Last Updated on July 26, 2021
Last Updated on July 26, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
Thanks to all the fun things to do in Winston-Salem, we just can’t stop coming back to this North Carolina city. There’s a great mix of historic and contemporary pride displayed in the city’s museums, its food and arts scenes, and more.
We think at least a weekend in Winston-Salem (either around downtown, Wake Forest University, or elsewhere) will get you hungry enough to keep coming back as we do, either in the form of return stays or quick day trips.
At least that’s what we’ve learned and once you see all the bucket list-worthy stuff we’re going to share here, you’ll most likely want to do the same.
This post is part of our series on Winston-Salem and more places to visit in Central North Carolina. We’ve also featured W-S among our favorite day trips from Greensboro and also, from Raleigh and Durham in the Research Triangle.
Things to Do in Winston-Salem
Understand the History of Winston-Salem
One of the first things to do in Winston-Salem is to understand its history. It’s easy to get caught up. 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!
Want more background on Camel City? Check out Winston-Salem: A Twin City History by Michael Bricker!
Stay at a Historic Hotel in Winston-Salem
The Cardinal Hotel
Before exploring all the amazing things to do in Winston-Salem, you’re going to need a nice place 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.
The Cardinal is one of our favorite hotels in North Carolina.
If you are seeking luxury, the Graylyn Estate is definitely where you want to lay your head. Formerly the home of one-time RJ Reynolds chairman, Bowman Gray and his wife Nathalie, Graylyn was built in 1925 and originally sat on 87 acres as part of the Reynolds Plantation.
Now, the Norman Revival Style hotel features 85 unique guestrooms on its vast and beautiful 55-acre estate. Each room is uniquely decorated so one’s experience differs upon each visit.
We included Graylyn and The Cardinal in our guide to Historic Hotels in Winston-Salem, too! These great places to stay will perfectly set you up for the best things to do in Winston-Salem. They’re also a big part of why W-S is one the most romantic getaways in North Carolina!
Many of the best things to do in Winston-Salem happen downtown. Here, you’ll find 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.
Eat More than Well
If you’re looking for a restaurant in Winston-Salem that gives you everything you needed to know about the South, it would be Sweet Potatoes. With her grandmother’s pan-fried chicken restaurant next door and utilizing the state vegetable in sweet and savory ways, Sweet Potatoes is a must-stop bite when in Winston-Salem.
The owners of Sweet Potatoes, along with others mentioned below, were mentioned in our feature on women-owned businesses in Winston-Salem, too!
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 detail, which we share more about here.
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!
If you’re having a hard time deciding, join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour for one of the most delicious things to do in Winston-Salem.
Drink Some of the Best NC Beer
We hear the burgers are gigantic and super juicy, too! Don’t get hung up on visiting the biggest of the breweries in Winston-Salem, as you have to check out Small Batch Beer Co. and at least Wise Man Brewing!
Go to a Dash Game
Sitting inside Foothills Brewing’s Downtown Taproom is one of our favorite things to do in Winston-Salem any time of year, 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!
Walk Around the Downtown Arts District
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!
Bookmarks (Buy Books and Support the Community)
Visit and buy something from Bookmarks and you’ll be supporting one of the only non-profit bookstores in North Carolina. In case you’re wondering how, purchases here go toward outreach programs in the local community.
The help doesn’t stop there, as you can round-up orders and connect more Bookmarks members with authors and books. Pulitzer Prize and other award-winners love to frequent Bookmarks and share their experiences with attendees at events throughout the year.
Looking for some family-friendly things to do 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.
Kaleideum also features in our guide to children’s museums in North Carolina!
Visit Old Salem
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 also included this Moravian cookie challenge among our favorite Things to Do in North Carolina.
The lawn in front of Reynolda House is not a bad place to explore. However, a visit to the historic Reynolda House is a must.
Not only does it serve as a museum for interesting American Art, but 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.
Reynolda House ranks near the top of our favorite weekend things to do in Winston-Salem. We also included it and other Dash City favorites in our guide to North Carolina’s awesome museums.
The AR Workshop in Reynolda Village
Reynolda Village is a fantastic shopping and center utilizing the outlying buildings from the original Reynolda Estate. Shop, dine, or even craft! Reynolda is a place where you can spend an entire day exploring!
Winston-Salem Parks and Greenways
Winston-Salem is home to some fun outdoor places to explore, too. For a cool view of the city while still in a natural setting, check out Quarry Park.
Muddy Creek Greenway and Salem Creek Greenway are two more options if you’d like a nice getaway while in Winston-Salem. On the parks’ side, we thoroughly enjoyed Washington Park, especially for the giant dinosaurs all over the playground.
We know there are many more parks and outdoor activities in Winston-Salem and would love to know your favorites!
Exploring Winston-Salem’s Surroundings
Vineyards and Wineries
Exploring the 1.4 million-acre Yadkin Valley is one of the finest things to do in North Carolina. It’s just west of Winston-Salem and rich in vines!
More than half of these wineries feature on the Surry County Wine Trail, in case you’re up for a challenge. Drink responsibly.
Our advice? Keep coming back and cross one off your list each visit! You can also hop on a North Carolina wine trail. Winston-Salem is in a good spot because it’s near a couple of them!
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
However, you can also chill out by the water or on a boat, or camp out for a weekend. Our favorite trails are the Hanging Rock Trail, Cook’s Wall, and Moore’s Wall, but if you’re looking for a shorter hike there are plenty of waterfalls (one of the best in NC) 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 in Surry County 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 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!
Visit All Year
The best times to visit Winston-Salem and Central North Carolina are during Spring and Summer. Since there are tons of things to do, June, July, and August remain the busiest months to spend time in Winston-Salem.
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.
Ready to Dig Into these Fun Things to Do in Winston-Salem?
While digging into these awesome things to do in Winston-Salem, one thing we realized is that this really 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.