Summer vacation season is here. We’re lucky to live nearly equal distance from the mountains and the coast, with so many interesting sites to visit when you feel like exploring the spaces between. This year, I’m planning a series of day trips to visit NC cities and attractions just an hour or two from the Triangle by car. So come along for a day’s road trip around NC this summer. This week I explore downtown Winston-Salem and art museums just beyond.
In part one of this tale, I walked uphill along The Strollway in Winston-Salem, from older Salem towards a contemporary Winston-Salem downtown where arts flourish. The transition to a vibrant, modern downtown became quite evident as the shade trees gave way to an eclectic mix of tall buildings surrounded by open green spaces and parks with lively water fountains.
I learned (via Visit Winston Salem) that Winston-Salem has been a leader in the arts for quite some time, as the home of the first Arts Council in the United States (established in 1949). Arts are represented in many forms at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Nearby a/perture cinema is an independent, locally-owned movie theater on Fourth Street, showing a mix of independent, foreign, documentary, local and festival films. Each April, Winston-Salem is home to the RiverRun International Film Festival (make a note of that for next year, film fans). Along funky little Trade Street (between 5th & 7th) where colorful murals adorn the sides of buildings, the Downtown Arts District hosts a Summer Gallery Hop the first Friday of each month. Oh, and there’s something for every musical taste too (but we’ll save those for a later visit).
I didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring downtown Winston-Salem’s food scene (perfect reason for a return visit, or five). However, I did find my way to Foothills Brewing for a thirst-quenching beverage. I continued along Fourth Street, towards the West End neighborhood passing directional arrows on the sidewalks pointing towards the baseball park where The Dash play each summer (reason #37 to visit Winston-Salem). I found Mozelle’s, a very popular southern bistro judging by the crowd inside the restaurant and on the patio. Too bad I had filled up on Foothills Strawberry Blonde and a delightful grapefruit gelato at Caffe Prada on my way to the West End.
Though there was much more to explore, I had two more venues on my agenda I wanted to see that lie just a couple of miles beyond downtown, SECCA and Reynolda House, two unique art museums. Each art museum was once the residence of prominent families in the textile and tobacco industries. James G. Hanes willed his 32-acre estate to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in 1972 and in 1976 a contemporary gallery addition to the original English-Hunt style mansion was complete. The current exhibition, “Directions to a Dirty Place”, is striking and the large format paintings imposing. Next month, “The Artists” film series will screen “Pollock”, the Academy Award-winning biopic directed by and featuring Ed Harris as the artist (see the SECCA website event pages for complete details and to purchase tickets).
The history of Reynolda House and the Reynolds family permeates Winston-Salem lore (much as Biltmore does with Asheville). The main house holds an American art collection dating from the colonial period to the present. The grounds surrounding the house include formal gardens and the original estate out buildings have become Reynolda Village, a collection of shops and dining establishments as well as a farmers market during the warmer months.
I do adore the Triangle, but if any city could woo me away… 🙂 Well, this story may be continued. I still have so much more to see. If you think you might like to spend some quality time exploring Winston-Salem, do explore the Visit Winston Salem website and connect via Facebook/Twitter for all you’ll need to know about accommodations, dining, area attractions and special events. They’ll point you in the right direction to all the city has to offer.