Winston-Salem was once the largest North Carolina city but is still one of the most interesting that you’ll find in the Tar Heel State. With a mix of historic pride, emerging and established fun things to do, impressive food and arts scenes, and more, we think at least a weekend in Winston-Salem will get you hungry enough to keep coming back. At least that’s what we’ve learned and once you see what we’re going to share here, you’ll most likely want to do the same.
A Weekend in Winston-Salem
Special thanks to Visit Winston-Salem for helping us with admission to Old Salem and Reynolda House. All opinions within this article are our own.
It’s easy to get caught up in the history of Winston-Salem. Originally settled by a group of German Moravians, Winston and Salem were once two separate towns that converged in 1913. That’s why their minor league baseball team is called the Dash—by the way, watching them play is a fun thing to do, which we’ll get to in a bit. Winston-Salem’s claim to fame is mostly for the cigarette production coming out of RJ Reynolds Company. Though it’s known as “Camel City,” tobacco isn’t the only thing Winston-Salem is known for! The first Krispy Kreme opened in Winston-Salem and you can even tour the factory (See “Family Fun”) and learn more about the famous sweet confection!
Want more background on the Camel City? Check out Winston-Salem: A Twin City History by Michael Bricker!
When to Visit
The best times to visit Winston-Salem and North Carolina’s Central Piedmont are during Spring and Summer. June–August remain the busiest months to spend time in Winston-Salem. However, it can get warm in the winter months and some people have figured out the benefits of off-season travel. Don’t discount fall, though! With temps sometimes hitting in the 80s, hotel prices drop and fewer visitors come to the area. However, you’ll find plenty of activities for every season in Winston-Salem.
Where to Stay
If you’re really wanting an experience clothed in history, there’s no better place than The Cardinal Hotel. The historic RJ Reynolds building was converted into this boutique luxury hotel, complete with a bowling alley, basketball court, and ornate fixtures. It’s also pet-friendly and steeped in subtle details that frame the masculine memories of important boardroom meetings and the future of tobacco production.
Fun Stuff to Do
Where to Eat
Even if you’re not staying at the Kimpton Cardinal, check out The Katharine. This incredible French Brasserie serves incredibly crafted meals with incredible attention to details. If you’re looking for something a little more “traditional,” try the Tavern in Old Salem! They serve 18th-century fare featuring Moravian dishes and one of the ways you can eat like a Moravian. Servers bring your food adorned in historic Moravian attire and provide an intimate candlelight atmosphere. Going back to Downtown Winston-Salem, Krankies Coffee is a cool small batch roastery and café with the perfect vibe to start your day. We sipped on our coffee and brunched hard before exploring the rest of Winston-Salem. Make sure to order their chicken biscuit with Texas Pete!
Many of our friends rave about Sweet Potatoes and Quanto Basta, too. If you’ve been to Winston-Salem, where do you like to eat in the city? If you’re having a hard time deciding, we think a great start to your culinary adventure in the city would be to join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour.
Where to Drink Beer
If you want to dig into North Carolina beer, please explore the creations from Foothills Brewery! Their Downtown Taproom is the perfect place to meet up and grab some brews any time of day, but especially before a Dash game when the season is going. Shuttles to the ballpark run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and they start right next to Foothills! We hear the burgers are gigantic and super juicy, too! Don’t get hung up on visiting one brewery in Winston-Salem, as you have to check out Small Batch Beer Co., Wise Man Brewing, and more!
Downtown and DADA
Downtown Winston-Salem is a mix of older buildings and new ones that continue to pop up throughout the city. Things are really happening, and you can find something fun just about everywhere. The Downtown Arts District Association (DADA) is located between Trade & Liberty Street and is composed of working studios and art galleries. You can hop on a gallery tour or just wander through the Art Trail and even bring something home with you! Take a moment to chat with some of the artists that bring beauty and spark creativity into Camel City! We’ve mentioned Winston-Salem Dash games, too, and think you should definitely check them out when the season is going.
Looking for some family fun in Winston-Salem? Try spending a day at Kaleideum Downtown (formerly the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem). The downtown location features exhibits rich in STEM and the very popular Krispy Kreme Doughnut Factory. Kaleideum North (previously SciWorks) boasts a lot of outdoor activities for the whole family. Whether it’s stargazing in the planetarium, strolling one of the many nature trails, or checking out the animals living in their habitats, there’s plenty for a young explorer to experience as well.
The twin cities wouldn’t exist without Old Salem. Settled by Moravians, this tiny town gives us a glimmer into life in the 18th century. As the property and land were owned by the church, many of the townspeople of Salem fine crafted trades to generate revenue. You can stroll through Old Salem for free or you can purchase a ticket that grants you access to the workshops and to craftspeople dressed in period garb who specialize in everything from baking, blacksmiths, quilting, or pottery. It’s really cool to learn from these people, so we suggest getting a ticket from the Visitor’s Center.
Bonus Challenge: Try to walk through Winkler Bakery without buying something. We dare you!
A visit to the historic Reynolda House is a must. Not only does it serve as a museum for interesting American Art, you’re also able to tour the house as it was designed and decorated by the Reynolds family in 1917. Complete with a bowling alley, squash court, indoor pool, and luxurious interior design, you can transport yourself back to a time and place where one the wealthiest families in America lived and entertained. The nearby gardens have some cool designs and are a great spot for throwing down a blanket and relaxing for a while.
Vineyards and Wineries
The 1.4 million-acre Yadkin Valley is west of Winston-Salem and rich in vines! Head out there and you’ll find one of 45 vineyards and wineries. Our advice? Keep coming back and cross one off your list each visit!
While we do the same, here are some other places you can check out for a wonderful day trip from Winston-Salem.
Hanging Rock State Park
30 miles north of Winston-Salem and you can find yourself trekking high about the clouds at Hanging Rock State Park. Get a taste of nature in this 7,869-acre park and explore its trails, chill out by the water or on a boat, or camp out for a weekend. Our favorite trails are Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall, but if you’re looking for a shorter hike there are plenty of waterfalls or even boat rentals to paddle along the lake.
Pilot Mountain State Park
Short on time but still want some fantastic views? Head north from Winston-Salem about 22 miles to Pilot Mountain State Park. This geological feature sticks out like a sore thumb! But the views are best from the top. Drive up the winding road and look down on the beautiful sights of rural North Carolina. You may even catch a sight of brave people scaling the side of the mountain’s steep cliffs!
What else is there to check out around Winston-Salem? We’d love to know more!
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
Winston-Salem truly is a city for everyone. Whether you’re a foodie, brew lover, oenophile, love the great outdoors, history buff, or a family, there really is a lot to fill your itinerary. The city is perfect for a day-trip, a weekend getaway, or a long-term commitment. Personally, we see Winston-Salem as a great way to experience all that North Carolina has to offer.
Ever been to Winston-Salem? What did you think of it? What’s the first place you’d check out when in Winston-Salem? If we missed something, feel free to let us know about it.