 3/4-mile with a variety of exercise stations along the way to enhance your hike.

Cool down at the pool: After sightseeing, shake off your travels with a nice dip in an indoor or outdoor pool. In addition to the trail, guests have access to an assortment of amenities, including pools, a hot tub, a fitness center and, if you’re craving more sun, outdoor activities at the adjacent Duke Faculty Club. The Duke Faculty Club has four pools surrounded by a vast deck area with lounge chairs, tables, a playground for the kiddos, and multiples shaded spaces. Bonus: During the day, visitors can often catch local vendors, such as Buoy Bowls and Kona Ice trucks, in the faculty club parking lot. Try a handcrafted acai bowl with fresh fruit — or a refreshing shaved ice treat — to cool down.

Try the shrimp and grits at the Fairview Dining Room at Washington Duke Inn. Photography courtesy of JB Duke Hotel/Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

Have a bite on-site: Settle in for dinner at the Washington Duke Inn’s on-site restaurant, the Fairview Dining Room, where, on Fridays and Saturdays, dinner is accompanied by a live pianist. The restaurant opens to a sun-splashed terrace for al fresco dining, and indoor seating features a view of the golf course. Try classics like grilled salmon, shrimp and grits, or the Bull Durham Burger topped with cheese, sautéed onions, bacon, and mushrooms fresh off the grill. Just don’t forget dessert — the vanilla bean crème brûlée is a must-try.

At the JB Duke Hotel, wind down in style at the hotel’s on-site Lobby Lounge — a Southern cantina. Anchored by a stunning peninsula bar, the lounge features handcrafted cocktails and delicious dishes. For dinner, try the “Nashville hot” crispy chicken with pearl sugar Belgian waffles, the Cajun fried catfish with Southern slaw, or the chicken tinga quesadilla. Again — don’t skip dessert; you won’t want to miss the apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, the chocolate slab cake, or the tiramisu. In fact, maybe you can skip dinner and just order them all?


Take part in morning yoga at the Washington Duke Inn’s Lower Terrace. Photography courtesy of JB Duke Hotel/Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club


Enjoy breakfast with a view: Pine-shadowed fairways and lushly landscaped grounds are the breakfast backdrop at the Washington Duke Inn’s Vista Restaurant. Before a full day of explorations, hop on the elevator and head to the main floor for a buffet-style or à la carte meal — including a build-your-own omelet station, Belgian waffles, and specialty pancakes. For something sweeter, try the acai smoothie bowl or vanilla yogurt parfait topped with roasted strawberries and peaches, lemon, and streusel.

If you’re staying at the JB Duke, the MarketPlace Restaurant offers quick service items for guests who need a light bite to start the day. Grab a muffin, fruit, or cereal to go, or enjoy hot breakfast entrées like pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and grits — all complemented by baristas that can kindle up espressos, cappuccinos, or other coffee-shop favorites.

Work on your swing at Duke University Golf Course or at the practice range. photograph by JB Duke Hotel/Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

Hit the links — or lounge in an Adirondack chair: The Duke University Golf Course’s traditional “parkland” design allows for short walks between the greens and features fairways enveloped by groves of tall pines and hardwoods. Whether you’re staying at the Washington Duke Inn or the JB Duke Hotel, the 30-station practice range with seven target greens is open to the public — just book your tee time in advance with the Golf Shop. If you haven’t perfected your swing (or don’t plan to!), settle into an Adirondack chair overlooking the greens and toast to a perfect weekend. Or, if you’re an early riser, catch a morning yoga session at the Washington Duke Inn’s Lower Terrace on the Green.

Get a caffeine boost: After some outdoor activity, it’s time to fuel up. Head out and explore the area with a stop at Foster Street Coffee for a latte and a croissant in Durham’s nearby Central Park District. A 10-minute drive from the hotel, this pet-friendly coffee shop offers coffee flavors from around the world.

