Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Winston-Salem, NC

  • Published 2022/11/22

If you combine two neighboring towns into one, the result might be a vibrant city like Winston-Salem.

This place is known for having close ties with the tobacco and cigarette industry, famously dubbed “Camel City.”

It’s also the center of Forsyth County, situated along the northwest plateau region of North Carolina.

The city was officially incorporated in 1913 when two sleepy towns united to become a massive driver of the region’s economy.

Winston-Salem thrives in historic destinations, scenic parks, beautiful gardens, and interesting shops.

Even on a budget, the city displays several attractions to immerse you in the city’s unique culture.

Many free events can connect you with the local community, so it’s great for those who want to meet new people.

Here’s a list of free things to do in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Explore the Historic Bethabara Park

Bell tower at the Historic Bethabara Park

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

When you roam the Historic Bethabara Park, you will feel as if you were transported to the 18th century.

Founded in 1753, this quaint village had been the home of Moravians.

It’s a small area that was successfully preserved through the active intervention of Edward Stockton.

Instead of destroying the buildings to create a more modern area, they made it a unique historic park.

Archaeological ruins at the Historic Bethabara Park

Jelliclegerbils, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It features historic gardens, miles of natural trails, classic residential buildings, and other old structures.

They even have staff who dress up in traditional costumes!

All those little things provide a truly immersive experience at the Historic Bethabara Park.

You can find the place along Bethabara Road.

Log house at the Historic Bethabara Park

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

Admire the Works in Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery

The local art scene is a popular thing to explore in the city.

Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery highlights the skilled hands of its artists, offering a space to showcase one-of-a-kind pieces.

It focuses on woven textiles, hand-shaped potteries, sculpted metals, and many more.

Artworks are placed in separate booths per artist, scattered within the minimalist venue.

Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery began when a group of friends and acquaintances followed their passion for fine crafts.

They’ve worked hard to provide a space that displays devotion and heritage to crafts and culture.

Established in 1963, the Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery remains a popular spot for art enthusiasts!

At Trade Street, check out the creative talents of locals in the region.

Get Lost in Reynolda Village

A house at Reynolda Village

Kevin Burnell /

Reynolda Village is a diverse business complex with lots of pretty sights.

Set amid a peaceful area, it took inspiration from the simple styles of an English village in the early 20th century.

It was developed with the support of a wealthy couple, namely Richard and Katherine Reynolds.

From barns and blacksmith shops to cottages and stores, Reynolda Village was a community of its own.

Today, it’s become a leisure center for its rich history and architectural masterpieces!

You can admire the quaint architecture of its buildings and wander the area surrounded by natural vibes.

Located on Reynolda Road, this place was even listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

See the beauty of Reynolda Village when you visit Winston-Salem!

Discover Global Cultures in the Lam Museum of Anthropology

For a learning experience, the Timothy S.Y. Lam Museum of Anthropology has a good selection of exciting exhibits.

It’s inside Wake Forest University and is free to the public on most days.

Established in 1963, this museum highlights the differences and complexities of international cultures.

The exhibits feature specific items, from everyday objects to ceremonial artifacts and visual crafts.

The goal was to raise awareness for different cultures worldwide while preserving vulnerable relics.

There are infographics and notice boards so you can take a self-guided tour around the premises.

The Timothy S.Y. Lam Museum of Anthropology is a great place to stop by!

Try Water Recreation at Salem Lake

The waters of Salem Lake

Ruth McNeill Photography /

Just a few minutes from downtown Winston-Salem, Salem Lake is a venue that offers natural beauty in its purest form.

This lake presents opportunities for many kinds of water and land-based recreation.

You can take a complete loop around the scenic lake by biking, hiking, or horseback riding.

For water activities, fishing, boating, and kayaking are popular activities on Salem Lake.

Sunset reflecting on Salem Lake

Frank J. Arena, Jr. /

There’s also a bait and rental shop that you can check out if you lack materials or equipment.

Salem Lake is a hidden environmental gem with a tranquil, uncrowded ambiance.

It’s one of the best spots for people seeking a quiet reprieve from the bustling noise of the city.

Cool Off at Bolton Park

Located on the southwestern end of Bolton Street, this park takes pride in its selection of public amenities.

It’s one of the city’s largest and most spacious parks.

Bolton Park is home to playground structures, grills, picnic shelters, and drinking fountains to offer convenience.

You can explore the fitness course, wander the trails, or play in designated recreational sports fields.

Visitors can also cool off at the public swimming pool!

If you’re unsure where to go, Bolton Park is a safe option with a few activities to explore.

Join Community Events at Corpening Plaza

The grounds of Corpening Plaza

Nolichuckyjake /

At the center of the city’s downtown district, you can discover Corpening Plaza.

The plaza is a one-stop destination for a simple short break with pleasant sights and convenient facilities.

It’s surrounded by a few towering, gorgeous buildings, which add to the everyday experience.

Also, pretty fountains complement the pink hues of the park’s stone pavements.

Free community events are one of the most popular activities in Corpening Plaza!

This venue hosts live jazz concerts and festivals during the summer.

Along the west of Main Street, allow the soothing music to pair with the park’s relaxing ambiance for a few moments.

It’s open to everyone, even if you don’t reside in the city.

See the Fusion of Nature and Art at Artivity on the Green

Since 2015, Artivity on the Green has displayed a new way to appreciate sculptures.

They’ve seamlessly blended distinct and bright-colored sculptures into the backdrop of lush nature.

For example, red-colored poles in various formations are scattered and put into the greens of the park.

