16 Things to Do in Winston Salem on a Weekend

Steve Cummings

Winston Salem

Are you planning a trip to Winston-Salem and wondering how to make the most of your weekend? Look no further! This bustling city in the heart of North Carolina boasts a rich history, cultural experiences, and outdoor adventures. 

Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or enjoy good food and entertainment, Winston-Salem has something for everyone. In this guide, we'll explore 16 fantastic things to do in Winston-Salem over a weekend, ensuring a memorable and fulfilling visit. 

Let's get started!

Winston Salem – An Overview

Winston-Salem is the fifth largest city in North Carolina, located in Forsyth County in the Piedmont Region. It's an interesting mix of old Southern charm, country vibes, and a bustling city. Winston-Salem used to be two separate cities: Moravian Salem, founded in 1766, and Winston, founded in 1849.

In 1913, they officially became one city, though people often just call it Winston. If you plan to visit, getting there is easy if you have a car. Tobacco companies such as Pleasant Hanes and RJ Reynolds set up shop in the late 1800s, and they're still big there today. These companies, along with textiles, really shaped Winston-Salem.

Once in Winston-Salem, you'll discover a charming downtown area that's easy to walk around. The food is excellent, there are many museums to explore, and there is cool art all around. Don't miss out on Winston-Salem!

When is the Best Time to Visit Winston-Salem

The best times to go to Winston-Salem are in Spring and Summer when the weather is nice. June, July, and August are the busiest months, with many things to do.

But even in winter, there are warm days, and some people like to travel during the off-season when it's not as crowded. Fall is cool, too! Sometimes, it's still warm, in the 80s. Hotels are cheaper, and fewer people from outside visit. No matter where you go, there are plenty of things to do in Winston-Salem every season!

1. Visit Old Salem Museums and Gardens

 Location: 900 Old Salem Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Hours: Wed-Sat: 10 am – 4 pm, Sun – Tue: Closed

Old Salem Museums and Gardens is a must-see attraction in Winston-Salem and should be one of your first stops! It's like stepping back in time. Here, you'll see how people lived in a Moravian community in the 1800s. There are many cool things, like 20 original buildings, living history museums, houses, shops, and bakeries. 

Walking around Old Salem is free. But you must pay if you want to see special things like the art galleries or The Doctor's House. A ticket is also required for the Boys' School, the Miksch House and Garden, the Moravian Church, and the Potter's Workshop. The good news is that you can see all this with an All-In-One Ticket. You can buy tickets at the Visitors Center.

In this living museum, you'll see cobblers making shoes, sisters dyeing yarn for weaving, and artisans shaping clay. The gardens are lovely for a walk. Don't miss the Old Salem Bakery – – they make and sell yummy freshly baked bread!

2. Explore Winston Cup Museum and Special Event Center

Location: 1355 N Martin Luther King Jr Dr, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Hours: Thursday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Admission Fee: For adults: $12, for children $8 (ages 6-12), and children under five are free.

If you're a fan of NASCAR, go to the Winston Cup Museum & Special Event Center in Winston-Salem! Here, you can experience the exciting era of Winston-Cup NASCAR racing. The museum holds 33 years of Winston Cup records, from championship memories to racing memorabilia. You'll even see real race cars from that era and racing arcade games celebrating the legendary Winston Cup Series.

You can reserve outdoor and indoor areas at the museum for special events such as weddings or birthday parties. They provide event packages for all occasions. It's where NASCAR fans can have a great time and make special memories.

3. Join Winston-Salem Ghost Tour

Location (Tour starting point): 848 West Fifth Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

If you want some spookiness, join the Carolina History and Haunts Historical Ghost Tour in Winston-Salem. This historic town in North Carolina is full of ghost stories and sightings. Whether it's a random night in June or a few nights before Halloween – you're in for a thrilling experience! 

This candlelight tour lasts approximately 90 minutes and includes a walk through the historic West End district. Your tour guide will tell stories about ghosts, hauntings, and other paranormal occurrences in the area. As a bonus, you'll gain some historical knowledge to share long after your vacation is over. It's a spooky and educational adventure! Bring water and an umbrella and wear comfortable shoes because you'll be walking and standing alone. 

