Swing batter batter. Who’s ready to enjoy a fun family night out at the Durham Bulls Baseball? Reason number 58 we love living in Raleigh is that it’s only a short 30-minute drive from downtown Raleigh to this iconic USA baseball experience!
In case your new to the Raleigh area – or just visiting – and aren’t aware, the Durham Bulls are a Triple-A minor league baseball team that currently plays in the International League.
The Bulls play their home games at Durham Bulls Athletic Park located in the downtown area of Durham, North Carolina. It’s a team made famous by the 1988 sports comedy, Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon.
The Bull Durham movie propelled all three of them into major league Hollywood status and the Durham Bulls baseball team to international attention.
Baseball is a game we find pretty boring to watch on TV, and Major League baseball is such a long season. However, we love going to a live baseball game, especially minor league games, as it’s such a fun experience. We love the atmosphere, the loud singing, the free flowing beers and hotdogs!
And of course, it’s summer and in the Triangle region that means balmy weather. There is no better place to be than outside watching an evening game of baseball than at the Bulls stadium!
We plan for attending at least one Durham Bulls game every summer and it’s always one of our favorite family evenings out. So if you’re a Raleigh local, or just visiting, then plan for a summer night out at the Durham Bulls baseball game. It is listed as one of our top things to do in North Carolina.
Minor League Baseball
Many people will tell you that minor league baseball can often be more enjoyable than a major league game. While watching the Red Sox at Fenway Park has been our ultimate baseball experience, we do agree that we tend to have more fun at minor league baseball games!
There are more perks and promotions in the minor league competitions to entice families to come watch a game and compensate for the lack of major league swinging power and pitching speed.
Don’t be put off by that though, as the baseball players are still great and you’ll see big home run hits. You always have the chance of watching an up and coming player as well. Check out the Durham Bulls roster.
You’ll also often find nights with cheap beer, things on for the kids, or fireworks!
For Durham Bull Games they have promotions such as $2 Taco Tuesday, $1 concessions on Thursday nights and spectacular Friday night fireworks, which is what we experienced. And of course tickets are usually cheaper!
Okay so batter up. Here are our tips to make it a great night, no matter who is pitching.
Cheap Tickets Trick
If you aren’t fazed about where you sit – or even if you sit during the game – then buy a cheap ticket for the small grassed section overlooking the outfield.
We discovered this on our recent visit to the Durham Bulls baseball game on the July 4th weekend. The tickets were much higher than we had expected for seating. Tickets we used to pay $8 for were now around $30.
So we bought the $11 grass ticket and didn’t even sit there. We were having way too much fun walking around the stadium, eating and drinking with awesome views overlooking the stadium, and the bar on Jackie’s Landing, while the kids were playing in the Kid Zone and hanging with their friends (enjoying the concession stands!)
That’s what I love about the baseball at Durham Bull stadium, no matter where you go, you have a great view and the atmosphere is always fun on the bar/restaurant level.
No matter your ticket level, you can hang around that level. They even have some plastic chairs and tables near the railings you may be lucky enough to grab with fantastic views.
Pre-Game Drinks or Food: Tobacco Road sports cafe
We recommend making it a special night out in Durham by having a pre-game drink or dinner. The food at the baseball is your typical baseball food. With gluten free issues, it’s rarely a good option for us and overpriced, so we eat somewhere before hand. Thankfully there are many great places to eat near the Bulls stadium.
However, to make it more of a Durham Bulls experience, look no further than Tobacco Road Sports Café.
Not only do you get great pub food, but awesome views of the Durham Bulls stadium. The restaurant is located above the blue monster in left field of the Bulls park. They have an outside seating area where you can enjoy great food, cheaper drinks and views of the stadium. There is always a great atmosphere here as well.
Before a game, you can sit on the outdoor patio and catch batting practice, which usually takes place about two hours prior to first pitch.
Be sure to reserve a table as it’s popular. There is a bar you can sit at for walk-ins.
You can even come here to enjoy the ballgame experience without paying for Bulls tickets. The view of the playing field is not uninterrupted as there is a gap between the restaurant and the ball field railing, which is where many ticketed people stand to enjoy the game.
The durham bulls game Experience
If it’s your first time to the Durham Bulls game, or any US baseball game, I recommend you go for tradition – a hot dog, a beer and a seventh inning stretch.
For those not in the know, the seventh inning stretch is when you stand up to sing,
“Take me out to the ball game.”
As an Australian living in Raleigh, we LOVE cultural experiences like this!
These are the little thrills travel can bring to us. The unexpected surprises we discover as we get to know and understand the foreign land.
While I might not understand baseball, and probably don’t want to, I do enjoy the atmosphere of a ball game especially at Durham Bulls.
There is always a fun summer party vibe at a Bulls game. People are friendly and in high spirits, roaring and cheering with each crack of the ball. The many northerners who have relocated to the Raleigh-Durham area have brought a passionate vigor for baseball to the stadium.
There is always something happening on the field – when the game is having a break – from games involving the kids, to funny MC’s, celebrations of local people and the crowd-pleasing Mascot Wool E. Bull.
The Bulls are a great, historic team to watch. They won their first championship in 1917 as a member of the North Carolina State League in 1917. Since then they have won 13 more, including five League Championships and two National Titles since making the jump to Triple-A in 1998.
Nostalgic baseball lovers will appreciate the hand operated scoreboard. (There is also a video board!)
Durham Bulls Athletic Park: Views all round!
