Live out your “Mad Men” fantasies at this business traveler hot spot
Winston-Salem’s Kimpton Cardinal isn’t exactly new — it opened in 2016 — but it’s certainly been updated since it was the former corporate headquarters of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. It’s located in one of the city’s iconic landmark buildings, though the vibe might be best described as energetic, much like the city itself. There’s a tasteful blend of modern design and preserved Art Deco features from the building’s original era — like the gold elevator bank — on display throughout the hotel. In the art-filled lobby, they’ve tipped their hat to notable locals: a collection of books by Maya Angelou (one of the city’s most famous former residents) sit there, and “R” accents on chairs are a nod to the Reynolds legacy. It’s also furnished with sleek jewel-toned couches and tall gray curtains, and you’ll likely see a mix of business travelers and hipster millennials coming and going if you sit in the Kimpton Cardinal for more than a few minutes.
Stay in a historic landmark steps away from the city’s best restaurants
Winston-Salem is a hub for businesses, including the headquarters of Krispy Kreme, Hanes clothing and RJ Reynolds Tobacco. The hotel is right off the highway and a few blocks from the city’s bus depot. It’s also convenient to the city’s many colleges and universities, including Wake Forest University, Salem College and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The Kimpton Cardinal is within walking distance of many places, including:
- Old Salem Museums and Gardens is the oldest part of the city, where the Moravian people settled from modern-day Czechia. The buildings have been preserved as private homes, shops and living-history museums with costumed interpreters. You can sample Moravian pastries at Winkler Bakery, one of a handful of restaurants in the district, or see the tavern where George Washington once dined. There’s also a museum of the decorative arts and a marker where the first Krispy Kreme was established.
- Set in former tobacco warehouses and power plant buildings, the Innovation Quarter is a mixed-used development with technology offices, classrooms for the nearby medical school and restaurants. Among them, Alma Mexicana is a favorite for its tacos and burritos. Black Mountain Chocolate is a local chocolatier that crafts sweet treats. Relax in Bailey Park, the center of the quarter, or walk on the connecting greenway filled with murals and public art, which runs through Old Salem and into the Arcadia neighborhood.
- For a taste of Winston-Salem, a few blocks away is the downtown location of Camino Bakery, which is the perfect spot for your morning coffee and croissant. A few blocks in the other direction is Krankies, a cafe and coffee shop with avocado toast, sandwiches and the locally made Art-O-Mat machines, former cigarette machines that dispense art for $5. Also close by is Sweet Potatoes, a dinner spot for classic Southern fare like fried chicken. Sweet Potatoes has a brunch on Saturdays (12-3 p.m.), but otherwise is only open for dinner from 4-8 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday and 5-8 p.m. on Saturdays.
- Winston-Salem’s nightlife is on the tame side, but there is a watering hole for everyone. Foothills Brewing is one of the state’s oldest craft breweries, with a cult-like following for its special release brews, including the “Sexual Chocolate” stout. Fair Witness is small in space but crafts what it calls “fancy” cocktails that would make Don Draper proud. You can also relive your childhood dreams with the endless games at Reboot Arcade, an ’80s-inspired space with pinball, arcade games, Skee-Ball and more.
Guest rooms have dark and dramatic fabrics with artwork
The Kimpton Cardinal’s 174 rooms, with 15 suites, are spread across the building’s first six floors, with the remaining floors for residences. All rooms are pet-friendly. The decor has tartan prints and cardinal accents, with Frette linens. The hotel has accessible rooms, but free Wi-Fi is for reward members.
- Queen Queen Deluxe: These rooms range from 300-375 square feet and have two queen beds. There’s also an option for the premier view.
- Queen Queen Studio: The slightly larger Queen room is 400-450 square feet.
- King Deluxe: Like the queen option, the king version is 300-350 square feet, also with a premier view option.
- King Spa: The 350-square-foot room has all of the features of the other rooms, along with a sleek soaking bathtub.
- One Bedroom King Suite: The 650-square-foot room has a king-sized bed and a separate sitting area with a pull-out couch.
- Presidential Suite: The largest room at The Cardinal is a staggering 1,000 square feet with a king bed, a sitting area and a spa bathroom.
The hotel features aren’t to be taken too seriously, from the game room to happy hour
The Rec Room is the best perk of staying at the Kimpton Cardinal, and it’s only available for guests or for private bookings. The two-level space is connected by a spiral playground slide. Here you’ll find a small basketball court, a bowling alley and table games like foosball, ping-pong and pool. Watch the Wake Forest Demon Deacons play on the televisions.
The Cardinal Hotel also offers free morning coffee and an afternoon glass of wine. Valet parking is $23 per night, and self-parking is available in nearby parking decks. The top levels of the building, formerly the Reynolds executive offices, are reserved for events. The onsite fitness center has treadmills and weights, but guests also have access to rental bikes and Micro Kickboard scooters for the kids.
The Katharine Brasserie, the hotel’s bustling French brasserie, is named for R.J. Reynolds’ wife and matriarch of the tobacco baron family, and is across the lobby from the check-in desk. It’s gained acclaim within the city as far more than a hotel restaurant. The French-inspired eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch and spreads across two levels.
Menu includes fresh oysters, steak frites and cognac-infused escargot. The long, modern bar has a full menu of beer, wine and cocktails, including the signature Cheerwine Old Fashioned, a nod to the North Carolina-made soda. There’s also a patio for alfresco dining with cafe tables that look straight out of a Parisian street and a private dining room for special events.