I say this lightly, but Shooters is not a monopoly. Yes, it might be the closest and most club-like establishment in Durham. However, there are so many other options for a fun night out that aren’t as widely circulated.

For incoming, current, and past Duke students, Shooters is boasted about from day one. I was told that I must partake in the Duke student tradition of going to Shooters Saturday (for us graduate students) at least once during my stay. And while I got through most of the “required” elements (I never did ride the Shooters bull—if you know, you know), I’ve found that I’ve had amazing nights outside of Durham’s very own mini rodeo bar.

By far some of the best nights I’ve had were at K-Mix Karaoke and Bar. At first glance, the bar doesn’t feel like much of a powerhouse. But when you grab your friends, rent a room, and let go, this is definitely the spot to be. The rooms themselves aren’t too pricey with a group, and you can order snacks and alcohol to boot. The rooms are rented per hour, and within that time you have an unlimited amount of singing available. Their song selections are pretty vast, with songs in multiple languages. It’s not much, but K-Mix has all the right elements for a hilarious, emotional, and silly night. I can’t stress how much excitement and energy this place can have, with the right friends of course. I highly, highly recommend taking a trip here, I promise it will be worth every minute.

Outside of K-Mix and Shooters, the bar scene downtown and further out is just as fun. I have been to Ponysaurus Brewing and Pour Taproom, both of which were excellent.

With its beautiful outdoor patio space, food trucks, and great selection of craft beers, Ponysaurus is definitely the go-to spot for a fun, more relaxed night out. There is lots of space for large groups, tasty drinks, and the patio itself is perfect for talking and laughing with friends. I highly recommend going when the weather is cool and just right to enjoy the full potential of this bar.

a dozen students around a long picnic table outside; nightlife in Durham

Pour is a more laid-back option with a massive selection of beers, and some wine, for the connoisseur. I will warn that there isn’t much space for large groups, which is a bit of a downside, but with some squeezing, it can work. The atmosphere is a cross between a sports bar and an underground music bar, and the serve yourself and pay for what you drink system can make for either a relaxed or a little rowdy of a night.

friends talking at a table; nightlife in Durham

Lastly, I couldn’t leave out The Tavern and its famed Tavern Tuesdays. I’ve pledged myself to honesty in these blogs, and I have to say I’m not a massive fan of this place. I didn’t find the drinks to be super well priced or tasty, and the atmosphere itself is overall “meh” even when the music is popping. Its convenient location and the sheer fact that it’s open late on Tuesday nights makes Tavern very alluring. Since most students don’t have classes on Wednesdays, Tuesday nights out are a popular part of Fuqua culture, and sometimes The Tavern is the place to be.

This shortlist is absolutely not the holy grail of bars and clubs. The nightlife in Durham has so much more to offer, and I didn’t have the chance to explore it all as a student. For example, the cocktail bar Kingfisher that I’m dying to try on a return trip to Durham. I’m not putting down Shooters either. I’ve had many a good night there and still encourage at least one venture to ye old station before graduating. However, there is fun waiting outside of Shooters too, so please make sure to check it out!