Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on October 23, 2023.
Thanks to all the fun things to do in Winston-Salem, we can’t stop returning to this North Carolina city. A great mix of historical and contemporary pride is displayed in the city’s museums, the food and arts scenes, and more.
At least a weekend in Winston-Salem (this weekend possibly?) around downtown, Wake Forest University, and 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.
Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:
- Where is Winston-Salem?
- The History of Winston-Salem
- When to Visit
- Where to Stay
- Annual Events
- The Best Things to Do in Winston-Salem NC This Weekend (and All Year!)
- Historic Attractions
- Downtown Winston-Salem
- Fun Family Things to Do
- Free and Cheap Things to Do
- Things to Do near Winston-Salem (Day Trips)
Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a Winston-Salem NC local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the area and wonder, “What are the best things to do near me?” we know this guide will help you!
Where is Winston-Salem?
Before we share the best things to do in Winston-Salem, it’s important to know where you’re going. Here’s a quick breakdown of Winston-Salem’s geography and its surroundings.
- Winston-Salem is located in Forsyth County, in Central North Carolina.
- Winston-Salem is the Forsyth County seat and the second-largest municipality of the Piedmont Triad region. The region includes Greensboro, the most populous city, and High Point.
- The population of Winston-Salem is 679,948, making it the 4th largest metropolitan area in North Carolina.
- Forsyth County borders 7 counties in NC, including:
- Stokes County (North)
- Rockingham County (Northeast)
- Guilford County (East)
- Davidson County (South)
- Davie County (Southwest)
- Yadkin County (West)
- Surry County (Northwest)
You can visually plan to visit all of the Winston-Salem attractions mentioned below with the following maps:
The History of Winston-Salem
One of the first things to do in Winston-Salem is to understand its background. Here’s a quick history of Winston-Salem for you:
- Before European settlement, various groups of Native American people inhabited the area. After the exploration of the area by the Spanish, disease ravaged the population who lived here and led to Cherokee trade expansion in the area.
- Originally settled by German-speaking Moravians, Winston and Salem were once 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 fun, which we’ll get to in a bit.
- Winston-Salem’s claim to fame is mainly for the cigarette production 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 remains one of NC’s most famous foods.
When to Visit Winston-Salem
However, the winter months still have warm days, and some people have figured out the benefits of off-season travel.
Don’t discount fall, too! With temps sometimes hitting in the 80s, hotel prices drop, and fewer outsiders visit the area.
However, you’ll find plenty of activities for every season in Winston-Salem.
Where to Stay in Winston-Salem
Before exploring all the fantastic things to do in Winston-Salem, you will need a nice place to stay.
The Historic Brookstown Inn
Address: 200 Brookstown Ave, Winston-Salem, NC
Parts of the original millwork are still visible, and the rooms have exposed wood ceilings and grand brick windows.
Add in beautiful decor, exquisite service, and a friendly feline resident, which is why The Historic Brookstown Inn is one of our favorite places to stay in Winston-Salem.
The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel
Address: 51 4th St E, Winston-Salem, NC
If you want a family-friendly place to stay, check out The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in downtown Winston-Salem.
The historic RJ Reynolds building was converted into this boutique luxury hotel 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.
Address: 1900 Reynolda Rd, Winston-Salem, NC
If you seek luxury, the historic Graylyn Estate is where you want to lay your head. Formerly the home of one-time RJ Reynolds chairman Bowman Gray and his wife Nathalie, Graylyn opened in 1932 and originally sat on 87 acres across the street from the Reynolds’ family home, Reynolda.
The Norman Revival-style hotel now features 85 unique guestrooms on its vast, beautiful 55-acre estate. Each room is uniquely decorated, so one’s experience differs upon each visit.
Read More: Romantic Getaways in North Carolina
Annual Events in Winston-Salem NC
Here are some of the best annual events to consider when planning your trip. There is never a shortage of stuff to do! Many are downtown Winston-Salem events that showcase the inclusivity and diversity of the city.
- RiverRun International Film Festival (Spring): Add this to your list of fun things to do inside! Spend hours watching films, documentaries, animated shorts, and other movies from various genres during this popular film festival.
- Gears and Guitars (Memorial Day Weekend): Formerly held in September, this is one of the country’s most prestigious bicycling events. Join the biggest party on wheels for a weekend of racing, local riding and live music in the city of Winston-Salem.
