20 Free Things to Do in Winston-Salem, NC

Winston-Salem, NC
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Welcome to the vibrant city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This unique locale beautifully combines the charm of a small southern town with the energy of a burgeoning urban core.

Winston-Salem serves as a testament to the fact that memorable experiences don't always come with a hefty price tag.

The city is a treasure trove of hidden gems that promise enjoyment at no cost.

Exploring Winston-Salem and indulging in its rich history, arts, and outdoor beauty is possible without spending a singleWe extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Ada Raposa, Charles Lambert, Florentina Estes, Joseph Smitherman, Bruce Bowles, Eduardo Henderson and Alayah Hooper. dime.

This guide aims to reveal some of the free and enriching activities that Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has to offer.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Ada Raposa, Charles Lambert, Florentina Estes, Joseph Smitherman, Bruce Bowles, Eduardo Henderson and Alayah Hooper.

Explore the History of Old Salem

Street view of Old Salem
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Every day, I find myself walking the cobblestone streets of our charming 18th-century Moravian settlement, watching as the past comes to life around me in Old Salem.

There’s something truly magical about living in a city that feels like a living history museum.

Imagining the early settlers, I often find myself admiring the blacksmith's shop.

The rhythmic clanging of metal on metal, the heat of the forge, and the skilled hands shaping the molten iron transport me back to the early 1700s.

Wooden bridge at Old Salem
Nature Lovin' Geek / Shutterstock.com

If you ever get a chance to visit, make sure to grab a piece of traditional bread from the bakery.

The taste is as authentic as it gets, a delicious window into the past.

However, the heart of Old Salem, for me, lies in its streets and restored colonial buildings.

Each structure has a story to tell.

The stories of the Moravian settlers who built this city from the ground up, their hopes, dreams, and struggles encapsulated within these buildings, are a constant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit.

Walking these streets is like stepping into a time machine, bringing history to life in a way no book or lecture ever could.

It’s a charming experience that makes me appreciate the rich history we're fortunate to be a part of right here in Historic Salem.

Old Salem during fall
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Discover the Life of Moravian Settlers at Bethabara Park

Every once in a while, I feel the need to step back from the hustle and bustle of modern life and immerse myself in a bit of history to remind myself of how far we've come.

When that happens, I find myself drawn to the tranquility of the historic Bethabara Park.

Nestled within a wildlife preserve, this 1753 Moravian historical site offers a unique experience that’s just a stone's throw away from Winston-Salem city center.

A leisurely stroll through the park can make you feel as if you've stepped back in time.

The reconstructed village and church stand as a proud testament to the Moravian settlers who made this their home in the 1700s.

Serenity fills the air, and the world seems to slow down a bit as you wander through the well-preserved buildings, each filled with curious items that whisper tales of a bygone era.

One of my favorite times to visit the park is during the annual apple festival.

It’s a delightful community event filled with food vendors, souvenirs, and activities for the little ones.

Guides dressed as Moravians stand at various locations, providing visitors with insights into the history and lifestyle of Moravians, who placed community and education at the center of everything.

The pig races are always a hit, offering a unique dose of entertainment that never fails to amuse the young ones.

And let me tell you, the apple cider syrup is worth every penny!

But even without the festivities, Bethabara Park is a treasure in itself.

The peaceful ambiance, combined with the historical significance, makes it a place worth visiting.

And if you're like me, you might find yourself drawn back again and again to enjoy the serene beauty that each season brings.

Peruse the Offerings of Reynolda Village Shops and Restaurants

One thing I absolutely adore about living here is the timeless charm of the Reynolda Village Shops & Restaurants.

The experience goes beyond shopping or dining; it's like taking a trip back in time.

It's not uncommon to find me unwinding here on a typical weekend day.

Among the array of unique stores housed in buildings that have withstood over a century, you'll find everything you need and things you didn't know you wanted.

