Phase 2 Update

Terrace Gardens in summer, seen from Rollins Overlook
The Terrace Gardens in June 2021. Photo by Sue Lannon.

July 1, 2021 – Visitors to Sarah P. Duke Gardens who are vaccinated will no longer be required to wear masks indoors or in crowds, or to maintain social distance from others, in accordance with Duke University’s new COVID-19 campus-wide policies. Unvaccinated visitors are still required to wear masks indoors and should still maintain social distance, for their own protection and that of other visitors.

The Gardens’ weekend overflow parking on the corner of Campus Drive and Anderson Street will also be available to visitors beginning this weekend. Visitors using the overflow lot must use the PayByPhone app (location 3121) to pay for parking. The PayByPhone location for Duke Gardens’ lots is 3109.

In addition, photographers may now make appointments for portrait sessions, schools may reserve self-guided group visits, and other external touring groups may also arrange in advance to visit (email for information).

Duke Gardens cannot yet offer walking or trolley tours during phase 2, or any public events or gatherings. But online classes and other programs will continue. 

This phased reopening follows a closure of more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gardens are open to visitors daily from 8 a.m. to dusk.
“We are pleased to see so many visitors spending time in the beauty and serenity of Duke Gardens once again,” said executive director Bill LeFevre, who worked with Duke University administrators to develop a phased reopening that was in keeping with campus policies during the pandemic. “We appreciate our visitors’ enthusiasm and their adherence to the Gardens’ policies, which help to ensure that all visitors may enjoy a safe and healthy garden visit.”

Reducing capacity has been a critical factor in this reopening. In a normal year, more than 600,000 visitors flock to the Gardens, and even the widest paths can be extremely crowded at peak times. Many of the Gardens’ paths are only 2 to 4 feet wide, so for unvaccinated visitors to maintain social distance is extremely challenging, if not impossible.

Parking frequently reaches capacity on weekends, even with overflow available. We urge visitors to consider weekday visits or make flexible plans. People using public transportation or walking may enter through the main gate on Anderson Street or through any of the Gardens’ pedestrian gates.

Visitors should plan to bring water or refillable water containers, since the Terrace Café and Terrace Shop remain temporarily closed. The Doris Duke Center is also closed, aside from its restrooms and water fountain. Doris Duke Center hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but it will be closed on university holidays. There are additional restrooms in the Terrace Gardens and the Asiatic Arboretum, which remain open later.

Duke Gardens’ phased reopening is subject to change on short notice, as with all plans and policies during this unpredictable pandemic period.

Know before you go

  • Please bear in mind that the parking lots often fill to capacity on weekends, and consider a weekday visit if you are able.
  • If you are unvaccinated, masks are required indoors.
  • Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the Gardens. Please use them after touching handrails or other surfaces.
  • Restrooms located in the Terrace Gardens and Culberson Asiatic Arboretum will be open during visiting hours. The Doris Duke Center restrooms are also open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. But the rest of the visitor center remains closed, as does the gift shop and café.
  • Dog-walking is welcome before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m. Dogs must remain on a leash 6 feet or shorter. More information here.
  • Bicycles will not be permitted inside the Gardens at this time. Bicycle racks are available in the main parking lot or at the Memorial Gate on Flowers Drive.
  • University parking at Duke Gardens is $2/hour. Please see this page for more information.


Are all outdoor parts of the Gardens open?

Certain paths or garden areas may be closed for all or part of a given day, to enable the horticulture staff to focus on their work without putting visitors or themselves at risk of unexpected encounters. A few parts of the Gardens may also be closed off entirely during this initial phase, if they don’t lend themselves to safely distanced visitor flow.


What should I do when someone is coming my way on a narrow path?

If you are unvaccinated or are concerned that other visitors may not be, please seek out the nearest intersection that one of you can return to, so that you can stay distanced and neither of you will need to step off the path, potentially damaging sensitive plants or root systems.


Are there places where I can sit with a friend while keeping a safe distance?

Most garden benches are not long enough for two people to share safely. But there are some locations with multiple benches in close enough proximity, as well as two amphitheaters and some large lawn areas that you may enjoy. See our garden map here. Please always be mindful of other visitors’ safety needs, too.


What should I bring with me?

We suggest that you bring sunscreen and insect repellant. Please also bring water or refillable containers, since the Terrace Shop and Cafe will be closed. If you bring food or drinks, please carry your trash out with you.


May I play Frisbee, climb trees or go swimming in the ponds?

No. Frisbees, balls and other sports equipment and activities are not permitted in the Gardens at any time, in order to protect the plant collections as well as fellow visitors. Tree climbing is also harmful to the plants and is prohibited. And although the snapping turtles and leeches would love for you to go swimming in the ponds, we value your safety and do not allow it. Please see additional policies here.


May I feed the ducks and fish?

Please do not feed the waterfowl or fish, as food intended for humans can be harmful to their digestive systems and also pollute the ponds. We feed them every morning, so you can be assured that they are happy, healthy and well fed, even when they tell you otherwise.


May I schedule a portrait session or do a video shoot?

We are once again scheduling photo sessions. Please see our photo policies page to inquire about a reservation. Video shoots at Duke Gardens must always be proposed and arranged in advance and require special permission from the Gardens and the university. Please email for further information about video requests, or media requests.


May I fly a drone?

Drone flights are prohibited in Duke Gardens. If you have university project proposal involving drone footage in the Gardens, please see Duke’s Webdam multimedia archive, or apply in advance for permission via Duke’s drone flight request form. Proposals will be considered on a case-by-case basis and must adhere to all university drone policies.


May I use the Gardens for academic research or teach a small class there?

If you're interested in developing a collaborative lesson with our staff or want to do research that would involve something not allowed under regular visitation rules, please get in touch via our Duke in the Gardens page and we'd be delighted to talk with you.


banner says save time, download paybyphone app, location 3109