Winston-Salem’s Latest Renaissance
Known as the “city of arts and innovation,” the North Carolina enclave beckons with plenty to taste and see
Photo: JB McCabe; Courtesy of Visit Winston-Salem; Andrew Cebulka
As one of the oldest cities in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad, Winston-Salem has borne witness to centuries of history—and reinvented itself many times over. Established by Moravian settlers in 1753, the city was built on the creativity of its early pioneers, and their reverence for history, craft, and invention has lived on to this day. A dynamic hub of Southern culture, North Carolina’s “city of arts and innovation” is bursting with engaging experiences to delight every traveler.
Throughout modern Winston-Salem, new pockets are always coming to life, including the budding Innovation Quarter. A unique urban district devoted to research in fields of science, business, information technology, digital media, and more, the development sparked a revitalization of the downtown area, now populated by a flourishing collection of independent businesses. In the heart of the Quarter lies Bailey Park, an inviting one-and-a-half acre green space that hosts concerts, movies, and food truck gatherings. And later this fall, another buzzed-about venue makes its debut. The expansive ROAR complex, housed in a former auto warehouse, will welcome visitors with bowling, golf simulators, a food hall, two upscale restaurants, a rooftop bar, and more.
Drink & Dine
Winston-Salem’s easily walkable downtown is peppered with more than a hundred restaurants, breweries, and bars, setting the scene for an enjoyable (and indulgent) few days. Craft beer aficionados will feel especially at home here, with nine local breweries located within a one-and-a-half-mile radius. Including Foothills Brewing, Small Batch Beer Co., Wise Man Brewing, Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company, and Incendiary Brewing Company, the downtown beer scene is robust, meaning a seasonal, local pour is never hard to come by. Just beyond the city center, Joymongers Barrel Hall is another noteworthy location. One of the only breweries of its kind in the nation, Joymongers ages its brews in bourbon and whiskey barrels, giving each sip a hint of smoke.
Craft beer isn’t the only fine beverage produced in Winston-Salem, though. The city and its surrounding communities, dubbed the “Gateway to the Yadkin Valley,” are home to more than forty-five vineyards. Encompassing several winemaking styles, the Yadkin Valley was North Carolina’s first federally-approved American Viticultural Area, and both European grapes and locally developed varieties thrive within its limits. At Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery, a Tuscan-style villa less than an hour from Winston-Salem, tours and tastings are available to guests, while Divine Llama Vineyards in nearby East Bend offers treks through the grounds with its resident llamas—and bottles of wine to enjoy along the trail.
After you imbibe, snag a table at one of Winston-Salem’s many acclaimed restaurants. With deep-rooted hospitality and a focus on local ingredients, the city’s chefs translate Southern sensibilities into dynamic dining experiences. Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen, & Bar is one shining example. Set in a restored 1920s mansion, the beloved eatery specializes in modern, highly seasonal cuisine, with a menu dreamed up by award-winning Chef Timothy Grandinetti. Just down the street in the glitzy R.J. Reynolds Building, the Katharine Brasserie & Bar serves traditional French fare with nods to Southern tradition. For a truly quintessential meal, though, make a beeline to Sweet Potatoes. In the heart of the Arts District, this home-style haven has been a staple of Winston-Salem for nearly twenty years. As owners and chefs Stephanie Tyson and Vivián Joiner like to say, countless relationships have been forged over a basket of their fried green tomatoes and okra.
Between meals, there’s plenty to take in throughout Winston-Salem—especially for art lovers and history buffs. Just ten minutes from downtown is the Reynolda Estate, a stunning relic of the Roaring Twenties. Once owned by tobacco tycoon R.J. Reynolds and wife, Katharine, the property now holds immaculate formal gardens, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, and a collection of boutiques and restaurants within Reynolda Village.
The most immersive experience may be found at the Old Salem Museums & Gardens. A time capsule of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the historic site offers a hands-on exploration of Moravian life, including the settlers’ food, crafts, and trades. Also within the grounds, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts contains a vast collection of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, needlework, paintings, and prints made and used in the early American South—one of the finest collections in the country. For works on the modern side, pay a visit to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, which encompasses visual art exhibitions as well as lectures and music, dance, and theater performances.
Some of the city’s finest historic sites are also places to lay your head. The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, for one, is located within the R.J. Reynolds Building, an Art Deco structure circa 1929 that served as a prototype for the Empire State Building. A few blocks away, the Pepper Building is another Art Deco treasure that now houses Hotel Indigo, a modern yet eclectic stay filled with local artwork. Near Old Salem, the Historic Brookstown Inn is a charming retreat inside a former 1837 cotton mill, while just a quick drive from downtown, the Norman Revival-style Graylyn Estate offers sophisticated accommodations against the backdrop of historic architecture. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: Winston-Salem is ever-growing, and new discoveries crop up every day. To start planning your trip, visit visitwinstonsalem.com.