Winston-Salem has a way of looking to the future without losing sight of its past, from making way for new businesses amid centuries-old Gothic, Tudor and Renaissance Revival architecture to transforming old tobacco factories into the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. Transformation like this is why we’re thrilled to open The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in downtown Winston-Salem in the historic Art Deco R.J. Reynolds Building. If you think our 21-story home looks a little familiar, that’s because it served as the prototype for the Empire State Building.
When you’re visiting Twin City, you’ll want to be sure to scope out these moments of duality: old and new; classic and modern; forward-thinking while honoring the past. We’ve put together some of our favorite spots to help you enjoy an insider’s experience of Winston-Salem.
Start your day off right with breakfast at hip-and-homey Mary’s Gourmet Diner, where almost everything on the menu is homemade and locally sourced. Just a 10-minute walk from The Cardinal, Mary’s also serves up lunch every day. We’re loving Mary’s Gritz Bowls made with stone-ground grits—try the Down Home Gritz, topped with Mary’s jalapeno-pimiento cheese, two fried eggs, and chopped country ham. If it’s a caffeine fix you’re after, Krankies Coffee is a perfect spot to meet locals while you get some work done.
Walk off breakfast with a stroll through Old Salem Museums & Gardens. Step into the 18th century and learn about Salem’s Moravian settlers, then taste recipes that date back over 200 years at Winkler Bakery, believed to be the oldest continually operating bakery in America. Continue your travel through time at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, which is filled with three centuries of artwork in the restored 1917 mansion of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds.
For a fun, interactive afternoon activity, go on an Art-O-Mat scavenger hunt. These cigarette vending machines turned art dispensers are another example of Winston-Salem embracing its tobacco past in a fresh, modern way. The machines can be found in DADA—the city’s trendy downtown arts district—including the visitor center, Krankies Coffee, Camino Bakery, The Garage, Mary’s Gourmet Diner, and of course The Kimpton Cardinal.
If you want let your inner artist out, drop into The Olio, located at West End Mill Works. The non-profit glassblowing school regularly holds walk-in workshops where you can design, choose colors, and put your breath or hand into a glass-blown treasure. Thankfully, their staff handles the dangerous work!
Ready to top off the day with a little mischief? Hit the sleek, intimate Small Batch Beer Co., which serves 12 inventive house brews including The Beet Gose On and Blood Orange Saison. End your night at The Garage for live music on weekends or fancy cocktails at Tate’s Craft Cocktails, named by Imbibe Magazine as one of top 100 places to drink in The South. Try their most popular drink, the Blackbird Julep, topped with fresh fruit, or go for a classic done right like an Old Fashioned or Caipirinha.
— Shawndra Russell
Shawndra Russell is a travel writer and content creator for businesses based in Asheville and has written for VisitNC, Explore Asheville, BeerAdvocate and Travel+Leisure.