By Tamar Schlekat
SETAC Scientific Affairs Manager and Durham Local

If you pay attention to SETAC activities, you’ll notice that SETAC North America has planned three focused topic meeting in Durham North Carolina in as many consecutive years, and you may wonder why. Well, since I not only work for SETAC but also happen to live in Durham, I decided to write this article to explain the logic of this choice from SETAC’s perspective and to provide you a guide to the immediate vicinity of the Durham Convention Center – the venue of these meetings – to entice you to join us and help you plan your visit.

From SETAC’s perspective, Durham is attractive because it is an integral part of the Research Triangle. Arguably, the area boasts the highest concentration of environmental chemists and toxicologists in the United States. The area is home to many high-caliber private, public and government research facilities, such as USEPA, NIEHS, Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, Bayer, Syngenta, GlaxoSmithKline, to name a few. This makes a meeting in Durham attractive to local SETACers as well as their collaborators, who can often add on a laboratory visit or a private meeting and thus maximize the value of their travel. To sweeten the deal for travelers, Durham is serviced by the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, making it easily accessible from locations round the world.

While Durham is seeing an economic revival with high-tech startups taking over old tobacco warehouses, the publicly owned convention center is still very reasonably priced, which allows us to keep registration costs low. The SETAC North America events manager, Nikki Mayo, could barely believe the prices. She reports that the price of coffee – liquid gold at a scientific meetings – is one third what it is in big convention centers.

Things to Do

In addition to all the financial and logistical considerations, SETAC is happy to host meetings in Durham because it has lots to offer participants. The Durham Convention Center is strategically situated in historic downtown and very convenient to many eating and entertainment establishments as well as activities for those seeking culture or nature.

If you have a morning or afternoon free, a hike at Eno River State Park or a stroll in Duke Gardens may be the prefect outdoorsy break. Duke Forest, a teaching working forest, offers lots to learn about soil health and ecosystems services especially if you are lucky enough to be part of a guided tour. Speaking of guided tours, the Duke Lemur center is another popular destination of interest particularly to wildlife ecologist.

For hanging out closer to the center, the Durham Hotel offers a beautiful lobby and a rooftop lounge, and the Unscripted Hotel has a fabulous rooftop patio. For an evening activity within walking distance of the civic complex, catch a baseball game if the Durham Bulls are in town or watch a movie or show at the Carolina Theatre. The Durham Performing Arts Center also offers an excellent selection of touring Broadway shows. For a more casual music venue, visit Motorco Music Hall or check for events at the Durham Central Park. Both are within walking distance as well. For participatory activities, you could try axe throwing at Urban Axes or go for some games at Boxcar Bar + Arcade.

Food Scene

Any article about Durham is not complete without discussing the food scene. Durham has been consistently dubbed as the South’s Tastiest Town by Southern Living magazine and the Foodie Capital of the South by the New York Times.

Light Fare

For a hot or cold beverage and a light snack, try Jeddah’s Tea, Parker & Otis, Coco Cinnamon, Beyu Caffe, the coffee shops at the Durham and Unscripted hotels or the Ninth Street Bakery, ironically located not on ninth street but on East Chapel Hill Street right behind the convention enter. If you are more in the mood for ice cream or sorbet, check out the flavors at The Parlour or the scrumptious locally handcrafted Mexican-style LocoPops popsicles found at the Bulldega Urban Market across from the convention center.

Craft Breweries

There are many craft breweries in Durham, so if you enjoy beer, you may want to sample a few. Pour Tap Room is right across the street from the convention center. To the west, Bull McCabe’s features an outdoor beer garden. If you walk north and downhill, you’ll get to Motorco’s Parts & Labor and Fullsteam. East of the center takes you to Ponysauurus and Hi-Wire Brewing. A little to the south of center, you’ll find Bull City Cider Works tucked close to the Durham Bulls Park. If you are more into distilled brews, you may enjoy a drink and a tour at the distillery or a mean cocktail at Alley Twenty Six or Bar Virgile.

Delicious Meals

For small groups, options for a quick and tasty meal abound from fast food to more local eateries, including Neomonde’s, famous throughout the triangle for its Lebanese cuisine, Jack Tar for American fair, Rose’s for eclectic Asian and delicious desserts, Dashi for the best bowl of Ramen you’ve ever had, to Pizzeria Torro, which does not need a description. For more upscale dining, nothing beats Mateos for tapas and Rue Cler for French cuisine. For a more lively dining experience for small and large groups, check out Gonza Tacos, Bull City Burger and Brewery, Geer Street Garden, The Pit, known for southern comfort food, or Clouds Brewing in  Historic Brightleaf for its sports bar atmosphere.

Hopefully, you are captivated with Durham as a location on top of being intrigued by the topics of our meetings. See you there!