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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Virginia’s Botetourt County
Photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau.