In the past, North Carolina’s fifth-largest city was overshadowed by larger and more touristy locales in the Tar Heel State, but not anymore. Today, it’s a bustling center of business, recreation, and cultural opportunities. The hyphenated name comes from its dual heritage: Salem was a Moravian settlement founded in 1766; later, a more secular industrial center, Winston, emerged nearby. The two towns in the scenic Yadkin Valley merged in 1913, and “Twin City” was born. Winston-Salem is poised to become North Carolina’s hot new destination city–but don’t wait to visit. Get here before the word gets out.
The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel
Winston-Salem’s newest luxury hotel is a Kimpton property aptly named after the state bird , and it is housed in the renovated historic R.J. Reynolds building (the prototype for the Empire State Building). The hotel offers some fun perks and amenities, including sweet tea and cheese straws served daily in the living room–style lobby, as well as an evening wine hour. Yoga mats are available in every room, and the hotel offers free bike rentals so guests can explore the town. The Cardinal is steps away from downtown’s rich cultural and food scene, so you’ll be right in the middle of all the action.
Unexpected Wine Country
You may not think “wine country” when you think of North Carolina, but Yadkin Valley vintners are doing their best to change that. You’ll be reminded of Italy under the breathtaking Blue Ridge mountain views at Raffildini Vineyards’ villa and tasting room. Don’t miss “An Afternoon in Tuscany,” featuring lunch and a concert among the vines, or the popular “Four Seasons Wine Tasting” dinner, both in August. For a more hands-on experience, head to Divine Llama Vineyards, where you can trek through the countryside with a cuddly (leashed) llama, then relax at the tasting room afterward.
250 Years of Moravian Traditions
Old Salem is one of those places you might visit as a kid, but not truly appreciate until you’re older. Think of it as a living museum: actors dressed in period garb tell the story of the Moravian missionaries who settled in the area during the late 1700s. The Moravians were progressive for their time and extremely self-sufficient. In the historically accurate restored buildings of Old Salem, you can learn about the town’s storied history and see woodworkers, potters, farmers, and musicians practicing traditional Moravian crafts. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Moravian sugar cakes at Winkler Bakery. Check out the events calendar and schedule your visit around one of the fun (free) 250th anniversary events.
Also celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2017 is Reynolda House Museum of American Art. The private residence of tobacco mogul Richard Reynolds and his beloved wife Katharine is now home to one of the most extensive collections of American art in the United States. A stroll through the home and grounds lets visitors peek into the lavish lifestyle the Reynolds family lived on their self-sufficient estate. Formal and informal gardens are free to visit, but a stunning art collection is the crown jewel. To celebrate the anniversary of the home being a museum longer than it was a live-in residence, Reynolda House will exhibit collections from Georgia O’Keefe, Fredric Church, and other renowned artists in the coming year.
The Yadkin Valley offers an abundance of land, air, and water recreational opportunities. Both Pilot Mountain State Park and Hanging Rock State Park are just a short drive away and offer hiking, camping, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Aerial adventures can be had in a colorful hot-air balloon at Yadkin Valley Balloon Adventures, or ziplining through the forest at Sanders Ridge Winery. See the valley from a kayak or canoe with Yadkin River Adventures. Or take a spin through town on a Segway tour with Triad ECO Adventures, which also offers plenty of stand-up paddleboarding sessions including fitness, yoga, and “glow” SUP—the latter is a nighttime outing on illuminated boards.
Foodies will be delighted at Winston-Salem’s vibrant restaurant scene—one of the best in the state. For lunch, Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro (average main: $11) won’t disappoint: try the Southern spring rolls stuffed with pulled-pork barbecue, shiitake mushrooms, Napa cabbage, and collards. For dinner, start the night at Tate’s Craft Cocktails—even the ice cubes are works of art here—then walk next door to The Honey Pot (average main: $26), with a creative menu that successfully blends Southern and Asian flavors. Other standout spots include The Tavern in Old Salem (for Southern/Moravian comfort food); The Carving Board (gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads); Mary’s Gourmet Diner (best breakfast in town); and Ryan’s Restaurant (a splurge spot serving juicy steaks, chops, and fresh seafood).
If you’re in town the second week of August, do not miss Doctor Brownstone’s Sweet Summer LuvLuv Festival, a five-day grill fest hosted by local celebrity chef Timothy Grandinetti, who also owns two of the hottest restaurants in town, Spring House and Quanto Basta: Italian Eatery and Wine Bar.
Before you head home, stop by Twin City Hive Coffee Lounge. All of their coffees are roasted in North Carolina, and they’re phenomenal. Order a pour-over and browse the carefully curated selection of handmade chocolates, teas, and locally made artisan goods. The owners, Joey and Terry, are friendly, enthusiastic, and passionate about supporting other local businesses. You’re sure to leave with the perfect memento from your trip.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Winston-Salem Travel Guide