Three diverse cities – Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point – constitute the Piedmont Triad region. The Triad was one of the earliest inland areas of North Carolina to be settled. This is the heartland of North Carolina, a major crossroads on the East Coast. Huge fortunes in the textile, tobacco and furniture industries were made here.
First Quakers, then members of the persecuted Moravian sect of Protestants, arrived down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania. They were seeking the freedom to worship as they wished and a place to build a new life. The early Quaker settlement of New Garden grew into the city of Greensboro.
The thirst for freedom led later area residents to revolt against British rule and to wage one decisive battle of the American Revolution. The Guildford Courthouse National Battlefield in Greensboro eloquently tells the story of the “victory.” It led to the ultimate defeat of the British forces and the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown not long after.
Events in the Triad sparked the struggle of African-Americans for equal civil rights. The Greensboro Sit-Ins in 1960 sparked a national movement on non-violent resistance. This eventually led to major changes in the policy of segregation. These important events are memorialized at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in the old art deco Woolworth building in downtown Greensboro. Here the first sit-ins took place.
You’ll also find traces of other important figures in American history from Daniel Boone and First Lady Dolley Madison, to race car legend Richard Petty and artist Bob Timberlake. Writer O.Henry is one of Greensboro’s favorite sons, while TV star Andy Griffith was born in nearby Mt. Airy. This town served as the model for Mayberry.
In Greensboro, textiles funded fortunes. Members of the Cone family (owners of Cone Mills, still the world’s largest producer of denim) endowed the Weatherspoon Gallery at UNC-Greensboro with their collection of Henri Matisse lithographs and bronzes, mostly nudes. The Moses H. Cone Medical Center, occupying the heart of the family’s old estate, enjoys a national reputation.
Moravian Church members began to arrive in the Triad area in 1753. Their first settlement, Bethabara, has been preserved as a national historic landmark. In 1766, the Moravians established the new town of Salem (“peace”). Today, Old Salem is a historic district within the city of Winston-Salem. It includes some 90 restored buildings. It’s the largest colonial historic district in the U.S. Twelve buildings, staffed by costumed interpreters, are open to the public. These include an apothecary, a shoemaker and the oldest tobacco shop in America. At the Winkler Bakery, traditional Moravian ginger cookies and Lovefeast buns (and other goodies) are still baked in a wood-fired oven.
In the post-Civil War era, Winston-Salem built its wealth on tobacco. Tobacco czar R.J. Reynolds built Reynolda. This houses a major American art collection and mementos of the family’s opulent lifestyle. Tanglewood, another Reynolds family estate, is now the city’s premier park.
The Museum of Old Domestic Life is located in the old Springfield Friends Meetinghouse near High Point. It preserves artifacts used by early residents
During the years before the Civil War, local residents risked their lives and fortunes for the principle of freedom. The region was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped enslaved people make their way to freedom. Mendenhall Plantation, in Jamestown, preserves one of only two surviving false-bottomed wagons used to transport the fugitives.
Today, the Triad enjoys a new vigor with a new crop: grapes. Just west of Winston-Salem lies the Yadkin Valley Wine Country. Here are more than three dozen wineries hosting tours and tastings.
The Piedmont-Triad celebrates American ingenuity and advantages arising from freedom.
Enjoy this itinerary for a family visit to Greensboro and Winston-Salem
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
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$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
The 12 counties that make up the region encompass a wide variety of terrains, from some of the oldest mountains on the North American continent, to rich river bottoms that nurtured the area’s earliest residents. Once the realm of the “Big Three” of manufacturing (textiles, tobacco, and furniture), the Triad today harbors a diverse economy based on technology, healthcare and financial services. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the best of both city and country that makes the Triad a great place to visit, and an even better place to live.
A Society of Friends
The Quakers, or Friends, were the first to enter the Triad area in the 1740s, after the Native Americans of the region withdrew west to avoid conflict with the incoming English. The Quaker community of New Garden, near the Guilford County Courthouse, grew into the city of Greensboro. The Museum of Old Domestic Life, located in the old Springfield Friends Meetinghouse near High Point, preserves artifacts used by early residents.
During the American Revolution, a moral dilemma faced the Quakers of the region. Although opposed to armed struggle, many sympathized with the colonial cause. In 1780, General Nathanael Greene, a former Quaker and second in command to George Washington, arrived in the area to oppose the British. The resulting crisis of conscience among area Quakers is documented in the acclaimed outdoor drama, “The Sword of Peace,” presented each summer in Snow Camp, 15 miles south of Burlington.
During the 1840s and ‘50s, the Quaker communities became important stops on the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves make their way to freedom. Mendenhall Plantation, in Jamestown, preserves one of only two surviving false-bottomed wagons used to transport the fugitives. Another of Snow Camp’s summer dramas, “Pathway to Freedom,” tells the dramatic true story of Underground Railroad. To find out more about the Society of Friends and its influence in the region, visit Snow Camp’s collection of Quaker buildings and artifacts, dating from the 1700s to the 1900s.
