Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Winston-Salem, NC

  • Published 2023/02/23

Moravian German-speaking protestants found their home on the fertile lands of Winston-Salem back in the 1700s, which is now the county seat of Forsyth County in North Carolina.

These Moravian settlers also established the famous Salem college in 1772, which is now the United States’ oldest college for women.

From a tourist’s perspective, you already know what awaits you in Winston-Salem.

This city is an exciting destination for history buffs and, of course, for everyone.

Aside from its rich history and heritage, Winston-Salem also boasts natural beauty nestled between the famous Blue Ridge Mountains.

Moreover, Winston-Salem’s streets are filled with charming boutiques, local businesses, museums, and art galleries, making it an excellent destination for leisure activities.

Winston-Salem is a beautiful travel destination many have not discovered.

So, seize the chance to visit this North Carolina city and discover its hidden gems.

For your reference, check out the 20 best things to do in Winston-Salem, NC.

Discover History at Old Salem

The main street of Old Salem

Jon Bilous /

Old Salem served as the main settlement for the Moravians in the area in the 1800s.

It is where they built Winston-Salem into what it is today.

Thus, it holds many significant histories, which is fascinating, especially if you’re a history buff.

Old Salem's covered bridge decorated for the holidays

Nature Lovin Geek /

Today, Old Salem is a famous tourist attraction.

Visitors are treated to an educational guided tour through museums and historical sites, detailing how the Moravians spent their days in the past.

In addition, you can head to various shops to buy exciting souvenir items. At the same time, it has a beautiful garden that you can visit.

You can visit Old Salem for free or perhaps buy a ticket that gives you access to its exciting workshops.

Fall scene at Old Salem

Bryan Pollard /

Step Back in Time at the Old Salem Museum and Garden

Visitor center of Old Salem Museum and Garden

Bryan Pollard /

This charming historical attraction in Winston-Salem is pretty much run by the community, making it a special place to visit.

The Old Salem Museum and Garden underwent restoration through the efforts of local volunteers in the 1950s.

It became a tradition for many of Winston-Salem’s locals through the years to preserve their historic gardens and buildings for the future generation to see and appreciate their beauty.

Exterior of buildings at Old Salem Museum and Garden

Michael Neil Thomas /

Today, these historical structures are still standing firm with their original furnishings, design, and details intact for visitors to see.

Aside from the historical buildings and gardens in the Old Salem, you’ll also enjoy yourself shopping, dining, and strolling through this attraction.

The Old Salem Museum and Garden is situated along S. Main Street.

Old Salem Museum and Garden's plaza

Bryan Pollard /

Bite Your Way Through the North Carolina BBQ Trail

The North Carolina BBQ Trail is one of the most exciting activities you’ll enjoy in Winston-Salem.

North Carolina is a famous destination for its cuisine, notably Southern barbeque, served by dozens of restaurants across the state.

Meanwhile, numerous restaurants in Winston-Salem serve classic Southern barbecue-style dishes.

You can grab a map through its website for those who want to fully experience the North Carolina BBQ Trail.

On the other hand, more than 20 barbeque pits are listed on the North Carolina BBQ Trail itinerary, including Winston-Salem’s own famous pits.

In and nearby Winston-Salem, these pits are Real Q, Hill’s Lexington BBQ, Honkey Tonk Smokehouse, Camel City BBQ Factory, Country BBQ, and Clark’s BBQ.

Stroll through Winston-Salem’s West End Historic District

Street sign of West End Historic District

Carolinalove28, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Can’t get enough of Salem’s rich history?

In that case, head straight to the West End Historic District.

This area in Winston-Salem is filled with historical architectural gems dating back to the early 19th century.

You’ll be mesmerized by the well-preserved Queen Anne, Classic Revival, and Colonial Revival architectures while strolling through this historic district.

More than 500 structures that have historical significance to Winston-Salem are found in the West End Historic District, making this place a worthwhile attraction.

One of the favorite buildings in the district is the brick-laden Zevely House which now serves as an inn and a restaurant.

In addition, the H.D. Poindexter House is known for its beautiful Queen Anne-style architecture.

Spending your day in this famous historic district in Winston-Salem is a fascinating experience you shouldn’t miss, especially if you’re an avid history enthusiast.

Step Inside the Reynolda House of Museum of American Art

Exterior of Reynolda House Museum

Mcintern2012 of English Wikipedia, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Reynolda House Museum is another historical attraction in Winston-Salem with a touch of art.

