Roanoke: Things to See and Do in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Friday November 8, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 5 Comments

Roanoke Star

Roanoke, Virginia is known as ‘The Star City of the South’

Are you visiting Roanoke, Virginia for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in The Star City and Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

When I have a visitor from out of town the first place they want to see is the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I also take them to the Historic Roanoke City Farmers Market in Downtown Roanoke – for a more local, authentic experience.



Where to go in Roanoke, Virginia

When I want to escape the tourists, my favorite place to visit is Historic Grandin Village and Black Dog Salvage to browse a little.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend the Roanoke Star and Overlook for kissing with a view.

Are you traveling with your pet? The best place to walk the dog is the Roanoke River Greenway in Virginia.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit Mill Mountain Zoo…be sure to ride the Zoo Choo!  Explore the area with a backpack tour from the Discovery Center or go searching for geocaches!  Or head out to the ballpark and watch the Salem Sox in action.


Roanoker Biscuits

Biscuits from The Roanoker Restaurant in Virginia

Food in Roanoke, Virginia

If you are looking for typical Roanoke cuisine, I recommend The Homeplace Restaurant for family style dining with endless fried chicken, country ham, roast beef, pork barbeque (Thursdays only), home cooked vegetables, homemade biscuits,  and homemade cobblers.  This all-you-can-eat restaurant is open Thursday-Sunday. It’s very popular, so be prepared to wait awhile.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is The Roanoker Restaurant for locally roasted H&C Coffee and famous biscuits featured in Southern Living’s book “Off the Eaten Path.”

Looking for cheap food in Roanoke, Virginia, go to The Roanoke Weiner Stand or Famous Anthony’s.

Texas Tavern is the spot for late night dining since 1930 – there’s even a walk up window if you’re on the go!  This restaurant is famous for their chile and cheesy western and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Hotel Roanoke

Virginia’s Historic Hotel Roanoke is known for their peanut soup and spoonbread.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to Alexander’s or The Regency Room, located inside the Historic Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center – don’t miss their signature dishes – peanut soup and spoonbread.

Seeing a lot of stars in Roanoke? Roanoke is known as ‘The Star City of the South’ and boasts a 100 foot neon star at the top of Mill Mountain that can be seen for 60 miles.

When you come to Roanoke, get your picture taken on the green rooftop of Center in the Square or in front of the massive steam engines at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.


Steam train 1218

Train buffs and children will want to visit the Virginia Museum of Transportation

Roanoke outdoors

Roanoke Mountain offers great views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and is the best place to watch or experience all four seasons.

In Roanoke outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike, walk or bike miles of trails on Carvin’s Cove, the Roanoke River Greenway and the Appalachian Trail.

Looking for a little exercise?  Rent a bike from UnderDog Bikes, located on the Roanoke River Greenway or go rock climbing at The River Rock Climbing Gym.
Roanoke museums

If you are a museum lover, Roanoke’s Center in the Square is home to the Science Museum of Western Virginia (don’t miss the Butterfly Garden), the History Museum of Western Virginia and the Harrison Museum of African American Culture and nearby Taubman Museum of Art.

Looking for exciting night life? Go dancing at Martin’s Downtown Bar & Grill or visit Kirk Avenue Music Hall or Blue 5 for live music.

Beneath the Roundhouse

Beneath the Roundhouse is a steel sculpture by Edwin White.

You can tell a lot about Roanoke from visiting and watching the multitude of festivals from the Strawberry Festival, Salem Fair to Dickens of a Christmas.

In the spring you should attend the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade & Shamrock Festival.

In the summer you should attend the Historic Roanoke City Farmers Market for the best in local produce, plants and homemade goods.

Did you know that Roanoke, the largest city on the Blue Ridge Parkway, was voted Best Trail Town by the readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine?  With the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, and over 70 city parks and greenways just minutes from downtown, Roanoke attracts flocks of outdoor enthusiasts.

Plan a visit to Roanoke in the fall for Go Outside Festival and be sure to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to experience the beautiful fall colors.

Come to Roanoke for Dickens of a Christmas in the winter – held the first three Friday’s in December in Downtown Roanoke and don’t miss “Fashions for Evergreens” at the Historic Hotel Roanoke, which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

O. Winston Link, photographer

Railroad photographer O. Winston Link

Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, highlighting the railroad photography of O. Winston Link.

I’ll bet you didn’t know he chose to take most of his photographs at night and that it could take anywhere from a day to a week to set up the lighting to capture just one photograph.

Just outside of Roanoke you can take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and have lunch at the Peaks of Otter Lodge if you head north or trek south on the Parkway to Chateau Morrisette Winery and Mabry Mill.

What are your favorite things to do in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley?

