I’ve lived in Winston-Salem for nearly 13 years and love it here. I spent a brief stint living in Charlotte, but moved back to Winston six months later because I missed it so much and even started a second business dedicated to Winston-Salem at that point. Okay, starting to date my husband, Tommy, impacted the decision to move back to Winston-Salem some too. ;)) Now that Tommy and I are married and have expanded our family, we appreciate even more what a great place it is to live and raise Thomas.
Tommy and I both lived downtown for a few years, and while neither of us miss the apartment life, it was a great place to be before we got married. We even had our engagement photos taken there!
Tommy and I both love our life here. We have great friends and I tell people that it’s just an easy place to live. There’s not much traffic and even the worst traffic isn’t really all that bad compared to other places I’ve lived (Salt Lake City and Charlotte). It has everything you need… good restaurants, decent retail, good grocery stores like Costco and Trader Joes. If I could just get a Nordstrom, I’d be set! And there are lots of things to do here, which I’m sharing in this post.
15 Things to Do in Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem is located in Northwest North Carolina, about an hour and a half to Boone and four hours from the coast. It’s an hour and half north of Charlotte and a little over an hour and a half west of Raleigh. It’s the 4th largest city in North Carolina with around 220,000 people. So it’s much smaller than Charlotte with 2 million. It’s the perfect size.
Although Winston Salem is much smaller than Charlotte or Raleigh, it’s full of rich history, world-renowned arts, technology, and medical care. We have lots of museums, parks, art galleries, restaurants, breweries and more. Because I love this city so much, I felt it was time to share a roundup of my favorite highlights in Winston Salem for my readers. If you’ve never visited Winston Salem, I hope you plan a trip! It’s a great spot for weekend getaway that’s not as crowded as other North Carolina destinations like Asheville or Blowing Rock.
Be sure to keep checking back for my favorite restaurants in Winston Salem blog post that’s coming soon! One of the best parts of this city is the food. You can’t miss it!
1. Old Salem
Old Salem is one of the most unique parts of Winston-Salem. It’s the early settlement of Moravians in 1766 and where Winston-Salem gets half its name. You can take guided tours of the community, walk around on your own, stop in the bakery (AMAZING) or have a picnic in the square. It’s a fun spot to walk around for a change of scenery and I can’t wait to take Thomas for some activities when he’s a bit older.
This is where Salem College is housed as well. They also have an old water pump that still works that kids LOVE to use. (It also works well as a hydration spot if you forget a water bottle when you’re out running in the heat!)
Read more about the history of the Moravians here!
2. The Reynolda House Museum of American Art
The Reynolda House was originally the home of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband R. J. Reynolds, founder of the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, but since 1965 it has been open to the public. It houses one of the United States’ finest collections of American art. Don’t miss their famous indoor pool and bowling ally in the basement.
While you’re there, take a stroll through Reynolda Gardens and make sure to stop in some of the fun stores in Reynolda Village. Some of the best boutiques in town are here. For home decor and hostess gifts, stop by All Through The House! Dough-Joe’s has great coffee and treats! Tommy and I love Village Tavern for dinner and the original location is in Reynolda Village!
If you’re coming from Wake Forest University, there’s a walking trail that connects the two and you’ll see students walking through here sometimes. It’s one of my favorite running trails in WS too. We love how connected this part of town is!
One of my personal favorite art galleries is Secca, The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. They have really amazing galleries, and since they don’t have any permanent collections, the art changes frequently. Fun fact, I had a portrait that was displayed in SECCA for a bit. It’s now in the hallways at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital.
4. Kaleideum Downtown
This is such a great kids spot. Kaleideum Downtown is one of the best kids museums in the Triad and you’ll love it too. They have such fun rooms for kids to explore and even the adults have a great time! I can’t wait until Thomas is a little older to appreciate it!
5. Salem Lake
In the fall, a walk, run or bike ride around Salem Lake cannot be beat. It’s a 7 mile loop that goes around a lake. It’s gorgeous and natural. You can also rent paddle boards in the warmer months and take boats on the lake to fish. You can also bring a picnic! I wouldn’t call Salem Lake a hiking trail since it’s mostly flat and just a loop, but I love to go to Pilot Mountain, Stone Mountain and Hanging Rock State Park for day hikes since they’re a short drive away.
I like to run here on the weekends, especially when the weather is cool.
6. Bethabara Park
I used to live in walking distance to Bethabara and loved taking Maizey on walks there. It’s so peaceful. In the fall they have an apple festival. This year’s dates are September 25, 2021 – 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
7. Downton Winston Salem
Downtown Winston-Salem has grown SO much in the last 10 years. I love how many young people are down there now that the Medical School is there! Make sure you stop by Bailey Park, grab a drink at either Foothills Brewing or Incendiary Brewing Company and grab a pizza at Cugino Forno Pizzeria. You can bring your dog here too and sit outside under the old train tracks. This space is super unique.
