Only the town of Winston-Salem in North Carolina could take a history of religious communities and tobacco factories and transform it into the bustling small city it is today. Between North Carolina’s beaches in the East and mountains in the West, Winston-Salem rests happily in the central Piedmont region. The lively urban hub often gets buried beneath the tourism of bigger cities such as Raleigh or Charlotte, but travelers who enjoy art scenes, local dishes, and shopping need to add Winston-Salem at the top of their list.
Once a sleepy town, with time Winston-Salem became the fifth most populous city and fourth-largest metropolitan area in North Carolina. The vibrant city breathes history and culture. Green parks, exclusive residential areas, and six universities surround the downtown. Here’s everything travelers should know about Winston-Salem before planning a trip.
Best Time To Go To Winston-Salem
Fields of grasses at sunset in the autumn months in Winston-Salem.
- Best Time To Visit Winston-Salem: October to November
- Average Daily Temperatures: Days from 60°-70°, Nights from 40°-50°
October and November are the best time for travelers to plan their trips to Winston-Salem. These fall months balance the best temperatures with the least likelihood of rain. The small city is also at its height of showing off autumn colors if hikers choose to explore city parks or surrounding nature areas.
April and May are also great months to stay in Winston-Salem, but tourists can expect days with more rain.
North Carolina has a humid climate with moderate winters and hot and rainy summers. The state is affected by severe weather during hurricane season because it sticks out into the Atlantic like a giant storm-catching net.
Travelers should generally avoid visiting Winston-Salem in the summer due to the uncomfortable weather and potential storms.
Finally, visitors who don’t mind cooler temperatures can plan for an excellent adventure in Winston-Salem during the winter. Temperatures average in the low 50s during the day and low 30s at night. Plus, the cheapest month to fly to North Carolina is in February.
A visit to Winston-Salem in the winter warrants a journey outside the city since North Carolina offers incredible winter sports and activities, such as some of the best ski resorts in the South.
The most expensive time of year to fly to North Carolina is in November and December.
What To Know When Visiting Winston-Salem
Old Salem Single Brothers House, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
Winston-Salem’s primary offering is history, and there’s plenty to learn.
Locals refer to Winston-Salem as simply Winston, but Twin City or Camel City may be more appropriate nicknames owing to the history. In the mid-1700s, followers of the Moravian church, one of the oldest Protestant denominations, founded Salem, North Carolina.
They sold land to the north, which soon became a separate town named after a Revolutionary War hero: Joseph Winston. The well-known Camel tobacco and Hanes textile companies later moved in, and soon the two towns became one as over half of the population worked in the factories.
Visitors can experience Winton-Salem’s history painted on every street––from humble Moravian museums to old warehouses converted into craft beer companies.
Neighborhoods In Winston-Salem
Winston Tower office building towering over the Winston-Salem downtown on a bright day.
Tourists can expect to spend most of their time in the downtown area, the Buena Vista neighborhood, and Hanes Mall Boulevard.
Two skyscrapers tower over the downtown area: one known locally as the Wells Fargo Center, and the other the 21-story Reynolds Tower that later became the prototype for The Empire State Building in New York City.
The Winston-Salem downtown area is home to Innovation Quarter, a rapidly growing science and technology district. At the other end of history, the downtown is also home to Old Salem, the living history museum of the Moravian church and congregation.
Most importantly, visitors can catch a baseball game at Truist Stadium, attend an event at the Benton Convention Center, or hop between restaurants, bars, and local shops in the Winston-Salem downtown.
The Buena Vista Neighborhood
Ten minutes northwest of downtown, the Buena Vista neighborhood in Winston-Salem is a haven of peace. Green parks, shady streets, and expensive mansions give the district a refined feel.
Tourists will enjoy the Reynolda Gardens and House Museum. The Reynolda Gardens offer nature lovers free admission to stroll through formal gardens, fields, woodlands, and a greenhouse.
The Reynolda House Museum lets art lovers browse American paintings in the former estate of Katherine Smith Reynolds and her husband, R.J. Reynolds, the Camel tobacco tycoon.
Hanes Mall Boulevard and Stratford Road
Lastly, for tourists on a shopping spree, The Hanes Mall Boulevard and Stratford Road in Winston-Salem have hundreds of options, such as The Hanes Mall and large retailers like Target and Costco.
- Location: 3320 Silas Creek Pkwy, Winston-Salem, NC
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11 AM – 8 PM | Sundays, noon – 6 PM
Best Ways To Get Around Winston-Salem
In Winston-Salem, a public bus loaded with a rack of bikes stops on a quiet street on an autumn morning.