- National Black Theatre Festival (Summer): Thespians and patrons alike can enjoy this multi-day festival showcasing performances, films, poetry, seminars, and workshops that engage and enrich the community. This event occurs every two years.
- Juneteenth Festival (June): Celebrate African American heritage and freedom with music, dance, panel discussions, food, and arts and crafts at Bailey Park in downtown Winston-Salem.
- Pride Festival & Parade (June): All are welcome to downtown Winston-Salem to celebrate the local LBGT community during the Pride Festival. The daylong event features a parade, live music, entertainment, hands-on activities and street vendors.
- Winston-Salem Open (August): The WSO is the last event before the US Open each year. The world’s top tennis players come to the city of Winston-Salem to compete in the tournament.
- Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors (September): Meet your favorite author at the largest book and author festival in the Carolinas. Bookmarks, a literary arts non-profit and bookstore, hosts this event in downtown Winston-Salem each fall.
- Carolina Classic Fair (September to October): The second largest agricultural fair in the state, Carolina Classic Fair is a 10-day event with carnival rides, games, exhibits, concerts, and deep-fried concessions. It should be at the top of your list of fun things to do in Winston-Salem with kids.
- Hispanic League FIESTA (September): Spend the day in downtown Winston-Salem celebrating Hispanic culture with live music, games and food during FIESTA, the largest street festival of its kind in the Triad. Admission is free.
- Festival of Lights at Tanglewood Park (November to January 1): It’s hard to beat Tanglewood Park when thinking of things to do in Winston-Salem during winter. Drive into a winter wonderland filled with more than a million twinkling lights at this annual holiday event. Plan to take this self-guided tour before the holidays or up until the first day of the new year.
- Piedmont Craftsmen’s Fair (November): The Southeast’s finest craftsmen display their wares at this downtown Winston-Salem event. It’s a great place for shopping for unique home goods, jewelry, glassware, ceramics, furniture and decor.
- The Nutcracker (Returning December 2025): Students from the UNC School of Arts produce this holiday classic, which can be added to your list of date ideas in Winston-Salem. Who can resist the magical story of Clara and the nutcracker who comes to life? Until 2025, the show will be held in Greensboro while the Stevens Center undergoes renovations.
Read More: The NC Tripping Events Calendar
The Best Things to Do in Winston-Salem NC This Weekend (and All Year!)
Those annual events are worth keeping on your calendar, but here are the best things to do in Winston-Salem this weekend or any weekend throughout the year.
- Historic Attractions
- Downtown Winston-Salem
- Fun Family Things to Do
- Free and Cheap Things to Do
We don’t want you to think the rest of the city isn’t historic, but these two things to do in Winston-Salem will take you back to two exciting eras. One of the best things about the city is its history.
Address: 900 Old Salem Road, Winston-Salem, NC
Camel City wouldn’t exist without Old Salem. Settled by Moravians, this tiny town gives us a glimmer into life in the 18th century. As the church owned the property and land, many of the townspeople of Salem fine-crafted trades to generate revenue.
Purchase a ticket to Old Salem, and you can explore the open buildings and learn more about Moravian culture. Talk to craftspeople dressed in period garb who specialize in baking, blacksmiths, quilting, or pottery. Learning from these people is excellent, so we suggest getting a ticket from the Old Salem Visitor’s Center.
Bonus Challenge: Walk through Winkler Bakery and take some freshly baked goodies home!
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Address: 2250 Reynolda Rd, Winston-Salem, NC
One of the best things to do in Winston-Salem is visiting the historic Reynolda House.
Not only does it serve as a museum for incredible American Art, but guests can tour the house as it was designed and decorated by the Reynolds family in 1917.
During your tour, you’ll learn about the significance that Katharine Reynolds played in the design of the house, as well as her influence on working conditions in her husband’s factories.
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 of the wealthiest families in America lived and entertained.
The nearby gardens have some fantastic designs and are an excellent spot for throwing down a blanket and relaxing. Plan to spend at least an entire morning or more exploring the house and even more time enjoying the village shops, gardens, and trails.
Join a Ghost Tour
The West Endings Tour explores Winston-Salem’s Historic West End District. Winston-Salem has long been regarded as one of the spookiest cities in the state, especially considering it was once the home of one of the first Moravian settlements.
