A Comprehensive Eco-Guide to Touring America's City of Arts and Innovation: Winston-Salem

Since it was founded by a group of German-speaking Protestants in the 18th century, Winston-Salem, N.C., has become a sustainable hub for art and culture.

Bianca Piazza - Author

Feb. 16 2024, Published 4:00 p.m. ET

Photo of the city of Winston-Salem, N.C., during the evening with two smaller images of the Graylyn Estate boutique hotel and the To Your Health Bakery layered on top
Source: iStock, graylynestate/Instagram, toyourhealthbakery/Instagram

Deemed "America's City of Arts and Innovation," Winston-Salem, N.C., is proud to have formed the nation's first arts council in 1949, making its downtown neighborhood a hip destination for art collectors, appreciators, and tourists. But Winston-Salem is also rich in 18th-century history, as Moravians founded what was then known as the European settlement of Bethabara back in 1753.

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Historic land preservation and eco-friendly things to do (including stand-up paddle-boarding tours) add sustainability to Winston-Salem tourism, but is the city known for green initiatives? On Good Good Good's 2023 list of "The 100 Greenest Cities in America, Ranked," Winston-Salem holds the No. 65 spot.

Photo of Winston-Salem, N.C., residents and visitors eating at outdoor tables along a city sidewalk
Source: iStock
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The "Camel City" aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for buildings and vehicles by 40 percent by 2025, and switch to 100 percent clean and renewable energy in city services by 2050. Winston-Salem also runs Community Roots Day and Big Sweep programs, encouraging community involvement via volunteer tree-planting and city cleanups.

Interested in quirky vintage shops, vegan-friendly spots, historic sites, and Instagram-able outdoor art? Check out our Winston-Salem Green City Guide!

Where to stay in Winston-Salem: Enjoy a luxurious stay in a 1920s tobacco tycoon's sprawling estate.

The Graylyn Estate:

Perhaps you're intrigued by a stone castle complete with butlers and 17th-century French wood paneling — which allegedly has dark ties to Marie Antoinette and King Louis XV. If so, book a stay at the Graylyn Estate at 1900 Reynolda Road.

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The 55-acre estate has 85 regal guest rooms, and is dedicated to philanthropy (via partnerships with the Children’s Center of Winston-Salem, Wake Forest University's Graylyn Scholarship, and the Satellite Program) and sustainability.

Because of its technotrash recycling, preconsumer waste composting, bicycle rental program, linen reuse program, and Adopt-a-Park partnership, Graylyn was named a sustainability champion finalist by the Historic Hotels of America’s 2023 Awards of Excellence.

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Where to eat in Winston-Salem: Enjoy vegan curry, Mediterranean grain bowls, and conscious confections.

Acadia Foods:

Recommended by The Go-To Winston-Salem, Acadia Foods at 228 W. Acadia Avenue is a family-owned deli, market, and coffee shop with a plethora of unexpected plant-based goodies. Think toasted coconut donuts with tahini glaze, aloo courgette curry, Chinese lion’s head soup with mushroom and lentil “meatballs.”

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Yamas Mediterranean Street Food:

Proudly offering vegan-friendly meals full of ancient grains and lively spices, Yamas (a shortened version of “cheers to good health” in Greek) is all about "modern Mediterranean with a twist." At 624 W. 4th Street, the restaurant is heavily inspired by cuisine from Cyprus and Greece. We'll take a grain bowl with vegan falafel fritters and lemon and lime tahini!

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To Your Health Bakery:

To Your Health Bakery at 1263 Creekshire Way provides saccharine treats for those with diverse dietary restrictions. The woman-owned small business is both a peanut- and gluten-free establishment with a wide range of vegan-, keto-, and paleo-friendly options. From brookies to Moravian snaps, apple caramel butterscotch cookie cake to rosemary garlic bread, baker and founder Anna Simeonides stands by her plant-based babes.

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Where to shop: Eclectic vintage stores add personality to Winston-Salem.

Design Archives Vintage & Handmade Emporium:

The Design Archives Vintage & Handmade Emporium at 636 W. Fourth Street is a treasure trove of preloved, handmade, and local goodies. Perhaps you'll snag a '50s-era crinoline or an original Vogue poster from the '70s. Maybe even a snazzy pair of Snoopy roller skates. Be careful, the vintage vortex is powerful.

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Off The Rack:

Off The Rack is dedicated to "bringing '80s, '90s, and Y2K vintage fashion and nostalgia to the people." Sitting at 619 N. Trade Street, the family-owned shop is a haven for sneakerheads and sports fanatics. Go for reworked vintage Carhartt jackets, and stay for the good vibes.

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Happy Hour Vintage:

Happy Hour Vintage at 610 N. Trade Street has an affinity with all things tacky and campy — in the best way! Not only does the shop sell handmade jewelry and vintage threads, books, and knickknacks, but it frequently hosts clothing swaps and pop-up events. Its love for America's sweetheart Dolly Parton is also worth noting.

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What to do: Experience Winston-Salem's past and present via historic parks and modern art.

Old Salem Museums & Gardens:

North Carolina-based travel blogger Samantha Oppenheimer exclusively tells Green Matters via email that touring Old Salem is her favorite part of the city. The historic site aims to honor the heritage of people of the American South, specifically those of Moravian, Black, and Indigenous communities.

"You can explore the late 18th-century buildings and get an idea of how life was back in the day. To go inside any of the workshops or museums, you need a ticket that can be purchased at the visitors center," she tells us. The Visitor Center sits at 900 Old Salem Road.

A ticket gives visitors access to self-guided tours of the open venues, the galleries in the Frank L. Horton Museum Center, and the sustainable Gardens of Old Salem.

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Historic Bethabara Park:

Learn more about Winston-Salem's 18th-century history at Historic Bethabara Park, located at 2147 Bethabara Road. With a mission to preserve Bethabara's roots, the park runs tours across archaeological sites and beautifully restored original buildings.

Additionally, visitors can stroll through the gardens, including the Medicinal Garden (the U.S.'s first European Medicinal Garden), the Community Garden, and the Pollinator Garden, which works to protect and reestablish pollinator health and population.

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Downtown Arts District:

Check out the Downtown Arts District between 5th, 7th, and Trade Streets for a more modern outing.​ Though you'll find an array of trendy art galleries and nightlife, consider taking the Start Anywhere, Stop Anytime Outdoor Art Tour, as per Visit Winston-Salem. Snap photos of the "Looking Back, The History of the Black Press" mural at the 600 Block of N. Liberty Street and relax on the grounds of Winston-Salem's first art-themed park, ARTivity on the Green, at 630 N. Liberty Street.

In “Green City Guides,” a travel series from Green Matters, we break down what to do, where to stay, what to eat, and more in various cities around the world — while staying sustainable.

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