Situated along Reynolda Road, this museum features some of the most beautiful American art in North Carolina.

This museum has more than a hundred artworks from its rotating and static exhibits.

Reynolda House is also considered a masterpiece.

This famous historic house in Winston-Salem is known for its beautiful period mansion design, situated on a 20-acre lush landscape.

Historically, Reynolda House was Richard Joshua Reynolds’ home.

Reynolda was a prominent figure in North Carolina for being the owner of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Inc.

In 1980, Reynolda House finally got its well-deserved recognition after being listed on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of Winston-Salem and Wake Forest University.

Shop Your Way through Trade Street

Night scene at Trade Street

RozenskiP /

Suppose you’re yearning for retail therapy during your visit to Winston-Salem, head to Trade Street, where you’ll find a vast collection of boutiques and mainstream brands.

This street in Winston-Salem is packed with specialty storefronts, local shops, souvenir outlets, and more.

Suppose you’re getting hungry while shopping; there are tons of restaurants available in the area, from fine-dining to hole-in-the-wall diners.

Trade Street is considered Winston-Salem’s heart and soul, making this spot in the city extra special for locals.

It’s where most locals spend their leisure time while tourists can also enjoy themselves with its offering.

Don’t forget to include shopping and dining in your itinerary while touring through Winston-Salem because there’s a place in the city that offers the best experience.

Wander through the Historic Bethabara Park

Exterior of Historic Bethabara Park's church

David Bjorgen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Suppose you’re fascinated by the Moravian protestants who first settled in Winston-Salem in the 1700s; you should visit the Historic Bethabara Park along Bethabara Road.

This historical attraction in Winston-Salem served as one of the first settlements of the Moravian protestants before they transferred to Old Salem.

This area encompasses 183 acres, serving as a historical attraction and a wildlife preserve.

This place is truly fascinating, especially for history buffs and wildlife enthusiasts.

Trail covered with foliage at Historic Bethabara Park

Tkopp1201, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As you wander through the Historic Bethabara Park, you’ll encounter various restored old buildings, including the Moravian Church.

In addition, you’ll also see the local flora and fauna of this region in North Carolina.

Most people who visit this place intend to learn its history and for a top-notch bird watching experience.

Moreover, its guided tours let visitors learn the rich history of the Moravian settlers.

A log cabin at Historic Bethabara Park

Travis K. Witt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Browse through the Mast General Store

Another exciting activity you’ll enjoy in Winston-Salem is browsing through the Mast General Store.

This local gem, a 19th-century general merchandise establishment, holds a lot of history and fascinating things, making your visit there genuinely worthwhile.

While browsing through this general store, you’ll appreciate its old charm and genuine Southern spirit.

Since it’s a traditional store, expect lots of local products from handcrafted creams, lotions, and gourmet grits, to outdoor gear.

In addition, Mast General Store is also famous for its wide selection of candies which will surely bring out the child in you.

Historically, Mast General Store was established in the late 1800s through a partnership between four local businessmen in Winston-Salem.

It opened to answer the growing trade demand in the area.

Today, it’s more than Winston-Salem’s most trusted store; but also serves as the city’s icon.

Follow the Winston-Salem Art Trail

A mural at Winston-Salem

Breawycker, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Salem is not just known for its rich history and heritage; it also boasts a vibrant and renowned local arts community.

To experience how its local community brought colors to this city’s streets, you should follow the Winston-Salem Art Trail.

This one-of-a-kind experience is an incredible activity you and your travel buddies shouldn’t miss when in Winston-Salem.

Because of its vibrant local arts community, Winston-Salem is also known as a “City of Arts and Innovation.”

This iconic attraction in Winston-Salem features a collection of outdoor arts for everyone to explore throughout the city.

You will come across various murals, vintage signs, graffiti, free expression murals, commissioned public works, and pop art through Winston-Salem’s streets.

To complete your experience, you need to book a ticket to its guided tour.

While visiting these artworks, you can visit various local cafes, restaurants, and shops to add more excitement to your experience.

Watch College Football at Truist Field

Exterior of Truist Field

Bryan Pollard /

Wake Forest University Deacon Demons college football team is a famous sports team in Winston-Salem.

To see them play college football, head to the Truist football field at Wake Forest University.

People at BB&T Field

Ipitytheblue, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This massive sports venue can fit more than 30,000 people, making it a spectacular place to visit in Winston-Salem.