Going on foot is the best way to experience and get around Winston-Salem’s downtown. The downtown connects the city’s main tourist attractions with easily-navigable streets and trails.
As a university town, Winston-Salem depends on a solid public transportation system. Over thirty buses connect the downtown with surrounding residential, university, and shopping districts.
- Hours of Operation: Varies daily by line | Usually between 8 AM – 11 PM
- Fares: Adults, $1 cash (free transfers) | 10 ride passes, $10
- Note: Closed for many national and religious holidays, various users can ride for free or at a discounted price
All buses include a bike rack for cyclists who need a break or are headed to one of the city’s many trails.
Going by car may be the most convenient way to see the sights in Winston-Salem. Driving allows visitors to experience the downtown and explore the neighboring shopping districts or parks without depending on public transportation schedules.
Parking is easy in Winston-Salem. There is ample space outside the downtown along the street or in parking lots. The downtown parking includes 800 metered and un-metered spots, several hourly lots, and one free Park-and-Shuttle lot.
How To Get To Winston-Salem
The best way to arrive in Winston-Salem is by car, the perfect stop for road trippers driving through the American South. Interstates I-40 and I-285 connect Winston-Salem to the rest of North Carolina and highways 421, 52, and 67.
The nearest major cities are Greensboro (30 miles) and Charlotte (80 miles).
Winston-Salem’s nearest airports are Greensboro/High Point (GSO) and Charlotte (CLT).
One public transportation option to get to Winston-Salem is the Line 5 bus from Charlotte Airport. After landing at the airport, the bus trip takes over three hours.
Where To Stay In Winston-Salem
A shaded and grassy backyard on a quiet street in Old Salem features a white fence and a house.
Graylyn Estates (originally built by one of R.J. Reynold’s executives)
- Price Range: From $300 per night
- Why You Should Stay: Historic estate on beautiful lawns, seasonal outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, dining room, unlimited complimentary ice cream
- Price Range: From $200 per night
- Why You Should Book: Charming Inn constructed in 1837, hot breakfast included
- Price Range: From $100 per night
- Why You Should Book: Hot breakfast included, exercise room, seasonal outdoor pool
- Price Range: From $150 per night
- Why You Should Book: Convenient downtown location, continental breakfast included, fitness center
- Price Range: From $80 per night
- Why You Should Book: Breakfast included, free parking, pool, and fitness center
- Price Range: From $85 per night
- Why You Should Book: Continental breakfast included, fitness center
Where To Eat In Winston-Salem
A couple crosses a bridge on a quiet and overcast day in Winston-Salem.
Winston-Salem celebrates varied cuisines, from Tex-Mex to Southern Barbecue. The town’s history has also impacted its cooking, and tourists can sample sweets and treats dating back to the original Moravian recipes.
Trade Street downtown has enough to satisfy restaurant-goers from breakfast to dinner (with snacks in between). Visitors should also venture outside the center to try everything Winston-Salem offers.
Hungry tourists can begin their day of sightseeing in Winston-Salem at Cagney’s Kitchen. They serve hearty breakfast plates in a classic American diner setting.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 7 AM – 8 PM | Sundays, 8 AM – 2 PM
- Cost: $, $10-$15 per person
- Location: 828 S Stratford Rd, Winston-Salem, NC, near the Hanes Mall shopping district
- Recommended: Pancakes and hash browns
Not only Camel cigarettes and the Hanes Clothing company originated in this small city, but Vernon Rudolph also founded the iconic Krispy Kreme Donuts in Winston-Salem.
While the original site is gone, die-hard donut fans can visit a plaque commemorating the first shop.
Original Site of Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop
- Location: 534 S Main St, Winston-Salem, NC
Either way, sweet-toothed tourists can grab a donut at the Krispy Kreme near the Hanes Mall shopping district to celebrate the city where it all started.
- Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 3 AM – 10 PM | Friday – Saturday, 3 AM – 11 PM
- Cost: $
- Location: 259 S Stratford Rd, Winston-Salem, NC, near the Hanes Mall shopping district
Willow’s Bistro is a perfect spot for lunch in Winston-Salem, especially for those who have just toured the Old Salem Museums. A few blocks north of the museum, Willow’s Bistro offers traditional American dishes and Southern comfort classics.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM | Closed Sundays
- Cost: $$, $20-$25 per person
- Location: 300 S Liberty St #125, Winston-Salem, NC
- Recommendations: Crab cakes or grilled salmon
North Carolina is famous for its barbecue sauces, and tourists will no doubt want to try Winston-Salem’s take on smoked meats and tangy sauces.