Nighttime tours are available year-round and can be booked up to a month in advance.
Many of the best things to do in Winston-Salem happen downtown. Here, you’ll find a mix of older and new buildings that continue to pop up throughout the city.
Things are happening, and you can find something fun just about everywhere.
Explore Winston-Salem’s Arts and Culture
From the colorful streets and murals, Winston-Salem is renowned as a city of art. Home to the UNC School of the Arts, there are plenty of interactive ways for visitors to enjoy the art and culture of the twin cities.
Walk Around the Downtown Arts District
The Downtown Arts District is located between Trade & Liberty Street and is composed of working studios and art galleries.
You can hop on a gallery tour, wander through the Art Trail, and even bring something home! Take a moment to chat with some of the artists that bring beauty and spark creativity into Camel City!
Read More: Day Trips from Durham
Delurk Gallery Address: 207 W 6th Street, Winston-Salem, NC
If you’ve seen one, you’ll know it.
Winston-Salem’s Clark Whittington created the Art-o-mat as a way to give art back to the people. Using the city’s plethora of now unused cigarette vending machines, Whittington repurposed the machines to disperse cigarette pack-sized art.
The first Art-o-mat was installed in 1997, and now they appear all over the country including inside the Whitney of American Art.
Artists contribute small pieces of work that can be bought through the machine for $5. See the Art-o-mats in more than 200 venues across the US (including dozens of locations in Winston-Salem) or stop in Whittington’s Delurk Gallery, home of the public Art-o-mat studio.
The Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery
Address: 601 Trade St NW, Winston-Salem, NC
The Piedmont Craftsmen is a guild of 400 area artists all under one roof. Over 250 of these artists display their work in the shop in the Winston-Salem arts district. This is an excellent way to browse fine craft art and support local area artists! The Piedmont Craftsmen also participate in an annual craft fair held every November since 1963!
SECCA: Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art
Address: 750 Marguerite Dr, Winston-Salem, NC
The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) is a vibrant art museum in Winston-Salem, showcasing contemporary art and culture. Founded in 1956, SECCA is located in the James G. Hanes estate and represents both history and contemporary in one space. It has evolved over the years into a dynamic space that brings together artists, curators, and the community to engage with the ever-evolving world of contemporary art.
SECCA does not have a permanent collection and often features emerging artists from the region and worldwide. This Winston-Salem museum is free to experience.
Address: 634 W 4th St #110, Winston-Salem, NC
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; 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 event attendees throughout the year.
Sawtooth School for the Visual Arts
Address: 251 N Spruce St, Winston-Salem, NC
Sawtooth School for the Visual Arts is a non-profit art school for the community and is an excellent place for visitors to Winston-Salem!
Whether you’re looking for something creative to do in Winston-Salem or just interested in trying something new- Sawtooth offers classes and workshops in eleven visual arts and crafts.
Check their calendar and take a ceramics, drawing, painting, digital arts, glass, metals, lapidary, photography, printmaking, textiles, and wood class!
Visit the Shell Station
Address: 1111 E Sprague St, Winston-Salem, NC
How many times have you been told to visit a gas station while visiting a new city? Well… visiting the clamshell gas station is one of my favorite weird things to do in Winston-Salem!
Constructed in the 1930s, the unique clamshell shape was a quirky marketing move by Quality Oil. Located at the corner of Sprague and Peachtree Streets in Winston-Salem, you can’t pump gas here anymore.
But thanks to preservation efforts, this unique North Carolina landmark has a small museum inside and makes for excellent selfies.
Fun Family Things to Do in Winston-Salem NC
There are some cool things to do in Winston-Salem for the whole family and here are our favorites.
Winston-Salem Dash Games
Truist Stadium Address: 951 Ballpark Way, Winston-Salem, NC
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!
Address: 400 W Hanes Mill Rd, Winston-Salem, NC
Kaleideum North (previously SciWorks) features exhibits rich in STEM and the very popular Krispy Kreme Doughnut Factory.
The museum also boasts many 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.
NOTE: Kaleideum North will stay open through December 31, 2023 when it will move to the new downtown location, which will open in February.
