Steeped in history and a tobacco lineage and heritage, Winston-Salem has long since evolved from the shadow of its RJ Reynolds stronghold. And while it may be the birthplace of iconic Krispy Kreme, Texas Pete, and Moravian Cookies, it has emerged as a modern-day foodie haven with no shortage of sweet spots to sip crafted libations and savor dishes from a cohort of talented chefs. A 3-hour drive from Wilmington, NC, it's the perfect weekend getaway to indulge in quaint accommodations and savor & sip for 48 hours.
By Colleen Thompson
Start with a Dairyman Sandwich
Arrive early, and while waiting to check into the Summit Street Inn, make your way to the historic, quaint, and very charming Reynolda Village which is styled along the lines of an old English hamlet. The village is home to several eateries and shops in buildings that were once part of tobacco magnet R.J. Reynolds country estate. Head to Theodore's Bar & Market - a chic vintage-styled spot, housed in the old dairy of the estate, with original subway tiles and all-white walls and ceilings. Owners Anna Margaret Roth and her husband Eric Disch have designed a beautiful space to make you want to linger. And with a homewares market, cafe and bar it's easy to stick around. I wanted to walk the breathtaking Reynolda Gardens, so I grabbed the Dairyman sandwich, which features layers of brie, Havarti, pear slices, and fig jam on Southern pressed sourdough, accompanied by an iced latte. A great way to kick-start a foodie-venture.
Stroll the Beaucolic Reynolda Gardens
A trip to Winston-Salem is incomplete without walking the exquisite Reynolda Gardens. More than a century old and once part of the Reynolds Estate, now owned by Wake Forest University, the 134 acres is a horticultural oasis. Reynolda Village was built in 1917 and still remains on what is now called Reynolda Gardens. Charles Babcock, an investment banker and philanthropist, donated the gardens to Wake Forest in 1958 with the intent for them to be a “haven for contemplation and reflective outdoor leisure.” The formal gardens have been restored to the historic design created by landscape architect Thomas Sears. It is a peaceful sanctuary that is worthy of several hours spent meandering or simply sitting still watching the bees waggle their way through a thousand different flowers. Reynolda Gardens remain open from sunrise to sunset with free admission.
Stay in a Victorian Gem
Located in the historic West End neighborhood, the Summit Street Inns consists of two historical Victorian gems, The Ludlow and the Sheppard houses, feature 10 luxury guest suites. I stayed in the Sheppard House, a two-story red brick with a wraparound front porch, slow spinning ceiling fans, hanging baskets of graceful ferns, complete with Carolina rockers. Each evening, walking back up to the front door, a chorus of cicadas the soundtrack, it's easy to feel a little like a character in a Faulkner novel. If you're lucky, you'll be greeted on arrival or departure by Jefferson, the inn's friendly black tuxedo cat. I stayed in the Chesterfield Grand King Suite, an expansive retreat decorated in hues of yellow and pale blue. The highlight of this beautiful room is the king-size bathroom, complete with wooden floors, a clawfoot tub, a walk-in shower, and white linen robes. A unique addition to the room is a private porch with table and chairs that overlook the woodland garden and West End neighborhood, perfect for relaxing and sipping on the complimentary bottle of Josh wine in the evening or taking your coffee outside in the morning. Complimentary breakfast is served at sister inn, The Shaffner. Summit Street Inn is perfectly positioned and within walking distance of many eateries including Joyner's, Mozelle's & Bernardin's featured below.
Coffee and Amish cinnamon buns at Louie & Honey's Kitchen
Mother and daughter baking team Natalie and Naomi Gingerich create delectable treats in an Amish tradition in a chic Parisienne style café. The Amish cinnamon buns, made with local organic Winston-Salem flour, and dripping in brown sugar icing, is what propelled the bakery into recognition and local love. Warm sticky buns and a frothy latte, is exactly what I want at 10 a.m. Grab a table outside in the sunshine and plan the rest of the days adventure.
