Last month, Visit Winston-Salem invited me and my sister, Jennifer, for a weekend trip to experience the best their city has to offer and share it with all of you. The large majority of this trip was c/o—we paid for a few of our meals and gas to get to town, but Visit-Winston Salem gifted us our hotel stay, the majority of our meals, and the experiences we enjoyed, in exchange for promotion. I’ll flag anything below that we paid for ourselves—as always, opinions are my own!
Though I was born in North Carolina and spent the first eight years of my life there, I had only been to Winston-Salem a handful of times—once to tour Wake Forest as a high school junior and twice to visit friends going to Wake Forest Law. On previous trips, I didn’t venture very far from Wake Forest—so essentially, this was my first time here. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I walked away after my trip as a huge fan of this city. There’s so much amazing food + drink, history, architecture, shopping—all complemented by Southern Hospitality and packaged in a very livable city.
I wanted to share some of the history behind Winston-Salem, since I learned it on our trip and found it really interesting. Winston-Salem actually used to be two separate cities, Winston and Salem. Salem was founded more than 250 years ago, when the Moravians, a devout, religious group from Eastern Europe, settled in the area because of the fertile soil and temperate climate. Salem eventually became a thriving trade center, as the Moravians were known for their work as craftsmen of pottery, tannery, iron works, cloth, and furniture making. At the same time, Winston, a more secular city, was being formed nearby. After the Civil War, Winston rose to national prominence as a bustling industrial center, and emerged as a leader in tobacco and textile manufacturing. By 1913, it was clear that there was more to be gained by merging the cities and Winston-Salem was born. RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Piedmont Airlines (which became US Airways), Krispy Kreme, and TW Garner Food Company—makers of Texas Pete hot sauce all found their start in Winston-Salem.
We spent about 48 hours in Winston-Salem, as we arrived on Friday morning and left after breakfast on Sunday—I definitely could have done another day in town. But luckily for me, it was really easy to get to Winston-Salem from the DC area, which means that it will be easy to get back one day soon. And for those of you in the DC area like me, this would be such a fun weekend trip idea—definitely make sure Winston-Salem is on your list!
HOW TO GET THERE + GETTING AROUND WINSTON-SALEM —
We really wanted to maximize our time in Winston-Salem, so we both took a Friday off work to make sure we had more time to explore. We decided to drive to Danville, Virginia on Thursday night after work so that we had a shorter drive to Winston-Salem the next morning. The drive to Danville was about five hours, and the drive from Danville to Winston-Salem was about an hour and a half. We drove straight home from Winston-Salem on Sunday and it took about six hours—so a really manageable drive for a weekend trip.
We took Route 29 all the way down to Greensboro, North Carolina, and then picked up I-40 to get the rest of the way to Winston-Salem. It’s a super easy drive and we were lucky enough to not hit any traffic. As an added bonus, this route takes you through Charlottesville, so you could always stop off in town for a meal or Bodo’s!
Once we were in town, it was super easy to get around Winston-Salem. Since we drove, we had a car, and there was ample parking everywhere we went that was either free or very affordable. It was also very easy and cheap to get Ubers around town—we did this a few times when we wanted to enjoy a few cocktails and not worry about driving. And, since we stayed right in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, we walked anywhere we could—it felt very safe as there were always people around and was well lit. Not everything we did was walkable, but everything was close enough to each other that you could easily Uber, versus relying on having your own car—so if you fly into town, I don’t think a rental car is necessary.
WHERE TO STAY —
We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, located right in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, and loved it. The hotel is located in the historic Pepper Building, which was built in 1928 in an art-deco style, and originally housed a department store. One thing we loved in particular was that the ceilings were really high, which made our room feel enormous. In addition to being super spacious, the rooms were well decorated and very livable—those beds were so comfortable!
We also spent some time down at the lobby bar, which was architecturally stunning and a lively place to be. Before we left town on Sunday, we also enjoyed breakfast at Clementine’s in the hotel lobby. Named for the wife of Sir Winston Churchill, her favorite meal was breakfast—so they have an amazing selection of toasts and classic breakfast fare—not to mention, they make a mean mimosa! The lobby also had a pretty expansive grab-and-go section of drinks, snacks, and prepared foods in case you don’t have time to sit down for a full meal.
Since Hotel Indigo is right downtown, there’s a ton within walking distance, which is definitely a huge perk! We decided to valet our car with the hotel for $23/night since we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of street parking—but that’s an option if you’re looking for saving on valet. The valet garage was really close to the hotel, so we never had to wait very long for them to bring our car around.
