Roanoke Valley: Take a day trip

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A view of the Roanoke Valley from Mill Mountain.

Let’s take a trip to Roanoke, Virginia and see what we can discover. The city lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the Allegheny Mountains to the east.

It is the 10th largest city in Virginia with a population of about 99,000. Originally known as the Big Lick, Roanoke was named for its salt deposits. At one time it was also an important link to the railroad industry when the Norfolk and Western railroad had its headquarters here. This trip was not so much to research the history but to discover what’s there today for those looking for a destination for a day trip or overnight.

The Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge

You can fly in, but from the Baltimore area it’s about four to four and a half hours away by car. Just get to 81 and follow it to 581. There are interesting museums to visit, like the Eleanor Wilson Museum at Hollins University, Harrison Museum of African-American Culture, the History Museum of Western Virginia, O. Winston Link, Taubman Museum of Art, the Science Museum and the Virginia Museum of transportation.

There’s also a zoo, the City Market and the minor league team of the Red Sox is nearby in Salem. There is shopping in very quaint stores on streets like Campbell and Market Square and on occasion visitors can listen to a symphony or the opera, or watch the ballet and theatre. Big attractions, like the circus, play at the Civic Center.

The city is very walkable. After parking the car once, I simply spent the day exploring.

Roanoke is known as the Star City because there is indeed a very big star looming over the city on Mill Mountain. It’s over 1,000 feet above Roanoke and is lit every night. It is basically a symbol of the progressive spirit of the city.

On your way to or from Roanoke be sure to stop by and see the Natural Bridge and the other attractions at that location. Some of those attractions include the Monacan Indian Village, a butterfly exhibit, the Lost River and Saltpeter Cave.

My suggestion for lodging would be the iconic Hotel Roanoke, a Double Tree by Hilton property. Originally built in 1882 as a railroad hotel of the Norfolk and Western line, it closed in 1989 and was given to the Virginia Tech Real Estate Foundation. There was a grand re-opening in 1995 after an extensive renovation. There are 331 rooms, an outdoor pool with hot tub and Jacuzzi, fitness center, two restaurants, business center, a pedestrian bridge that connects with downtown and it’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

I had a very nice time in the Roanoke Valley and no doubt you will too. For more information go to visitvablueridge.com.

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