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7 Can’t-Miss Events in Winston-Salem, NC

Mark your calendars! Each year, the historic city of Winston-Salem, NC, offers a full schedule of fun for art lovers and entertainment enthusiasts.

By Karsen Price on January 3, 2023

Winston Salem NC, 4th Street, CVS Mural
Eric Waters

Looking to broaden your mind, boost your creativity, or simply have fun in the historic city of Winston-Salem? Community events abound each year, from fashion to theater to renowned sports tournaments and esteemed festivals.

Consider adding these events to your to-do list:

1. Riverrun International Film Festival

One of the fastest-growing regional film festivals, the RiverRun International Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 13-22, 2023. Hosted each spring, this annual 10-day film festival fosters an appreciation of cinema and diverse viewpoints. Each festival features a varied collection of films, from narratives and documentaries to animated works and short films, and RiverRun International Film Festival is an Academy Award-qualifying festival.
Visit riverrunfilm.com for more information.

Owens Daniels Photography/Owens Daniels--08/03/22-- a scene from the play MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM as seen at Harold C. Tedford Mainstage in the WFU Scales Fine Arts Center on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N. C., Wednesday August 03, 2022. PLAY CHA MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM BNS Productions, Charlotte, NC Set in a recording studio in 1920s Chicago, this play deals with issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of Black recording artists by white producers. The play’s title comes from Ma Rainey’s song of the same name, which refers to the Black Bottom dance. Written by August Wilson. Directed by Dr. Corlis Hayes
Owens Daniels

2. The National Black Theatre Festival

The National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) is a biennial Winston-Salem festival that was founded by Larry Leon Hamlin, a professional actor, director and playwright who also created the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. The next NBTF is slated for July 29-Aug. 3, 2024. Although the festival is not returning until 2024, you can still enjoy productions by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company year-round.

Two children pose with an author at Bookmarks NC in Winston-Salem, NC.
Jessica Blackstock Studio

3. Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors

One of the largest annual book festivals in the Carolinas finds its home in Winston-Salem and traces its roots to 2004. The Festival of Books & Authors, hosted by Bookmarks, reaches over 25,000 readers annually. The 17th annual event was held on Sept. 24, 2022. It featured 50 award-winning authors, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, NAACP Image Award, the American Book Award and the “Thriller Master” award, given by the International Thriller Writers. In addition, check out the Bookmarks bookstore, which hosts a variety of community events at its downtown Winston-Salem location.

4. Winston-Salem Fashion Week

Fashion lovers won’t want to miss Winston-Salem Fashion Week, which was created in 2015 by Nikita Wallace to offer emerging designers and fashionistas a chance to reveal their eclectic creations. Held annually each fall, the 2022 event featured the theme “Celebrating All Things Fashion.” Also, don’t miss the WSFW Elite Swap event, which is a fan favorite.

5. ACC Sports

Sports aficionados are very familiar with the Atlantic Coast Conference, otherwise known as the ACC — a collegiate athletic conference located in the eastern United States. The ACC is famous for elite athletes within 28 sports…plus plenty of zealous fans! Wake Forest University is one of its 15 member universities, while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Duke University are just over an hour away. Since 1953, ACC teams have garnered handfuls of national championships. In March 2023, the Men’s and Women’s Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Tournament will return for the 29th time to the Greensboro Coliseum, approximately 25 miles from the heart of Winston-Salem.

6. Winston-Salem Open

The Winston-Salem Open is an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) hard-court tennis tournament that has been held at Wake Forest University since 2011. This charitable nonprofit tournament benefits the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County community, with proceeds specifically helping reintroduce cross-country and tennis programs into local middle schools. The tournament is the last men’s tournament on the U.S. Open Series schedule held before the U.S. Open, offering an exciting preview of the big tourney! Jeff Ryan, tournament director, says the Winston-Salem Open is the perfect way to see up-and-coming stars, such as Norwegian tennis star Casper Ruud, who in September 2022 made it to his first US Open quarterfinal.

Killing Gophers on stage at Gears & Guitars in Winston-Salem, NC.
Eric Waters

7. Gears & Guitars

Racing, riding and rock ‘n’ roll make up the action and fun at the annual Gears & Guitars festival that occurs for three days every September in downtown Winston-Salem. Gears & Guitars will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2023. The festival is billed as one of the nation’s most prestigious cycling events. It attracts top bicyclists who race along a challenging course around Bailey Park and through the Innovation Quarter. Besides the three days of racing, Friday and Saturday nights feature free live music from top bands like Better than Ezra, Tonic, and more.

If you’d like to learn more about the Winston-Salem, NC, area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Greater Winston-Salem

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