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12 Must-Have Experiences at Duke

From a Gardens sunrise to helipad tour, add these activities to your Duke “Bucket List”

It’s time to add items to your Duke Bucket List.

Whether you are a Duke employee, student or first-time campus visitor, there are unique Duke experiences that can’t be missed, such as enjoying the island scenery at the Duke Marine Lab, exploring historic Cameron Indoor Stadium or visiting the top of Duke Chapel for a beautiful view.

Here are 12 places or ways to fully experience Duke:

Watch the Sun Come Up at Duke Gardens

All around the periphery of Sarah P. Duke Gardens, tall trees can block out the rising morning sun. But enter the gardens from the visitor parking lots and head down the main entrance walkway and you’ll find a perfect spot to catch the sun’s rays when the Gardens open at 8 a.m. At the end of the path, at the Roney Fountain, a large crane sits atop the structure, spitting water into the air.

The light reflects off every drop, creating a shimmering reflection spotted from yards away. Grab a seat at the fountain’s edge or on a nearby bench and relax.

This is one of the best spots to catch a sunrise on campus.

Take a Duke Class at a Discount

Julianne Bartlett in Duke Economics is taking her first Duke class, Korean 101.

Enroll in an art history, ethics or women’s studies class at Duke through the Duke Special Employee Tuition Rate Program, which is managed by Continuing Studies. Eligible Duke employees who work at least 20 hours per week can save on most undergraduate courses for credit or personal enrichment.

Julianne Bartlett, the Ph.D. Program assistant for Duke Economics, is auditing her first Duke class, Korean 101, through the program. She writes short stories in her spare time and hopes to write a novel using information she learns about Korean culture.

“I have a life outside of Duke, and it kind of helps me feel like I’m something other than just an employee here,” Bartlett said about taking a Duke course. “It’s good for my self-esteem and it’s good for my identity.”

Cheer at Cameron Indoor Stadium and Athletics Hall of Fame

Duke’s famed basketball stadium is a must see for anyone who cares to check out one of the most famed athletic arenas in the country.

Whether attending a game or not, all sports fans should take time to see the history of campus sports at the Duke Basketball Museum and Athletics Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The museum and Hall of Fame honors individuals and teams, including five special displays for each of the Duke men’s basketball team’s NCAA championships.

Establish Roots at Duke Campus Farm

Photo courtesy of the Duke Campus Farm Facebook page.

Help rainbow chard, radishes and potatoes thrive by volunteering at Duke Campus Farm.

Every Thursday and Sunday, pending the weather, Campus Farm employees hold workdays for Duke community members and the public. From 3 to 5 p.m. both days at 4934 Friends School Road in Durham, volunteers help plant, harvest, pull weeds and work on small construction projects. Volunteers are asked to wear close-toed shoes and bring a reusable water bottle. Check the farm’s Facebook page for any updates regarding the volunteering schedule.

Get face-to-face with Lemurs

Established in 1966, the Duke Lemur Center is home to six prosimian species and 15 different endangered lemur species, including Bonita, left, a baby mongoose lemur, and Murphy, right, a blue-eyed black baby lemur born this summer.

Located about two miles northwest of West Campus on the edge of Duke Forest, the Lemur Center has become a favorite stop for animal lovers with a selection of tour options to get up close to lemurs.

The basic “Lemurs Live!” tour is a discounted $10 per ticket for employees, but there are more in-depth options for $75 and $95, where visitors can come face-to-face with lemurs. It’s an educational experience unlike anything a zoo could offer.

Ascend to the Top of the Chapel

Get a breathtaking 360-degree view of Duke campus and Durham by taking the hidden stairs to the top of Duke Chapel.

The Chapel “Tower Climb” is restricted to groups directly affiliated with the university and must be sponsored by one full-time Duke faculty or staff member. Schedule a climb by sending email to Include “Tower Climb” in the subject line.