Explore the shops and restaurants at Brightleaf Square. photograph by zimmytws/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Hit the shops in the Bull City: With coffee in hand, it’s time to find yourself a souvenir (or two) to remember your getaway. Start browsing in the American Tobacco Campus district, where you can pop into Parker Paper Company for stationery and gifts. Or head just down the street to the shop’s sister store, Chet Miller, for a selection of colorful cards, jewelry, cookbooks, and other gifts and souvenirs. (Tip: Head to the back of the shop and snap a photo with the “You are exactly where you need to be,” sign painted on the wall). Around the corner, pick up a new plant at The Zen Succulent. Or head over to Indio in Brightleaf Square, which offers a “Made in North Carolina” section with an eclectic mix of books, jewelry, candles, and art made by homegrown artists. And if you’re feeling particularly artsy, head over to the AR Workshop, a boutique DIY studio that offers classes for creating custom home decor from raw materials. Have your hand at a wood plank workshop, or experiment with making your own lazy Susan or canvas wall hanging.

Eat like a local at Enzo’s Pizza: When your stomach starts rumbling for lunch, mosey over to this mouth-watering pizzeria — just five minutes from the Washington Duke Inn — where owners Scott Morse and Robert Giuliani set out to blend their Italian roots with their New York and Columbus, Ohio, childhoods to create the ultimate pizza. Order specialty pies like the Loaded Pep and Cheese and you’ll see why this pizza joint was voted best pizza by Duke students, faculty, and families in the Durham community six times.

Admire the blooms and stroll the grounds at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Photography courtesy of JB Duke Hotel/Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club

Smell the roses at Sarah P. Duke Gardens: After lunch, take in the beauty and blooms at Sara P. Duke Gardens. Over five miles of paths and trails wind through the garden’s 55 acres, including the Historic Gardens, the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, and Doris Duke Center Gardens. In the summer, music fills the air with a free concert series, Music in the Gardens, that takes place on the lawn behind the Doris Duke Center, so plan to pack a big blanket — and save enough energy to jam out to local bands and musicians.

Eat dinner at Durham Food Hall: For a true taste of the Bull City (that will satisfy everyone in your party), grab a table at this must-visit food mecca for dinner, which is home to a diverse mix of dining and drink concepts in downtown Durham. Build your own bagel at Everything Bagels, munch on a tuna melt from Locals Oyster Bar, or try an after-dinner treat at Little Barb’s Bakery. If the cheesecake bites from Barbs aren’t enough, head to The Parlour about five minutes away for homemade ice cream.

Take in the wonders of the Durham night sky: Peaceful stargazing is the perfect way to end a busy day. Each Saturday, guests of both the Washington Duke Inn, the JB Duke Hotel, and their respective restaurants can explore and learn about constellations with the help of experts from the Chapel Hill Astronomical & Observations Society. The activity takes place just beyond the Fairview Dining Room patio, where attendees can engage one-on-one with the CHAOS astronomers to ask questions and explore constellations with the help of a telescope.



Sip and see at the Nasher Museum of Art: After sleeping in and checking out at noon, finish off your weekend on a high note with a 10-minute drive to this local landmark at the west side of Duke’s campus, which displays African, American, European, and Latin American artwork. One exhibit you won’t want to miss: “Andy Warhol: You Look Good in Pictures,” an exhibition of rare Warhol photographs including screen prints of celebrities, a group of Polaroids and black and white snapshots illustrating his social circles, and an early silent film of the curator Henry Geldzahler from 1964. (Tip: Find your spot on the outdoor patio between noon and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, and dig into brunch items like steak and eggs, the southwestern omelet, or the B.E.A.C. sandwich.)

End your journey at the Boxcar Bar + Arcade: When Boxcar owner Jerrad Bement opened this bar arcade in 2014 — with more than 70 vintage and modern arcade games, food and drinks, and a 7,000-square-foot outdoor patio and gaming area — he ensured there was something for everyone to enjoy. Sling air-hockey pucks across tables with your travel companion, play a few rounds of air-hockey and foosball or guide Pac-Man to gobble up dots. After working up an appetite, make your way inside the main bar and order up an artisan pizza and homemade soft pretzel — the perfect bite to end your getaway.

This story was published on Jun 29, 2023

Tamiya Anderson

Tamiya Anderson is a Concord-based writer and former Our State intern who is proud to call The Tar Heel State home.