North Carolina’s city of arts and innovation—Winston-Salem—is a feast for the thinking traveler (and group-tour travelers). Evolved from its traditional Moravian, tobacco, and textile roots, Winston-Salem is a thriving city gaining popularity as a destination that boasts a rich history and impressive culinary scene reflective of its Southern heritage. “It’s no wonder Winston-Salem was voted as one of Forbes’ Top 10 Best Downtowns,” says Kay Calzolari, CTIS, group tour and services manager for Visit Winston-Salem. “We warmly welcome active, lifelong learners to explore and delight in all our community has to offer.”
Winston-Salem is conveniently and centrally located in northwest North Carolina and is easily accessible by major interstate highways, including Interstate 77, Interstate 40, and Interstate 85. With more than 5,300 hotel rooms to choose from and four distinct yet subtle seasons, Winston-Salem is a welcoming group destination year-round.
Visit Historic Bethabara for an imaginative journey to the Carolina backcountry. A small group of Moravians daringly settled this village and trade center in an 18th-century wilderness. Today’s Bethabara continues to embrace this era. A National Historic Landmark, this 1753 site of the German-speaking, Protestant settlement nestles in a picturesque, wooded 175-acre wildlife preserve, with 126 species of birds to marvel at. The museum features a restored and furnished 1788 church, archaeological ruins, exhibits and tours with costumed guides, as well as a reconstructed village, a French and Indian War fort, and Colonial and medicinal gardens.
Just 10 minutes away from Historic Bethabara, tour-goers can experience hands-on history at Old Salem Museums & Gardens. Become an apprentice in this 1766 Moravian settlement—turned living history attraction—with master potters, bakers, woodworkers, and more. Stroll along the cobblestone sidewalks to see Salem Square, the Mickey Coffee Pot, and over 100 preserved and historically restored buildings. Dig into more than 250 years of horticulture history in the Miksch heirloom gardens and the Single Brothers’ Garden, an award-winning restoration garden where seeds are saved from one harvest to replant in the next. Visitors can explore Old Salem’s Seed-Saving Lab, which displays heirloom seeds planted between 1766-1856. A can’t-miss experience is Salem Pathways, a new immersive tour following the lives of seven individuals who lived or visited Salem between 1700 and 1989.
Nestled in the historic district of Old Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), houses one of the finest collections of Southern decorative arts in the country. This internationally renowned museum tells the story of life in the early South through an unparalleled collection of early Southern furniture, ceramics, silver, paintings, textiles, and other decorative arts. With “period” rooms and galleries, MESDA showcases an impressive array of objects made and used in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas through 1820.
Winston-Salem offers a Moravian Culinary Trail experience that celebrates the area’s deep Moravian food roots. Roll out whisper-thin Moravian cookies (voted “Oprah’s favorite”) at Mrs. Hanes Handmade Moravian Cookies and knead the dough at Winkler Bakery in Old Salem, circa 1800, to bake a buttery and slightly sweet Moravian sugar cake.
For a mix of classic and contemporary, head to Reynolda Mile. At its heart is Reynolda House Museum of American Art, the 1917 estate of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds. Today, it’s home to American art, the original 1913 greenhouse and gardens, and Reynolda Village—full of shops and eateries.
For more information on touring Winston-Salem, go to visitwinstonsalem.com.
The Winston-Salem skyline as seen from Old Salem.
Credit: Visit Winston-Salem