One really cool thing you should look out for in the lobby of Hotel Indigo is their Art-o-mat—it’s located right near the elevators. I had never seen these before visiting Winston-Salem, but Art-o-mats are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. I love that Art-o-mat takes something old and makes it new again, and thought it was a great nod to Winston-Salem’s history of being home to RJ Reynolds Tobacco.
We loved our stay here, and really appreciate Hotel Indigo hosting us for the weekend—I would definitely stay here again and would highly recommend staying at this hotel the next time you’re in Winston-Salem.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK —
I know I say this about pretty much every city, but you should definitely come to Winston-Salem with an appetite! I was so impressed with the food scene in town as we had some really amazing meals. Below is a round up of where we ate—I put a star next to the meals that were given to us c/o of Visit Winston-Salem and the restaurants. We so appreciate their hospitality!
Camino Bakery* — There are several Camino Bakery locations in Winston-Salem; we went to the one in Brookstown to meet with Visit Winston-Salem when we first got into town and it was super cute. They had several tables outside, and a ton of beautiful pastries, bagels, and breads. For lunch, they also offer sandwiches and quiche. I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve heard great things!
Village Tavern* — Located in the heart of Reynolda Village, Village Tavern is my kind of restaurant. They had a beautiful, expansive patio dotted with yellow umbrellas—this would be such a fun place to grab a cocktail and sit back and relax. The day we went, our reservation was at high noon and it was in the 90s with 100% humidity, so we opted to sit inside. The food here was great—there’s something for everyone and it’s all delicious. I did a Cobb salad and Jennifer did a flatbread. We stuck with sodas, but they had a ton of great drink specials going on at lunch, too—so if you wanted to treat yourself with a midday drink, this would be a great place to do so!
Dough Joe’s* — OMG! YOU! HAVE! TO! GO! HERE! Also located in Reynolda Village, Dough Joe’s serves up coffee and the most amazing cake doughnuts that are made-to-order: you pick the glaze and toppings. They have all sorts of adventurous options, but Jennifer and I are pretty simple gals. She did a lemon glaze, and I did a classic glaze with rainbow sprinkles. My only regret is not going back for a second doughnut! Since Reynolda Village connects via footpath to Wake Forest University, there were lots of students in here studying and enjoying a sweet treat.
Spring House* — Spring House is such a cool restaurant and definitely should be on your Winston-Salem itinerary. The last remaining mansion on Winston-Salem’s “Millionaire’s Row,” where RJ and Katharine Reynolds had their “downtown” home, Spring House was the home of Andrew Bahnson. Along with his brother, Andrew founded The Bahnson Companies, which got its start with the Bahnson humidifier, which was designed to wick textile dust and tobacco mold from local factories and warehouses. Today, Spring House is a gorgeous restaurant and the weekend we were in town they were hosting Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival, which was a walk-around food event featuring 10+ chefs, each offering tapas-style bites. There was so much amazing food and we loved the ambiance of Spring House so much that we sat outside on their gorgeous patio until well after sunset.
Lavender & Honey Kitchen* — We loved Lavender & Honey Kitchen! Owned by a mother-daughter duo, this place had a line out the door, and for good reason: the food and drink were awesome. We came for breakfast on Saturday morning and split a savory croissant and the most amazing quiche. We loved the quiche so much we went back and got another piece! They’re also known for these huge Amish cinnamon rolls—we’re not huge sweets-for-breakfast people, but they looked so good. In addition to ample seating inside, they have a gorgeous back deck with umbrellas and a few seats on the front patio. While you’re at Lavender & Honey, you definitely need to check out Fiddle & Fig and Poppy Seed Provisions, which are on the lower level of the building—more on both of those below!
Foothills Brewing* — Foothills Brewing is a must—especially if you love craft beer! We ate at their location downtown, but they also have a tasting room about 15 minutes away. Foothills is the second-largest native North Carolina Brewery and one I thing I loved was that they release a Moravian Porter beer each year as a nod to their Winston-Salem roots—the Moravian Porter is brewed with the same proportions of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg as the Moravian cookie. They also had awesome food—especially for a brewery; as a shocker to no one, I enjoyed a delicious burger!
Incendiary Brewing — We also loved Incendiary Brewing, and a great time catching up with one of my sorority sisters over beers here. I did their summer shandy and it was delicious! Even if you’re not into beer, it’s worth a trip to Incendiary because of the architecture alone. It’s located in the Bailey Power Plant, which was used by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. They don’t offer food, but allow you to bring in from Cugino Forno, which is right next door. This area reminded me a lot of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham!
