What's on Tap

What's on Tap

American Tobacco: Culture, food and fun in downtown Durham

Posted May 10, 2016

​American Tobacco Campus (ATC) is located in the heart of downtown Durham, and a strong case can be made that ATC is the heart of downtown Durham, after all, the revitalization of these old tobacco manufacturing buildings just over 10 years ago is what gave life back this once forgotten area and started to transform the entire city into what is now a true destination location.

Just over a decade later, ATC is one of Durham’s most desirable places to visit, boasting theater and sports entertainment, fine dining and casual eating experiences, modern accommodations, and it’s within walking distance to the best sites and spots in the Bull City.

Stay & Play

When looking for lodging, why not stay in the center of it all? Last August, ATC welcomed modern boutique hotel chain Aloft Durham Downtown. The hotel has comfortable rooms from standard sizes to larger suites and top-notch amenities like a bar and lounge, gym, and outdoor pool overlooking the iconic Lucky Strike tower.

Aloft hotel at ATC

The Aloft is attached to Durham’s nationally acclaimed theater: Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), which attracts some of the best Broadway shows, musicians, performers and entertainers in the country to North Carolina, and is a major draw to the area. Recognized for its contemporary design, DPAC prides itself on presenting one-of-a-kind live entertainment that offers something for everyone, including families, couples and performing arts enthusiasts.

If theater isn’t your cup of tea, you can always head over to the other side of ATC and catch a Durham Bulls game at the newly improved Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Tickets are affordable; the stadium is the perfect size for families of all ages, and it has its own onsite brewery (Bull Durham Beer Co.) along with many local Durham food vendors serving everything from empanadas to donuts.


Explore & Experience

ATC is even a fun place to stroll around and explore. In the center of the converted warehouse buildings (which are now mixed use office/businesses, housing, restaurants and event space) are beautifully landscaped grounds and water features. There’s even a section that has hammocks for lounging, a gorgeous gas fire pit, and a life-sized Durham-themed outdoor chess set.

During the summer, ATC hosts the Back Porch Music on the Lawn series on Thursday evenings. People gather on the lawn under the Lucky Strike tower to enjoy the warm summer nights and listen to free live music.

ATC is also home to Full Frame Theater – a small, intimate theater that seats about 100 and offers year-round programming, screenings and classes. During the spring, it’s one of the sites for the Full Frame Film Festival, showcasing some of the nation’s best documentaries.

Eat & Indulge

There’s no shortage of delicious restaurants in Durham within walking distance from ATC, and the campus itself is home to a variety of eateries from family-friendly joints to upscale dining establishments for date nights and celebrations.


For more upscale, date night dinners try two of ATC’s newest restaurants: Basan Sushi and NanaSteak. Basan serves high quality sushi and creative Japanese cuisine in a modern and comfortable atmosphere. They also have an outdoor patio underneath the giant Bull’s billboard right next to the ballpark. It’s located just a few steps out the front door of the Aloft Hotel.

NanaSteak is a brand new addition to the scene, situated conveniently between the Aloft and DPAC. In an homage to Durham's long tobacco history, the bar top and tables are inlaid with real tobacco leaves. With a focus on locally sourced ingredients and a mouth-watering menu, this is a perfect place to impress your date.

For a more casual, family-friendly bite to eat before or after a game, head over to Only Burger for some seriously good combos of classic and specialty burgers and fries. Mellow Mushroom is also a great kid-friendly option, with pizzas that will satisfy both kids and parents.

For sports fans and late nights, Tyler’s Restaurant & Taproom and Tobacco Road Sports Cafe have everything you need, including burgers, mac n’ cheese, and plenty of beer. Both broadcast games on multiple screens in the restaurant and become popular hangouts in the evenings and during big sporting events. Tyler’s overlooks the ATC lawn beneath the water tower, which is lively during the summer, and Tobacco Road overlooks the Bull’s ballpark, providing a fun vantage point to catch the game while eating.

Whether you’re coming to Durham for a vacation, festival or business trip, American Tobacco has it all in one convenient spot, from Broadway shows to sporting events to festivals and food. Located in the center of everything the Bull City has to offer, it’s no wonder it’s become a place so many people come to stay, play and enjoy.

Amber Watson is the creator and writer of the Durham-based food blog and website Bites of Bull City, where area residents and visitors can go to get insider local restaurant news and keep up with Durham's exciting and ever-expanding food scene.

Note: American Tobacco Campus and The Durham Bulls are owned by Capitol Broadcasting Co., which also owns WRAL.


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