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Beyond the Stay: Discovering the Charm of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem

Nestled in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel shines not just as a place to stay but as a beacon of luxury, history, and architectural marvel. It's where the past and present fuse, offering a unique experience that speaks volumes to travelers and locals alike. 

As those monikers both speak to me (plus Francophile, which you will learn about in a bit), that beacon beckoned Mr. Misadventures and I for a staycation!

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Andi in the Elevator in the Kimpton Cardinal hotel

Picture this: you're planning your next getaway, scrolling endlessly through hotel options, seeking that perfect blend of comfort, style, and a pinch of the extraordinary. Suddenly, you stumble upon Kimpton Hotels, and you pause. Why? Because Kimpton isn't just another hotel chain; it's a doorway to experiences as unique as your fingerprint. 

My experience at the Kimpton Cardinal allowed me to discover what makes it the darling of discerning travelers. This hotel offers a unique blend of Southern charm and elegance, making it a perfect getaway for those seeking a stay (or staycation!) with a difference.

Every Stay is Uniquely Yours

Kimpton Hotels prides itself on not just being a place to stay but rather a chapter in your story, a treasured part of your journey. Each property is infused with personality, from chic urban retreats in the heart of bustling cities, like the Hotel Enso in San Francisco, to tranquil havens in serene landscapes like the Kimpton Aluna Resort Tulum. 

Imagine sipping a perfectly mixed cocktail on a rooftop garden overlooking the city skyline, like the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Charlotte, which is calling me for my next staycation! Or unwinding in a room that feels more like a personalized sanctuary than a standard hotel room. 

That's the Kimpton experience. My first stay at a Kimpton will not be my last!

Beyond One Size Fits All

In a world clamoring for personalization, where brands often make you feel like a transaction, Kimpton listens and delivers. Here, it's not about fitting into the hotel's way of doing things; it's about the hotel fitting into your way of living, even if it's just for a night or two. 

That is definitely how Mr. Misadventures and I felt during our 2-night stay.

Andi in the living room of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel with Jambu Daffodil shoes

A Glimpse into the Past

The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel is housed in the historic R.J. Reynolds building, a structure that once served as the blueprint for the Empire State Building. Yes, you read that correctly. Before New York City's skyline was forever changed, Winston-Salem boasted its own architectural masterpiece. 

Completed in 1929, this Art Deco gem has been meticulously preserved and transformed, ensuring its legacy continues to dazzle and inspire.

The building has long been a landmark in Winston-Salem. Its transformation into the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel has breathed new life into this architectural gem, all the while preserving its rich heritage. While the building's origins are deeply tied to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, a name that evokes mixed emotions due to its association with the tobacco industry, there's an undeniable legacy that the Reynolds family has left on the city. This legacy is not just economic but also cultural, and it's this nuanced history that the hotel embraces and celebrates.

RJ Reynolds motif in the carpet of the Boardroom in the Kimpton Cardinal hotel
RJ Reynolds motif in the carpet of the Boardroom in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel

The renovation of this historic building into a luxury hotel represents a thoughtful balance between acknowledging the past and moving forward. The hotel serves as a reminder of the city's resilience and ability to reinvent itself, turning a symbol of industrial might into a beacon of hospitality and elegance.

Mr. Misadventures loves architecture and is mesmerized by cityscapes like New York and Chicago, wandering around the hotel for the weekend, he was like a little kid in a candy store. All the detailing…he couldn’t get enough.

You can’t ignore this magnificent art deco entryway. The building is on this list of National Register of Historic Places.

Kimpton Cardinal Hotel Entrance

Signage around the hotel allows you to absorb the immensity of this building's place in history. P.S. Don’t miss the postcard to “Dad” sent from the Empire State Building to the R.J. Reynolds building when it had its 50th birthday!

