Winston-Salem, City of the Arts

Winston-Salem Convention & Visitors BureauWinston-Salem, City of the Arts

Old Salem Museums & Gardens preserves history from the mid-18th century

While Winston-Salem isn’t quite as big as its North Carolina neighbors Charlotte and Raleigh, what the city 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, scenery and history, or food and wine, Winston-Salem is ready and able to provide you 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 the nickname very seriously.

You’ll want to 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” the first Friday of every month, as well as regional music concerts Saturdays in the summer. Winston-Salem also plays host to the biennial National Black Theatre Festival, the RiverRun International Film Festival and the Piedmont Craftsmen’s Fair.

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 Gourmet Diner.

Games and Nightlife

The beautiful campuses of Wake Forest University, home of the Demon Deacons, and Winston-Salem State University, home of the 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, you’ll definitely want to catch the minor league baseball team, the Winston-Salem Dash, downtown.

After the game, you’ll find the city has an extensive nightlife. Tip a pint or two of local brew at Foothills Brewing, enjoy creative cocktails at Tate’s Craft Cocktails, or sample one of 40 wines by the glass at 6th & 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 North Carolina 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, Old Salem Museums & 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 & Garden and The Tavern in Old Salem.

Elsewhere in Winston-Salem, the Horne Creek Farm provides an accurate look at the lives of 19th century middle-class farmers, and Reynolda House Museum of American Art is located in the former home of tobacco baron R.J. Reynolds and Katharine Smith Reynolds. The house now displays one of the finest collections 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 25 minutes 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 award-winning wineries that produce everything from deep red Cabernet Sauvignon to light Pinot Grigios and fruity dessert wines. Some wineries have restaurants on site and most have beautiful picnic areas that allow you to dine amidst wonderful vineyard views. 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 too much of your day driving – still, be sure to appoint a designated driver.

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.


There’s much to see and do in North Carolina, so read on.

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