Sure, they can be a bit on the pricey side, but the quality, the service, and the atmosphere make it all worth it.

And meandering between these shops, you encounter casual eateries and fine dining options that cater to every craving.

Personally, I am an absolute fanatic for the Village Tavern.

I can still taste the mouth-watering delight of the lobster dip I had last time.

The bread was baked to perfection, and the lemon drops were a perfect balance of bitterness, sweetness, and a hint of citrus.

I went a little adventurous and topped it off with a blueberry sour straw twist – a fun twist on a classic!

But the magic of Reynolda Village Shops & Restaurants doesn't end there.

The surrounding nature and walking trails are simply breathtaking.

There's a sense of serenity that washes over you as you stroll through the botanical gardens.

Last weekend, even the drizzle couldn't dampen the beauty of the scene, especially not with my favorite person alongside me.

A hot cup of coffee from the café, good food, and the tranquil beauty of Reynolda Village - that's my idea of a perfect day.

Immerse in Local Talent at The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

It's a Sunday afternoon – the perfect time to immerse myself in the inspiring realms of avant-garde artwork.

There's no better place to do so than The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, nestled within a historic estate in my hometown.

Its modern architectural beauty never fails to captivate me, just as much as the creative masterpieces it houses.

The moment I step inside, the pleasant and informative man at the front desk greets me with a smile.

The building's layout is logical and inviting, adding to the general atmospheric charm that always keeps me coming back.

The current exhibits are truly intriguing and presented in a way that maximizes the use of the space.

It doesn't usually take me more than half an hour to wander through the galleries and peek into the adjoining house – a testament to the concise yet impactful nature of the exhibits.

One thing I cherish about this center is its multi-functionality.

If I'd known earlier how serene and welcoming it was, I would've brought along my laptop to catch up on some work.

Actually, it's not uncommon to spot me sprawled on the verdant grounds with my watercolors, trying to capture the center's beauty on my canvas.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art constantly evolves, with new artworks being introduced periodically.

Some sections were closed a month ago, but I'm eager to see what creative wonders they'll unveil next.

The common areas are cozy, ideal for some downtime, and the furniture is thoughtfully selected and placed.

The staff is always welcoming and helpful – the cherry on top of every visit.

Grab a Bite at Bailey Park

Performance at Bailey Park
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My favorite local spot to unwind has to be Bailey Park.

Its small, green space nestled right in the heart of downtown is an absolute oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

Whenever I need a breather, I head there - and I am seldom alone.

This spot is bustling with activity, especially during lunchtime when the stage is often graced by talented musicians, and food trucks line the edges offering delicious bites.

The park itself is beautifully maintained - lush, verdant, and clean.

I love that the amphitheater is placed such that the music floats across the entire lawn area, making it a great spot for a leisurely picnic.

Entrance to the Bailey Park
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The restaurants and coffee shops that border the park make it even more convenient.

I often grab an espresso and a sandwich from one of my favorite cafes and head to Bailey Park to enjoy my lunch, shaded by one of the umbrella-covered tables.

What I appreciate most about Bailey Park is that there’s something for everyone here.

For example, once, there was a 5K event happening, and the park was absolutely buzzing with energy and excitement.

I also remember a day when they hosted a Monster Jam truck race, much to the delight of my nephew, who is a big fan.

Another great aspect is that the park is dog-friendly, and as a dog owner, this is a major plus for me.

It's always fun watching various breeds of dogs play and interact.

But the shining jewel of Bailey Park has to be its beautiful ornamentals - they are absolutely gorgeous.

I have often found myself lost in their beauty, imagining how much more wonderful it would be if they leaned more towards a herbal or urban garden.

Landscape of the Bailey Park
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My Afternoon Escapes at Merschel Park

There's something about Merschel Park that always calls me!

Maybe it's the fantastic view of the Winston-Salem skyline or the inviting green open space that stretches over a few blocks downtown.

