North Carolina : Safety by City
- Chapel Hill
- Elizabeth City
- High Point
- Hope Mills
- Kill Devil Hills
- Kitty Hawk
- Morehead City
- New Bern
- Rocky Mount
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a city that effortlessly blends tradition and innovation, making it a captivating destination for travelers.
Steeped in history, this vibrant city is a testament to the American South’s rich heritage.
Known as the “Twin City” for its dual origins as Winston and Salem, it’s a place where the past gracefully mingles with the present.
Winston-Salem’s history is deeply intertwined with tobacco and textiles, once serving as a tobacco trading hub and textile manufacturing center.
Today, it’s a hub for arts and innovation, with thriving universities and a burgeoning tech scene.
While here, explore the historic Old Salem, a living history museum showcasing the Moravian settlers’ way of life in the 18th century.
The city also boasts the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, an architectural gem surrounded by lush gardens.
Doughnut lovers might recognize this as the flagship store and home of the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which originated here in 1937.
Winston-Salem’s allure lies in its ability to offer a taste of the past, a glimpse of the future, and a blend of cultural influences that make it a city brimming with surprises and stories waiting to be uncovered.
The only downside?
It’s not the safest city in the state.
Let’s dig into the travel safety guide.
Warnings & Dangers in Winston-Salem
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here because of ongoing and growing high violent crime rates. The city ranks as one of the top 25 most dangerous cities in America. You can still enjoy things to do here, but stay in the entertainment districts and tourist spots.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) is the public bus system here. Taxis, rideshares, and rental cars are readily available and come with a low risk. WSTA has seen many safety concerns in recent years, so I would only use that as a last resort and with the utmost caution.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The city has averaged about eight pickpockets or purse snatchings a year over the past five years. That's a low risk, but don't let it be misleading - the theft rate here is more than twice the national average.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Winston-Salem can get just about every potential severe weather possible. Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and tropical storms that move inland are the biggest risks. Occasional snowstorms or ice storms can really shut down the region. Stay aware of the forest when visiting here in any season.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate is slightly higher than the national average, so the risk is low, but it's really important you stay out of the places to avoid. We'll discuss those later.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a low risk, with the real terrorists here being the criminals on the streets. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has a section about terrorism concerns on its website.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The police department's website has a whole section about scam prevention and recent scams, but the risk is low for tourists. Most are focused on residents.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women should proceed with a medium risk, especially when it comes to traveling alone or being out at night. Standard big-city safety measures apply here.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County shows full compliance with many standards exceeded. In a city this large, there's a low risk of water quality issues. Any more urgent problems, like water main breaks, would be communicated through the city's social media.
Safest Places to Visit in Winston-Salem
VisitWinstonSalem.com is the name of the official tourism website for the city.
You can download a free travel guide without having to give personal information, which is always a plus in my book.
If you also want to visit Greensboro while you’re here, that website is visitgreensboronc.com.
For those seeking a dose of entertainment, the Innovation Quarter serves as a hub for technology and creativity.
Explore the biotech and research facilities, or catch a live performance at the Bailey Park amphitheater.
Take a trip back in time by visiting the Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
Each section of the property has different ticket requirements, but you can save money by purchasing an all-for-one ticket.
The location is open year-round except for a January closure.
Winston-Salem isn’t just about history and science; it’s also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hike along the scenic trails of Pilot Mountain State Park, where panoramic views of the Piedmont await.
Or take a leisurely paddle down the Yadkin River, immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the area.
For a taste of the local culinary scene, visit the West End Historic District.
This charming neighborhood boasts an array of restaurants and cafes, perfect for savoring farm-to-table dishes and craft beverages.
Art lovers will find solace at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), which houses thought-provoking exhibitions and installations.
The nearby Artivity on the Green, a dynamic public art space, offers a unique experience blending art and nature.
Winston-Salem’s dedication to creativity extends to the quirky and unique.
Make sure to visit the quirky Antique Mall Emporium, where you can hunt for hidden treasures and vintage gems.
For a touch of the bizarre, check out the surreal art at Krankies Coffee, where caffeine and creativity collide.
Wander through the lush gardens at Tanglewood Park, where you can enjoy picnics, horseback riding, and even a charming petting zoo.
Alternatively, hit the links at one of the city’s golf courses, like the Salem Glen Country Club.
Wrap up your Winston-Salem adventure with a visit to the Southeastern Railway Museum, a fascinating exploration of rail history.
Here, you can discover vintage locomotives and railway artifacts that showcase the city’s industrial past.
Hikers can enjoy Stone Mountain State Park, just about an hour away.
The toughest trail takes you 600 feet up a granite dome past a waterfall and other historic landmarks.
Places to Avoid in Winston-Salem
East Winston and the downtown area have the highest crime activity that would impact visitors.
One of the best ways to find the most recent places to avoid or use caution would be to use the Community Crime Map through the police department’s website.
I would suggest the following:
- Find a preferred hotel
- Search within a mile of that hotel for car break-ins, individual robberies, car thefts, and homicides.
