Suspended from a hilltop tower overlooking Roanoke, Virginia, a 100-foot star shines down over the glittering city. The Roanoke Star is an appropriate ornament for Virginia’s largest metropolis west of Richmond; the city sparkles like a beacon for every kind of visitor.
Nestled in the midst of the Roanoke Valley, the “Star City” provides seemingly endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Hikers discover more than 600 miles of trails nearby. Trekkers on the Mill Mountain Star Trail see Roanoke from the Star’s point of view. And unforgettable vistas from McAfee Knob, the most-photographed point on the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, make it a must-do for trekkers.
Down in the surrounding Roanoke Valley, anglers cast their lines at Smith Mountain Lake for bass or fish for crappie and trout at Carvins Cove. The Cove is also home to nationally recognized mountain biking trails, making it one of the top attractions near Roanoke.
Touted as the “Capital of the Blue Ridge,” Roanoke offers less energetic nature lovers an easier alternative. These tourists can hop onto the famous Blue Ridge Parkway just south of town for a scenic drive or a picnic lunch. This famous drive winds through valleys and along ridges, hitting an elevation of 4,000 feet at its peak.
While in Roanoke, travelers can enjoy a heavy dose of history. A good place to start is the Booker T. Washington National Monument, 25 miles to the southeast. Costumed guides provide tours of the monument, a 207-acre restored tobacco plantation where Washington lived and worked until he achieved freedom.
The History Museum of Western Virginia downtown features exhibits on the Native Americans that once populated the region as well as Roanoke’s early settlers. Just around the corner at on Salem Ave. is the Taubman Museum of Art, one of the biggest attractions in Roanoke. The fantastic 81,000-square-foot glass and metal structure, designed by Randall Stout, houses a permanent collection of 2,050 pieces.
Nearby, visitors can walk Roanoke’s Railwalk and visit the Virginia Museum of Transportation, home to the nation’s largest collection of steam and diesel locomotives. Another of Roanoke’s museums also focuses on railroads, delighting railroad enthusiasts. Through a collection of photographs depicting life on the rails, and housed within a renovated train station, the O. Winston Link Museum explores the city’s railroad history.
One of the top area restaurants is located back on Market Square, the 5-star 202 Market. After dark, 202 Market is one of the hottest places to be in Roanoke, with three onsite bars. Casual dining is the norm at two other great Roanoke restaurants: the most extensive raw bar in Virginia lures diners to Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company downtown, but the homemade sauce is the draw for Bad Wolf Bar B Q on the city’s north side.
For a refined evening, Roanoke tourists can hear the city’s Symphony play at the Roanoke Civic Center before stopping into the Penny Deux Lounge for a cocktail.