Kaleideum Downtown (Temporarily Closed)
New Address: 120 W 3rd Street, Winston-Salem, NC
Looking for some fun family things to do in Winston-Salem? Watch for Kaleideum Downtown, which is moving to a new location in 2024. This state-of-the-art $40 million building will be in the heart of downtown, and we can’t wait!
Follow NC Tripping on Instagram for more details on the opening!
Free and Cheap Things to Do in Winston-Salem NC
Beyond downtown and the two major historic attractions, here are a few more ways to enjoy Winston-Salem.
Address: 445 Patterson Ave, Winston-Salem, NC
In the center of the Innovation Quarter are 1.6 acres of public green space. With a stage, patio, and large grassy area, Bailey Park hosts some of the best free things to do in Winston-Salem NC.
From yoga to film screenings and festivals, Bailey Park is an excellent place to find all the weekend action in Winston-Salem!
Winston-Salem Parks and Greenways
Winston-Salem is home to some fun outdoor places to explore, too. For an incredible view of the city while still in a natural setting, check out Quarry Park (1790 Quarry Rd, Winston-Salem, NC).
Muddy Creek Greenway and Salem Creek Greenway are more options if you’d like a nice getaway in Winston-Salem.
On the parks’ side, we thoroughly enjoyed Washington Park (1490 S Broad St, Winston-Salem, NC), especially the giant dinosaurs all over the playground. It’s another of the many things to do in Winston-Salem with kids.
Read More: Outdoor Activities in Winston-Salem
Where to Eat in Winston-Salem (Local Restaurants)
If you’re considering what to do in Winston-Salem, please make time for these excellent local restaurants.
Bobby Boy Bakeshop
Address: 1100 Reynolda Road
If there is one place you go in Winston-Salem for pastries, make it Bobby Boy Bakeshop. On par with some of the best French bakeries in the world, Bobby Boy Bakeshop always has a line. Everything is baked fresh and guaranteed to satisfy, from savory and flaky to sweet and soft.
Address: 401 N Main St, Winston-Salem, NC
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.
It would be a great addition to your list of romantic things to do in Winston-Salem.
Read More: Day Trips from Greensboro
Address: 211 3rd St E, Winston-Salem, NC
Krankies Coffee is a cool small-batch roastery and café with the perfect vibe to start your day. We love to sip our coffee and brunch hard before exploring the rest of Winston-Salem.
Make sure to order their chicken biscuit with Texas Pete!
If you’ve been to the area, what are your favorite restaurants in Winston-Salem?
Also, if you’re having difficulty deciding, join a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour for one of the most delicious things to do in Winston-Salem.
There are some fantastic breweries in Winston-Salem and here’s a small sampling of the best:
- Foothills Brewery (2 locations in Winston-Salem and) was one of the first breweries in North Carolina that we visited all those years ago. A stop at its taproom and tasting room are undoubtedly two of the best things to do in Winston-Salem. I love the taproom’s burgers, which are gigantic and super juicy! Bonus points if you stop by Footnote, just down the street from the taproom. Enjoy a pastry, coffee, or a cocktail at this wonderful place.
- Small Batch Beer Co. (241 W 5th St, Winston-Salem, NC) is a nano-brewery that uses local ingredients to flavor its beer. Their story started with a passion for making unique beers and has since grown with a brewery and a full restaurant.
- Wise Man Brewing (826 Angelo Bros Ave, Winston-Salem, NC) sits in a large industrial building with colorful murals and street art all over the brick walls. The taproom is also both family- and pet-friendly!
More places to drink in Winston-Salem
If you want something spirit-filled in Winston-Salem, we have some recommendations! easytalk is a fantastic place that offers coffee, easy craft cocktails, and also a unique speakeasy. The owners are awesome, and it is definitely a cool place to meet new people or catch up with friends.
Another great place to grab drinks in Winston-Salem is The Powder Room Cafe. Its vibrant decor pairs well with expert craft cocktails, incredible wine selections, and delicious bites. Watch The Powder Room Cafe’s social media for funky and cool events!
Another place that is popular for drinks and entertainment in Winston-Salem is Roar. Roar is located in the Arts District of Winston-Salem and is four floors of fun, including a 90-tap three-story self-serve beer & wine wall, four full-service bars, and a rooftop club.
Start a round of boutique bowing, swing away at the golf simulator, or play a couple of holes of putt-putt. There’s fun on every floor and Roar is quickly becoming one of the best things to do in Winston-Salem, NC!
