A Comprehensive Guide to Retiring in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem, affectionately nicknamed ‘Winston’ by residents, is a mid-sized city located in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. This unique location is unique as it’s situated slightly south of the Virginia border, central in the state between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The community dates back to 1753 when North Carolina was first settled and in the twentieth century has been home to well-known American businesses including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and the Hanes Companies. Winston-Salem’s leadership has been carefully planned for city growth, preventing excessive urban sprawl in order to maintain the surrounding natural beauty. To learn more, continue reading our retirement guide to Winston-Salem.
But why is Winston-Salem right for you during retirement? The low cost of living, tax benefits, small city charm, agreeable weather to settle here in retirement. If you’re considering Winston-Salem as your retirement destination, there’s a lot you’ll want to know. Use this comprehensive guide to get you started!
One of the many reasons North Carolina is a popular retirement destination for seniors is because of the tax benefits for seniors. In fact, when it comes to tax bases and the cost of living, North Carolina is one of the best states for retirees. Here are a few reasons why:
Tax Exemptions for Seniors
- Social Security retirement benefits from income taxes are tax exempt
- Flat income tax rate of 5.25%
- Moderate sales and property taxes
A mild climate is one of the many reasons people enjoy retiring in Winston-Salem. On average, temperatures range from 31°F to 41°F in January (the coldest month) and from 69°F to 88°F in July (the warmest month). Snowfall is uncommon but not rare in this region, with an average of just 6 inch of snow per year, compared to a US average of 28 inches per year. There’s an ample supply of yearly rainfall for the master gardeners to grow their favorite flowers, fruits and vegetables. There are 109 rainfall days per year and on average, the city receives 44 inches of rainfall per year, which is slightly higher than the 2019 US average of 34.7 inches.
Health & Wellness
When relocating to a new area, familiarizing yourself with local healthcare options is an important task. One of the most appealing features of Winston-Salem is the top-rated healthcare services available to all residents.
The Winston-Salem area has two premier healthcare systems, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Novant Health System. Their convenient locations and comprehensive operating hours offer a peace of mind for the city’s residents.
Healthcare Systems / Hospitals
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Wake Forest Baptist Health is a preeminent academic health system in the area. Wake Forest Baptist’s two main components are an integrated clinical system – anchored by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Wake Forest School of Medicine, a recognized leader in experiential medical education and groundbreaking research that includes Wake Forest Innovations. It is a division of Atrium Health based out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center The hospital was ranked among the best in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report in 2015-16. Leading in seven areas: Cancer, Ear, Nose & Throat, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Pulmonology and Urology. Among these specialities, the School of Medicine and Wake Forest Innovations continue to elevate research, procedures, and quality care.
Novant Health System
Novant is an integrated system of physician practices, hospitals, outpatient centers, and more – each element committed to delivering a remarkable healthcare experience for you and your family. With world-class technology, personal connections, and care that’s easier to access and understand, Novant Health is with you every step of the way on your journey to health and wellness.
- Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center is a Winston-Salem hospital providing emergency services, medical services, surgical services, rehabilitation and behavioral health services. Our centers of excellence include Novant Health Rehabilitation, Maya Angelou Women’s Health & Wellness Center, Heart & Vascular Institute, Derrick L. Davis Cancer Center, Stroke & Neurosciences Center, Orthopedic Center and Behavioral Health.
Fitness Centers and Nutritionists
A vital part of maintaining and improving overall health is through exercise and diet. Identifying age-friendly fitness centers can improve the quality of workout you’re doing. The International Council on Active Aging offers a fantastic resource to help you find the perfect fitness center for you. Nutrition is another aspect of wellness that is crucial to reaching that goal weight or optimal fitness you’re looking for. You can use this tool from HealthGrades to help you identify someone who specializes in dietetics.
Senior Living Communities
You have earned your retirement, now enjoy it and let someone else handle your daily responsibilities! Senior living communities are found throughout Winston-Salem and each of them offer different quality of services and amenity features. To plan for the future, a community like Homestead Hills is a great choice as they offer industry-best services and amenities. These services include Active Adult Living, Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing, and Rehabilitation. If you’re interested in maintenance-free living, upscale amenities and a close-knit community of peers, Homestead Hills may be a good fit. To learn more about Homestead Hills, click here.
Food & Drink
A melting pot of unique fare and libations, Winston-Salem offers a wide range of options for residents. From authentic southern cuisine and smoked barbeque to asian-fusion and oyster bars, there’s a lot to choose from. Here are the top rated restaurants and drinks in Winston-Salem.
Top-Rated Restaurants in Winston-Salem:
Sweet Potatoes607 N Trade St NW
Owned by Vivián Joiner and Stephanie Tyson, this award-winning restaurant is located in the Downtown Arts District of Winston-Salem. They are serving up unique, southern inspired uptown, down-home cooking.
Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro878 W 4th St.
Owned by Jennifer Smith since 2008, their goal has been to represent the flavors of Winston-Salem. Their ingredients are sourced locally to create a variety of southern comfort foods that can be made gluten-friendly, vegetarian and vegan menu items.