The 10,000 seat Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) opened in 1995, replacing the Bull Durham Athletic Park at Washington and Corporation streets. It was built to Triple-A baseball standards in preparation for the team’s elevation from Single-A level to an International League farm team for the Tampa Bay Rays in 1998.
Ballgame attendees will be happy to know that all the seats have pretty good views and you can walk around bar hopping or to watch the game from different angles. You won’t find a bad place in the stadium to see the game.
The seats in the 200 sections behind home plate are under a roof so offer shelter from the extreme heat or rain. All other seats will be exposed. Another reason we love night games is for the balmier temps.
It’s brick exterior fits perfectly with the revitalized, historic Tobacco District just across the street and the Lucky Strike Cigarette tower in full view of every seat in the stadium reminds you of this city’s history.
I love the views of the city from the stadium. It’s a pleasant mixture of old and new and on a perfect’s summer evening, it will be complemented with a beautiful rosy sunset.
The Snorting Bull
Be sure to look out of the giant bull standing over the Blue Monster, which is the 32 ft left-field wall that resembles Fenway’s Green Monster.
This is not just any bull – it’s the famous Snorting Bull, a fixture at the historic Durham Athletic Park from 1988 until 1994. It was built as a prop for the movie Bull Durham.
It’s not just standing as a proud and glorious part of the Durham skyline. It has a home run celebratory purpose. When the Bulls hit a homer and circle the bases, it blows smoke from its nostrils, wags its tail and lights its eyes up red! I hope you get to see it.
In 1995 this original bull was replaced with a larger bull created for the new (and now) Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Bull sits on a patch of grass with a “Hit Bull Win Steak” slogan emblazoned on it enticing each batter to hit it with a free steak reward if they do!
As mentioned, we don’t really hit the concession stands at the game, but you’ll find your typical options.
Bull City Hospitality service concessions stands throughout the ballpark, so you’ll find more local flavors such as BBQ-themed sandwiches, nachos, and hot dogs.
Local restaurant, Pie Pushers offers pizza and Boricua Soul, a popular local Puerto Rican restaurant has a stand out on the left-field side of the park.
Pie Pushers offers pizza, while other stands offer sausages, wings, Mexican cuisine, Asian cuisine, and more.. Lines are often long and slow and prices high.
We love how Durham keeps it local and real!
Jackie’s Landing is a 10,000 square foot concourse on the third level of the ball park with Jackie Robinson Dr. as its southern boundary. We love the spacious, fun atmosphere here that offers great views of the right field.
There’s BBQ and Burgers and the 42 Bar sits in the middle serving craft brew, cider and spirits.
We also love the merchandise store up here. We picked up some cool T-Shirts!
There was a cool kid zone section set up for the kid on Jackie’s Landing to shoot basketballs, run through mazes and jump around.
Playground 42 is where you can play shuffleboard, putt on a putting green, and more in an open air environment.
Wool E. World, a playground for children with inflatables, slides, and interactive games. It’s free for kids under age 5.
Our girls loved the Kid Zone when they were younger. On our visit this summer, they still spent time in there but not as long. We like to drag them out so they can watch at least some of the game. We want them to get to know this American sport and cultural experience.
If you can, see a Durham Bulls ballgame on a fireworks night (typically Fridays). We have twice now and they are pretty impressive and go for a long time. The kids will love them.
A Little History: Tobacco and Bulls in Durham
Okay, so what is the connection between Durham, tobacco and bulls?
The growth of Durham happened after the Civil War with an increase in demand for tobacco, due to the wonderful North Carolina tobacco that many soldiers experienced.
J.R. Green, a tobacco manufacturer realized he needed a specific name and trademark for his tobacco product. Over a lunch of oysters one day, his friend pointed to the bull’s head on the Coleman’s Durham brand mustard jar, suggested he use a bull for his trademark. So Bull Durham Tobacco was born.
Bull Durham smoking tobacco was widely advertised and was one of the world’s best-known American products of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In 1879, to differentiate from this shredded pouched smoking tobacco, J. B. Duke founded The American Tobacco Company in 1890 and specialized in cigarettes.
American Tobacco left Durham in the late 1980’s and in 2004, the abandoned plant was re-birthed as the American Tobacco Historic District, a complex of offices, restaurants, and shops. And it is fabulous at Christmas time…
There is plenty of open space here for the kids to run around in with a lovely outdoor stage area, a small river running through it, and community events year round.
You can read about more things to do in Durham here.
Where to stay in Durham
If you visit Durham for a Bulls game and need accommodation, check out these cool Durham hotels.
Right in the heart of downtown Durham, this mid-century motor lodge has been revamped into a funky, vibrant hotel and tastefully decorated to honor the 1960 lodge but with modern twist.
The rooftop pool and patio is a hit, and just a fun overall place to stay.
The Durham Hotel
How about a mid-century modern classic boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Durham? The design is colorful and chic, and there’s a restaurant by James Beard Award-winning chef, Andrea Reusing, and a rooftop bar (the first in Durham).
Book your stay at The Durham Hotel.
21 C Museum Hotel
Once the SunTrust Bank, this restored building is now a 125-room boutique hotel and doubles as a contemporary art museum. It’s eclectic and inspiring design and museum adds to the innovative and exciting spirit of Durham.
The King’s Daughters Inn
Looking for boutique hotels in Durham near Duke University? Consider the historical King’s Daughters Inn, a handsome brick building that dates form the 1920’s.