One recommendation for those strolling the downtown area is Camel City BBQ Factory. The restaurant specializes in barbecue and has an arcade, cornhole, and the perfect rooftop for sunny afternoon meals.
- Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11 AM – 9 PM | Friday and Saturday, 11 AM – 10 PM
- Cost: $$, $15-$20 per person
- Location: 701 N Liberty St, Winston-Salem, NC
- Recommendations: Hush puppies and collard greens
The strong tradition of barbecues in North Carolina has led to the creation of The Historic Barbecue Trail, and Winston-Salem boasts a restaurant along the way: Real Q.
Although slightly removed from the downtown, the journey is a must for barbecue lovers eager to check one restaurant off the epic list.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:30 AM – 8 PM | Closed Sundays
- Cost: $
- Location: 701 N Liberty St, Winston-Salem, NC
- Recommendations: Hush puppies and chopped pork plates
For dinner after an eventful day of sightseeing in Winston-Salem, travelers can unwind at the quiet and upscale Springhouse Restaurant, Kitchen, and Bar.
The historic house turned restaurant reinvents Southern classics with a fine-dining twist.
- Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 5 PM – 9 PM | Closed Sunday – Tuesday
- Cost: $$$, from $35
- Location: 450 N Spring St, Winston-Salem, NC
- Recommendations: Pimento cheese grits
Winston-Salem also offers a multitude of Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants. One of many is The Porch Kitchen and Cantina.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM | Sunday, 10 AM – 3 PM
- Cost: $$, $20-$30 per person
- Location: 840 Mill Works St, Winston-Salem, NC
- Recommendations: Texas Pete chicken flautas
In the 1940s, the Garner family invented the nationally acclaimed Texas Pete Hot Sauce in Winston-Salem.
Winston-Salem has several spots to sample craft beers or sip on house-made cocktails. The downtown is hopping with bars and distilleries where visitors can relax and enjoy a buzz, such as Foothills Brewpub.
- Hours: Every day, 11 AM – midnight
- Cost: $$
- Location: 638 W 4th St, Winston-Salem, NC
- Notes: Taproom with craft beers
Tourists who need a sweet afternoon pick-me-up can try a cocktail and chocolates at Black Mountain Chocolate.
- Hours: Saturdays, 10 AM – 11 PM | Sundays, noon – 6 PM
- Cost: $$
- Location: 450 N Patterson Ave Suite 110, Winston-Salem, NC
- Notes: Try the homemade brownie with a craft cocktail
Top Things To Do In Winston-Salem
A man and a woman working at a table in traditional Moravian clothing in a historic kitchen with a large, glowing fireplace at the Old Salem Living Museum in Winston-Salem.
Winston-Salem has a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy, including historical exhibits, green spaces, and more.
At the core of Winston-Salem are Salem Square and God’s Acre Graveyard, remnants of the early town. If visiting over Easter, travelers can experience the Moravian Church’s 251st Easter Sunrise Service, which annually attracts thousands of worshipers.
The main attractions at the historical center of Winston-Salem are the Old Salem Museums and Gardens. The living history museum depicts the life of the Moravian community and features buildings, bakeries, and artwork.
Visitors can wander through the restored 1700s village at any time for free but must pay to see attractions such as The Doctor’s House, the Single Brothers’ House, and the traditional craftsmanship house.
The Miksch House and Garden, the Boys’ School, the Potter’s Workshop, the Moravian church, and the art galleries also require a ticket. Luckily, guests can visit these attractions with an All-In-One Ticket.
- Hours of Operation: Wednesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 4 PM | Closed Sunday – Tuesday
- All-In-One Ticket Prices: $27 per adult | $13 per child or student | Free 3 and under
- Location: 600 S Main St, Winston-Salem, NC
- Two-Stop Ticket Prices: Allows entry to any two venues | $18 per adult | $9 per child or student
- Note: Tickets can be purchased at the Visitor Center, the Museum Center, and the Gift shop.
Tourists only have to stay in Winston-Salem’s downtown to continue enjoying the city’s charm. Twenty minutes walking from Old Salem is the famed Trade Street, full of specialty shops, restaurants, and bars. Shoppers can browse boutique, craft, and jewelry stores or stop for a coffee at a bistro.