The Porch Kitchen & Cantina — The Porch came to us highly recommended by several people who know Winston-Salem really well. Truthfully, we were a little underwhelmed! While the atmosphere was great, we thought the margs were a little on the sour side and nothing about the food really stood out to us. We split the salsa, guac, and queso trio to start, and then I did chicken fajitas for dinner. Even though it had rained that afternoon, we were able to sit outside on their covered back porch, which was really nice. Overall though, I’m not sure I’d come back here before trying some of the other great restaurants Winston-Salem has to offer.
WHAT TO DO —
If you couldn’t tell, we packed a ton into the 48 hours we were in Winston-Salem—there is so much to do in town! Here’s what I would recommend doing—besides enjoying all the amazing food + drink—while you’re in town:
Visit Reynolda House — This is the country “bungalow” of JR and Katharine Reynolds, located just a few miles from downtown Winston-Salem and steps away from Reynolda Village. If you love historical homes like I do, you’ll definitely want to add Reynolda to your bucket list. The home was completed in 1917 right around Christmastime and has been restored to look like it did when the family lived there. (The roof is currently undergoing renovations and will be finished this fall—I would love to see the house without all the scaffolding!)
While at Reynolda House, I especially loved learning about Katharine—she was very progressive and ahead of her time. She advocated for education, opening a school in the village for all of RJ’s workers to send their children. At night, she ran a school for his workers in the post office so they could learn to read and write. She also persuaded her husband to offer women flexible work hours and set up a daycare. And, her business savvy really helped her husband’s bottom line.
Today, in addition to being a historic home, it’s also an American art museum. JR and Katharine’s daughter, Mary, eventually acquired the home and along with her husband, was a big investor in American art—much of their collection can be seen throughout the house. There’s also a gallery space that has rotating exhibitions.
Visit Reynolda Gardens — Reynolda Gardens are free and open to the public 365 days a year while the sun is out! Comprised of both formal and informal gardens, they are impeccably well-kept. This would be such a relaxing place to spend an afternoon. They’re located right between Reynolda House and Reynolda Village, so if you visit either of those, definitely make sure you carve off some time to walk through the gardens.
Visit Reynolda Village — Reynolda Village is part of the original 1,000+ acre country estate owned by tobacco magnate RJ Reynolds and his wife, Katharine Smith Reynolds. Katharine was instrumental in the planning of this self-sufficient estate that was built between 1912-1917 and was home to Reynolda House, the 60-room bungalow for the family, a lake, formal and informal gardens, and a village, which included a dairy barn, cattle shed, school, post office, carriage house, and more.
Today, the buildings that made up the village have been repurposed as boutiques, restaurants, and experiences. My sister and I LOVED it at Reynolda Village! You can now take a walking tour of Reynolda Village and learn all about this history-first hand.
Village Tavern and Dough Joe’s, which we ate at, are both located in Reynolda Village—and you can see a complete list of the other restaurants, shops, and experiences at Reynolda Village on their website here.
Take a Class at AR Workshop — Located right in Reynolda Village, this was such a fun experience! We did a small project because we had a packed afternoon, but AR Workshop walks you through step-by-step how to make all sorts of DIY projects—think wooden signs, canvas pillows, wood framed signs, bottle openers, and more. This would be a great activity for a holiday get-together, bachelorette, bridal shower, or just because.
Shop at Fiddle & Fig — I am not exaggerating when I say I could have bought everything in this store! If you love home decor, you will love Fiddle & Fig—it is really thoughtfully curated with a lot of unique pieces. I bought this really cool serving tray that fits over a wine bottle; I have never seen anything like it!
Shop at Elizabeth’s at Hane’s Park — We also really enjoyed Elizabeth’s; they had such a good selection of vintage and unique pieces. It definitely was a little overwhelming because they have a lot of stuff, but if you’re in the mood to look around, I have no doubt you can find a ton of things you love in here. I could have bought so many things, but ended up with a beautiful silver serving tray that I just couldn’t walk away from.
Sit Back + Relax at Poppyseed Provisions — This is something I wish we had carved off time for! Poppyseed Provisions is located right next to Elizabeth’s and they have all sorts of wine, beer, and snacks you can purchase and enjoy on their picnic tables right outside. They’ve also got a lot of lawn games and space for kids to run around. They also had a great selection of gifts and unique candies, too.
Though we didn’t while we’re in town, you could also catch a Wake Forest game or catch a Winston-Salem Dash baseball game (they’re the local minor league team). There are also several wineries near town, including Childress, RayLen, and JOLO.
Our weekend trip to Winston-Salem was so much fun—I walked away with a serious appreciation for the city and am trying to convince family and friends to take their own trip. We so, so, so appreciate Visit Winston-Salem for hosting us for the weekend and planning an amazing itinerary for us to experience. As always, all opinions are my own.
If you have any questions about our trip to Winston-Salem and what we did, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org