Split by Interstate 40 in Forsyth County, Winston-Salem is a mid-size city born from many personalities. The Moravians first settled here in 1753 at a site called Wachovia within the forks of the Muddy Creek. The villages of Bethabara and Bethania soon followed, and with the burgeoning population, the town of Salem bore its first buildings in 1766. So what about Winston? Founded in 1849, this small town and Salem were joined together by the U.S. Post Office in 1889, then officially became Winston-Salem in 1913.
The big Ts of the South, tobacco and textiles, fueled the city's growth. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and the J. Wesley Hanes's Shamrock Hosiery Mills (later Hanesbrands) employed 60 percent of the area's workers. Other businesses filled in the gaps, Wachovia Bank and Trust, Texas Pete, Quality Oil, Piedmont Airlines and Krispy Kreme led the once-rural towns of Winston and Salem into the urban landscape.
Embracing the past
A visit to Old Salem (www.oldsalem.org) should be on everyone's list. Located in downtown Winston-Salem, the 2- to 3-hour walking tour highlights Moravian life in the 18th and 19th centuries. This living-history site offers craftwork demonstrations with a gunsmith, silversmith, cabinetmakers, cobblers, carpenters, potters and bakers, as well as outside events. The silversmith noted that he can create 150 silver spoons in three hours, but it then takes one hour per spoon for the finished product.
Most craftsmen are located in the Single Brothers House and workshop. At this stop, visitors learn Moravians lived by the choir system, where members are separated into "choirs" by gender, age and marital status. The Single Sisters House is now a part of Salem College.
The smell of baked bread draws you to the Winkler Bakery, where trays full of dough are stacked on shelves awaiting a turn in the wood-heated dome bake oven. Bread and Moravian cookies are available for purchase at the bakery store.
At the Salem Tavern, visitors walk the floors where George Washington once stayed during his presidential tour of the southern states. The Salem Tavern welcomed non-Moravian visitors. The tavern tour includes the various rooms for rent (several rooms held multiple beds for strangers to bunk together, which shocked a few kids on the tour), the kitchen where a period-costumed interpreter demonstrates the various spices used in the meals, the tavern manager's office and the storage cellar.
One building that stands out from others is St. Philips Heritage Center, a complex featuring the African Moravian Log Church, St. Philips African Moravian Church and the African American & Strangers' Graveyard. The original log church, built in 1823, houses a mixed media exhibit detailing many of the worshippers' lives of the Salem slaves who worshipped within its walls. The ceiling holds a historic diorama of the African-Americans' journey to Salem on one side, and the Moravians' journey on the other, with the two histories converging at the apex.
The final stop should be the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), which showcases 18th and 19th century furniture, ceramics, textiles and toys. The younger set may not appreciate this stop as much as the adults.
The local historic Moravian villages of Bethabara (www.bethabarapark.org) and Bethania (www.townofbethania.org) are also open to the public for tours, with Bethania offering the Black Walnut Bottoms nature trail just beyond the visitor center.
Other places of interest showcase the impact R.J. Reynolds had on the region.
The Winston Cup Museum (www.winstoncupmuseum.com) pays tribute to the company's 33-year NASCAR sponsorship, and features race cars from the various eras of racing, including those driven by Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.
The Reynolda House (www.reynoldahouse.org) is world-renowned for its fine arts collection that spans three centuries. The museum and gardens are located on the restored 1917 mansion estate of R.J. and Katherine Reynolds, the founder of the tobacco company.
Winston-Salem is known as the "City of the Arts," after establishing the first arts council in the U.S. in 1949. In addition to the Reynolda House, the Hanes family donated the former estate of James G. Hanes to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA). The Downtown Arts District (www.dadaws.org) features dozens of arts & crafts galleries, studios and theatres.
Downtown boasts four distinct districts (www.downtownwinston-salem.org): the Arts District; Western District, which houses the BB&T Baseball Park; Fourth Street District, with theatre, financial and government buildings and the Piedmont Research Park; and South District, featuring Old Salem, Salem College and the Children's Museum. Each district features parks, local restaurants, bars, entertainment and businesses.
At the northern edge of downtown off Highway 52, is SciWorks (www.sciworks.org), the science and education center of Forsyth County. This is a great place for children to burn off lots of energy and have fun learning too. The 25,000-square-foot center features more than 15 hands-on exhibit areas covering physics, sound, biology, ecology, arts and medicine, as well as a 5-acre outdoor environmental park and a planetarium.
Outside the city
When gazing north of Winston-Salem, Pilot Mountain State Park is constantly in the view. Less than 30 minutes away from downtown on Highway 52, this remnant of the ancient Sauratown Moutains rises 1,400 feet above the Piedmont (2,420 feet above sea level). For a nice break from the city, the park features 13 trails ranging from easy to strenuous with the longest a 6.6-mile bridle and hiking trail. Vehicles are allowed to a top parking lot, where everyone can enjoy the Little Pinnacle Overlook, an easy 0.1-mile path to a valley view from the parking lot. Camping and picnic sites are available, as well as park access to the Yadkin River. Don't be surprised if you see climbers making their way up this bald quartzite monadnock rock.
More than 70 wineries are located in the Piedmont region alone. Just outside of Winston-Salem, many are less than 30 minutes away between the city and Pilot Mountain. One such winery is RagApple Lassie Vineyards (www.ragapplelassie.com) in Boonville, worth a stopover for a little taste of the grape and to learn more about how growing grapes has again made local family farms prosper.
More to do
"There's an APP for that!" A mobile app for Winston-Salem is available: Treks in the City offers the TreksWS app, which showcases events, attractions, parks, restaurants, shopping, regional wineries and other points of interest, complete with reviews and GPS directions. Also available is the N.C. State Parks PocketRanger app, with information on all the state's parks, including Pilot Mountain. And finally, N.C. Travel and Tourism's app NC Travel features the state's official statewide travel guide.
For more information, visit the Winston-Salem CVB at www.visitwinstonsalem.com or call toll-free (866) 728-4200.