Well y’all (picked this up from hearing it all over North Carolina), I’m back from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It was an excellent trip to kick off my #Take12Trips project and was filled with many surprises.
I headed down there to visit my friend, Ama, who was one of my roommates during my time studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Thanks to her generosity I was able to crash at her place and had a chance to see the city from a locals point of view as she showed me everything Winston-Salem had to offer.
Knowing nothing about Winston-Salem allowed me to really appreciate the city and approach it with a completely open mind since I had no preconceived notions of how it would or should be. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a trip to somewhere I really knew nothing about. I think my trip to Lisbon, Portugal was probably the last time. The city of roughly 250,000 had great food, people, and atmosphere, all of which I like in a place.
The food was delicious, even though I skipped Waffle House (sigh). I ate a many local favorites, but probably missed other ones, as every local has their own favorites. The downtown area offered the most dining choices, which were more varied than I anticipated. Burke Street, just off of downtown also had a variety of eateries including Burke Street pizza, which had huge, delicious pizza slices. Supposedly it’s a popular drunk food place, but I had it for lunch, and it was still delicious, assuming you like pizza.
Across the freeway from the flourishing downtown, which I will get to, sits the historic Old Salem community, which was the original settlement of the Moravians in the area and the location of Salem College. It was one of the coolest college campuses I’ve set foot on; although, I couldn’t go there as it’s an all women’s university. The well preserved history of the campus really takes you back into the time period as almost all of the original building are still in-use as academic buildings, dormitories, shops, and private residences. A stroll through the area will certainly make you feel like you have been taken back in time, especially if you’re a fan of historic preservation and rehabilitation.
Hopping back north across the freeway, the burgeoning downtown district was my personal favorite area which included everything from soaring skyscrapers, including one referred to as “the penis building,” and coffee shops to a hip arts district and a variety of bars and restaurants. The fresh spring air and blossoming probably had something to do with how alive the city felt. People were sitting outside at cafes and bars alike and moving about the downtown throughout the day and night. Aside from the seasonal warmth, Winston-Salem boasts 8 universities and colleges, which undoubtedly leads to a smattering of ever-occurring events and a youthful energy that exists throughout the city.
I felt this collective youthful exuberance during the Downtown Art District First Friday Gallery Hop. It’s an event located in the downtown Winston=Salem Art District where all the local galleries, studios, restaurants, shops, and bars are open and quite literally hopping. People were all over the place from the quite gallery goers to the performers. They shut down the main street and the eight or so block area is crawling with participants. The galleries and shops range from expensive thousand dollar pieces to small handmade knickknacks. There was outdoor seating a plenty at nearly every bar and restaurant, although getting a table was hard to come by as it was so busy.
Everything was simply alive. Live bands played into the streets and inside the galleries and cafes. Belly dancers performed at one end of the street, while an interactive African drum circle opened up to any and all who wanted to join in an open space. Of course, I jumped in and began playing, even though I’ve never played in an African drum circle before. Artists were creating new works of art while displaying others. Children and adults alike drew with chalk on the streets and sidewalks throughout the night, until the First Friday Gallery Hop ended and cars were back to driving down the main drag over the art covered pavement.
The alive and embracing atmosphere filled the air and the downtown area the entire time I was down there. The people were welcoming and charming, even if every time they said, “y’all,” my head spun around as if someone was calling my name. I’m just not used to the word being used on a regular basis. My friends would look at me as if I was joking around if I used that word. However, many locals poked fun at my accent of saying my long o’s, “Oh yah,” and “Bubbler.”
Aside from the friendly, welcoming nature of the city, there was plenty to do, and especially if you can catch a First Friday Gallery Hop in the Downtown Art District, I would highly recommend a visit to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as I was pleasantly surprised by the city I knew nothing about.
Have you ever been to Winston-Salem or someplace you knew nothing about before going? How did you like it?