North Carolina Meets New York City

Stepping into the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, you're immediately enveloped in an atmosphere of warmth. The design seamlessly integrates the building's historic elements with modern touches, creating a very inviting space. From the opulent elevator banks and the mid-century modern design of the living room to the cozy guest rooms, every space has been thoughtfully curated to ensure maximum comfort and aesthetic pleasure.

In a nod to its roots, the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel masterfully incorporates elements of North Carolina into its property, weaving the state's heritage and natural beauty into its very fabric. The hotel takes its name from the cardinal, North Carolina's state bird, a symbol of beauty and grace that is reflected in the hotel's elegant design and attentive service. 

North Carolina Tartan in the living room of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel
North Carolina Tartan in the living room of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel

Further embracing its locale, the hotel features the North Carolina tartan in some of its furniture. This distinctive plaid pattern, recognized officially by the state, adds a touch of local tradition and warmth to the hotel's chic interiors. 

These thoughtful details celebrate the state's rich history and culture and ensure that the essence of North Carolina is palpably felt throughout the hotel, offering guests a deeply rooted sense of place and connection.

Culinary Delights Await

Having a beer at the Katherine Brasserie in the Kimpton Cardinal hotel

A significant aspect of the hotel's charm is its connection to the Francophile inclinations of Katharine Reynolds, R.J. Reynolds's wife. Her love for French culture and lifestyle (probably inspired by her honeymoon in France) is woven into the very essence of the restaurant, which bears her name. 

Truth be told, this was the main reason for our stay. I will tell you a secret though. Mr. Misadventures and I generally avoid French restaurants outside of France. Yes. You read that right. The Frenchman and the Francophile hate to be disappointed when it comes to food, and we have found one way to do that to just skip the French restaurant, we have too high of expectations.

View of the kitchen Inside the Katherine Brasserie in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel
View of the kitchen Inside the Katharine Brasserie

So close your eyes and picture this. A man and a woman sitting at a bistro table in Paris. The maître d'hôtel arrives with 2 plates in hand. Classic brasserie or bistro dishes. Magret de canard in one hand. Steak au poivre in the other. The Frenchman cuts into the steak, swipes it through truffle pomme purée, and then silence. 

Menu at the Katherine Brasserie

The next thing you hear is the imperceptible hum of pleasure. 

That mes amis is an accomplishment.

And that’s exactly what happened at our dinner. Two very pleased, very surprised diners who are now planning how to get back to the restaurant. Toute suite.

View of the kitchen Inside the Katherine Brasserie in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel

Katharine's offers guests a dining experience that transports them to the heart of Paris, with a menu that cleverly infuses Southern ingredients with French culinary techniques. This blend of cultures is a testament to the hotel's ability to offer something truly unique—a taste of France nestled in the warmth of Southern hospitality.

Here, the focus is on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, expertly crafted into dishes that pay homage to traditional French cuisine with a modern twist. The inviting ambiance and impeccable service make dining here an experience to savor.

While I love beautiful food photography, I am not a fan of interrupting other people’s meals to take them. So no photos of our amazing meal, désolée. I had the Oeuf Mimosa au Foie Gras (French deviled eggs) and the Canard aux la Ronce (Five spice duck). Mr. Misadventures had the Tartare de Thon and the previously mentioned, perfectly cooked Steak au Poivre.

Our breakfast on Sunday morning was fantastic too. Great coffee (p.s. there is also a coffee station in the living room in the morning serving free coffee between 6 and 10 am), a croque Monsieur for the mister, and a Belgian waffle for me.

Conclusion: No stay at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel is complete without indulging in the culinary delights that await at The Katharine. 

Accommodations with a Personal Touch

Each room and one-bedroom suites have been designed with the guest's comfort in mind, blending luxurious amenities with personal touches that make each stay unique. Whether you're sinking into the plush premium bedding, admiring the city views, or enjoying the bespoke bath products from Atelier Bloem, you'll feel pampered and well-cared for.