You'll often find me there during my lunch breaks from work, basking under the shade of large umbrellas at the picnic tables while enjoying the beautiful pinwheel structures this park has to offer.

There's something relaxing about the blend of art and nature at Merschel Park!

And it's not just a treat for the eyes, but it's also thoughtfully designed.

With ramps and gentle slopes, the park is easily accessible to everyone, and I've seen people from all walks of life come here to enjoy a moment of tranquillity in the middle of the city rush.

It's true that there's no specific playground for kids to play on, but don't be disheartened!

The new downtown Kaladeum Children's Museum is being built right across the street, and guess what?

There's going to be a playground on the roof!

Take Snaps with the Artworks throughout Artivity on the Green

You wouldn't believe the gem nestled in the heart of my hometown, Winston-Salem.

The Artivity on the Green is a breath of fresh air and a celebration of public art.

When I stroll through the park, it's like unwrapping a surprise gift - there's always something new to discover around every corner.

During afternoons, I find myself making a beeline for Artivity on the Green, basking in the harmonious blend of community space and artistic expression.

It's a sight for sore eyes, especially in an era where places like this are slowly dwindling.

The park is surrounded by a plethora of restaurants, making it a perfect spot to grab a bite before or after you soak in the captivating art installations.

However, I'd advise you to visit during the daytime, not just for safety reasons but also to truly appreciate the colors and details of the artwork in the sunlight.

Discover Local Flora at Reynolda Gardens at Wake Forest

One of the many privileges of living in this area is the opportunity to visit Reynolda Gardens at Wake Forest, a gem of a garden that was once part of a grand estate.

It's a sanctuary of sorts, where one can enjoy the play of sunlight and shadow on the beautifully landscaped gardens from dawn until dusk.

On a sweltering day, the garden offers a respite with its cool shade and vibrant flowers.

The sun and shade plantings are a sight to behold, especially when they are in full bloom.

The indoor plants in Reynolda Gardens at Wake Forest are no less stunning.

The village shops and the waterfall in the vicinity also add to the charm of the place.

The garden's proximity to Wake Forest University, which backs up to it, makes it a popular spot among students as well.

I have been to these gardens numerous times, but their beauty never fails to amaze me.

It's a tranquil spot, perfect for a leisurely stroll after a hearty lunch.

The stunning scenery and the serene atmosphere make it an ideal location for special occasions too.

I remember how a friend booked this place in advance for his engagement photoshoot.

The sprawling gardens, adorned with beautiful flowers, proved to be the perfect backdrop for their memorable day.

Step back in Time at Old Salem Museums & Gardens

Single Brother's house at Old Salem Museums & Gardens
Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

Living in the vicinity of the Old Salem Museums & Gardens is like having an open history book in my own backyard.

Every time I walk through the cobblestone streets, it's like stepping back in time to the Moravian life that once thrived here.

On weekends, I make it a point to roam around the neighborhood, soaking in the quaint charm of the centuries-old architecture.

The entrance to the homes and shops requires a ticket, which is a modest $20, considering the wealth of knowledge and experience you get to partake in.

However, you can freely walk around the city and admire the architecture, visit the gift shop, bakery, sewing shop, and Visitor's Center without any cost.

One of my favorite activities is to visit the bakery.

Christmas house at Old Salem Museums & Gardens
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The heavenly smell of the Moravian cookies wafting through the air is irresistible.

You'd be missing out if you didn't try these sweet treats.

The beauty of Old Salem Museums & Gardens isn't just in the buildings or the bakery delights.

It’s also in the living history demonstrations - its historical interpreters fully immerse themselves in the lifestyle, providing a vivid snapshot of a bygone era.

They are always willing to share interesting snippets of history, making the visit more engaging.

However, a word of caution while navigating the streets - they're cobblestone and uneven, making it a bit challenging for strollers and wheelchairs.

But don't let that deter you from experiencing this gem of a place.