Photo credit @hannahholdingthings
If you’re a chocolate lover, don’t miss Black Mountain Chocolate while you’re downtown! (It’s my mom’s favorite spot when she visits from Utah.)
I also love Lil Dipper’s ice cream cones which is a short walk away.
Photo credit @hannahholdingthings
Downtown Winston-Salem is where you’ll feel the small town vibes. Our downtown isn’t overwhelming or huge, it’s manageable and fun to explore. I loved running downtown when I was pregnant since the views are great! While I’ve never done one myself, Winston Salem also has segway tours that you can book through Triad Eco Adventures!
8. Long Branch Trail
While you’re downtown, you definitely want to make your way down to Innovation Quarter and Bailey Park. There’s a really fun greenway where you can bike, run, or rollerblade called the Long Branch Trail. This is located right in behind of the Wake Forest Med School downtown (which is the white building in the photo below), and there’s always a ton going on. The trail connects all the way to Salem Lake and the Quarry if you wanted to go that far.
9. Golf Courses
There are a few private clubs in Winston Salem called Forsyth Country Club and Old Town Club. You have to be a member or a guest of a member to play golf there, but Winston Salem also has a few great public golf courses! We love Tanglewood, and the other to try is Reynolds Park.
10. Graylyn Manor
If you’re looking for a place to stay, you must check out Graylyn. It’s one of the best hotels in Winston Salem. While it’s pricey, it’s SO gorgeous and such a special place to stay as a couple. It’s actually where Tommy and I got married! Even if you don’t stay there for your visit, I recommend making it part of your running loop so that you can enjoy the beauty!
We also love the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel downtown!
Graylyn is such a special place that it’s where we took our pregnancy announcement photos.
11. Go to a Dash Baseball Game
Our minor league team is named for our beloved hyphen in Winston-Salem. This is a perfect night activity for families in the summer. Sometimes they even have fireworks after the games!
12. Wake Forest Football Game
If you’re here in the fall, a Wake Forest football game is a fun Saturday activity. The BB&T field (now Truist field) is home of the demon deacons and they have TONS of seating and a fun hill for children.
13. Quarry Park
Quarry Park is a really fun spot to take kids. The view is amazing and there’s lots of space for a picnic. There isn’t a ton to do besides walk and enjoy, but you definitely don’t want to miss it. Get directions here.
14. Walk through Buena Vista
One of our favorite neighborhoods to walk through is Buena Vista. We love looking at the beautiful houses, and Buena Vista connects to Graylyn and the Reynolda House, so you have lots of great destinations on your walk. It’s one of my favorite places to go on a run too!
15. A movie at the a/perture cinema
The a/perture is a small theater located downtown. They show foreign, indie, documentary and festival films. It’s a super unique place to go on a date! They have two 80 seat theaters and they serve beer and wine. All of the films are picked by the owner, Lawren Desai. Currently they’re only open Wed-Sun, but that could change soon. Show times are generally easier for watching before or after dinner. And side note: a/perture has a bunch of outdoor movies partnered with various entities like Bookmarks and Bailey Park, so there are lots of options!
16. Live Music
The Ramkat puts on great shows with a variety of genres in their two spaces, one more intimate for smaller gigs and one a larger space that serves as the primary concert venue. Also, every summer there are the free Downtown Summer Concert Series and the Music in the Park Series!
There are lots of fun breweries around Winston Salem. It’s so fun to bring your kids or you pup, sit outside, and chat with friends. Here’s a list of a few Winston-Salem favorites!
- Incendiary Brewing Company
- Foothills Brewing Tasting Room
- Wise Man Brewing
- Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company
- Joymongers Barrel Hall
- Broad Branch Distillery
18. Visit the original Krispy Kreme
This is technically a food stop, but since it’s the original location of Krispy Kreme, it’s also something to see! You can watch the conveyer belt run and see your doughnut made from start to finish. If you have your kids with you (or even if you don’t!) snag one of the iconic Krispy Kreme hats to wear while you’re in line.
19. Buie’s Market
Buie’s Market is the perfect finish line for your bike or run. They have great coffee, wine and beer, ice cream treats and popcicles for kids, and groceries to grab. They also carry frozen meals from the Porch. It’s right in the heart of Buena Vista neighborhood, so make it a stop on your stroll.
20. Mast General Store
Winston-Salem got a Mast General Store a few years ago and it’s quite the hit. The Mast General Store started in Boone, North Carolina, and it’s a great place to buy candy for kids, outdoor gear and coats/jackets. It’s located downtown!
If you visit…
While you’re in Winston Salem, be sure to eat at local restaurants. There’s a blog post coming very soon with my favorite places to eat in Winston Salem, so be on the lookout for that post soon.
If you only have 48 hours in Winston-Salem, I’d recommend at least seeing downtown and the Innovation Quarter/Bailey Park. It’s grown so much in the last decade, and makes me so proud to live here. One more thing I have to brag about is the quality of the people in Winston Salem. We’ve made such amazing friends and we’re so grateful for our community here!
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