With a rich history dating to 1753 when settlers from the Moravian Church founded what was then called “die Wachau,” or Wachovia, the area that would soon become Salem has blended its past with a vibrant present, which makes it a well-rounded option for meeting groups.
“We’re such a unique package of four key pillars: history, arts, culinary and culture,” says Christian Schroeder, director of sales and services for Visit Winston-Salem. “You see that spread throughout the community. And one of the nice things about the Moravian community is that they’re good with record-keeping, so there’s a lot of history available, such as when George Washington came through, and one of the first fireworks displays in history.”
Officially incorporating with neighboring Winston to become Winston-Salem in 1913, today the “Twin City” is a showcase for phenomenal arts facilities, with its Moravian heritage—evidenced by the costumed shoemakers, blacksmiths and bakers at Old Salem Museum and Gardens--never too far away.
Downtown Winston-Salem was recently completely revitalized, according to Schroeder, which helped the destination earn top accolades as one of the best cities in the U.S. from Forbes magazine and Livability.com.
On the accommodations front, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group is opening its first property in North Carolina at the old Reynolds Tobacco headquarters building, which served as the prototype—at one-fifth the scale!—of the Empire State Building in New York. Slated to open next year in the Fourth Street restaurant row and entertainment area, the 211-room mixed-use property will also feature luxury apartments and the same top-shelf food and beverage offerings always found at Kimpton hotels.
For those who want to get out of town to enjoy the countryside, Winston-Salem is less than an hour from the pastoral Yadkin Valley, which boasts some 35 wineries available for tastings and tours, many of which offer meeting and event facilities.
Schroeder says the destination draws a lot of Southeast regional association business, along with religious and sports groups, because of its affordability, but corporate and national association business is on the upswing. The nearby wineries tend to be a key feature to attract many groups.
The many arts and culture facilities in the city also serve as a lure for group business, with options ranging from historic to modern, and a couple major performing arts venues thrown in for good measure.
This wealth of cultural facilities also draws large citywide groups such as the annual gathering of the Black Theater Festival, held in late July or early August, which features over 120 performances and attracts some 75,000 theater buffs to town.
It all adds up to an attractive package that comes in on the affordable side compared to other destinations with similar offerings.
“From being in the South, with its hospitality, the affordability, and our downtown with so many options, people are so surprised about all that we offer,” Schroeder says. “That’s why we encourage people to get a Southern wakeup call and come to Winston-Salem.”