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Get Outside in Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem, NC, boasts fun recreation options from courts to play the popular pickleball game to prehistoric parks filled with dinosaurs. 

By Kevin Litwin on January 3, 2023

Salem Park, Winston Salem NC, W-S State University Outdoor Rec Class 130L kayaking, Professor Kiboum Kim instructs from the shore, Jade Dark (front) and Alicia Wilkins (Back) navigate the lake.
Eric Waters

Work hard, play hard in Winston-Salem. Several individual neighborhoods are within walking distance of city parks, where recreation attractions can include hiking trails, splash pads, basketball courts, horseshoe pits and dog parks.

Operating and maintaining all of the 79 parks within the city is the Winston-Salem Recreation & Parks Department, whose motto is “We Play.” The department oversees 109 tennis courts, two golf courses, 25 basketball courts, 43 soccer fields, 48 playgrounds, 47 baseball/softball fields, eight swimming pools, a football field, a skate park, 17 recreation centers and much more.

The Quarry at Tim Grant Park in Winston-Salem, NC.
City of Winston-Salem Recreation & Parks Department

One of the most interesting venues in the city is Hobby Park, which features some of the highest-ranked mountain bike trails in North Carolina. W-S Recreation & Parks officials point out that trail highlights include bikers descending the lengths of two football fields, and challenges along the way include bumps, rocks, man-made mounds, and roots to be jumped.

Another popular spot in town is Bailey Park, a small 1.6-acre green space located in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem. The park provides a natural amphitheater setting for businesspeople and downtown shoppers to just sit and relax while enjoying lunch, and often there are lunchtime concerts as well as food trucks that visit the premises.

A lizard statue at Washington Park in Winston-Salem, NC.
City of Winston-Salem Recreation & Parks Department

Dinosaurs and Pickleball

One of the city’s newest recreation destinations is The Quarry at Grant Park, which was constructed around an old gravel rock quarry that operated from the mid-1920s to the early 1970s. Today, the property has walking and biking trails, an amphitheater and an elevated pier over a pond that gives visitors a great view of the water and the city’s skyline in the distance.

Yet another fun recreation venue is Washington Park Dinosaur Playground, which allows kids to play on swings, slides and climbing devices that have dinosaur themes. Highlights include three slides, monkey bars, a rock climbing structure, multiple swing sets, a T-rex to climb on and a stegosaurus for small toddlers to enjoy.

Other popular parks with unusual attractions for residents and visitors include Granville Park and Old Town, which both feature tennis courts striped for pickleball. Meanwhile, parks like Griffith, Miller and Rupert Bell all feature bocce ball courts, and Piney Grove and Weston parks are both equipped with cricket pitch courts.

Speaking of pickleball, it is one of the most popular up-and-coming sports in the U.S., so a decision was made in 2022 to convert two tennis courts and a basketball court into nine pickleball courts at Joanie Moser Park in Lewisville. In many cases in America, pickleball players and tennis players play their respective sports on tennis courts, but pickleball and tennis use different lines, and the nets for tennis are higher — so transforming the courts into pickleball-specific facilities will make Joanie Moser Park an attractive destination for pickleball players.

Salem Park, Winston Salem NC, W-S State University Outdoor Rec Class 130L kayaking, Professor Kiboum Kim instructs from the shore.
Eric Waters

The Parks & Recreation Department also oversees activities that keep people moving at community centers. For example, the South Fork Community Center features diverse programs such as chair yoga, fishing fly-tying and Snappy Tappers dance, while Polo Park Community Center has activities such as pickleball and adult open gym basketball.

Also available to residents are 25 miles of greenways, which feature paved and natural trails along with boardwalks and bridges. In addition, residents who like the water have access to Salem Lake, where fans of paddling can rent kayaks and flat-bottom boats. Fishing at Salem Lake is allowed from its long wooden pier or aboard boats, and the Salem Lake Trail winds along the shoreline for walkers and cyclists.

Salem Park, Winston Salem NC, David Amato cycling on the trail.
Eric Waters

A Degree in Leisure Therapy

Recreation is such an important part of livability in Winston-Salem that Winston-Salem State University even offers a bachelor-science degree in therapeutic recreation. WSSU officials define therapeutic recreation as fun activities that help people with illnesses or disabling conditions to recover, develop and grow. 

Students in the program prepare for therapy careers that help patients achieve physical, mental and emotional well-being, and graduates are eligible to apply for certification from the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification as well as licensure from the state of North Carolina. In addition, students become specialists in helping patients enjoy leisure therapy sessions by using activities such as arts and crafts, playing with animals, sports and games, dance and movement, drama, music, and community outings.

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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