Visit Duke Hospital’s Helicopter and Helipad

Photo courtesy of Duke Photography.

Whenever you see the Duke Life Flight helicopter take off from one of Duke Hospital’s two rooftop helipads, there are two nurses and a pilot on board who are responding to a patient in need.

Duke employees can find out more about Life Flight air transport operations by arranging a free tour to see the Eurocopter EC145 up close and walk on the helipad.

Contact the Duke Life Flight administrative staff at 1-800-362-5433 to arrange a tour. Groups can also arrange to see Life Flight’s critical care ambulance fleet.

Technology Engagement Center

2D printing is so last year.

Anyone from the Duke community can use campus’ newest high-tech hub where 55 3D printers can spit out just about anything, from a whirling gyro sphere toy to shoes.

There’s also laser cutters and computer controlled cutting machines for wood, plastic and other materials that allow for careful and delicate creations to hang on walls or keep at your desk.

Located in the first floor of the Telecommunications Building, the center is the ideal way to see how Duke advances technology and learning for employees and students. Plus, how often do you get the chance to print a 6-inch tall statue of the Blue Devil?

Explore Nature in Duke Forest

This photo of Duke Forest was taken by Holly Leddy, a research and development engineer in Duke’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility.

Take a stroll or run through Duke Forest, which is managed by the university and comprised of 7,052 acres spread across three counties. Visitors can also bike and horseback ride on forest roads, rent a picnic shelter, or fish with a valid North Carolina fishing license.

“The Duke Forest offers numerous benefits to the Duke and public communities,” said Sara DiBacco Childs, Duke Forest’s director. “Its value lies in its use as a teaching and research asset, but it also provides a wonderful opportunity for reconnecting with nature, for enjoying the beauty and renewal one can only find in a natural setting.”

Due to the start of Duke Forest’s deer herd reduction program in late September, some of the forest trails will be closed to the public on weekdays through Dec. 16. Check the schedule for details.

Discuss Art with a Guide

Photo by J Caldwell at the Nasher Museum

The next time you visit the Nasher Museum of Art, examine artwork with a gallery guide.

The Nasher offers Highlights Tours, in which gallery guides talk about particular pieces of artwork around a weekly theme. There are also Slow Art Tours, in which visitors examine one piece of art for about a half-hour.

Both tours are free with admission, and admission is already free for Duke employees who show a valid Duke ID.

“Being able to come on the tour with the guide can give a visitor an overarching view of the exhibition and a chance to look at five or six works in depth, have some of their questions answered, and maybe be a little more prepared on that visit or another visit to explore independently,” said Jessica Ruhle, manager of public education for the Nasher Museum of Art.

View upcoming Highlights Tours and Slow Art Tours on the Nasher calendar to plan your visit.

See a sunset at Duke Marine Lab

Located 180 miles southeast of Durham, the Duke Marine Lab on Pivers Island is worth the drive to get a sense of the cutting-edge education and research that takes place on the southern tip of the Outer Banks. Guided tours of the Duke Marine Lab are restricted to prospective students, but faculty and staff are free to visit the campus, see the facility and browse the island to enjoy waterfront views.

“Looking south you’ll see the open ocean and the Beaufort Inlet and east is picturesque downtown Beaufort and Carrot Island, complete with wild ponies,” said Katie Wood, senior program coordinator for undergraduate & Marine Lab programs. “We have the best sunsets.”

Gaze at Stars and Planets

From left to right, Yuriy Bomze and Ronen Plesser have helped organize Duke Teaching Observatory events.

Explore the night sky by peering at asteroids, the moon’s craters and star clusters through Meade LX200GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes.

The Duke Teaching Observatory, located in Duke Forest along Cornwallis Road, holds free stargazing events every semester that are open to the Duke community and the public. The next meetup is Nov. 4, but check the website and Facebook page for the complete schedule and for cancellations due to cloud cover or inclement weather.