Traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia

By: Shelley Seale

Last week I crossed another state off my list for my 50 by 50 project: Virginia.

This was my 36th state, so I now have 14 left to go.

In Virginia I visited Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Parkway area, which gave me plenty of fun exploration. Some of the highlights of the trip included:

Downtown Roanoke

What a pretty and fun little town! I don’t know how I went so long without discovering this. A historic main square centered around the City Market (circa 1882). It’s a beautiful building, now renovated with restaurants, food stalls and shops inside (and out, on sidewalk patios that go around the entire building). It is the oldest such market in continuous use in Virginia; the original 1882 vending licenses were issued to 25 “hucksters.”


In the open square across from City Market, a fresh outdoor farmers market takes place daily, though it’s larger and more bustling on the weekends. Surrounding this all are many independent boutique shops, quality restaurants and the gem of downtown: Center in the Square. This five-story building is home to numerous museums and arts organizations including the Roanoke Museum of Fine Arts (in 1992 renamed the Art Museum of Western Virginia), the Science Museum, Mill Mountain Theatre, the Roanoke Valley History Museum, and the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. I stayed at the charming Hotel Roanoke, built in 1882 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Stretching 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway contains three mountain ranges, 600 miles of stream, 26 tunnels, 91 historic buildings, 176 bridges and 382 overlooks of the stunning scenery. It also crosses the famed Appalachian Trail in several places.


Botetourt County

About half an hour from Roanoke, we spent a day here checking out places like historic town of Fincastle, which was visited by Thomas Jefferson on several occasions and William Clark, who married a local girl after his famed expedition with Lewis.

Botetourt County is green and lush, with rolling hills, miles of hiking trails (including the Appalachian Trail), scenic rivers and streams, and beautiful countryside all within majestic mountain backdrops. We had lunch at a fantastic little place that I really loved: the White Oak Tea Tavern, a pub-style tearoom situated in the Cloyd House, built in 1783. They served amazing sandwiches (I had a warm curry chicken salad in a bread bowl that was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, and delicious) and a huge selection of house-blended teas. Adored this place.

Outlying from Roanoke

One of my favorite things was a very moving morning that I spent at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford (read my blog post about it here). From there we had lunch at the lodge at the Peaks of Otter, then took a shuttle up the mountain for stunning vistas.

It was a very busy, but great, few days and I look forward to tackling my 37th state, Mississippi, next week!