Related Post:
Virginia’s Botetourt County

Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Mill Rose Inn, Half Moon Bay, California

Wednesday November 6, 2013 at 8:08 AM | 0 Comments

Incurably Romantic — the Mill Rose Inn in Half Moon Bay, California

Incurably Romantic — the Mill Rose Inn in Half Moon Bay, California

Last month, the hubs and I celebrated our ten year anniversary. I figured it was a significant milestone that merited a special place to honor it. Someplace pretty, romantic, sumptuous.

The Renaissance Rose Suite at the Mill Rose Inn in Half Moon Bay is such a place.
Tucked away off of Main Street in Half Moon Bay, the sprawling early 20th-century former farmhouse is surrounded by exquisite  gardens. We walked through the magical rose garden in front and were greeted by Terry, one of the proprietors. He and his wife Eve used their individual talents (interior design, landscaping) to transform the inn into an elegant B&B with no amenities overlooked.
Dan (the hubs) and Terry hit it off right away when they discovered their mutual love of comedy. Turns out Terry is quite an aficionado and the two had lots to chat about. Terry showed us to our suite, which was spacious and luxurious, with a parlor, comfy bed, fireplace, and refrigerator stocked with complimentary beer, wine, and water.We could have stayed for a week, and seriously considered squatting. The interior, while a little fussy for my taste, is elegant and true to the period with handsome antique furnishings and thoughtful little touches everywhere from the decanter of sherry to the bowl of taffy.
The Renaissance Rose Suite at the Mill Rose Inn in Half Moon Bay.

The Renaissance Rose Suite at the Mill Rose Inn in Half Moon Bay.

Terry made us dinner reservations at Pasta Moon on nearby Main Street where we enjoyed a delicious pork chop and I was able to order gluten-free pasta, a real treat in a restaurant.

We returned to the inn to relax under the stars (and twinkling lights) in the private hot tub that’s tucked inside a lattice work gazebo.

The dining room is always open for tea and cookies (or a slice of the decadently delicious pound cake). So we capped the night off with champagne and cake by the fireplace in our suite.

Seriously, you’d be hard pressed to find a more romantic place than the Mill Rose Inn.

Next morning, we were treated to a champagne breakfast served in our room. We spent the rest of the morning lounging in our room and in the lush gardens perfumed by rose blooms.

Before we left, we wandered around the charming streets of Old Town Half Moon Bay. I really love this little town and return often. Before heading out, we had a bite on the sunny back deck of the historic San Benito House. This inn/saloon is rich on character and you often can catch live music here.

When we were there the deck was awash in orange — the town was gearing up for the the annual pumpkin festival because everyone knows that Half Moon Bay is recognized as the “pumpkin capital of the world.” Or now you do.

Insider Tip

Drop down a bit south from Half Moon Bay and take a left onto Highway 84 in San Gregorio. At the intersection of Stage Road is the San Gregorio General Store. Here you’ll find everything from farm tools to toys, t-shirts to tequila at this country store/saloon. Order a beer, pull up a chair, and check out the impressive selection of books. There is live music every weekend and even a post office.
Spectacular gardens surround the B&B inn.

Spectacular gardens surround the B&B inn.

Mill Rose Inn Hotel

615 Mill Street
Half Moon Bay, California 94019-1726, USA
650-726-8750 | 800-900-7673
Related Post
Mother’s Day at Cameron’s Inn
Post contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion of Friscomama. Photos by Dan Dion. We were guests of the Inn.

Frequent Fliers: Earn with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping

Monday November 4, 2013 at 1:01 PM | 0 Comments

Alaska AirlinesLet’s face it, traveling can be stressful and expensive. While most airlines offer frequent flyer mileage plans, the million dollar question is: what’s in it for me? With Alaska Airlines’ new Mileage Plan Shopping program, members can earn up to 12 frequent flier miles for every dollar they spend when they shop at more than 800 participating online retailers, including, Home Depot, Macy’s and Sephora.

Get rewarded for shopping

I’m a savvy shopper. I’m a huge fan of clearance sales and always take advantage of free shipping offers. With this program, shoppers may earn miles and take advantage of special offers such as dollars-off and free shipping when they purchase gift cards and products from a host of retailers, including Coldwater Creek (yes, I’m a One Creek member and love their sales) and Lands’ End.

Offers on the site change frequently and there are often special promotions, so check back frequently for the best deals from the places you love to shop.

gift box

Get rewarded for shopping

“With Mileage Plan Shopping, members can ‘gift’ themselves with miles while they shop with their favorite merchants this holiday season,” said Caroline Boren, Alaska Airlines’ managing director of loyalty marketing and customer advocacy. “We’re excited to offer this program to frequent flyers to help them shop and save, while earning free flights on Alaska Airlines.”

How to use the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

Members visit the Mileage Plan Shopping site, select a merchant offer and ultimately complete their purchases via the merchant’s website. It’s easy and secure. Miles will be automatically credited to your Mileage Plan account. To participate, you must be an existing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping member. If you are not a member, signing up is easy and can be done here. Now let’s get shopping!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.