You have more reasons to watch football at this famous stadium since it has undergone numerous upgrades through the years.

Today, the Truist football field has a multi-story press box and a massive video board installed at the field’s south end zone.

Take a Tour Inside Lam Museum of Anthropology

Lam Museum of Anthropology is an excellent place to visit if you plan to add an educational tour to your itinerary in Winston-Salem.

This museum at Wake Forest University features and celebrates different histories and cultures of the world.

It curates immersive exhibits that display modern and ancient artifacts for the past 80 years.

The museum has a mixture of static and rotating exhibits that visitors can enjoy through educational tours or self-guided tours.

Spending an hour or two at the Lam Museum of Anthropology is genuinely worthwhile, especially if you’re keen to learn about new and fascinating things.

Pose at the Famous Clam-Shaped Shell Station

The bright-colored Shell Oil Clamshell

Anjohnst, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of Winston-Salem’s most famous tourist attractions is the Shell Oil Clamshell, situated on East Sprague and Peachtree Streets.

This 1930s structure has become one of the most visited places in Winston-Salem, where people stop by to snap photos as their souvenirs.

The City of Winston-Salem intentionally preserved this piece as an added attraction to the city.

They didn’t fail because most tourists who visit the city always take time to drop by and pose at the giant yellow clamshell.

In addition, they can gas up their cars while enjoying the experience.

Check Out Winston-Salem’s Giant Coffee Pot

Daytime view of the Giant Coffee Pot

Jstengel /

The Giant Coffee Pot in Winston-Salem is a beloved attraction you shouldn’t miss visiting.

This unique attraction was constructed in 1858, making it the oldest tourist icon in the city.

The Giant Coffee Pot stands at seven feet tall, but until today, many remains baffled about its existence.

Plants surrounding the Giant Coffee Pot

Warren LeMay from Cullowhee, NC, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

According to history, tinsmiths Samuel and Julius Mickey constructed the coffee pot to promote their business.

However, numerous urban legends surround the purpose of the coffee pot, making it more fascinating to see up to this day.

The Winston-Salem giant coffee pot is situated along Old Salem Road.

Learn Acting the at the Peppercorn Theatre at Kaleideum Downtown

The Peppercorn Theatre is a well-known non-profit theater in Winston-Salem, a vibrant place for those who have a passion for the arts.

This theater aims to feature the talents in performing arts in Winston-Salem.

This theater regularly holds productions that mainly cater to children who want to expand their talent and creativity in acting.

Suppose you want yourself or your kid to learn something or uncover talent in acting; this is the best place to go in Winston-Salem.

Suppose you only want to watch a quality theater show.

In that case, Peppercorn Theatre is known as a top-notch attraction in Winston-Salem for stage plays.

There are many exciting activities at this community theater situated along South Liberty Street.

Have One for the Road at the Foothills Brewing

Exterior of Foothills Brewing

Nolichuckyjake /

Before you return home from your Winston-Salem travel adventure, why not enjoy a bottle of beer at Foothills Brewing?

Foothills Brewing features a wide array of signature craft beer flavors.

Touring through Winston-Salem’s tourist attractions can be a tiresome activity, and there’s no other relaxing way to end it but by drinking a beer or two.

Thus, head to Foothills Brewing and try its New England IPA, Vienna Amber Lager, Milkshake, or Honey Blonde Ale.

Of course, more craft beers are waiting for you at Foothills Brewing, so don’t forget to drop by at this local brewery situated along Kimwell Drive.

Go Fishing or Boating at Salem Lake

The waters of Salem Lake

Ruth McNeill Photography /

Calm waters and scenic nature views under the warm sun are all waiting for you at Salem Lake.

Located along the road named after the lake, it’s also hailed as Winston-Salem’s hidden gem.

The area spans about 365 acres and includes a 7-mile trail, giving you a sweeping view throughout the path.

Cast your line at the pier or boat and get a fresh catch of hybrid and large-mouth bass, bream, carp, crappie, catfish, and white perch.

You can also purchase baits at the Salem Lake Marina Center; kayaks are also available for rental here.

Sunset at Salem Lake

Frank J. Arena, Jr. /

Aside from the lake’s policy to limit three rods for fishing, you also need to get a North Carolina State Fishing License and pay a certain fee; kids below 16 years of age can come for free.

Other than fishing, you can also explore other sights on a boat or kayak.

Likewise, you can also wander through the wooded lake trail and enjoy more relaxing nature views.

