Winston-Salem is such a gem of a location for a day trip or a weekend getaway. The city is a quick 2 hour drive from Raleigh with quite a lot to offer regardless of your interests. Winston-Salem was officially established in 1913. It combines the historic Moravian settlement, dating back to 1766, and the rising industrial center, Winston, which was founded in 1851, into the “Twin City.”
It has evolved to form a really unique city experience with the preserved history at Old Salem Museums & Gardens that also boast views of the city’s skyscrapers. There are art studios and thriving businesses in the former tobacco warehouses. Historic bed & breakfasts make for charming home bases while exploring the city. There is a lot to see, a lot to learn, and the food scene is outstanding. Don’t forget to cheer on the local team at Truist Stadium as well!
Top 15 Things to Do in Winston-Salem
What to Do in Winston-Salem
Explore One of the Finest Collections of American Art in the Southeast at Reynolda House Museum of American Art
The Reynolda House Museum of American Art is in the historic 1917 estate of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband, R.J. Reynolds, of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Explore the historic estate using the newly designed mobile app, “Reynolda Revealed,” which provides self-guided tour options for the full property, including the village and gardens. The museum houses a permanent collection that includes works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Grant Wood, and many others. There are also rotating art exhibits and you may find a full exhibit calendar here.
Bring a blanket and lounge on the grounds with a book. Stroll through the gardens and shop in the village while spending time on the beautiful property.
Experience Living History with a Hands-On, Immersive Experience at Old Salem Museums & Gardens
Old Salem is one of the most comprehensive historic sites in the country and it boasts museums, historic gardens, historic town of Salem, and creates such an immersive experience. There is much to see and explore in the historic district, including craftspeople sharing various aspects of the period. Be sure to stroll the gardens and stop in Winkler bakery to learn about the famous beehive stove and take home a loaf of love feast bread.
The Hidden Town Project at Old Salem researches and highlights the history of a community of enslaved and freed Africans and African Americans who once lived in 18th and 19th Century Salem. The Hidden Town Project tracks the effects and legacy of enslaved people from the inception of Salem in 1766 through the Jim Crow Era and into the 21st Century. These histories involve the complicated use of slavery and enslaved people to build the town and their contribution to the mercantile prosperity of Salem.
Shop Local and Support Winston-Salem
There are so many charming shops around Winston-Salem to shop and support. Camel City Goods Co. offers a great selection of Winston-Salem and North Carolina themed items. In Reynolda Village, be sure to check out Half Past Three Clothing, All Through the House, and Norman Stockton while exploring the property. If I’m in a town with a Mast General Store, I will definitely stop in one to explore. There is one in Winston-Salem right on Trade Street.
Winston-Salem has such beautiful public art installations and innovation throughout the city. The Downtown Arts District has a Friday Friday Gallery Hop hosted by the Downtown Arts District Association on the first Friday of every month. Another favorite aspect of mine are all of the Art-o-Mat machines that boast small pieces of art work by local artists in converts cigarette vending machines. You’ll find those all around the city. The Downtown Arts District is a great place to find and support local artists while visiting the restaurants and breweries in this area of town! Be sure to stop in our favorite bar, Single Brothers Bar.
See the City with Triad ECO Adventures
Triad ECO Adventures offers a variety of tours to learn and see more of the city, including Segway tours, trolley tours, and electric bikes available for rent. They also offer stand-up paddle boards in the area, including on Salem Lake. David and I got a tour of Winston-Salem on their Segways and covered quite a bit of ground. I’ll be honest, I am glad that I did it because I tried something new, though next time, I’d opt for a trolley tour. David thoroughly enjoyed the experience on the Segway and had a blast!
Create your Own Craft Draft Crawl of Winston-Salem
Image via Visit Winston-Salem
The birthplace of North Carolina’s first microbrewery was located in Winston-Salem at Single Brother’s House in Old Salem, so it is only right to create your own craft draft crawl. Some of our favorites include Fiddling’ Fish Beer Co. and Foothills Brewing. Visit newcomer, Lesser Known Beer Co., located right near Old Salem.