Explore the City on an E-Bike
If you want a comprehensive way to get a feel for the city and have fun while doing it, renting a state-of-the-art E-Bike and private tour from Hal at Triad Eco Adventures is well worth the time. Exploring the downtown loop will take you through the beautiful Greenway around historic Old Salem and past the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. Winston-Salem has experienced a community-wide effort to renovate and rejuvenate downtown into a technological and cultural hub with many of the buildings repurposed into contemporary businesses, stores, and restaurants. Hal is great at giving an overview of the history of the city as well as insider tips on where to eat & drink and who is playing live gigs in town.
Start or End your Evening the Old-Fashioned Way
In the historic West End, Joyner's Bar at the corner of Fourth Street was once a grocery store owned and operated by John T Joyner in 1891. Joyner's is everything I love and want from a cocktail bar. A prohibition-style-retro-era vibe with a wraparound center stage bar, worn-leather chairs, cozy booths tucked in corners and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Ask barmen Karane to mix you a 7-year-old Knob Creek Rye Old Fashioned and peruse the collection of vintage books and ease into the night.
A Taste of the South at Mozelle's
Mozelle's is a Southern-style bistro that offers elevated, locally inspired takes on classic Southern dishes. Owner Jennifer Smith has created one of the most beloved and popular restaurants in the city for the past 15 years. The space is simple, elegant, and intimate with an open kitchen, that creates a vibey, unfussy atmosphere. The menu features classic Southern fare like tomato pie (which is legendary at Mozelle's), meatloaf, and shrimp & grits, but a lot more elevated than your grandma used to make. The shrimp & grits are some of the best I've eaten, and I've eaten my fair share. Featuring wild-caught American shrimp, serrano ham, sweet peppers, sherry cream sauce, and cheesy grits, it is pure bliss. And do not leave without sharing the bourbon pecan bread pudding with caramel sauce - decadent - but so worth it. Plan ahead, reservations are a must.
Go for the Fine Dining, Stay for the Brussels Sprouts at Bernardin's
If you're looking for a fine-dining experience in Winston, then Bernardin's at the Zevely House, a historic brick Moravian-style house, will check all the boxes. The romantic atmosphere of the purported oldest house in the city, decked with white linen tablecloths and cosy ambiance, sets the tone for the impeccable food created by Chef and Owner Freddy Lee. Do not skip ordering the brussels sprouts to start. I was advised by my dining partner, who had dined at Bernardin's before, that they were a must-try. The brussels sprouts are combined with Chinese sausage and a soy bourbon molasse and grilled until crispy. The duck breast is faultless and served on Mascarpone polenta, with braised red cabbage and a fig sauce that paired perfectly with Rex Hill Pinot Noir.
Go to visitwinstonsalem.com for more information and to plan your stay.
Holiday Happenings in Winston Salem
Experience 18th- and 19th-century Moravian traditions at Old Salem. Holiday offerings include Salem Saturdays (Nov. 25 - Dec. 23), when the district is filled with Christmas decor, live music, historic trade demos, special events, and even St. Nick himself. Other must-do events include the Moravian Candle Tea (Nov. 29 - Dec. 9), Evening Candlelight Tours (Dec. 1-16), and the inaugural Christmas Music Festival (Dec. 16).
Christmas at Körner’s Folly Known as the “strangest house in America,” Körner’s Folly has enchanted holiday visitors for more than a century. The Victorian-style home dazzles with floor-to-ceiling garlands, glowing lights and beautifully decorated trees. In fact, you’ll find more than a dozen trees spread throughout the home’s 22 rooms, three floors and seven (yes, seven) levels. (Told you it was strange!) Holiday tours are offered daily beginning in late November.
From intimate holiday tours and after-hours tree lightings, to kids' workshops and caroling, there are plenty of ways for visitors to get in the spirit at Reynolda. The gardens are on full holiday display, and shops and restaurants at Reynolda Village delight with specialty items and offerings. Don’t miss the annual Holiday Stroll (Nov. 19), when Reynolda Village offers carolers, free carriage rides, seasonal snacks, and spectacular holiday decor.
A 30-year holiday tradition, Tanglewood annual Festival of Lights features more than 1 million twinkling lights spread along a 4-mile loop. Other highlights include carriage rides, a marshmallow roasting station, and a Holiday Gift Village. Come see why MSN.com named it one of America's Top 10 Holiday displays.