As the largest city in western Virginia, Roanoke offers a diverse blend of attractions. It is known for its railroad museums, its spectacular festivals, and its recreation opportunities in the surrounding mountains. For a great view, just look up – Blue Ridge Mountains ring the city, anchored by the 100-ft. neon Mill Mountain star. At the southern toe of the Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke is a Blue Ridge Parkway city with a river running through it and greenway paths to most places you’d want to go – Roanoke, Virginia is truly a natural place to visit.
The Taubman Museum of Art pays architectural tribute to the Blue Ridge mountains in its flowing layers of steel, glass, and coppery zinc; the view from the top story lines up perfectly with the neon star atop Mill Mountain. The museum showcases American art as well as contemporary, folk, and decorative works and features an interactive gallery that allows visitors to explore their own artistic talents.
In addition to the pervasive Southern friendliness, visitors to the Roanoke Valley discover a blend of the arts and the outdoors here. Two blocks from the museum, the historic Roanoke City Market offers a profusion of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and handcrafted items year-round seven days a week.
The free-wheeling atmosphere of fun fans out to the unique shops along the market – La De Da artistic clothing, Chocolate Paper’s spectacular truffle collection, and Metro! restaurant’s artfully constructed meals.
If it’s solitude that calls to you, the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail snakes along the ridges just west of Roanoke. And Carvin’s Cove Natural Preserve –the nation’s second-largest municipal park – is home to an 800-acre lake devoid of noise and motorized boats. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers great overlooks and a way to get your bearing around Roanoke.
Southwest Virginia’s railroad heritage is on permanent display at the O. Winston Link Museum, housed a former Norfolk & Western Railway passenger station. The Museum exhibits Link’s stunning collection of photographs, listening stations, and a Link documentary.
Across the railroad tracks from the Link Museum is an interactive pathway leading to the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The transportation museum celebrates Roanoke’s heritage with exhibits of diesel, electric, and steam locomotives including the famous “611” steam locomotive (a National Mechanical Engineering landmark) and the elegant A-1218. The museum also houses antique automobiles, trucks, carriages, railcars, an African American transportation heritage exhibit, and hands-on exhibits.
Ever since 1882, Hotel Roanoke has presided over downtown from a hill above the tracks. It has served traveling salesmen as well as flatlanders seeking the mountain air in summer, Miss Virginia contestants, governors, and honeymooners. Now managed by Doubletree in partnership with Virginia Tech, the grand hotel offers packages for art seekers, spa lovers, mystery theatre aficionados, and railfans. An included benefit is breakfast in the renowned Regency Room, where chefs prepare local meats and produce with herbs grown on the grounds.
Whether you prefer flat-footing bluegrass tunes or the sultry swing of Jazz, Roanoke is humming with spirited musical performances. The valley is filled with outdoor concerts, historic music venues, and casual downtown stages. This season, nationally and internationally renowned artists will add their inspirational flare to live performances at the Jefferson Center, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and the Civic Center, among many other venues.
Celebrating the arts renaissance in the Roanoke Valley, the Jefferson Center continues its stellar concert and performing arts series The Star City Series will continue through April featuring such artists as Acoustic Africa on November 2, Rosanne Cash on March 2, 2013 and Bobby McFerrin on April 12, 2013. Live shows will continue in the Shaftman Performance Hall with the Jazz Series, which will welcome the Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo Duo on March 22, 2013. The Jazz Club Series seeks to bring the big city jazz club experience to Virginia’s Blue Ridge. is the largest professional orchestra in western Virginia.
Led by Musical Director and Conductor David Stewart Wiley, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra offers a season of 11 concerts including three pops concerts. It also accompanies all full productions of Opera Roanoke. This season, the opera will present the zany pirates, misfit soldiers and star-crossed lovers of the musical comedy The Pirates of Penzance, April 26 and 28, 2013 at the Jefferson Center.
The greater Roanoke Valley hosts so many festivals, it seems they celebrate just about everything – strawberries, chili, micro-brews, the arts, marginal arts, and Dickens of a Christmas. Downtown Roanoke is where you’ll find lots of big festival action, such as Festival in the Park and Local Colors – a celebration of the many cultures that shape the growing region. But always there’s something going on in Roanoke, whether it’s music downtown, an art car exhibit, free films in the park, or a parade. Come, see for yourself.
For Roanoke lodging, attraction, and dining info, contact Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau: (540) 342.6025, (800) 635-5535 or www.visitroanokeva.com Open daily in the Link Museum beside Hotel Roanoke.