In the tranquility of early mornings, when I find myself alone on the streets of Old Salem, it feels as if I have this enchanting village all to myself.

This rich historical experience is something I'm grateful for every day.

And with some houses yet to open, there's always something new to look forward to in Old Salem.

Frank T  Horton Museum at Old Salem Museums & Gardens
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Practice Nature Photography at The Quarry at Grant Park

I never thought I'd say it, but I've discovered paradise in my own backyard at The Quarry at Grant Park.

I've passed by many times, but it wasn't until one sunny weekend that I decided to pay a visit, and I was totally blown away.

The park has an old-world charm to it.

The lake created by the old quarry is a sight to behold.

Covering a vast 12 acres, it's rumored to reach depths of over 200 feet in some places.

It's an ethereal sight, the deep blue water contrasting against the high cliffs that envelope the park.

The highlight of the park? The steel overlook pier that extends over the lake.

Standing there, you feel like you're on the edge of the world, with the deep waters below and the city skyline of Winston-Salem framing the distance.

There are also numerous other overlooks scattered throughout the park, each offering a unique perspective of the old quarry - a visual treat for any visitor.

The Quarry at Grant Park is steeped in history, too.

Operating as Piedmont Quarry from the 1920s till the 1970s, it was after work halted that the quarry gradually filled with water.

In 1997, Vulcan Materials generously donated the land to the city, and thus, the Quarry at Grant Park was born.

Cycle through Salem Lake Rd

It feels like only yesterday when I discovered my own personal haven right in the heart of Winston-Salem, NC.

Salem Lake Rd has become a part of my routine, a place where I can unwind every day.

Every morning, I lace up my running shoes and head out for a run on the 7-mile walking/hiking/biking trail.

The trail, shadowed by the surrounding lush greenery, provides the perfect respite from the North Carolina sun.

As I run, the subtle rustling of leaves and the gentle chirping of birds become my soundtrack, making the experience all the more enjoyable.

After breakfast, I often grab my fishing gear and head to the lake.

The calm water is home to a plethora of fish and provides a serene setting for a day of fishing.

Sometimes, I even bring my boat and let it gently float on the lake.

It's an experience that never gets old.

Salem Lake Rd is not just my sanctuary but a delight for the whole family.

The kids love feeding the ducks and playing in the playground while my wife and I enjoy a leisurely boat ride.

For our furry friends, there's more than enough space to roam around, provided they're on a leash, of course!

The day usually ends with a bike or hike around the lake.

The setting sun paints the sky with hues of orange and purple, creating a stunning backdrop against the calm lake.

After a long day, there's nothing quite like sitting by the lake, watching the sun go down.

Grab a Good Read at Forsyth County Central Library

Exterior view of the Forsyth County Central Library
Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock.com

Let's talk about the heart of our city, the Forsyth County Central Library.

I've been visiting this place since I was a kid, and it still holds a special charm for me.

Here is the link to the library if you wish to know more about it: Forsyth County Central Library.

The library has so many cozy nooks that are perfect for sitting down with a good book or burying your nose in some serious studying.

And guess what?

They have Moji coffee downstairs!

There's nothing like sipping on a warm cup of joe while losing yourself in a fascinating read.

The staff is always helpful, and the vast collection can leave you spoiled for choice.

Not to mention the mesmerizing art gallery located on the second floor.

It's a sight for sore eyes and definitely a must-visit.

I've met some wonderful people here, including some of the folks who designed the enchanting children's interactive spaces.

From librarians to housekeeping staff, most of them are just wonderful.

This place is more than just a library - it's a community.

Play with Your Fur Baby at Washington Park

I'm always looking forward to weekends, not just because it's a time for relaxation, but also because it's my chance to visit my personal haven - Washington Park.

The morning usually starts with a brisk walk along the well-maintained walking trails.

The serene aura and the lush greenery give me that much-needed tranquility before the hustle and bustle of the day begins.