4. Visit the Shell Station

Location: 1111 E Sprague St, Winston-Salem, NC 27107 

Head to the southern end of the city, and you'll spot the country's last big yellow clamshell Shell Oil station. It's bright yellow with red trim and shaped like a scallop shell. Eight stations were built in the 1930s to promote the Shell brand, and the one at East Sprague Street and Peachtree Street is the only one left.

Even though the Shell station no longer sells gas, it is a memorial to its history. Inside, there are pictures and posts about when it was built, as well as other interesting Shell information. It's a great spot for taking selfies and a quick trip back in time. 

5. Shop Along Trade Street

For a delightful shopping experience in Winston-Salem, head to Trade Street. This downtown area is brimming with specialty stores, boutiques, and galleries, making it a perfect spot to spend a few hours.

Two must-visit spots on Trade Street include Piedmont Craftsmen Galleries and the Mast General Store. Art lovers will find joy in the local and handmade art at Piedmont Craftsmen. Meanwhile, history buffs and shoppers can enjoy wandering through the aisles of the Mast General Store. This historic department store consists of various items and souvenirs. One of its highlights is the large barrels filled with old-fashioned candies sold by the pound. 

And when you need a break, there are many restaurants and cafes in between the shops to refuel before continuing your browsing and buying adventure.

Piedmont Craftsmen Galleries 

Location: 601 Trade Street NW, Winston-Salem, NC

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 am – 4 pm Sun-Mon: Closed

Mast General Store

Location: 516 Trade Street NW, Winston-Salem, NC

Hours: Sun – Thu, 10 am – 6 pm; Fri – Sat, 10 am – 8 pm.

6. Take Your Kids to Kaleideum

If you're looking for family-friendly activities in Winston-Salem, don't miss out on the fun at Kaleideum! The Kaleideum is a large children's museum in Winston-Salem with two locations – one downtown and one on the north side – offering endless hours of fun for children of all ages.

Exhibits at both locations creatively include interactive activities to educate children about STEM topics. 

In downtown, kids can explore and play in the Amazing Airways, The Prop Shop, The Studio, and The Enchanted Forest. On the north side, the Planetarium and exhibits such as the Hurricane Simulator, HealthWorks, Foucault Pendulum, and Molecules are famous for kids to enjoy. From stargazing in the Planetarium to leisurely walks along nature trails and observing animals in their natural habitats, young explorers will find plenty to discover. 

Note: Kaleideum North will be open until December 31, 2023, after which it will relocate to a new downtown location, which will open in February.

7. Visit Bethabara Historic District

Location: 2147 Bethabara Road, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27106

Operating Hours: April – December, Sundays, 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm, Tue – Sat, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm 

Guided Tour Cost: $4 per adult

A visit to Bethabara Park is akin to a journey through history. Bethabara Historic District aims to preserve and honor the rich Moravian heritage, which dates back to the 1700s when the Moravians first settled in the region. Located just ten miles north of downtown Winston-Salem, the 183-acre park offers a captivating experience with its colonial gardens and wildlife preserve. This historical landmark and public park features well-preserved Moravian buildings, exhibits, archaeological remnants, artifacts, and more. 

Visitors can explore the site for free or choose a guided tour for a small fee. The park hosts year-round special events like “A Celebration of Cultures” and “Hands on History Day,” offering authentic experiences with music, food, and costumes from that era.

8. Visit Broad Branch Distillery

Location: 756 Trade Street NW, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

Broad Branch Distillery is a fantastic spot in Winston-Salem for those who enjoy rum and whiskey. Broad Branch Distillery, located in the historic Arts District within a former tobacco warehouse, stands out among the 75+ best distilleries in NC. Broad Branch Distillery operates as a grain to glass distillery, managing every step of the process to produce premium whiskeys, rums, and other spirits.

