Locals say Roanoke became a city in the blink of an eye. In turn, it’s been called the “Magic City” since the 1800s. It’s also been dubbed “the star city of the South.” But Roanoke also remains one of those places that’s easy to overlook.
To fully appreciate what this magical mountain town has to offer, you’ll need to spend a little time here first. I highy encourage going at the start of fall. But there’s really never a bad time to pass through.
Still, as the air turns crisp and the leaves start to change, this east coast city comes to life. To this day, Roanoke continues to be the cultural, recreational, and business hub for Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s also continuously evolving. When you visit this earth-conscious community, you’ll be met with small-town charm and natural wonder. You’ll also discover way more to do and see than you likely ever imagined.
Here are some of the best reasons to visit Roanoke.
Hang Out in the Historic District
Roanoke’s quaint historic district is small, charming, and located downtown. If you’re into finding unique landmarks, make your way to the Mill Mountain Star, sometimes called the Roanoke Star. Constructed in 1949, it just happens to be the second largest illuminated man-made star on the planet.
Endlessly bustling, you’ll find wonderful local gems to grab a bite, have a cup of joe, and shop. And local history remains a big part of the culture in Roanoke. Don’t miss out on the farmer’s market, which has been going strong since 1882.
Take a World-Renowned Hike
Follow the star all the way to Mill Mountain Park. Trails upon trails for all levels of skill await you. If you’re in the mood for a real adventure, you’ll find Roanoke’s highest point here. You’ll be standing 1,703 up in the air on the summit of Mill Mountain after hiking alongside a stream.
If you don’t feel like going all the way up, there’s still plenty to see. These are the Blue Ridge Mountains, after all. For instance, there’s a 30-foot waterfall about 1.5 miles up. Ready for more? Here are 10 fun things to do on Mill Mountain.
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Follow the “Wine Trail”
You’ll pair Botetourt County’s wine trail with an unforgettable Blue Ridge Mountain view. These Blue Ridge Vineyards are often said to be Virginia’s first vineyards to focus on handcrafted, small-batch wines.
Affordable and award-winning, these three charming, family-run vineyards offer tours, tastings, and special events all year long. If you stop by on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll also get a taste of some local, live music.
Read More: America’s Best Wine Vacation Destinations
Get To Know Grandin
Grandin is an old-school neighborhood with a flourishing local scene. Stroll around and you’ll quickly see what I mean. Hip, forward-thinking businesses like Viva La Cupcake and historic hotspots line the street. If you visit on a rainy day, catch a mainstream or independent flick at the historic Grandin Theatre. You won’t be disappointed.
For brunch, make reservations at Local Roots. It’s repeatedly been voted one of the best restaurants in Roanoke. This local eatery has also been named one of Wine Spectator’s 10 Earth-Friendly Wine Destinations. But they prefer to be known as “scrumptious and sustainable.”
Splash Around Town
Paddle sports are a great way to explore the stunningly scenic parts of Roanoke. If you’re into extreme sports, a kayaking adventure in Roanoke might be right up your alley.
No matter where you start, you’ll likely stumble upon a cascading waterfall or two. And Virginia is home to some of the most diverse wildflowers on Earth. If you get a chance to stop for a breather on any shoreline, I highly recommend kicking back and enjoying the scenery before you return to braving the rapids. And if you’re in need of a little more guidance, here’s a helpful guide to paddling around the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Hop on the Craft Brew Scene
If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, you’re in luck. Roanoke might be small, but when it comes to local breweries, it’s packing a major punch. So hop to it!
Look into Big Lick Brewing Company, Twisted Track Brew Pub, Soaring Ridge Craft Brewery, Parkway Brewing in Salem, and Sunken City Brewery, to name a few local favorites. These are said to be the 8 best breweries in Roanoke right now.
Find The Hidden Foodie Havens
Don’t knock the culinary scene here until you’ve done a ‘tasting crawl.’ With Roanoke Food Tours, you’ll get a small, but sizable taste of local and surprisingly eclectic restaurants worth writing home about.
On your walking foodie tour, you’ll be introduced to 7 local hotspots and learn about the city’s rich history. From Lebanese to vegan, there’s a little something for everyone in Roanoke. You just have to get out and about to find what you seek.
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