Whether you’re searching for inspiration for those last-minute gifts, relaxing in style with family and friends, or simply creating space for yourself amid the hustle of the holiday season, you’ll find no place more pristine to escape to than Winston-Salem’s famed Reynolda Mile.
Officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Reynolda Mile is a historic stretch of homes, gardens, shops, galleries and restaurants that comprise what was once the country estate of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds and his wife Katharine. Shortly after their marriage, Katharine embarked on an ambitious goal: to create a lavish, self-sustaining estate just north of town. Her vision included a lake, a formal garden, a working community farm, a school for local children, and a modest village to house workers. The centerpiece would be their family home, a sprawling 67-room bungalow lovingly dubbed Reynolda House.
As her vision became a reality, the town around them transformed. Today, visitors experience Katharine Reynolds’s legacy as they tour and explore the original estate, refashioned as an American art museum, community gardens, gathering spaces and cultural treasures.
Look Forward, Travel Back This Christmas
Although lovely to visit any time of year, the Reynolda Mile truly comes alive at Christmas. Traditional, period decorations from the Reynolds family’s own archives are showcased throughout the property and grounds in celebration of “A 1917 Christmas.” The stately outdoor gas lanterns are festooned with greens, while every doorway, breezeway and garden gate dons a cheery wreath. Shops and restaurants are buzzing with seasonal items to sample and share. And everywhere you look is another sparkling reminder of the joy a life well lived can bring.
If You Go, You Should Know
- The lovely tree-lined Reynolda Mile is just a five minute drive from downtown. The name refers to a closely linked historic district that includes Reynolda House, Reynolda Gardens, Reynolda Village, Graylyn Estate and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA). Visitors are welcome to start their visit at any location and proceed in any order. Please note that two of the main attractions, Reynolda House and SECCA, are closed on Mondays.
- Suggested itineraries include an overnight stay at the Graylyn Estate, with a ticketed tour of Reynolda House and a self-guided tour of Reynolda Gardens. From there, head to Reynolda Village for a relaxing bite to eat, then explore the charming boutique shops, local fare and stunning architecture that abounds. Round out your visit with an inspiring glimpse of old-meets-new at SECCA, which juxtaposes thought-provoking contemporary art against the beautifully preserved furnishings and fashion of an R.J. Reynolds contemporary, textile magnate and company namesake James G. Hanes.
Christmas Tour de Trees at Graylyn Estate
Your Reynolda Mile experience can also begin with an overnight stay at the luxurious Graylyn Estate. An enchanting historic property with all the modern amenities, Graylyn features 85 well-appointed and uniquely decorated guestrooms attractively situated throughout the pristine 55-acre estate. The former home of Bowman Gray, president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Graylyn Estate was completed in 1932. It remains one of the finest examples of Norman Revival architecture in the U.S.
Everything about Graylyn is special. From the moment you arrive at the massive front door, guests are greeted by formal butlers who attend to your every need.
During the holidays, the estate transforms into a holiday paradise, with seven uniquely themed trees each paying homage to a different Gray family travel experience. Christmas music floats gently through the halls, while warm fires crackle in every fireplace. From the wreaths to the garlands to the poinsettias to the tableside hot cocoa, at Christmas, the magic of Graylyn truly comes alive.
Holiday Celebrations at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art
The Reynolds family moved into Reynolda just in time for Christmas 1917, so it’s no surprise that staff pays special attention to holidays. The estate is decorated tip to tail in vintage décor, from the magnolia boughs to mistletoe to the myriad Christmas trees—all of which reflect the family’s original decorations. The events are highlighted by Reynolda’s annual holiday tours, “A 1917 Christmas,” along with wreath-making workshops in the gardens and a holiday stroll for shoppers throughout the entire estate.
Home to three generations of the Reynolds family, Reynolda House transports visitors into the genteel yet energetic era of the early 20th century. Today many of the rooms are restored with original and period furnishings reflecting the 50 years of the Reynolds residency. From the attic where decades of the family’s clothing and antique toys are on display, to the basement (circa 1937), complete with a squash court, bowling alley, gun range and beautiful pool house; every level of the home tells its own story. A home ahead of its time, Reynolda House was built with an innovative air filtration system and cork floors in the kitchens. This 67-room house stood at the center of what was once a 1,067-acre estate with gardens, a greenhouse and a village that today houses boutique shops and restaurants.
Reynolda Gardens and the Reynolda Greenhouse
Completed in 1913, the Reynolda greenhouse stands as one of the most recognizable structures from the original gardens. The structure was renovated in 1997 and is now open year-round during daylight hours, holding a mix of programs, classes, workshops, and more.
Adjacent to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Reynolda Gardens paints a vivid portrait of roses in full bloom, seasonal vegetables and interesting succulents. A walk provides a history lesson on early 20th century Winston-Salem. With plants native to the area showing what it would have looked like then and new plant introductions to add a modern vibe, Reynolda Gardens is the perfect example of how history is still very present today. Be sure to shop the Reynolda greenhouse’s holiday plant sale now through Saturday, Dec. 21. Start your journey inside the reconstructed greenhouse then venture on to see the boathouse, wetlands and a stroll along the wooded trails.
Reynolda Gardens is free to tour and open year round during daylight hours.
Holidays in Reynolda Village
Named by Travel + Leisure as a top destination for historic holiday attractions, Reynolda Village offers a feast for the senses. Buildings that once served as dairy barns, cattle sheds, smokehouses or blacksmith shops have been transformed into charming boutiques, local restaurants, performance spaces, gardens, galleries and more.
During the winter months, Reynolda Village glistens with traditional greenery, decorated trees, twinkling fairy lights, strolling carolers, carriage rides, and an occasional visit from St. Nickolas himself. Check the seasonal calendar to discover what’s in store while you’re in town.
And don’t forget your wallet. With more than two dozen local proprietors to choose from, you’ll find armloads of ideas for things to try, see, taste and buy while you visit.
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA)
As soon as you drive up to the grounds of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. Nestled behind a quiet suburban neighborhood, this sprawling estate-turned-art gallery is a classic example of Winston-Salem’s ability to reinvent itself. Once the 1929 home of industrialist James G. Hanes, the site has been transformed to house a breathtaking collection of late-20th century contemporary art.
SECCA opened in 1956 as a nonprofit visual arts organization devoted to work by local artists. By 1972, when industrialist James G. Hanes willed his 32-acre estate to the gallery, its scope included all 11 southeastern states. Notable beyond the art is the space itself. Walk through any gallery or exhibit space and you’re likely to find touches of the Hanes family’s handiwork. Discover beautifully hand carved moldings, floor to ceiling wood panels in the grand gathering room, two grand crystal chandeliers and gorgeous hand-painted silk wallpaper supplied from the very same French company contracted by Jackie Kennedy Onassis when she was decorating the White House.
SECCA’s legacy of seminal exhibitions, cultural vision and distinctive architectural footprint connect the Southeast with the world at large. Currently, SECCA serves as a dynamic center for art in this community and beyond, presenting talks, film, performance and transformative educational experiences. SECCA is an affiliate of the North Carolina Museum of Art and a division of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.