Duke Park { Exploring Durham }

Life with two little kids these days includes a LOT of park time. For the past year, as we’ve slowly been exploring all the different parks in the city, I kept telling myself I need to post photographs of all my favorite parks and playgrounds so that I can remember which I love, which I feel meh about, and which could use some serious improvements. Here’s one of our favorite regulars to start out with!

Duke Park, 106 W Knox St, Durham

A quick ‘n dirty description: Duke park is tucked away within the Duke Park neighborhood. It has two different playgrounds – a smaller toddler friendly playground at the bottom of the hill and a large, incredibly complex play structure geared towards bigger kids up top. The park itself is quite big and has a variety of bathrooms, water fountains, picnic tables, grills, walking paths, a soccer field, and pavilions. (and possibly even a dog park in the future!)

Website: https://www.dukepark.org/


  • Unlocked bathrooms
  • Water fountain
  • Easy (and free!) Parking
  • Lots of walking paths
  • Mulch in the playground areas (which tries out faster after a bad rain than just dirt)
  • Combination of baby swings & big kid swings
  • A fantastic variety of different playground structures, including two really tall (and very safe!) tunnel slides and a smaller toddler area.
  • Not too many trees and tucked within a neighborhood, so the mosquitoes aren’t horrible in the summer.


  • There is no real fence around the entirety of the park and the park butts up against several roads. If you have a runner, you’ll be dashing up and down hills trying to catch them. Even if your toddler isn’t a runner, chances are high that he will want to dash back and forth between the big kids’ playground and the smaller toddler area.
  • In the summer, the entire playground structure is in the sunlight and the slides can become really hot. A few of those umbrella shades would help with this problem.
  • The mulch is annoying if you’re wearing sandals. #firstworldproblems #dontsayIdidntwarnyou This might be perfect, however, if your child loves bringing trucks and is happy to just sit and play with the mulch.
  • For little kids, the big playground can be a bit intense. My one year old loves climbing all the way up to the tallest tower. Good news is that it’s very safe with lots of fencing and the slides themselves are tunnels, so him falling wasn’t a concern for me. I still had to climb up multiple times to get him out of the way of the bigger kids, though. The tall tower is built with adult-sized ceilings and low steps, so this isn’t tough – just annoying! The staircase railings on the big playground are also not low enough to prevent a toddler from falling. An easy solution is to stay at the bottom (toddler oriented) playground, although if you have multiple children (or little kids who think that they’re big kids) this might not work.
  • The big kid playground is quite large and when there are more than a few children there, it can be tough to keep your child within line of vision – especially if they’re wearing red. I highly suggest dressing your child in bright blue or green.
  • This park is a huge draw to many families, so it can get REALLY busy in the summer – especially on weekends.
  • Every time I come to this park, I find myself annoyed that the designers didn’t include more adult benches within the big kid playground area. I don’t like to have to stand for several hours, but the only real alternative is to either sit on the low cement wall (which is hard on my back) or to bring a picnic blanket.
  • Speaking of the low cement wall, can we discuss how nice it would have been if either there was no wall at all or if it had been built to be taller? It’s really more of a retaining wall than anything else, but climbing it was endlessly fascinating to my one year old. And in areas, this is a steep drop for a little kid! Towards the end of our visit, I was literally just walking around and around the wall to keep my little one from climbing over it. I really wish that both playgrounds had low fences surrounding them with gates.

Duke Park in Durham, NC

Do you have a favorite park you’d love to see featured? Drop your suggestion in the comment section and I’ll do my best to get it up on the blog!

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