Visitors can drop in for a cocktail, sampling, and a guided tour that provides a behind-the-scenes look. Notable favorites include the Sungrazer rum, which gains flavor from aging in port and whiskey barrels, and the Smashing Violet, which is a blueberry-infused whiskey with a touch of natural sweetness.

Every Saturday, the distillery transforms into a lively spot with a pop-up cocktail bar. Visitors can enjoy expertly crafted cocktails prepared by the in-house mixologist, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to the experience.

9. North Carolina BBQ Trail

Location: 4885 Country Club Rd, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27104

BBQ foods
credit: depositphotos

When you're in Winston-Salem, don't miss the opportunity to taste North Carolina's famous barbecue. For centuries, the locals have smoked pork the same way for a century—low and slow over coals and wood to achieve the perfect flavor. In North Carolina, they don't call it “pulled” pork; it's either sliced, chopped, or coarsely chopped.

The North Carolina Barbecue Society has created the Historic Barbecue Trail across the state to honor those who uphold these traditions. Restaurants on this trail must meet certain requirements, such as not using gas or electricity and being in business for at least 15 years.

Real Q is a local pit roasting legend known for its exceptional barbecue. Some other delicious BBQ spots include Camel City BBQ Factory, Honkey Tonk Smokehouse, Little Richard's BBQ, Clark's Barbecue, and Country BBQ.

10. Visit the Coffee Pot

Location: 401 Old Salem Rd, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101 

The Coffee Pot is a historic landmark in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, dating back to 1858. This massive tin coffee pot, which stands over seven feet tall, was originally created as a creative promotional effort for a tin shop. The shop has become one of the city's prominent symbols over the years.

It is also known as Mickey's Coffee Pot, after the name of the Tinsmiths who created it. Surprisingly, it has a capacity of 740 gallons of coffee. It can hold enough water for 11,840 cups of coffee! The Coffee Pot has been surrounded by local folklore and legends over the years. If you ask around, you'll hear lots of fascinating stories. Don't forget to stop by and take some pictures of this famous landmark.

11. Enjoy Festivals at Tanglewood Park

Tanglewood Park is a must-see attraction in Winston-Salem from mid-November to New Year's Day every year. Dazzling snowflakes, bright wreaths, and winter scenes adorn the park. The 5-mile route is illuminated by over a million lights in a variety of displays that you can drive through.

Besides the dazzling displays, the park has a Gift Village. Here, you can shop for holiday decorations and gifts, enjoy making s'mores, and even get a chance to meet Santa! It's undoubtedly one of the top things to experience in Winston-Salem during the festive season but be prepared for some lines at the entrance.

12. Explore the Arts and Culture of Winston-Salem

Winston Salem is known for its vibrant streets and colorful murals, which reflect the city's rich artistic atmosphere. As the home of the UNC School of the Arts, there are many interactive opportunities for visitors.

Explore the Downtown Arts District

The Downtown Arts District, located between Liberty and Trade Streets, is a bustling hub with art galleries and working studios. Take a gallery tour, wander the Art Trail, and maybe you'll find a unique piece of art to take home. Don't miss the opportunity to meet the talented artists who contribute to Camel City's beauty and creativity!

Art-o-Mat at Delurk Gallery

Visit Delurk Gallery at 207 W 6th Street to experience the fascinating Art-o-Mat. Art-o-Mat, designed by Winston-Salem native Clark Whittington, repurposes old cigarette vending machines for distributing cigarette pack-sized art. It's a unique initiative to make art more accessible to the general public. These Art-o-Mats, which can be found in over 200 locations across the United States, sell small pieces of art for $5. You can also visit Whittington's Delurk Gallery's public Art-o-mat studio.

The Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery

The gallery, located at 601 Trade St NW, boasts the work of 400 local artists. With over 250 artists displaying their work, this gallery is a great place to explore fine craft art and support the local arts community. Don't miss their annual craft fair, a tradition since 1963!

