In all my travels I’ve never visited North Carolina. Sure, I’ve driven through the state many a time, but I’ve never actually explored it until recently. Last month my girlfriend Susan and I went on an epic six day action packed tour of the state which included Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Pittsboro.
It was a trip filled with history, gorgeous scenery and a tremendous amount of delicious bites. Each town different than the last and filled with activities for all. Today I’m going to share with you my finds in Winston-Salem. A town I found captivating. So much so that I’m actually planning a family trip back there in the very near future.
Here are 6 not to miss experiences in Winston-Salem…
1. Old Salem Museum & Gardens
Old Salem Museum and Gardens is located in the historic town of Old Salem. It’s a fully restored Moravian congregation town dating back to 1766. It consists of historically accurate buildings, gardens and reenactors who educate visitors by giving them a glimpse into the past.
This is the perfect place to bring a family as there are activities for both kids and adults alike.
Adults will delight in learning all about heirloom plant varieties in the historically accurate gardens where you can watch planting, harvesting and even cooking in the kitchen of a period home.
Architecture buffs will marvel at how the homes and businesses were preserved and renovated. Be sure to visit the Single Brothers’ house to see good examples of Moravian half timber construction. It’s no wonder the buildings stood the test of time. They were solidly built. The expression they don’t make it like that anymore is highly applicable here.
All ages will find God’s Acre fascinating. A Moravian graveyard, God’s Acre is a beautiful but simple resting place of the Moravian people that inhabited Old Salem. What’s fascinating about the Moravian burial tradition is that all graves are exactly the same.
From the highest stature Moravian down to the poorest, all Moravians are memorialized with a simple white slab stone marker flush with the earth. Be sure to visit God’s Acre while you’re in Old Salem as it’s a visually stunning and moving experience which reflects the Moravian peoples’ humility and devotion to their faith.
All ages will thoroughly enjoy the Winkler Bakery which was established in 1800. This still working bakery is a must visit as it’s not only educational, but delicious. Guests can watch the famous Moravian Sugar Cake being made amongst other breads, cookies and treats. Be sure to head to the collocated bakery store where you can purchase all the baked goods which are baked in their wood fired domed oven just one room over. The smell of fresh baked goods is completely irresistible.
Make sure to budget at least one full day to touring Old Salem. Honestly, my next trip I’m blocking off two full days of touring as I feel like you need that much time to fully see all this historic town has to offer. There were all kinds of shops lining the streets that I would’ve loved to visit.
And if you’re looking for a family friendly place to dine, The Tavern in Old Salem is the perfect spot. The food sticks with a historical focus and offers hearty but family friendly fare. Susan ordered a chicken pot pie which was one of the very best pot pies I’ve ever tasted. The food is substantial and reasonably priced.
For more information on visiting Old Salem, visit their website which is a treasure trove of information. Some of the attractions and events require tickets, so be sure to look at hours, pricing and upcoming events.
2. Reynolda House
When I first heard that we were to visit R.J. Reynold’s family estate, Reynolda House, I thought perhaps this was going to be an in depth look into the tobacco industry. Because let’s face it, when you hear the name R.J. Reynolds, we all think tobacco. At least that was my case.
And while that is true, Reynolda house is so very much more than that. The family estate is an exquisite glimpse into a life that most can only dream of. The house itself is beautifully furnished with antiques and art. Every room holds a new treasure.
You can quite literally lose yourself in the past here. Don’t miss the lower level that holds a bowling alley, arcade, indoor swimming pool and even a bar where some fabulous parties were surely held.
Also watch for the American artwork which is prominently displayed throughout the home. American art was very important to the Reynolds family and their collection is vast. Exhibitions are held throughout the year which will delight the art lovers who visit.
The sprawling gardens are another must see and a lovely way to relax. You will see people lounging on blankets and munching on picnics as the gardens are a local favorite place to unwind.
For more information on hours and admission, check out the Reynolda House website. Children under 18, students with valid ID, and military with ID enjoy free admission.
Our accommodations in Winston-Salem was the opulent Graylyn Estates. As we approached the property up the winding drive, we were bowled over by the majestic main house. The brick and stone structure is sure to impress anyone who makes their way through Graylyn’s gates.
