12 Fun Things to do in Winston-Salem NC

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North Carolina beaches and mountains seem to get all the attention from travelers. The family-friendly sights and activities in the central Tarheel State are usually missed by visitors. Like nearby Charlotte, the city of Winston-Salem is often overlooked. Rich with history and a booming downtown area (that has surprisingly little traffic), there are more things to do in Winston-Salem than you might expect.

After spending many weekends in the Twin City, we’ve curated the best things to do with kids in Winston-Salem – or without the kids!

quarry park winston-salem
The quarry is one of the kids’ favorite things to do in Winston-Salem.

5 Fun Facts about Winston-Salem

  1. Winston and Salem were once separate cities
    Once known separately as Winston (with a rich history in the tobacco industry) and Salem (an area settled by members of the Moravian Church)
  2. Moravians were the first to settle in the area
    In the mid-1700s, 15 German-speaking Protestants walked(!) from Pennsylvania, and the Moravian culture and history is still deeply rooted in the city
  3. The city has deep roots in tobacco and textiles…
    Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds got it’s start here, as Hanes brand hosiery
  4. … but now known as the City of arts and innovation
    Judge Reinhold, Diedrich Bader, and Jada Pinkett Smith all studied theater in the city that is also home to the Wake Forest University Innovation Quarter
  5. Winston-Salem is also home to some sweet and spicy favorite foods
    Krispy Kreme donuts and Texas Pete hot sauce are both based in Winston-Salem

Things to do in Historical Winston-Salem

1. Reynolda House

The estate of R.J. and Katherine Reynolds is now a museum with an extensive art collection, beautiful gardens, and even a few shops within the 28 buildings on the property. Once a self-sufficient estate is now a non-profit organization supporting arts and education.

kids running through the gardens at the Reynolda House, things to do in Winston-Salem
Kids love to run through the gardens at the Reynolda House

Take a tour of the house for a peek at a day in the life of the wealthy and influential family, then get the kids out to stretch their legs. A 16-acre lake and gardens filled with flowers are the perfect spots to explore. Don’t miss the cacti collection in the greenhouse.

There is a fee for the tours inside the house, but exploring the gardens and other areas around the property is one of the best free things to do in Winston-Salem.

2. Old Salem

Winston-Salem may be best known for Old Salem. Founded by Moravians in the mid-1700s, the community still stands today with historic buildings filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries. There is also a college, a church, and private residences.

kids using the working water pump at Old Salem in winston-salem NC
Testing out the working water pump in Old Salem

Spending time in Old Salem is another one of our favorite free things to do in Winston-Salem. Our favorite stop: Winkler Bakery. The oldest operating bakery in Old Salem is filled with sweet treats from the Moravians – and probably tops the list of things to do with kids in Winston-Salem. Moravian cookies, Sugar Cake (and pick up a bag of the sugar cake mix to make more at home), and lovefeast buns.

winkler's bakery oven at Old Salem
Try Moravian Cookies and Sugar Cake from Winkler Bakery

If you are visiting during Christmas, don’t miss the opportunity to experience a traditional Moravian Lovefeast service at one of the many Moravian churches throughout the city.

3. Historic Bethabara Park

Just 10 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem is a lesser-known historical area. Historic Bethabara Park was the first European settlement in NC, 13 years before Old Salem.

Both historical areas allow you to explore the grounds for free, with options to purchase tickets to many guided tours.

4. Roadside Architecture

Winston-Salem is home to not one but two historical landmarks from American brands:

Shell Gas Station

Shell Station in the shape of a shell on Sprague St. & Peachtree St. registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s not a working gas station, but still a fun sight to see in Winston-Salem!

an old Shell Station with the entrance in the shape of the Shell Station logo
You can’t get gas from this Shell Station, but it’s still worth a stop to see the unique gas station.

Arby’s Restaurant

With countless updates over their 50+ year history, there are just a handful of Arby’s locations with the original sign. You know, the one with the big hat? And one is right here on Knollwood St, near the intersection of Stratford Rd.

5. Winston Cup Museum

Anyone with good, southern roots will tell you there is so much more to racing than cars driving around in circles (for hours and hours).

Winston-Salem’s roots in tobacco made their way into the racing industry too. Step back to a time when racing was heavily funded by R.J. Reynolds for over 30 years. Old-school NASCAR fans, history buffs, and any car-loving kid won’t want to miss the Winston Cup Museum, located right in downtown Winston-Salem.

Outdoorsy Things to do in Winston-Salem NC

6. Wake Forest University

There are almost always hidden gems found on a university campus. The swings under canopies of trees are a shady, outdoor break for kids and adults. Best of all, this is one of the free things to do with kids in Winston-Salem.