The credit for this innovative display goes to Art for Art’s Sake, which aims to build the community through art.

They founded many projects in the city, but Artivity on the Green is one of their most successful works to date.

People visit the park for relaxation and to appreciate its exciting sculptures.

Along North Liberty Street, drop by this park to see a fresh take on modern art.

Stroll around Downtown Winston-Salem

Aerial view of Downtown Winston-Salem

Sean Pavone /

Downtown Winston-Salem is the city’s treasure, especially if you want to experience the local scene.

It spans the length of many streets, including Church Street, 5th Street, Marshall Street, and many more.

With so much space, you can explore a wide assortment of places.

From local shops and boutiques to restaurants and bakeries, Downtown Winston-Salem has a little bit of everything.

Buildings along Downtown Winston-Salem

KAD Photo /

Often, there will be live music to complement your stroll around the premises.

This was made possible through the work of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership which advocated for the district’s revitalization.

Discover what the locals have to offer in this fun, lively district!

The road of Downtown Winston-Salem

Bryan Pollard /

Go Hiking at Muddy Creek Greenway

Muddy Creek Greenway is one of the best options for exploring the city’s scenic environment.

It spans about three miles, passing through a few connected trails on cemented pavements.

Walking through the Muddy Creek Greenway lets you see vibrant flowers, lush plantations, and creekside views.

It’s also open for biking and allows leashed dogs into the premises.

No matter one’s age, the simple terrains of Muddy Creek Greenway can be suitable for almost anyone.

It may not have the most trails, but it still serves as a peaceful alternative to the busy city lifestyle.

You might also catch a glimpse of a few animals in their natural habitats!

You can visit this greenway along Meadowlark Drive if natural destinations suit your fancy.

Read and Relax at Forsyth County Central Library

Exterior of Forsyth County Central Library

Nolichuckyjake /

Forsyth County Central Library is a quiet haven with dozens of assorted books and reading resources.

This library was built on the western side of 5th Street to connect people with easy access to informative materials.

Whether it’s about technology, business, or local history, the books and documents in this venue cater to various interests.

It can cater to many people’s preferences!

Forsyth County currently has ten physical libraries, but the Winston-Salem branch has some of the largest collections.

There’s also complimentary coffee and an art gallery on the second floor of the building.

Huddle up in one of their comfy chairs and take some time to read a book!

The Forsyth County Central Library has a balcony area that allows you to read while basking in beautiful nature.

See Modern Arts at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art offers something new to your creative venture.

Since it focuses on modern art, you’ll find that some exhibits are presented differently from traditional museums.

Some artworks are on the floor, while some sculptures are in the most random places.

It still has paintings and photographs on pristine white walls, but the themes and style follow the contemporary era.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art offers a fresh twist to regular museums, making it a popular venue for residents and travelers.

They feature artists from local, national, and international regions!

You can also book guided tours to admire the artworks with additional insights and hidden information.

In case you’d like to drop by, head towards Marguerite Drive!

See Movies at Bailey Park Outdoor Cinema

The grounds of Bailey Park

Bryan Pollard /

If you need a place to relax, the facilities at Bailey Park are almost always open to the public.

It has about two acres of well-maintained greens, a theater, and casual seating.

However, the main attraction in Bailey Park is its community events, gatherings, and cinema screenings.

Bailey Park is well-known for hosting all kinds of fun social activities!

The most popular activity is the outdoor cinema, featuring all kinds of movies on a screen in the open area.

This is also a prime spot for locally owned food trucks to entice moviegoers with their tasty food.

Other events in the park include free yoga lessons, concert festivals, and seasonal events for all kinds of people.

Located on Patterson Avenue, you should try one of the Bailey Park events while visiting the city.

Smell the Flowers at the Reynolda Gardens & Grounds

Waterfall and flowers at Reynolda Gardens & Grounds

Bryan Pollard /

Built in 1917, the Reynolda Gardens & Grounds has been a beautiful landscape for over a century.

Of the other attractions in Reynolda, these serene gardens offer free admission during daylight hours.

You can expect a vision of colorful flowers scattered around the vast grounds.

The bright hues of the flowers contrast against the lush greens of grass, leaves, and trees.

Reynolda Gardens & Grounds also contain an artificial lake and a golf course.

In terms of landscapes, there are indoor greenhouses, a wood-like area, and scenic formal gardens.

About 16 acres of land await your exploration in the Reynolda Gardens & Grounds!

Treat your eyes to pretty sights at the venue along Reynolda Village.

Travel to the Past at Old Salem

Exterior of a house at Old Salem

Bryan Pollard /

While it may seem that you need tickets to explore the sights of Old Salem, that’s not always the case.

Visitors can freely roam around the area though there may be restrictions for the special exhibits.

What can you see for free in Old Salem?

On their own, the old-style buildings in the district already offer an impressive sight of culture and history.

Brick house at Old Salem

Jon Bilous /

Paired with the simple vibe of nature, Old Salem can make for a relaxing walk with the bonus of historic charm.

The origins of this district date back to the 18th century when a community of Moravians settled in the area.

Their culture is still prevalent today, giving Old Salem a unique allure that’s hard to imitate.

Along South Main Street, get a glimpse of history through Old Salem.

Street scene at Old Salem

Sara Kendall /

Final Thoughts

Trips don’t always have to hurt your wallet!

In Winston-Salem, you can enjoy new experiences without spending much money.

This city has loads to explore, from gardens and parks to museums and art galleries in the vibrant city.

Plan your trip today and discover the free things to do in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

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