And if you're a dog parent like me, you'll love the fact that there are separate enclosed areas for both small and large dogs.

It's a delight to see my furry friend run around and play in the park without a care in the world.

One of the biggest draws for families visiting the park is undoubtedly the playground.

The park staff have outdone themselves here; the swings, slides, and a special section filled with dinosaur replicas are a huge hit among the kids.

My nephew, an ardent dinosaur lover, can't get enough of this place.

Climbing on the giant dinosaur structures and figuring out how to navigate from one point to another is an adventure in itself for him every time we visit.

Apart from that, Washington Park also offers a basketball court and baseball fields.

After a long day of outdoor activities, I usually love to relax in the renovated picnic area, munching on some sandwiches while watching people play games or walk their dogs.

Every so often, I find myself wandering through the doors of Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery, filled with a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Each visit is a chance to discover new artists and their brilliant work.

The dedication and craftsmanship behind each piece are genuinely inspiring and speak volumes about the talent and creativity of our local artists.

I remember purchasing a wedding gift from Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery, and the experience was nothing short of delightful.

A gentleman in the gallery assisted me, wrapping the gift with care and ensuring it was shipped off promptly.

Much to my surprise, the receiver got the gift the very next day, an example of the super service they provide.

I always make it a point to stop by whenever I can, and I never leave empty-handed.

The knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff always manage to guide me towards something truly unique, something that speaks to me.

And each time, I come away with new treasures to add to my growing collection.

Soak in Community Spirit at Winston Square Park

View of the Winston Square Park
Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

When the urban hustle gets overwhelming, I always find solace in the peaceful confines of Winston Square Park.

Nestled in the heart of downtown, it's a refreshing patch of greenery that lets you escape reality, even if just for a while.

For those like me who love the tranquility of nature, the park is like a soothing balm.

It has a cool, calm atmosphere that lets you unwind and relax.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been to school events held at the park.

Even on rainy days, the beauty of the park remains intact, presenting a picture of serenity and fun.

I absolutely relish the evenings at Winston Square Park.

The setting sun casts a magical glow, making it an amazing spot for photography enthusiasts.

And when darkness falls, the park is well-lit, ensuring that it remains lively and inviting.

Despite its location in the middle of a bustling downtown, the park maintains a quiet and peaceful ambiance.

It's a favorite among people of all ages - from toddlers to seniors.

Let Your Little Ones Run Free at Downtown Park

After a busy week, there's nothing more I crave than a little peace and quiet, and Downtown Park serves exactly that purpose.

Nestled on a cozy residential street, it's my go-to place whenever I need a breath of fresh air.

Downtown Park is not a massive expanse, but that's part of its charm.

It's a snug little space, maintained with care and kept impeccably clean.

There's a sense of serenity that envelopes you as you step in.

The playground, though limited, is a favorite among the little ones.

They love the slide, the swings, and the monkey bar dome.

Watching them laugh and play is a joy in itself.

It's also a popular spot for cookouts, as it offers the perfect setting to grill some burgers and enjoy a meal under the open sky.

The neighborhood folks often gather here for a quick get-together, turning a regular day into a mini celebration.

Catch an Event at There's nothing

Ah, Corpening Plaza.

It's a cherished part of my daily routine.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, this quaint open space is a breath of fresh air amidst the bustle of the city.

Whether I'm grabbing a quick lunch break or simply enjoying the serenity on a calm afternoon, it's the perfect spot for a little downtime.

Truth be told, one of the highlights of the year at Corpening Plaza has to be the Jazz Festival.

The entire plaza comes alive with the sound of music and the buzz of the crowd.

The atmosphere is simply electric, and the variety of food vendors is a delightful bonus.

If only parking were a tad more convenient, it would be utterly perfect.

But even on the most ordinary of days, Corpening Plaza is a haven.

I love the small clusters of benches tucked under the trees, offering shade and a pleasant spot to watch the world go by.