One of our favorite places to explore is Wake Forest University, nestled in a wooded area. It’s a great place to get out of the sun for walking, biking, and swinging.

kids playing on swings on wake forest university campus
Free things to do in Winston-Salem with kids include spending an outdoorsy day on the Wake Forest University campus.

7. Quarry Park

Whether you go for one of the many summer events or a picnic just outside of the city, Quarry Park is the outdoor fix you’re looking for. And it’s one of the best places to get a view of the Winston-Salem skyline.

A massive pier extends over the deep waters of the old Piedmont Quarry.

Maximize your outdoor adventure by reaching Quarry Park by foot or bike on the city greenways.

quarry park in winston-salem nc
Visit Quarry Park for some of the best views of downtown Winston-Salem NC

8. Winston-Salem Dash at BB&T Ballpark

Named for the dash that separates Winston and Salem, a Winston-Salem Dash minor league baseball game is a fun addition to your Winston-Salem visit. Check the schedule for dates to watch players on the Class-A Advanced team trying to make it to the big leagues.

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9. ARTivity on the Green

Let the kids run, play, and frolic at ARTivity on the Green in a half-acre outdoor space in downtown Winston-Salem.

This open space isn’t just any outdoor space in an urban setting. The design and structure pay homage to Winston-Salem’s history and geography. Tributes to Winston’s industrial past, Wake Forest University, and its proximity to Pilot Mountain.

artivity on the green in winston-salem nc
ARTivity on the Green is a favorite of the free things to do in Winston-Salem, NC.

10. Tanglewood Park

Swim, golf, bike, ride horses, or explore the gardens at Tanglewood Park, just 20 minutes outside of Winston-Salem.

Looking for accommodations for your stay in Winston-Salem? Tanglewood has cottages, an RV park, and a bed and breakfast located right in the park.

The best time to visit is when it’s transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays. The Festival of Lights runs from mid-November through December.

A Few More of Our Favorite Things to Do in Winston-Salem

11. Shop Mast General Store

After breakfast, stroll over to Mast General for some shopping. We have spent hours browsing fun finds in this regional chain that carries everything from toys and home décor to outdoor gear and clothes. The barrels of bulk candy and walls filled with vintage toys will have the kids more than happy to make the stop.

kids shopping for candy at mast general store is a favorite of things to do in winston salem nc
Checking out the bulk candy bins at Mast General Store in Winston-Salem tops the list of things to do with kids in Winston-Salem.

12. Things to Do with Kids in Winston-Salem: Visit Kaladium

We don’t usually make children’s museums part of our itinerary (they’re found in nearly every major city, after all). We make an exception for this one.

Why? The theater is part of Winston-Salem’s culture and the Peppercorn Theatre at Kaladium is a great place to immerse the kids into Winston’s vibrant performing arts community.

And we love the second location just as much for their outdoor and nature-based learning in the onsite environmental park and planetarium.  

The Best Places To Eat In Winston-Salem

Cin Cin Burger Bar

This family-owned restaurant cooks up the “best burger I’ve ever had” kind of burger, according to our 14-year-old nephew. Build your own with your favorite toppings, or try one of their speakeasy-themed combinations.

Related Reading: An NC Mountain Getaway to Asheville NC: A Local’s Guide to the Best Sights, Food, and Activities

Camino Bakery

Start your day with breakfast at Camino Bakery. Freshly made bread, sweet pastries and cakes, and the most delicious sandwiches served up for lunch. You can also pick up your favorite baked goods on Saturdays at the farmer’s market.

camino bakery store front winston-salem nc
Find sweet treats and other baked goods at Camino Bakery

The Tavern in Old Salem

The menu at the Tavern in Old Salem is inspired by traditional Moravian dishes. You’ll be served by staff dressed in traditional Moravian attire while dining at the historical Tavern.

Foothills Brewing

Breweries with in-house restaurants mean a chance for parents to try local craft beers. Foothills Brewing in downtown Winston-Salem has traditional bar food with lots of kid-friendly options. Not a beer drinker? They brew coffee too, and we hear their house-roasted coffee is exceptional!

After lunch, wander next door to the bookstore and let the kids browse the kid’s section at Bookmarks, a non-profit and independent bookstore.

West End Cafe

This cafe in (where else?) West End neighborhood of Winston-Salem has been a favorite of the locals for over 30 years. Serves up sandwiches, salads, grinders, and Rubens for lunch. Or stop in for one of their upscale dinner offerings.

Have you visited this charming southern town? Let us know your favorite things to do in Winston-Salem, NC!

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