Cheer on the Home Team at Truist Stadium
Head to Truist Stadium to cheer on the Winston-Salem Dash, a high-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The stadium is walking distance from West End and is an incredible park! There are two beer decks in the outfield that are open seating, a carousel and bounce house in the outfield for the kids, and a fantastic baseball environment. It is a fun time and the food and drink selections are exceptional. There is even a secret speakeasy along the third baseline that serves up tasty cocktails.
Where to Eat in Winston-Salem
Grab a Donut and Coffee at Dough-Joe’s in Reynolda Village
Full disclosure, I do not consider myself a donut gal and the donuts from Dough-Joe’s in Reynolda Village are top-notch! David got the cinnamon sugar one and I decided to try the key lime special. It was so good–not too sweet, good flavor that was not overpowering, and a charming interior plus patio area.
Enjoy Lunch with Live Music at Muddy Creek Cafe in Old Salem
While we were out and about exploring Old Salem, we stopped in Muddy Creek Cafe to have some lunch and listen to some of the live music. The patio is absolutely delightful and offers a casual lunch menu. David and I each had the pimento cheese panini with bacon and tomato.
Dine al Fresco at Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro
I cannot rave about Mozelle’s enough. It is truly one of my favorite restaurants in North Carolina and I recommend it to anyone who asks me for dining recommendations in Winston-Salem. It is nestled in the historic West End neighborhood and offers such a creative Southern-inspired menu. Their tomato pie is the best I have ever had and is the one thing I think you should absolutely try. Start with their Southern Spring Rolls that are stuffed with pulled pork, shiitake mushrooms, Napa cabbage, collards, and sesame ginger.
Enjoy Upscale Southern Cuisine with a French Twist at The Katharine Brasserie
The Katharine Brasserie is housed in the Kimpton Cardinal, occupying the historic R.J. Reynolds Building, the architectural muse for the Empire State Building in NYC. It is an elegant, gorgeous space with an impressive menu. I highly recommend making a reservation here and enjoying a leisurely dinner enjoying the space, the service, the food and drink options.
Dine at the Famous Winston-Salem Gem Sweet Potatoes for Delicious Southern Fare
North Carolina is the top sweet potato producer in the country and is the namesake for the soulful, upbeat Sweet Potatoes – a Restaurant, that features Southern fare with Gullah and Caribbean accents. David and I started with the pimento cheese & stuff plate and an order of pork rinds. The pro tip here is to dip the pork rinds in the pimento cheese. For our entrees, David had chicken & waffles, served on their delicious sweet potato waffle fries, and I ordered the DC Burger. And their dessert menu is simply outstanding. It is a wonderful dinner spot located right in the heart of the Downtown Arts District.
Brunch at Founder’s Restaurant in the Historic Shaffner Inn
Founder’s Restaurant is located on the bottom floor of the Historic Shaffner Inn, the 1097 private residence of Henry Fries Shaffner, co-founder of Wachovia Loan and Trust. Make reservations for brunch and order the chicken and waffles, which are served with Texas Pete (a Winston-Salem product) and hot honey. While you are at the Shaffner Inn, be sure to take a peak around the house and pay attention to the mantle that is from 1767.
We got our brunch delivered to Shaffner & Founder’s sister properties, the Summit St. Inns, where we stayed on a recent trip and dined in their dining room there.
Where to Stay in Winston-Salem
Step back in time at the Graylyn Estate, located right across the street from Reynolda House, Gardens, and Village. This estate was built in 1925. It has an immense amount of amenities. It includes unlimited complimentary ice cream, butlers who provide tours of the property and given historical accounts of the property, plus so much more. I loved this property so much and had such a restful night of sleep. They offer a pillow menu to ensure maximum comfort!
Summit St. Inns offer two beautiful properties right in the historic West End neighborhood. We stayed in the Honeymoon Suite, located on the third floor, which meant we had the entire floor to ourselves. This space is beautifully redone. It offers a pool table, dining area, breakfast either at Founder’s Restaurant or delivered to Summit St. Inns. It has wrap around porches and a wine split in the evenings. The rooms also have in-room coffee service, cozy robes, and locally made bath products. It was a perfect place to call home for the weekend.
What are your favorite things to do in Winston-Salem?
This post is in partnership with Visit Winston-Salem. As always, all opinions are my own. This article was originally written in 2017 and has been updated and re-circulated for 2023.