Built in 1932 by Bowman and Nathalie Gray, Graylyn consists of 86 one of a kind guest rooms on 55 scenic acres. The rooms are appointed with fine furnishings, antiques and fine artwork which was clearly a love of the Grays.
Architectural details are sure to delight as the house is full of intricate iron work, imported Italian marble and other materials imported from around the world.
Susan and I each stayed in a suite located in The Mews which used to be the stables. Both rooms were breathtaking and lush. High thread count linens which felt like butter to the touch were fitted over mattresses that felt like they were made for royalty. If you’re looking for a romantic place to visit in Winston-Salem, Graylyn is the clear choice.
We also appreciated the little things Graylyn offered that made our stay there all the more memorable. Twenty-four hour access to complimentary ice cream treats made Susan and I feel a little giddy. Ice cream at 3am? Yes please!
The mini bar in our room was stocked with complimentary beverages and when I was craving a glass of prosecco, the neighboring twenty-four hour guest shop came to the rescue with my favorite La Marca prosecco available for purchase, all chilled and ready to be popped open.
It’s all about the little things, don’t you think?
Graylyn also offers an outdoor pool with tennis court, fitness facility, walking trails and dining options as well. For more information on this property, be sure to visit the Graylyn website.
4. Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies
One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Mrs. Hane’s Moravian Cookie Factory. This is a stop you don’t want to miss if you are a cookie lover.
Seventy-five years ago Bertha Crouch Foltz baked the Moravian cookies to help supplement the family farm income. She hand rolled and cut the delicate shapes and sold them to locals.
Her cookies were so well received the business blossomed and today they produce ten million cookies per year, by hand. Let that sink in for a moment. No fancy cutting machines for Mrs. Hanes’ cookies. Every single cookie is hand rolled, cut and packaged. Incredible!
If you take the tour of the factory, you are greeted at each educational station with one of their cookie varieties for tasting. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies come in six delicious flavors including ginger, sugar, chocolate, butterscotch, lemon and black walnut. I tried every single one and they were all delicious. Luckily they offer gift packs of the different varieties. I’d suggest trying them all!
For more information on Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies, you can visit their website.
After a long day of touring, we were so looking forward to dinner at a restaurant that’s rather popular with the locals, Mozelle’s. Known as a Southern bistro, Mozelle’s focuses on fresh seasonal foods with a decidedly Southern flare.
Trying to keep things light, I ordered a flavorful roasted beet salad with gorgonzola cheese. My dining partner Susan chose the fried chicken. While my salad was exactly what I had hoped it would be, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to swipe Susan’s dinner away from her. It looked that good.
And all hopes of keeping it light went out the window when I heard they had a bourbon pecan bread pudding. The diet could wait another day or so. Oh, and yes. It was worth every single calorie.
6. Mary’s Gourmet Diner
On our last morning in Winston-Salem, we went to breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner. Known for their breakfast and lunch menu, Mary’s Gourmet Diner dishes out hearty portions of Southern classics like biscuits and gravy, grits served up several different ways and tons of other breakfast and lunch fare including pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, soups and salads. All made with locally sourced foods and all cooked from scratch. Southern comfort food for sure.
I chose to forgo calorie counting for this meal when I saw they offered biscuits and gravy. I have a hard time finding good biscuits and gravy where I live and as they say, when in Rome you eat the biscuits and gravy. The Romans didn’t say that? They should’ve.
I give two thumbs up and a dozen forks to Mary’s Gourmet Diner. It was a winner. For hours and directions, be sure to visit Mary’s website.
Our time in Winston-Salem was all too brief. My next visit will be for an entire week because there’s just so much to do. I especially think this is a fine place to bring a family because not only is Winston-Salem historically rich, it’s got a lot to offer the kiddos too. Museums, family friendly dining and lots of green space to explore, Winston-Salem is a family travel destination in its own right.
If you’re looking for a fun family getaway, Winston-Salem is a good contender. Also, for people looking for a romantic spot for a long weekend, this is a fine place to explore hand in hand. You’ll be charmed.
VisitNC.com hosted Susan and I on our trip. Thank you to all the businesses we visited, we thoroughly enjoyed your products and services. While this visit was complimentary, it was not compensated and all thoughts and opinions are my own.