Atelier Bloem Products

P.S. You can buy the travel versions of the Atelier Bloem line exclusive to Kimpton Hotels on Amazon!

Let’s talk about the glamorous bathroom for one moment. If the deep soaking tub doesn’t call to you, the spacious shower will certainly do the trick. Depending on your room location, your bathtub may even have a view!

Harkening back to those Southern manners and Southern hospitality I’ve grown to appreciate in my new home state of North Carolina. If you forget something, the Kimpton Cardinal can probably help you out. They have a partnership with Anthropologie, so if that thing you forgot is a pair of sunglasses, a purse, or a scarf, you can rent it from the hotel and if you love it, they will give you the info on how to purchase it.

This Tate Beaded Handbag made me wish I had forgotten my purse!

Anthropologie items at the Kimpton Cardinal hotel
Anthropologie items near the front desk.

Sorry. I got distracted by a shiny object. 

The hotel interior, including its hotel rooms, was designed by Theresa Fatino Design, who is behind the designs of many luxury hotel properties. She may be global, but all furnishings were sourced in North Carolina. You are probably not aware, but this state is commonly referred to as “the furniture capital of the world.”  

There is a nod to more Southern charms in the night table from the ceiling with ropes just like porch swings found throughout the South. The rooms have a very masculine feel to them including a hattip to fishing and hunting which is also important to North Carolina. There are deer antlers that hang over the bed. [I forgot to ask if they had antlerless rooms for my vegetarian and vegan friends.] 

No shots from our hotel room. I didn’t spend a lot of time in our room, we were too busy exploring the rest of the property! I slept very well and that’s the best reward you can get from a long day of being out and about. The hotel website has plenty of photos of their guest rooms and our room was a true representation of what you see.

Social area in the basement rec room of the Kimpton Cardinal hotel

Unwind and Rejuvenate at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel

For those looking to unwind, the Kimpton Cardinal offers a variety of amenities designed to rejuvenate the body and soul. The fitness center, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, is perfect for those wanting to maintain their workout routine. Oh, and there are in-room yoga mats if you want to work out in private.

Andi in the Rec Room of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel with Jambu Daffodil shoes
Play Scrabble in the rec room.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to take advantage of the recreational facilities in the basement, affectionately known as “The Rec Room,” inspired by a recreation room in the Reynolds family estate, Reynolda. The recreation area features a bowling alley, ping pong, a basketball court, and a slide, yes, an adult-size slide, adding a touch of whimsy and fun to your stay. 

Part of North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad, Winston-Salem is home to Wake Forest University and Winston Salem University and their sports teams are well-represented in the decor. Go Demon Deacons!

Andi Bowling at the Kimpton Cardinal hotel with Jambu Sunny plant-based shoes
Bowling in the basement.

Fun fact. Many moons ago I used to bowl in a league. Yup. Every Thursday night for a couple of years. So I was just itching to get my hands on a ball and try my hand. 

Southern Hospitality: Service with Personality

What truly sets the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel apart is its unwavering commitment to hospitality. The staff goes above and beyond to ensure that every guest feels welcomed, valued, and taken care of. It's this level of service, combined with the hotel's rich history and luxurious offerings, that makes a stay here not just a night away from home, but an experience to cherish.

Whether it's someone remembering your drink preference or the concierge going the extra mile to make your stay unforgettable.

Bike to borrow at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem

The thoughtful touches like the option to borrow a bike to explore the surroundings, or the complimentary wine hours that encourage mingling with fellow travelers make each stay uniquely memorable.

At the Wine Hour
Enjoying the Wine Hour on Friday night!

On our first night at the wine hour, we met a truly fabulous couple that we connected with right away. We chatted for the entire 60 minutes. We discussed our weekend plans, and our dining plans, and connected over our love for travel.

Mid-Century Modern and Art Deco details in the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel
Mid-Century Modern and Art Deco details in the living room.