13. Hike in Hanging Rock State Park

Woman hiking
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Hanging Rock State Park, located 30 miles north of Winston-Salem, attracts visitors with its natural wonders. Explore the diverse trails that cover 7,869 acres, including Hanging Rock Trail, Moore's Wall, and Cook's Wall. You can paddle along the Dan River, take a refreshing dip in the sparkling lake, or go canoeing and swimming here. The park provides rock climbing and mountain biking opportunities for adventure seekers.

If you're looking for a cozy weekend escape, camping options allow you to connect with nature while being surrounded by scenic beauty. If you prefer a shorter hike, explore trails leading to charming waterfalls or take a boat ride on the lake. Whether you're seeking a challenging hike or a laid-back lakeside experience, Hanging Rock State Park has everything.

14. Go for a Stroll at Salem Lake.

Location: 815 Salem Lake Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27107

Salem Lake, located near downtown Winston-Salem, provides urban recreation with a 7-mile hiking trail. This 365-acre lake offers popular activities, including fishing, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing. If you don't have your own boat, the Salem Lake Marina offers boat rentals.

Explore Salem Lake Trail, a 7-mile loop that encircles the entire lake and is one of Winston-Salem's most popular trails. The path is wide, well-kept, and accessible to all, including strollers and children. Hikers can easily get to the Salem Lake Greenway from this trail, extending their trip to a nearby mall. It's an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors and the natural beauty of Salem Lake. 

15. Enjoy Sweet Treats on the Moravian Cookie Trai 

Explore the Moravian Cookie Trail in Winston-Salem, a delightful journey through the city's sweet history. Long ago, a group known as the Moravians brought their unique traditions from Europe to North Carolina, helping to shape Winston-Salem's distinct character. The Moravians shared a delicious secret – Moravian cookies! The recipe for these sweet treats has been passed down through generations.

Begin your cookie trail in Old Salem by eating Moravian spice cookies at the 200-year-old Winkler Bakery. Then, for more delightful variations, visit Mrs Hanes' Moravian Cookies, the Wilkerson Moravian Bakery, and Dewey's Bakery.

As you munch on Moravian cookies, you're not just enjoying a snack – you're tasting the history and culture of Winston-Salem. Each cookie is a piece of the city's flavorful past. So, follow the Moravian Cookie Trail and treat yourself to a tasty adventure!

16. Visit Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Location: 2250 Reynolda Rd, Winston-Salem, NC

One of the fantastic things to do in Winston-Salem is to visit Reynolda House. The museum opened in 1967 to preserve the home and share its incredible collection of American art spanning the centuries with the public.

Visiting Reynolda House is a bit like going back in time. It has lovely antique furniture and works by well-known artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Frederic Church, and Gilbert Stuart. The house is like a time machine with a fancy interior design, squash court, bowling alley, and an indoor pool. The house also has other cool features, such as a swimming pool, a home bar, and even a shooting range that will make you say, “Wow.” This isn't your average museum visit! When you go, don't forget to check out the special exhibitions in the Main House Bedroom Galleries and the Babcock Wing Gallery.

On a weekday, you can also visit Reynolda Gardens. Reynolda Gardens is a treat for nature lovers, with free access to fields, woodlands, a greenhouse, and official gardens. Check the calendar before your visit to see if there are any upcoming events. After you've seen the museum and gardens, you can go shopping or grab a bite to eat at the nearby Reynolda Village Shops and Restaurants. It's an excellent way to conclude your visit! It's a spot you'll want to return to!

Final Thoughts

There you have it – your guide to the 16 best things to do in Winston Salem, NC! So, are you ready to explore the exciting activities in Winston-Salem, NC? Whether you love outdoor adventures, family fun, history, food, craft beverages, or fine wines, Winston Salem has a lot to offer. It's an ideal destination for a longer stay or a weekend getaway. Have you had the pleasure of visiting Winston-Salem? Share your thoughts and experiences with us! 

What's the first thing you would like to do in Winston-Salem? If you think we missed something, please leave your suggestions in the comments. Let's make everyone's visit to Winston-Salem memorable!

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