Things to Do Near Winston-Salem NC
We usually end up in Dash City after enjoying these things to do near Winston-Salem.
Address: 413 S Main St, Kernersville, NC
Distance from Winston-Salem: 10 miles (15 minutes away)
It’s a short hop, skip, and jump to Kernersville from Winston-Salem. You can see the splendid Körner’s Folly in this lovely small town! This historic 22-room Victorian house spans 6,000 square feet and 3.5 stories.
Aptly named, their motto is “American Ingenuity. Eccentric Architecture. Victorian Culture.”
Beyond this unique Victorian is Aunt Dealy’s House, which includes a gift shop and tour instruction video.
Vineyards and Wineries near Winston-Salem
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!
Here are a few of our favorites near Winston-Salem:
- Childress Vineyards (25 minutes away)
- Elkin Creek Vineyard (1 hour away)
- Jones von Drehle Vineyards (1 hour away)
- Piccione Vineyards (45 minutes away)
- Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery (45 minutes away)
- Shelton Vineyards (55 minutes away)
Our advice? Keep coming back and cross one off your list each visit! You can also hop on a North Carolina wine trail. Drink responsibly.
Pilot Mountain State Park
Distance from Winston-Salem: 23 miles (30 minutes away)
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!
Hanging Rock State Park
Distance from Winston-Salem: 30 miles (45 minutes)
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.
The North Carolina Zoo
Address: 4401 Zoo Pkwy, Asheboro, NC
Distance from Winston-Salem: 53 miles (1 hour away)
As the largest zoological park in the world, you can easily spend an entire day at the NC Zoo. A few other fun reasons to take day trips from Winston-Salem to Asheboro include visiting the Petty Museum in Randleman and Millstone Family Orchards in Ramseur.
Towns and Cities near Winston-Salem NC
Along with the already-mentioned Kernersville and Asheboro, some of our favorite things to do in Winston-Salem’s surroundings are in these wonderful towns and cities.
Distance from Winston-Salem: 21 miles (30 minutes away)
Travel to High Point from Winston-Salem and you’ll be in the “Furniture Capital of the World.” The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers is an excellent reminder of that title.
You’ll quickly realize there’s more to the city and the John Coltrane Statue at S Hamilton St & Commerce Ave is a great way to start understanding that fact. This statue honors a former resident/musical legend who learned saxophone while living in High Point as a child.
Another place to visit is High Point City Lake Park, where you can walk around, grab a paddleboat, and go for a train ride.
Distance from Winston-Salem: 24 miles (30 minutes away)
We already mentioned Childress Vineyards (which is in Lexington!) but there are plenty of great things to do here.
For starters, visit the home of Lexington-style NC barbecue at the source! With deep roots in smoked pork, Lexington is the place for hushpuppies and tomato-based sauce!
But beyond the historic pits, there are some great restaurants in Lexington.
Head out to High Rock Lake or Boone’s Cave Park for some outdoor fun and you might just be hooked on this town.
Distance from Winston-Salem: 30 miles (35 minutes away)
From the rise of its textile industry to its critical civil rights history, Greensboro is an excellent city to visit annually.
You could quickly go just to fuel up on delicious food in Greensboro’s restaurants but there’s plenty more to this city.
Historic sites include the International Civil Rights Center and Guilford Courthouse, hundreds of years apart, and the sites of significant events in NC history and American history.
You will likely want to stick around for more and can enjoy an excellent stay at Proximity Hotel or its sister property O Henry.
Ready to Dig Into These Fun Things to Do in Winston-Salem NC?
While digging into these awesome things to do in Winston-Salem, we realized this city is for everyone. Whether you’re a foodie, brew lover, oenophile, love the great outdoors, history buff, or a family, there is much to fill your itinerary.
The city is a perfect weekend getaway, or a long-term commitment. We see Winston-Salem as a great way to experience all North Carolina offers.
Ever been to Winston-Salem? What did you think of it?
What’s the first thing to do in Winston-Salem for you? If we missed something, feel free to let us know about it in the comments.
Don’t forget to share your Winston-Salem adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group. Photos welcome!
More Winston-Salem Things to Do (Travel Guides)
We’ve featured many of the best things to do in Winston-Salem within our NC Travel Guides collection. Here are a few of them.