Young Cardinal Cafe424 4th St. NW
Young Cardinal Cafe and Co. is Downtown Winston-Salem’s latest spot for classic and simple breakfast and lunch. Their menu goes back to basics with modern twists and fresh ingredients.
Hops Burger Bar901 Reynolda Rd.
Hops is a salt of the earth restaurant that features only the finest ingredients. They serve a great blend of angus beef, a unique selection of craft beers and other american pub fare with locally grown ingredients.
Earl’s121 W. 9th St.
Earl’s is a whiskey bar with live country and good times. Their traditional American / Southern fare is available for brunch through late-night meals.
Top-Rated Drinks in Winston-Salem:
Vintage Sofa Bar1001 Burke St.
A grown-folks lounge near downtown Winston-Salem, with craft cocktails, fine wine and creative cuisine created by a chef of national renown. Sofas for lounging, quiet table sports and a patio for watching the world go by. It’s known as a great place to hangout.
Wise Man Brewing826 Angelo Bros Ave
Opened in January 2017, Wise Man Brewing was years of experimentation, competitions, and love for beer from Sam, Jason, and Mike. Today they brew an incredible lineup of beers for everyone to enjoy.
Fair Witness Fancy Drinks290 4th St. E
Fair Witness is a friendly neighborhood cocktail bar located conveniently across from Bailey Park in Downtown Winston-Salem.
Bar Piña770 Liberty View Ct. #200
Winston-Salem’s only rooftop bar featuring a variety of tasty cocktails, spirits, and views. Located downtown, this trendy spot has an incredible atmosphere, views and creative drinks for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.
The Tap473 W End Blvd
A local favorite, the tap has darts, beer, and a variety of mixed drinks available. It’s got a great atmosphere, friendly bartender, an interior area and outdoor deck that is dog-friendly.
For those who enjoy shopping, Winston-Salem has a variety of shopping destinations. Whether you prefer strolling through big shopping malls, finding a killer deal or browsing local boutiques, you’re sure to find somewhere that meets your retail needs. Here’s the breakdown of the top places to shop in Winston-Salem:
Downtown Arts District
An ultra-hip area of downtown, the Downtown Arts District is an eclectic collection of working studios, galleries, shops, residences, restaurants, and nightlife.
Hanes Mall was North Carolina’s largest enclosed shopping center until 2004 (now held by Southpark Mall in Charlotte, NC). The mall has 1,558,860 square feet with 3 anchor stores and over 200 tenants in all. It is located off I-40 on Hanes Mall Boulevard, the road named after the mall. The area has become very high traffic with over 250 businesses stretching over 2.9 miles.
Thruway Shopping Center
Thruway Center, with convenient store front parking, the wide variety of shops, and things to do, is a lifestyle shopping experience. Where else can you do your banking, buy pet supplies, select a new outfit, have a spa day, pick up something for your home, enjoy a meal, or grocery shop? That’s the Thruway experience.
Reynolda Village, once the dairy barn and cottages of the working Reynolds family estate, has been converted to specialty boutique shops and restaurants for shopping and exploring.
While there aren’t any Major League sports teams in the area, residents of Winston-Salem are rooting for Carolina based teams like the Carolina Panthers (NFL), Charlotte Hornets (NBA), and Carolina Hurricanes (NHL). In Winston-Salem, residents enjoy attending Minor League sporting events from the Winston-Salem Dash, Winston-Salem Wolves, and Carolina Thunderbirds. While there aren’t many professional teams, collegiate sports reign supreme in the area as locals enjoy attending Wake Forest University sporting events, while cheering for Carolina-based teams like UNC Chapel Hill, Clemson University, University of South Carolina, and North Carolina State. Learn more about the local sports teams:
The Dash are a Class A-Advanced minor league baseball team in the Carolina League. They have been a farm team of the Chicago White Sox since 1997.
The Wolves are a professional minor league basketball franchise based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The team was founded in December 2018 and is currently playing in the East Coast Basketball League (ECBL).
Founded in 2016, the Thunderbirds are a minor league professional hockey team and play in the Federal Prospects Hockey League.
Parks & Recreation
Winston-Salem’s proximity mid-climate and quick access to the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it a great place to live if you enjoy the outdoors. The city is home to countless parks, recreation facilities and public venues for residents to enjoy year-round. Here are some of the most popular spots that locals love:
Winston-Salem Greenway System
Winston-Salem has 25 miles of greenways, incorporating paved and unpaved trails, boardwalks, and bridges. Some greenways connect to each other, enabling longer excursions.
Historic Bethabara Park
Known as the “Birthplace of Winston-Salem” and founded in 1753 by German-speaking Moravians, Bethabara was the first European settlement in the North Carolina Piedmont. A National Historic Landmark and Local Historic District, historic Bethabara Park encompasses 183 acres of preserved wildlife, historic buildings and grounds, walking and birding trails, and protected wetlands
Pilot Mountain State Park
Located just half an hour from downtown, Pilot Mountain is a treasured North Carolina state park. The park centers around the iconic geologic knob that serves as a beacon to the surrounding Piedmont, inviting outdoor enthusiasts to a vast array of activities. Pilot Mountain offers miles of winding trails to take in stunning views year-round. Enjoy hiking, biking and rock climbing/rappelling.