It's a favored lunch spot for many of the professionals working nearby as well.

There's nothing like a bit of people-watching to go with your sandwich, right?

Hit the Court at Bolton Park

Signage of the Bolton Park
Thomas R Machnitzki (thomasmachnitzki.com)CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A quick walk from my front door, and I'm at Bolton Park, my favorite spot to get away from it all in Winston-Salem.

Mornings usually find me lacing up my tennis shoes and hitting the courts.

The quality of these courts is top-notch, offering a smooth play that makes you feel like a pro.

After a good game, I always cool down at the nearby covered exercise area, a gem that is often overlooked.

After my workout, it's time to rendezvous with my family at the playground.

This area is truly a child's paradise, with a multitude of slides, swings, and climbing structures.

The toddler swings are a hit with my littlest one - they're designed in a way that lets me swing alongside her, creating a bonding experience like no other.

And for my adventurous older one, the zip line swing always brings a rush of excitement.

As the afternoon heat sets in, there's no place better to be than the public swimming pool.

It's large enough to accommodate plenty of swimmers without feeling crowded, and it serves as the perfect anchor to the park.

A day at Bolton Park isn't complete without a picnic under the covered tables.

While enjoying our meal, we take in the natural beauty that surrounds us.

It's these moments that make the park a special part of our lives in Winston-Salem.

Explore the World through the Lam Museum of Anthropology

Growing up in Winston-Salem, I've had the unique privilege of being at the doorstep of a world of cultures, all tucked away within the confines of the Lam Museum of Anthropology.

This tiny but mighty institution has been a cornerstone of my hometown since 1963, and I have been visiting it for as long as I can remember.

I still recall the first time I brought my 8-year-old niece with me.

The staff was attentive and almost protective of their artifacts, which is just a testament to how much they value the pieces in their care.

One of my favorite aspects of the museum is its constant evolution.

The exhibits change periodically, offering a fresh perspective on global cultures with each visit.

The collection might not have the grandeur of the Field Institute in Chicago or the natural history museums of New York or DC, but it makes up for it with its charm, convenience, and, most importantly, the genuine passion that goes into curating each exhibit.

Lam Museum of Anthropology's focus on interactivity is another highlight.

My niece was particularly drawn to the engaging scavenger hunt they offer.

And let me tell you, the Escape Room option in the Africa room is a must-try!

The diversity of the exhibits, the engaging activities, and the wealth of knowledge on display make for a perfect afternoon spent exploring and learning.

Go Birdwatching at Shaffner Park

There's something about Shaffner Park that truly encapsulates the joy of outdoor activities.

Whether it's my husband enjoying a game of soccer on the well-kept fields or my son playfully kicking a ball around the other side, this park offers a respite from the urban hustle.

Although it lacks benches, we've adapted by bringing our own chairs, making the place feel more like our personal backyard.

Despite the park's soccer nets showing signs of wear and tear, it adds a rustic charm to the place - a testament to the countless soccer games that have taken place here.

Shaffner Park is more than just a place for sports, though.

The paved trail that snakes along the creek is a treasure trove for nature lovers.

Whether it's summer or winter, the creek is filled with numerous pools that seem to attract a variety of birds.

Bird watching here is a delight, with the lush vines covering trees providing ample shelter for these winged wonders.

And then, there are those moments of tranquility that Shaffner Park offers.

Simply sitting, listening to the symphony of nature - the chirping of birds, the flow of water, and the rustling of leaves under the gentle breeze.

It's an opportunity to pause, reflect, and be grateful for life's blessings.

Final Thoughts

Having spent a significant part of my life in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I can vouch for all these locations as they offer a great mix of history, nature, arts, and culture, and they don't cost a dime.

If you're ever in the city, don't miss out on experiencing the wonderful blend of culture, history, and nature this city has to offer.

The listed places have been a part of my life, and they never fail to provide a memorable experience, no matter how many times I visit.

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