Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia is the largest city in the region, Roanoke. Home to roughly 100,000 residents, several independent districts make up this area, like Salem, Botetort, Franklin, and Craig. Known for its lively, walkable downtown that offers restaurants, breweries, bars, retail, and culture, it’s easy to occupy your time here. There are also plenty of amenities, like museums, art galleries, boutiques, and a historic farm market with seasonal events. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the abundance of outdoor recreation in Roanoke. Take advantage of the stunning scenery and partake in various options like hiking, biking, paddling, cycling, and fishing. You’ll also find unique landmarks like the Roanoke Star, a neon landmark overlooking the city from Mill Mountain summit.
For those moving to Roanoke, it’s critical to know as much as possible to make the journey. The Crouch Team has compiled a list of everything you need to know about the beauty and wonder of Roanoke.
There’s plenty of rich history
Roanoke has a rich history and vibrant culture that’s apparent throughout the entire city. The Virginia Museum of Transportation pays tribute to the region’s planes, trains, and automobiles and features the country's most extensive steam and diesel train collection. The exhibits are inside and out and offer something fun for everyone. Check out the Norfolk and Western J-611, which used to ride at speeds of 110 miles per hour.
Another tribute to the culture here is the Taubman Museum of Art. This unique structure is made of metal and glass, designed to look like the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll find a mixture of American, Florentine, and regional art on display. In front of the museum, you’ll find the Booker T. Washington National Monument. They built the museum on the tobacco farm where he was born into slavery in 1865. You will also find reconstructed buildings, exhibits, and live demonstrations of the Civil War era there.
You’ll get all four seasons
Part of Roanoke’s beauty is that it offers all four seasons, so you’ll never miss the summer heat or cool winters. Temperatures are relatively mild, even in the summer, and the humidity doesn’t add to the existing heat. There are also several options for cooling off if the heat does get to you. Like Smith Mountain Lake, you’ll find plenty of lakes and ponds that offer respite from the summer sun. Fall in Roanoke is absolutely stunning and provides a display of autumn colors and cooler weather; this is why it’s popular among tourists. Winter is fairly mild, but there are times when snow and ice make an appearance, though nothing like what you’d see in the northeast. Spring is another beautiful time in the region and gives way to the trees blooming and gorgeous displays of flowers.
It features the world’s largest illuminated star
Roanoke is infamous for the standing artificial star perched more than 1,000 feet above the city on Mill Mountain. The star is 100 feet high, neon-lit, and made of concrete and steel. This star is why the city is known as the “Star City of the South.” They built it in 1949 for Christmas festivities, and it’s attracted tourists to the city ever since. Stand under the star and take in the amazing views of the city, or marvel at its beauty from below.
What is there to do in Roanoke?
Roanoke offers residents and visitors various things to do, not just the history-filled museums and stunning illuminated star. Whether you enjoy being outdoors hiking the trails or spending Saturday at the local market, you’ll find plenty to occupy your time.
The gorgeous views and mild weather, paired with various trails and greenway paths, make Roanoke the perfect place to explore the outdoors. The Roanoke River Blueway is a 45-mile water trail running from the south fork of the river to Smith Mountain Lake and features ample boating access. With several spots to go boating, fishing, kayaking, water skiing, wakeboarding, and paddleboarding, you’ll relish the abundance of water recreation.
Those who prefer dry land will find ample biking trails in Roanoke, often known as the country's East Coast mountain biking capital. Blue Ridge Parkway offers several options for hiking, whether you’re looking for something adventurous like the steep climb to Sharp Top or something milder. The Appalachian Trail winds through the area, so it’s possible to pick up a trail and continue the trek to new places.
The live music scene in Roanoake is vibrant and features several venues to check out. The outdoor amphitheater at Elmwood Park is downtown, and Dr. Pepper Park is nearby on the river. From Spring to Fall, you’ll find concerts happening nearly every weekend, sometimes local music, and occasionally well-known artists that draw in crowds. If you want something smaller, First Fridays downtown is the perfect spot. The city shuts part of the street down on Fridays so residents can enjoy live music and community spirit.
Don’t forget to visit Roanoke City Market for a fantastic selection of shops, galleries, and the location of the oldest operating farmers’ market in Virginia. It’s open year-round, though it’s most alive on Saturdays.
Where do locals eat in Roanoke?
The restaurant scene in Roanoke is vast and offers everything from Texas-style barbecue out of a food truck to fine dining. Breweries in the area are continuously growing and expanding, so residents have many award-winning spots to enjoy. With about 20 local breweries to choose from, plenty of live music, and family-oriented spots, you’ll never question where to eat. There are also several wineries in the area, though they’re not as popular as the breweries. Many locations produce award-winning wines, in addition to unique tastes like blackberry cobbler and apple-tomato wines.
Roanoke has it all, whether you’re looking for fresh and healthy eating, farmers’ markets, or the perfect date-night spot. Several restaurants serve locally-sourced and seasonal offerings, so you can sample many of the region’s best flavors. Try Bloom, an intimate space with a carefully curated menu of shareable plates that are seasonally inspired, or Scratch Biscuit Company for its warm, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.
Roanoke is a beautiful and vibrant spot to live in the southwestern range of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those looking for the perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, award-winning amenities, inspired restaurants, and culture will love it here. If you’re interested in Roanoke, VA, real estate, contact Christy Crouch of The Crouch Team, experts in Roanoke real estate.