The Friends remain a major influence in the Triad. Guilford College, begun as one of the nation’s first co-educational boarding schools in 1837, is today one of the best known Quaker institutions in the country and houses an extensive collection of Quaker documents in its library. And Greensboro, named for the Quaker general, is today the third largest city in North Carolina.
A Peaceful Life
Representatives of the Moravian Church began to arrive in the Triad area in 1753. Members of a Protestant sect that had suffered persecution since founder John Hus burned at the stake in 1415, the Moravians sought a peaceful harbor in many countries. With the grant of the 100,000-acre Wachovia Tract in North Carolina, they finally found a home.
Their first settlement, Bethabara, has been preserved as a national historic landmark on the west side of Winston-Salem. Docents offer tours of the 1788 Gemeinhaus (young men’s house). Paths lead to a reconstructed French and Indian War fort, a medical garden, and a beaver pond. Entrance to the grounds is free; tours are just $1.
In 1766, the Moravians began work on the new town of Salem (“peace”). Today, some 90 restored buildings make this the largest historic district dating from the colonial era in the U.S. Twelve are open to the public, including an apothecary, a shoemaker, and the oldest tobacco shop in America. Costumed interpreters recreate typical life in the village. At the Winkler bakery, traditional Moravian ginger cookies and Lovefeast buns, plus many other goodies, are still baked in a wood-fired oven and sold to the public.
Several museums are located in the Old Salem historic district including The Gallery at Old Salem, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) and The Children’s Museum at Old Salem. Period shops offer traditional crafts such as Moravian Christmas stars and Lovefeast candles. You can tour the historic district in a horse-drawn wagon or sample Moravian chicken pie and other traditional recipes at the Old Salem Tavern.
In 1913, Salem joined with its neighbor, Winston, to form a single city. A brief walk to the Moravian Graveyard, called God’s Acre, rewards visitors with a magnificent view of this “Twin City,” dominated by the unique 34-story Wachovia Tower, home of one of North Carolina’s top banks, founded by Moravians. The church remains a living presence in the area today, with 25 active congregations, one of the largest concentrations of Moravians in the world. The Moravian Easter Sunrise Service held here each year is an unforgettable event.
The Fight For Freedom
The struggle against British rule began early in the Carolinas with the rebellion of the Regulators. This early revolution culminated, in 1771, with the colonists’ defeat at Alamance Battleground, just east of Greensboro. Many of the leaders hanged. The battlefield, now a N.C. Historic Site, offers an excellent film detailing the Regulator story.
During the Revolution, Cornwallis marched through the south in 1781. Moving north from Charlotte, he encountered the force of Gen. Greene at Guilford Courthouse where they fought the decisive battle of the war in the South. Though Cornwallis won the day, he lost a quarter of his army, leading inevitably to his surrender at Yorktown a few months later.
Today, the Guilford Courthouse Battlefield is a National Military Park located within the city named for American general Greene. Some 750,000 visitors a year visit to see a film of the battle and walk the paths past graves and monuments. Costumed militia groups recreate military and civilian life in the Revolutionary period year-round, with a full-dress reenactment of the battle staged near the March 15 anniversary. Next door, at the city-run Tannenbaum Historic Park, you can view maps, a diorama of the battle, and the restored 1778 Hoskins House.
The Greensboro Sit-Ins
On February 1, 1960, a new chapter in our nation’s history began at the lunch counter of the Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro. Four black students from nearby North Carolina Agricultural & Technical (A&T) State University sat in protest at the segregated counter where they were denied service. In subsequent days, students from other area schools joined in, setting the style of non-violent resistance that would distinguish the Civil Rights movement. By the time the protest ended, some six months later, the sit-in movement had spread to 54 cities in 9 states.
These important days are memorialized at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, in the old art deco Woolworth’s. Nearby, at S. Elm and February One Place, the Walkway of History chronicles local African-American history, from the Underground Railroad to the appointment of the first African-American State Supreme Court Justice.
The non-violent sit-ins were the result of a long history of Black Pride in the region. To see the beginnings of this tradition, visit the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Memorial N.C. Historic Site, in Sedalia, a little town between Greensboro and Burlington. Here, at the former Palmer Institute, many future leaders of the Black community received a liberal arts education from a black educator with an extraordinary vision.
Other sites in the Triad of interest to students of African-American history and culture include the Underground Railroad wagon at Mendenhall Plantation, the galleries at N.C. A&T in Greensboro, and Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University.
The two A&T galleries are housed in the historic Dudley Memorial Building, where the atrium exhibits a design inspired by Ashanti art. The H.Clinton Taylor Art Gallery at A&T has works by such artists as John Biggers and Romare Bearden in its permanent collection, as well as the 13 outstanding Calder Tapestries. The Mattye Reed African Heritage Center, also at A&T, contains one of the best collections of African cultural objects in the country.
Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State specializes in exhibits highlighting worldwide black culture. Two 30-ft. John Biggers murals dominate the O’Kelley Library on campus.
The National Black Theatre Festival takes place in Winston-Salem every other August, sponsored by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. In Greensboro, the annual African-American Arts Festival presents a variety of performing and visual arts from January through mid-March.
The Triad claims a number of prominent Americans, past and present, in every area of life. Daniel Boone was one early resident. A cave where he once hid from Indians is today Boone’s Cave State Park in Davidson County, and his parents, Squire and Sarah Boone, are buried nearby at the Joppa Cemetery in Mocksville.
Writer O. Henry is one of Greensboro’s favorite sons. He and his dog, Lovey, are immortalized in bronze in a park downtown (at N. Elm and Bellemeade), while the Historical Museum displays assorted memorabilia, including a mock up of his uncle’s drugstore where young William Sydney Porter, the future O.Henry, worked in his youth. First Lady Dolley Madison qualifies as favorite daughter, although she left Greensboro as an infant. Her admirers remained, however and a variety of keepsakes have made their way to the Historical Museum, many of them from a trunk of Madison’s personal possessions found behind a hidden door in the home of a distant relative.
More recently, Andy Griffith’s boyhood home, Mt. Airy, in the northwest corner of the Triad, served as the model for the fictional Mayberry of TV fame. The mountain hamlet (slogan: “Mountains, Music, Mayberry”) retains several reminders of its days in the spotlight, including the Town Jail, Floyd’s Barbershop, and the famous Snappy Lunch, where Barney used to enjoy his pork chop sandwiches. Bluegrass and Old-Time Music jam sessions are held year-round in the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
In the visual arts, artist Bob Timberlake, native son of Lexington, spread the fame of the Triad worldwide. One of the most highly collected artists in history, Timberlake continues to create paintings, prints and quality furniture in his Lexington studio. A nearby gallery displays it all magnificently. Just off the interstate, this is a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in the decorative arts. Make sure to get some barbecue while you’re in town; Lexington is the capital of PIG, and has 18 barbecue restaurants and a Barbecue Festival every October to prove it.
Equally talented in his own way, and even more famous, native son Richard Petty and his race teams carry the pride of the Triad to NASCAR tracks across the country. The Petty Museum in Level Cross, south of Greensboro, offers an intimate portrait of this all-American family.
The Big Three
For over a century, the story of the Triad could be summed up in three words: Textiles, Tobacco and Furniture. Because of local opposition to slavery among the large Quaker populace, the Triad never developed large plantations devoted to agriculture. Instead, the industrious and hard working citizens turned to manufacturing to achieve prosperity. The trend continued after the Civil War, and the families of industrial barons amassed immense fortunes. Today those industries and families continue to shape the face of the Triad.
Winston-Salem built its wealth on tobacco. Though in eclipse today, tobacco still forms an important part of the city economy. Although tours of the factory floor are no longer offered, you can view a wealth of tobacco memorabilia at the Whitaker Park Manufacturing Center.
Reynolda, the “bungalow” built by tobacco czar R.J. Reynolds and his wife Katharine, is today an art museum that provides a unique focus for Winston-Salem culture. Filled with American art treasures, it offers a window into the lavish lives of the ultra rich. The attic displays clothes and other personal items used by the family in the Jazz Age, while the basement is the ultimate indoor playground complete with bowling alley and shooting gallery.
In the same neighborhood, another family with a famous name, Hanes, donated its estate to become cutting-edge SECCA, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts.
On the far side of Winston-Salem, Tanglewood, the city’s premier park, is another Reynolds family estate, now open to the public. It’s the home of many special events including Music at Sunset and the Festival of Lights, one of the Triad’s most beloved holiday events as well as one of the most extensive drive-through displays of holiday lights in the nation. Over 60 animated displays and a million lights create a Winter Wonderland, from mid-November to early January. Tanglewood also hosts a stop on the Senior PGA tour, the Vantage Championship.
In Greensboro and Burlington, textiles funded fortunes. Members of the Cone family, owners of Cone Mills, endowed the Weatherspoon Gallery at UNC-Greensboro with their collection of Henri Matisse lithographs and bronzes, mostly nudes. The Moses H. Cone Medical Center, occupying the heart of the family’s old estate, enjoys a national reputation. Cone Mills remains the world’s largest producer of denim.
Near Burlington, the Holt family built Glencoe Mill Village on the Haw River. Today, Preservation North Carolina is transforming Glencoe into a mixed-use historic site, to include retail and residential units, as well as exhibits on the village’s textile past. A few miles away, the Holt family mansion serves as the Alamance County Historical Museum, displaying, among other items, samples of “Alamance Plaid,” the first plaid fabric woven in the U.S. Another Holt mansion in Graham, a luscious Queen Anne, doubles as the gallery of the Alamance Arts Council.