We shared that we were heading out the next morning to try out the recent James Beard awarded semi-finalist for Outstanding Bakery, Bobby Boy Bakeshop and wouldn’t you know it, we ran into each other in the lobby and met them there for breakfast.

Bobby Boy Bakeshop
We ventured out for Bobby Boy Bakeshop treats!

Saturday night we ran into them again in the Katharine and exchanged contact info. The Kimpton Cardinal knows how to set the stage to bring people together.

It’s clear that Kimpton understands that sometimes, the best part of traveling is the people you meet along the way. Through communal spaces designed to bring people together and events that invite guests to connect, Kimpton creates a sense of community, even far from home. It's not just about sharing a space; it's about sharing stories, laughs, and sometimes even a dance or two.

Menu at the Katherine Brasserie

Speaking of which. That fantastic dinner at the Katharine Brasserie? Another thing that makes Kimpton hotels so special. Locals. They draw in the local residents (and in the case of the Kimpton Cardinal, even share the building as several floors are apartments for rent) who gather to enjoy the beautiful zinc bar for a cocktail, the restaurant for a meal, or the space for jazz on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The bar in the Katherine Brasserie at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem
The zinc bar in the Katharine Brasserie.

I digress. Who would have imagined that the maître d'hôtel, knowing we were a Franco-American couple visiting for the first time, would sit another Franco-American couple from the area next to us? Kismet. We chatted for quite a long time and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We appreciated the consideration and the opportunity to interact with locals who appreciated the hotel and restaurant themselves.  

It's this spirit of kindness and attention to detail that turns first-time guests (me!)  into lifelong fans.

A few more things I appreciated:

Sustainability with a Heart

Kimpton's commitment to sustainability is not just a footnote in its brand story; it's a core principle that guides its operations. From responsibly sourced ingredients in their restaurants to eco-friendly practices that reduce waste and conserve water, Kimpton shows that luxury and responsibility can go hand in hand. 

It's about enjoying the finer things in life while ensuring future generations can do the same.

Pets Are More Than Guests, They're Family

Mr. Misadventures and I love dogs. (In case, Jessica is rolling over in her grave, we love cats too.) We don’t have a dog because frankly, we travel too much. We could not help but notice dogs everywhere and we were not mad about it. On the way up to our room in the ornate brass elevators, we commented on that fact to a couple with a cutie. 

She said that Kimpton Hotels is one of the few pet friendly hotel brands that allow pets and do not charge fees. Kimpton’s pet-friendly policies mean your furry companions are not just allowed but welcomed with open arms and special treats. 

dog in bed
Photo courtesy of Depositphotos.

Pets are pampered with the same devotion and attention to detail as their human companions. Forget the stress of finding a pet sitter or the heartache of leaving your furry friend behind because, at Kimpton, pets stay free. No extra charges, no weight limits, and no breed restrictions. 

From plush pet beds in your room to complimentary treats at check-in, and even designated pet-friendly areas for play and relaxation, every detail is thoughtfully designed to make your pet's stay as comfortable and joyous as yours. It's a delightful confirmation that when Kimpton says “everyone's welcome,” they truly mean everyone, paws and all.

dog on leather chair

I was delighted to see a giant [perfectly well-behaved] dog sprawled out on one of the mid-century modern sofas in the lavish social living room next to its owner who happily sipped on Pinot Grigio! 

Andi in the Mirror of the living room in the Kimpton Cardinal hotel

The Heart of Winston-Salem, The Soul of a Traveler

Located in downtown Winston-Salem, the hotel offers easy access to the city's vibrant arts scene, historic landmarks, innovation quarter, and bustling eateries. It's the perfect base from which to explore all that this charming Southern city has to offer, from its cultural institutions to its picturesque parks (it’s a block away from Bailey Park).

