Piedmont Triad Area
Winston-Salem: Choose Your Experience
Winston-Salem isn’t as big or as well-known as its North Carolina neighbors to the south (Charlotte) or the east (Raleigh), but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with a wealth of experiences for both residents and visitors. Whether you crave art and culture, sports and nightlife, or scenery and history, Winston-Salem is ready and able to provide its guests with a long list of things to see and do.
A City of the Arts
Winston-Salem is often called “The City of the Arts”. In 1949, it became the first city in the entire country to establish an arts council. In addition, Winston-Salem is home to the acclaimed University of North Carolina School of the Arts. So, the people in this city take its nickname very seriously.
Start at the city’s arts district, centered at Sixth and Trade Streets. In this area known as DADA (Downtown Arts District Association), you’ll find a wide variety of studios, residences, and businesses centered on arts ranging from painting to pottery to calligraphy. The area hosts ‘gallery hops’ on the first Friday of every month, as well as regional music concerts on Saturdays in the summer.
You’ll also find that art is alive and well at The Werehouse on East Third Street. Part coffeehouse, part concert hall, part gallery, The Werehouse is a place where artists can live, work, play, and display their goods under one roof. Winston-Salem also plays host to the National Black Theatre Festival, the RiverRun International Film Festival, the Revolve Film and Music Festival, and the Heavy Rebel Weekender, a three-day music festival featuring dozens of national and regional acts.
Another Winston-Salem claim to artistic fame is that the city is the birthplace of the Art-O-Mat, an old cigarette vending machine re-tooled to sell small, affordable pieces of art. Now you can find them in museums, libraries and other locations from coast to coast, but the very first Art-O-Mat, created by local artist Clark Whittington, still vends art at its original location at Mary’s Of Course Café on Brookstown Avenue.
Outdoor Dining in Winston Salem
Games and Nightlife
The beautiful campuses of Wake Forest University, home of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Demon Deacons, and Winston-Salem State University, home of the MEAC’s Rams, are both in Winston-Salem. Both schools have a full slate of athletic teams, meaning there’s usually a live sporting event somewhere on a campus in town or at the nearby Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Between April and September, the minor league Winston-Salem Dash fill the warm nights with baseball.
After the game, you’ll find that the city has an extensive nightlife scene. Tip a pint or two at Finnegan’s Wake Irish Pub or sample one of 40 wines by the glass at 6th and Vine. There are also plenty of places to catch some live music or to dance the night away if the mood strikes you.
History Comes Alive
Winston-Salem is steeped in colonial history, with the first Moravians (German-speaking Protestants) settling in the area more than 250 years ago. Their original settlement is now Historic Bethabara Park, where you can see a restored 1788 church and have a costumed guide give you a first-hand look at the daily lives of those early NC pioneers.
The Moravians eventually built the city that would become known as Salem, a thriving congregational town and trading center with streets lined with businesses and churches and craftsmen. Today, the Old Salem Museum and Gardens is one of America’s most authentic and well-documented colonial sites. There are more than 100 restored and reconstructed buildings here (including North Carolina’s oldest standing African-American church), and costumed interpreters demonstrate the skilled trades of its early citizens, including pewtering, pottery making, woodworking, shoemaking and tailoring. There are also two National Historic Landmarks here, the Single Brothers’ House and the Salem Tavern.
Elsewhere in Winston-Salem is the Horne Creek Living Historical Farm, an accurate look at the lives of 19th century middle-class farmers, and Reynolda House, the former home of tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds and Katherine Smith Reynolds. The house now displays one of the finest collection of American art in the South, along with period clothing, accessories and toys belonging to the Reynolds family from 1889 to the 1960s.
Gateway to Wine Country
Just to the west of the city is the Yadkin Valley, the heart of North Carolina’s wine country. From Winston-Salem, you are within an hour’s drive of dozens of wineries that produce everything from deep red Cabernet Sauvingnon to light Pinot Grigios to fruity dessert wines. Some have restaurants on site, and most have beautiful picnic areas that allow you to dine amidst a wonderful vineyard view. It’s the perfect way to visit the countryside for a day, yet still be close enough to the city lights that you don’t have to spend a too much of your day in the car.
Whether it’s art, music, nightlife, history, culture, or food and wine, Winston-Salem is ready to give you a fun experience suited to your unique style and tastes… for a few hours, or a few days.
added: December 31, 2008
updated: February 17, 2011