Salem Lake’s park area also has amenities like a children’s play area, a concession stand, grilling areas, and picnic shelters where you can relax and eat after all the activities.

Take the Little Ones to Kaleideum Downtown

Exterior of Kaleideum Downtown

Nolichuckyjake /

Let your kids have all the fun, discover new things, and bring out their creativity at Kaleideum Downtown.

The museum was formed by the merging of The Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and SciWorks in 2016.

The interactive kids’ museum sits right at South Liberty Street and is open the whole day on Saturdays and on Sunday afternoons.

Kids can learn and play with classic folk toys at Toy Time; there’s more to see when they climb, scramble, and crawl the Beanstalk Climber from the first to the second-floor area.

And there will be more swinging and scrambling on the colorful Kaleidoscape, a huge crochet exhibit designed by the famous artist, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam.

Do your kids love to read? The museum has an Amazing Library with lots of books they’ll enjoy, a crayon-wall mural to scribble on, and a really fun atmosphere.

Let them wander The Enchanted Forest with over a dozen imaginative play areas, and create puppets, costumes, props, and set pieces for stage dramas at The Prop Shop.

Aspiring pilots will enjoy exploring the Amazing Airways while your little bakers will have loads of sweet fun at the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Factory.

Little tots will be buzzing and busy at the Food Lion Supermarket as they shop for goods, make ice cream, and tend the register; artistic little hands can also enjoy creating their own masterpieces at The Studio.

For sure, there’s never going to be a dull moment for your kids at Kaleideum Downtown.

Discover Old Treasures at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts on South Main Street was opened to the public in 1965.

What started as a vision by pioneer antique dealers and collectors Frank L. Horton with his mother Theodosia “Theo” L. Taliaferro has now become an established institution promoting southern decorative arts.

Go on a self-guided tour and browse the over 20,000 objects made by various artisans from the early days of the South.

You’ll get to see the craftsmanship and artistic details of assorted objects at The Carolyn and Mike McNamara Southern Masterworks Gallery, The William C. and Susan S. Mariner Southern Ceramics Gallery, and The Dianne H. Furr Moravian Decorative Arts Gallery.

They also offer tours to other historic city sites, Connoisseur Tours, Specialty Tours, and Research Visits.

You can check the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts website for booking and schedules.

See the Classis Race Cars at The Winston Cup Museum

If you’re a die-hard NASCAR fan, The Winston Cup Museum is a place you would definitely want to see when you’re in Winston-Salem.

You’ll find this unique attraction on North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Owner and founder Will Spencer opened the museum in 2005 for the public to share the glory days of NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series era.

You’ll feel the nostalgia as you browse the exhibits and discover 33 years of stock racing history; run through the pictorial timeline or check out the rare memorabilia including items like uniforms, helmets, trophies, and winner’s checks.

You’ll also see rare photos of the Winston Cup Series era from archives of R.J. Reynolds Sports Marketing.

You’ll be amazed to see more than 20 original race car displays, including those driven by racers Jimmy Spencer, Dale Earnhardt, and Wendell Scott.

View the special displays in honor of NASCAR champions Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt; while you’re here, you can also play some racing arcade games.

For something to remember on your visit, you can have your pictures taken at the victory lane or you can purchase cool items and merchandise at the souvenir shop.

The Winston Cup Museum also features rotating car collection exhibits so you’ll find something new on your next visit.

Catch Interesting Exhibits at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art is a worthy art stop, especially if you love contemporary and modern art.

This art center is located on the beautiful James G. Hanes estate on Marguerite Drive.

The institution was founded in 1956 and is also an affiliate of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Stop by to appreciate the large-scale contemporary pieces and works by local artists; there are several indoor and outdoor exhibits you can view and observe.

You can also catch original exhibitions, programs, and events for some enriching art and learning experiences.

Check the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art website for current and upcoming exhibits or art events you might be interested in.

Final Thoughts

Winston-Salem is an all-in-one destination for relaxation, arts, history, and leisure.

There are more reasons for everyone to visit this North Carolina city because many hidden gems are still awaiting discovery.

Winston-Salem is not just a quick vacation destination; you can spend a couple of days exploring every fascinating place you’ll find in this city.

Lastly, to have an unforgettable experience touring through Winston-Salem, bookmark this post as your handy itinerary.

Discover More of Forsyth County, NC

Things to Do in Kernersville, NC

Things to Do in Clemmons, NC

© All rights reserved.