Two tourist stops are Piedmont Craftsmen Galleries and the Mast General Store. Art lovers will appreciate the handmade and local art featured at Piedmont Craftsmen. Visitors will love roaming through the aisles of the historic Mast General Store, founded in 1883.
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 4 PM | Closed Sunday and Monday
- Location: 601 Trade St NW, Winston-Salem, NC
- Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 10 AM – 6 PM | Friday – Saturday, 10 AM – 8 PM
- Location: 516 Trade St NW, Winston-Salem, NC
- Notes: Browse clothing, camping equipment, gifts, and barrels of hard candy
Lastly, travelers can admire several murals and art installations in the Winston-Salem downtown area. Enthusiasts can cross off all the exhibits on the Art Trail list and finish by hanging out at ARTivity on the Green–a green oasis full of sculptures.
Tourists should keep their eyes peeled for these iconic downtown features: the historic Coffee Pot landmark and the retro Art-o-Mat machine.
Buena Vista Neighborhood
A quiet, green shot of the expansive Reynolda Gardens in Winson-Salem.
Ten minutes driving northwest of the Winston-Salem downtown takes tourists to the Buena Vista neighborhood and offers the opportunity to spend a peaceful time at the Reynolda Gardens and Museum.
The Reynolda Gardens and Museum are the previous home and acreage of R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco magnate, and his wife, Katharine Smith Reynolds. Today, the museum showcases American paintings from colonial times to the present.
Visitors can wander for free through the gardens, encompassing over 125 acres of woodlands, walking trails, a formal garden, and a greenhouse.
- Hours: Open during daylight hours year-round
- Cost: Free
- Location: 100 Reynolda Village, Winston-Salem, NC
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
- Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM | Sundays, 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM | Closed Mondays
- Cost: $18 per adult | Free for 18 and under
- Location: 2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, NC
- Note: Free admission for students, veterans, and people with varying abilities
After visiting the museum and gardens, travelers can shop or grab something to eat at the nearby Reynolda Village Shops and Restaurants.
Two skateboarders enjoy a shaded, paved trail that runs through some woods in Winston-Salem.
For outdoor enthusiasts with additional time in Winston-Salem, they should travel outside the city to visit some of the best parks to hike in North Carolina.
Two incredible hiking spots near Winston-Salem include:
- Pilot Mountain State Park
- Hanging Rock State Park
Other attractions in Winston-Salem include: Historic Bethabara Park, Last Old Shell Oil Station, and the nearby town of Mount Airy (Andy Griffith’s hometown)
How To Spend A Perfect Day In Winston-Salem
A car passes through N Cherry Street on a quiet morning in downtown Winston-Salem.
The perfect day in Winston-Salem centers around the downtown and takes tourists through a citywide trek to enjoy activities such as walking, shopping, eating, drinking, and visiting museums.
In the morning, travelers should walk along the Winston-Salem Strollway, where they will find the Old Salem Museum and Gardens. Visitors can spend the morning steeping themselves in history, culture, and art.
If tourists need a treat to sweeten their perfect day in Winston-Salem, they can visit the Winkler Bakery in Old Salem and try some of Mrs. Hanes’ famous Moravian cookies.
Long Branch Trail in Winston-Salem downtown
Just a ten-minute walk north from the museum, tourists can later immerse themselves in the downtown on the commercial Fourth Street and Trade Street. Rows of restaurants, bars, and shops will keep visitors busy for hours, whether shopping, eating, or relaxing.
Finally, the perfect day in Winston-Salem ends at The Long Branch Trail. The trail and accompanying parks are slightly north of the downtown hub and run through Innovation Quarter, occupied by tobacco factories converted into restaurants and breweries.
Runners, cyclists, and walkers may prefer to end their day at the scenic Salem Lake Trail: seven miles of quiet, tree-lined trails surrounding a lake.
Q: What are some things to do in Winston-Salem?
Winston-Salem is one of the many beautiful towns in North Carolina that offers visitors many things to do. The most popular tourist attraction is the Old Salem Museums and Gardens. This recreated living museum gives tourists a glimpse into the lives of the founders of Salem.
Another lively attraction is Winston-Salem’s downtown and its many shops, restaurants, and breweries. Lastly, travelers can enjoy many parks and hiking trails in Winston-Salem.
Q: Is Winston-Salem worth visiting?
Anyone traveling or road-tripping through the American South or North Carolina should make a stop in Winston-Salem. The energetic and growing small city offers something for every visitor: history, culture, shopping, art, and outdoor activities.
Tourists can visit breweries in Winston-Salem or journey outside the city to experience North Carolina’s fantastic hiking trails.