We awoke with the intention of getting something accomplished in “the construction zone” that is our master bath, but decided instead to drive to Winston Salem, particularly Old Salem. I anticipated an entirely different day than what we experienced, having been to Colonial Williamsburg, Strawberry Banke, and Olde Sturbridge Village.
Old Salem is actually just a neighborhood within Winston Salem. People own homes, live, and work here, meaning you can be dodging cars even though they are creeping up the street. But interspersed between these homes are recreations of colonial days in, most specifically, a time when the Moravians came to the area to craft, not farm, their way into American history. There is a massive well-designed welcome center which will inform you about this friendly religious sect, as well as provide a gateway into the village via a lovely covered bridge. It’s a self-guided walking tour and you have options to enter some of the buildings, learn about a colonial crafting (they were superior bakers), or not.
We started our visit by watching Peter and the Wolf in the center’s concert venue at no small cost, and the fact that there were a few craft venues under renovation and not open to the public, we decided to forego the admission tickets and simply walk the area and gardens. We were surprised at how little we missed, given that most of the venues were tiny, the doors were open, and some of those with tickets were standing right next to us outside, listening because there was no room inside. (This is not an endorsement of non-support, and I’ll explain later.)
There are plenty of gift shops to bring in revenue for what is actually an educational enterprise, and much of the facility is run by volunteers. I imagined myself walking around the grounds, finally fulfilling my dream of being a docent… wearing a long skirt and period shoes, and answering the questions of wide-eyed children. Then I thought of doing it on a cold rainy day and got that out of my system almost immediately.
The Tavern, which has a strong following, was booked solid, but we placed our name on the waiting list and finally got seated in an upstairs room (another window view!) around 2 p.m. By this time we were starving, though we’d purchased one of the famous sugar cakes and a packet of Moravian Ginger/Chocolate-covered cookies, thinner than the human hair but exquisitely delicious, to tide us over. My catfish platter was the best I’ve ever had (and I mean in my entire life), and I was not surprised to learn that it had been caught earlier in the day. They have a wonderful and extensive list of wines from around the world, and the ambiance was spot on for 18th century America. The wait staff were in costume, knowledgeable, and very pleasant. It was a wonderful experience and a good way to spend our wedding anniversary.
By the time we made it back to the welcome center we’d killed off over four hours and we were both exhausted. But our time there was so packed and pleasant, we decided to join Old Salem as contributing members if only to guarantee we’d return. Next time we’ll be inside those little houses, promising a better view of the crafters and a certain reservation at the Tavern.
There are several links in this post to give a more comprehensive perspective on the facility. It’s a great day trip, especially for anyone interested in folk arts and crafts, and it was extremely kid friendly. The only boredom I witnessed was that of a few middle-aged men. Fortunately my husband is the son of a DAR, and a love of American history was bred into him. Lucky me.