If you find yourself in North Carolina and looking for an easy town to explore, Winston Salem is your spot. An hour northeast of Charlotte, Winston is surprisingly progressive and thanks to R.J. Reynolds’ empire (ever smoked a Winston or a Salem?), there is some magnificent architecture. We found amazing eats, some great bars (and a brewery) and could move into Old Salem tomorrow with its charming 18th century homes and buildings. It’s hardly fussy as its nickname is the ‘City of the Arts’. Here are our top picks.
Built in 1837, this former cotton mill is in walking distance to Old Salem and much of what downtown has to offer. Plus, Uber is in Winston Salem so even if you are going a bit further out, you are just a phone tap away.
If you are doing it up, book at this 55-acre estate. You can sleep in the manor house or for more privacy, a cottage or bungalow. Built for the Chairman of the Board of RJ Reynolds tobacco in 1927, the estate is now known globally as a respected conference center. The 86 guest rooms are well appointed and the breakfast buffet is worth waking up for.
We can’t rave about this place enough. While many historic places with costumed guides are a bit hokey, these locals don’t talk to you like you are at Renn Fest and they are a wealth of knowledge. What we enjoyed about Old Salem is that it is still a working village.
We wandered into an 18th century kitchen with the fire blazing and cast iron pots bubbling. The lead gardener is out in the fields daily, growing what they would have when the village was founded. This place is magic, we promise. Although go off-season so a sea of fanny packs doesn’t ruin the ye olde vibe.
RJ Reynolds’ mansion is a great afternoon trip. Built in 1917, the house and grounds was a massive business in itself, with a village for the staff that had its own school and church. Today the village is now a bustling shopping destination and the house is half American art exhibit and half a looking glass into how the Reynolds family lived. Our favorite part was the basement where his girls, who came of age in the 20s, built a pool, bowling alley and a martini bar. Apparently there was roller-skating between all three at parties. Yes please.
While this sounds stuffy, we know you are all about locally made furniture. Well this just happens to be locally made furniture circa 1770. You will be well impressed at the chests, desks, chairs, silver and clocks that were made regionally at the time, rivaling those coming from England and France. It was here that we learned Grandfather clocks were originally called Longcase clocks but because of this song from 1876, its current name was applied.
A night at Chef Matt Pleasant’s restaurant is a must. While the menu is certainly Southern, there is an Asian angle that gives it a nice twist such as Catfish with green curry and pork belly with kimchi. Since the chef serves what is in season, the menu changes constantly, but we hope the grit puppies and the pimento cheese on toast are there to stay. Oh, and go wild and try one of their winning cocktails by beverage director Beau Tate.
Built in 1816, this family-run restaurant is another highlight on the local culinary scene. They are big on ‘Farm to Fork’ (and local craft beer!) so again, the menu changes but the wild boar and spaetzle with local vegetables was coma inducing. Lunch is great but dinner by candlelight in the small little dining rooms is a real treat.
For a little more metropolitan evening and some serious steak, try out Meridian located near the Brookstown Inn. Focusing on Northern Mediterranean dishes, everything from the pasta to the sausage and mozzarella is made in house.
Starting with 800 barrels in 2005, Foothills is now approaching 40,000 a year. Clearly, they are doing something right. Check out their 28 tap tasting room at the brewery located outside of town or try out their brewpub located on West Fourth Street downtown.
If you are looking to drink more than eat, Quiet Pint is the place for you. While they do have superb small plates (and hello waffle fries and chicken tacos), they are equally known for their craft beers and wines.
This place brought us back to the 90s in the best way. Thrift store décor (lots of old couches and coffee tables) and graffiti on the back wall, an episode of Friends could easily take place here. We came here for a nightcap or four and sat at the bar and listened to all the local gossip. Our favorite part – the wine menu is on an actual bottle of wine. Brilliant.
Built in 1800, there has been bread baking in its oven since and is heated and cooled just as it was 200 years ago. Learn about how they baked back in the day and then load up on freshly baked goods such as pound cake, sugar cake, blueberry muffins, apple scones and of course, Moravian cookies.
Located in Old Salem every Saturday rain or shine, it is one of the only sustainable, producer-only farmers markets in the state. Even all of the pork, beef and lamb is Animal Welfare Approved. Bring the family and enjoy the morning exploring all the booths and maybe even some local tunes.
While this falls more into a ‘do’ than a ‘shop’ we encourage you to stop by here regardless. Located in historic Washington Park, which is on the up and up, the gents here are friendly as can be and we had an excellent hair cut and chin wag. You can definitely sense that the shop is a hangout for locals too, with guys sharing motorcycle video clips on the couch and friends stopping by to say hello. Tim and Doug also stock some great grooming products so even if you don’t need a beard trim or flattop, swing by for some products and a hello. And if you do want a cut, call way ahead, these boys get booked!Lofts,
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