View of Bailey Park from the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel

The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel is more than just a place to stay; it's a journey into the heart of Winston-Salem's storied past, a celebration of luxury and comfort, and a testament to the enduring charm of Southern hospitality. Whether you're a history buff, a luxury seeker, or simply in need of a delightful escape, the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel awaits to enchant and inspire. Join us, and let your adventure begin.

In the vast sea of hotel options, Kimpton Hotels stands out for those seeking more than just a place to stay. It's for the traveler in search of stories, flavors, and connections. Each visit is a new chapter, each hotel a different setting, but the essence remains the same: a commitment to making every stay as unique as the guests themselves.

How about you? Have you ever stayed at a Kimpton Hotel? Have you visited the Kimpton Cardinal? Are you inspired to? Do tell!

Andi in the living room of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel with Jambu Dandelion shoes

Booking a room is easy! Plus, Kimpton has been awarded, “Highest in Guest Satisfaction Among Upper Upscale Hotel Chains” by J.D. Power three times. Go on, you'll love it!

Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem, NC is located at 51 4th St E. The nearest airport to Winston-Salem is Greensboro/High Point (GSO) Airport which is 17.3 miles away. Other nearby airports include Charlotte (CLT) (72.8 miles), and Raleigh/Durham (RDU) (83.3 miles).

Our drive from the Raleigh-Durham area was 1.5 hours.

Don't forget to pin this for later!

girl in a chair

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  1. Amber Myers says:

    I love history, so I would enjoy staying here. I will keep it in mind for sure.

  2. Melanie E says:

    This sounds like a lovely hotel. I do like all of the little touches. Being able to borrow a bike is such a lovely idea and one many will appreciate.

  3. This sounds like a lovely place to stay. I’ve never been to Winston Salem, and it is nice to check out some new destinations. It is nice to find a hotel that is comfortable with good amenities.

  4. What a beautiful experience! The hotel is lovely and this is a place where I would definitely take my family for a vacation.

  5. this hotel sounds great and looks so quaint and classy.. i love staying in historic hotels and we try to stay whenever we get a chance. will keep this one in mind for a trip to Winston-Salem

  6. What a captivating exploration of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem! I love your thoughts about “it’s about the hotel fitting into your way of living”. This is proof that client satisfaction matters.

  7. That hotel does look luxurious. We only drove through Winstom-Salem before. Will keep this hotel in mind if we ever decide to visit and explore the city someday.

  8. It sounds like you had an amazing experience, The food sounds so good. I will have to check it out one day.

  9. I have been a huge fan of the Kimpton brand for years now and i’m going to add the Cardinal to my bucket list!

  10. Melissa Cushing says:

    This is my kind of place to stay and I am loving it! I will keep it in mind for the next time I am in the area! I love North Carolina!

  11. The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel looks amazing! I’d love to spend a couple of days at this hotel with my husband. Loved your detailed review ❤️

  12. It sounds like an amazing place to stay! I loved seeing all your pictures and amenities the hotel has to offer!

  13. Gervin Khan says:

    I have never been to Winston Salem but I can say it is a beautiful destination for my next travel.

  14. Monidipa Dutta says:

    Andi, your exploration of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem was an absolute delight to read! Your vivid descriptions transported me right into the heart of the hotel, from its rich history to its luxurious amenities. I felt like I was accompanying you and Mr. Misadventures on your staycation, soaking in the Southern charm and elegance of the place.

    Your attention to detail, from the architectural marvels of the R.J. Reynolds building to the personalized touches in each room, truly captured the essence of what makes Kimpton Hotels so special. It’s evident that every aspect of the hotel, from its design to its culinary offerings, is carefully curated to provide guests with a memorable experience.

    I especially loved how you highlighted the hotel’s commitment to sustainability and its pet-friendly policies. It’s heartwarming to see a brand prioritize not only the comfort of its guests but also the well-being of the environment and furry companions.

    Overall, your article left me feeling inspired to plan a visit to the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel myself. Thank you for sharing your experience in such a captivating and engaging way!