- Search for violent crimes–homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, and rape–within a 1/2 mile of any destination.
You’ll be able to see the highest-crime neighborhoods.
It also helps to know that the most dangerous communities will be visually unappealing with blight and rundown homes.
Now, if you’re from a city with high crime rates, this community won’t be much different than you are used to.
It also helps if you mind your own business and don’t get involved in any altercations or try to interject in a fight or verbal argument.
Let the police handle any situation and go on your way safely.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Winston-Salem
- Winston-Salem has its own police department, and you can follow them on Facebook @Cityofwspolice. The phone number is (336)773-7700.
- You can sign up for two alert systems in the city. First, there’s the citizen notification system that will include weather alerts, street closing, emergency situations, and shelter-in-place orders. Then there’s the Notify Me option through the city’s website, where you can get alerts by department. For example, if there’s a civic alert about street closures for an event, you’ll get that information there.
- CityLink is a mobile app that residents and visitors can use to report issues to the city, like dead animals on the roadway or a pothole. You can also call the hotline at 855-481-LINK.
- Use the Safety Tips section of the city’s website to get great information on crime prevention, preparing for a winter storm, and tornado safety. You should also review the list of traffic signals, whether you’re driving or walking.
- The police department created a virtual self-defense webinar that you can review. It shows how to know if you’re potentially being targeted by a robber or attacked and how to defend yourself.
- The Winston-Salem Police Department actively promotes a community-driven approach with its “See Something? Say Something!” initiative. Citizens are encouraged to share valuable tips, including information, photos, and videos, by sending a text message to 336-276-1717.
- Review the Downtown Winston-Salem Parking Guide on the city’s website to see where there is metered or garage parking. Some lots will be reserved for monthly pass holders. Street parking is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
- If you’re heading to a wilderness area to see waterfalls, please use caution with every step. Waterfalls are beautiful but come with dangerous risks. Don’t try to climb a waterfall or go off a trail to get a better view. The NCParks.org website has a great video about waterfall safety.
- For any outdoor activities that require a license, like fishing or hunting, go through the gooutdoorsnorthcarolina.com website. You can get a license for fishing in coastal waters or inland waters.
- Nearly 40% of all thefts here are car break-ins, and I keep seeing story after story of these incidents. One involved a car that was broken into twice in two days. If you are renting a car here, bring your paperwork, valuables, and any personal accessories into the hotel room with you. Many of these incidents don’t even involve a bunch of cars being left unlocked. Always park near a security camera or under a streetlight if you can.
So... How Safe Is Winston-Salem Really?
Winston-Salem is part of the Triad region of North Carolina.
That also includes Greensboro and High Point.
While each city struggles with its own violent crime problems, Winston-Salem seems to be taking the brunt of it.
For example, just more than halfway through 2023, the city had more homicides (42) than in all of 2022 (41).
Looking at crime statistics from 2021, the risk of a stranger being a victim of a violent crime is 11%.
I could go on and on about the high crime statistics, but the bigger problem is that disenfranchised communities hardest hit by the violence aren’t cooperative with police.
Some victims will even refuse to give their names or receive medical help.
“If it’s going to save a life, for Christ’s sake, say something.
You don’t like the police.
It ain’t about the police.
It’s about the community, and I’m tired of us going to houses that have been shot up and officers asking, ‘Do you know who did it?’
And one person is not even answering,” Winston-Salem police Chief William Penn said.
The city has taken a lot of steps to crack down on crime, including a Real Time Crime Center monitored 24/7.
However, the criminals can’t be taken off the streets if no witnesses will come forward.
While the biggest problem of crime is more important to people who live here, it’s important for tourists to know that those who commit violent crimes, like shootings, aren’t particularly concerned if you are in the way of their target.
Plan an itinerary and stick to it.
Use the main roads to get there and try to accomplish as much as you can in the daytime.
There’s a wealth of things to see and do here, but you’ll need street smarts and common sense paired with epic personal safety steps to enjoy them.
How Does Winston-Salem Compare?
- Visas - All international visitors need a visa or visa waiver. The visa is different for students vs. those coming to work here vs. tourists. Get started on the right foot by using the U.S. State Department website's Visa Wizard. A passport that isn't within six months of expiring is also required.
- Currency - Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here. Exchange currency before you arrive because your home bank has lower fees. Don't use public ATMs here to get cash. Go inside a bank or use credit cards for as many purchases as possible.
- Weather - You'll get the typical four seasons here with a slightly milder winter. Dress comfortable and casual in layers from fall through spring. Summers will be hot and humid. Bring sunscreen and bug spray. Comfortable walking shoes are important, and bring hiking boots if you're heading to the wilderness.
- Airports - The closest commercial airport to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is the Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO). This airport is approximately 25 miles east of downtown Winston-Salem, making it the most convenient option for air travel to and from the city. There is no currency exchange option here.
- Travel Insurance - We recommend comprehensive travel insurance to cover flight delays, weather cancellations, accidents, and injuries.
Winston-Salem Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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