Hanging Rock State Park
Created in the 1930s as a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps project, Hanging Rock State Park has offered the best of a traditional outdoor experience with 73-site campground, picnic grounds, stocked lake for swimming and canoe rentals and more than 20 miles of hiking trails that climb onto spectacular views and weave alongside clear streams and waterfalls. Twisted pathways lead to awe-inspiring waterfalls at Hanging Rock State Park, located just 40 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem.
Arts & Entertainment
The sounds of music create a vibrant lifestyle within a city; from small clubs to large venues there’s something for everyone. Attending local and national acts is easy to do in Winston-Salem with a variety of options to choose from. Some of the top locations in Winston-Salem to see your favorite performers are:
- Wise Man Brewing
- The Ramkat
- Haw River Ballroom
- Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
- Winston-Salem Fairgrounds
Each corner of Winston-Salem is filled with history and a number of the museums in the area reflect the settlers and heritage of the city. In addition to the historical museums, there are some newer facilities that reflect contemporary art, science and more. Local museums that are frequented by residents and visitors alike include:
Old Salem Museum and Gardens
Old Salem is a historic district that was originally settled by the Moravian community in 1766. This small city features a living history museum that interprets the restored Moravian community. The non-profit organization began its work in 1950, although some private residents had restored buildings earlier. As the Old Salem Historic District, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and expanded in 2016. The district showcases the culture of the Moravian settlement in North Carolina during the 18th and 19th centuries, communal buildings, churches, houses, and shops.
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
Reynolda House Museum displays a premiere collection of American art ranging from the colonial period to the present. Built in 1917 by Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband R.J. Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the house originally occupied the center of a 1,067-acre estate. It opened to the public as an institution dedicated to the arts and education in 1965, and as an art museum in 1967. The house holds one of the country’s finest collections of American paintings.
The Winston Cup Museum
Originally opened in 2005, the Winston Cup Museum tells the story of stock car racing during the legendary Winston Cup Series era of NASCAR. As you walk through, you will see exhibits and photos that capture the 33 years that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company sponsored NASCAR’s premier series.
There are multiple Kaleideum museums throughout the city but Kaleideum North is located With more than 25,000 square feet of exhibits, and a 17-acre Science and Environmental Park, there is so much to do at Kaleideum North!
There are many things to do in Winston-Salem that can provide entertainment for the whole family. All of the local museums that residents of Winston-Salem have to enjoy are amazing. From Old-Salem, the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, The Winston Cup Museum, and more!
The public transit system in the Winston-Salem area is called Winston Salem Transit Authority (WSTA). The local bus routes make frequent stops to connect a variety of different towns. The bus system provides options for those who want to use shuttles, express bus rides, or need connecting routes.
There are a few airports located within close proximity of Winston-Salem. Both located about an hour away, Charlotte- Douglas International Airport and Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU). At a closer distance, the Piedmont Triad International Airport is only 30 minutes away.
The flexibility in airport options makes it easy to host incoming friends and family as well as head out of town from Winston-Salem.
Best Winston-Salem Retirement Neighborhoods
As you’re researching neighborhoods in the Winston-Salem area, you’ll find many attractive areas and neighborhoods. You should do thorough research to identify what your priorities are, whether they be schools, houses, proximity to social activities, or something else. Here are a few neighborhoods you’ll find yourself seeing over and over again:
Atwood / Atwood Acres
The Atwood and Atwood Acres Neighborhood is located southwest of Winston-Salem, but is just minutes from the city. The area is mainly suburban with low crime and mature neighborhoods. Its location offers quick access to interstate 40 and you won’t have to search far for a plethora of unique shopping, dining and entertainment.
Ardmore is the largest and newest historic district in Winston-Salem. It is a popular Winston-Salem neighborhood for young families and medical students, as it is located between Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Forsyth Hospital. This area hosts one of the largest parks in the city – Miller Park.
This is a quaint town located in Guilford County, which is known for the Old Mill of Guilford and Oak Ridge Military Academy. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and foothills making it an ideal place to settle down.
Dating back to 1766, the historic area of Old Salem is a preserved Moravian planned community. The cobblestone streets are surrounded by gardens, historical building and are known for their tourism – historical tours, classes and staff in period dress.
Situated in Davie County, Bermuda Run is an upscale, fully-gated town located just off of Interstate 40. The community of 1,500 is adjacent to Tanglewood Park and is home to Bermuda Run private country club, and golf course.
Winston-Salem is a historical city primed for your perfect retirement. The city’s low cost of living, tax benefits, moderate climate, culinary scene, universities and hospitals make it an excellent choice. You’ll wonder why you didn’t move here earlier.