Best Places to Visit in Roanoke
Located in the Appalachian foothills, Roanoke is one of the largest cities along Blue Ridge Drive, blending nature and urban living. Whether you’re traveling down famous Park Avenue or looking for your next “off the beaten track” vacation, there’s no reason Roanoke shouldn’t be on your list.
Roanoke is a great year-round destination with lots of fun things to do. Those who prefer the city view can visit the boutiques and unique museums in the historical city center. Weekend warriors and outdoor enthusiasts can head to the mountains for climbing, hiking and fishing.
Have a look at our list of the Best Places to Visit in Roanoke and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Roanoke
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Roanoke:
1. City Market
A year-round farmer’s market, Roanoke’s Urban Market is not only a way to support local produce, but also a way for the community to come together. Downtown, the market is housed in a former gem that was built in the 1920s and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Whenever the bazaar opens, you can feel the atmosphere of the historical district. The aroma of fresh food and artisanal cheese floats through the air alongside a wide variety of beautiful flowers and crafts. Whether you’re shopping or not, this is a great way to experience local life before enjoying a popular fork at the market.
2. Roanoke Valley Greenways
More than 25 miles of trails make up the Roanoke Valley Greenway, an urban trail that runs through urban green spaces. You can easily visit Roanoke’s major landmarks such as Mill Hill, Reed Hill and Cavens Bay with its cycling, walking and jogging trails.
From these places, you can follow multiple tracks to further explore each destination. Beginning at Vic Thomas Park, it’s a popular trail that follows the Roanoke River with opportunities to spot deer, geese, and herons along the way. Connect to Mill Mountain Greenway and finish in Fallon Park before Black Dog Salvage crosses Wasena Park.
3. Mill Mountain Zoo
Located at the top of Mill Mountain, the Mill Mountain Zoo is an educational center and animal sanctuary that has operated here since the 1980s. It not only gives visitors the opportunity to see majestic animals and rare species with their own eyes but also places great emphasis on education.
Today, Mill Mountain Zoo is home to approximately 90 species of over 170 animals. Of the 90 animals, 21 are endangered and dozens of hopeful babies have been born at the zoo in the last 15 years. You can see some animals up close, such as red pandas, wolves, mountain lions, Indian crested hedgehogs and the magnificent snow leopard.
4. McAfee Knob
When hikers arrived on the Appalachian Trail, they soon began daydreaming about photographing the edge of the famous McAfee Button. Like a group of children waiting for their school photo, they stood patiently and then recalled the experience in a unique pose just a few steps from the big fall.
The McAfee Button protrudes from the surrounding ridgeline, providing uninterrupted wide views. From the entrance to the Virginia 311 parking lot, take a medium-rigid 3.5-mile trail to the iconic lookout. Pack your bag with lunch and snacks so you can make the most of your seat in the sky while gazing at the lush nature below.
5. O. Winston Link Museum
Dedicated to the life and times of O. Winston Link, the museum displays some of his greatest works. He was a great photographer of the 1900s, especially known for his photographic skills on the railways. As such, the O. Winston Link Museum is located within the historic and restored Norfolk and West Railway Station.
Today, you can explore what was once a major transportation hub and find hundreds of large-scale photographs, prints and exhibits. Committed to telling the stories behind the footage, O. Winston Link covers many aspects of transportation, from the famous train ride to the rural families that depend on it. After admiring the outstanding photography, learn more about the people behind these works through interpretive images that showcase his early life and career.
6. Taubman Art Museum
The Taubman Museum of Art opened in a stunning new building in 2008 and immediately became a local hit. Designed by renowned architect Randall Stout, the modern building now houses a permanent collection of 2,000 works from John Cage to Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins.
Combined with a wonderful rotation of temporary exhibitions, the Taubman Museum of Art is available to casual fans and art connoisseurs alike. Take time to wander through the more than 10 different galleries that focus primarily on national artists from the Appalachian region. The museum hosts a variety of events throughout the year, so be sure to check out what you see in the city. In addition, the Taubman Museum of Art hosts programs and workshops for children.
7. Roanoke Pinball Museum
Roanoke has plenty of museums to keep you interested. Perhaps the most interesting is the Roanoke Pinball Museum. From the moment you enter, you’ll have a burst of bright color in your body as you stare at nearly 70 games dating back to the 1930s.
You can play all the games in the museum in two hours for the basic admission price. So there is no need to install it in the dormitory. Unleash your inner child as you reconnect with some iconic retro games. A great rainy day event, the Roanoke Pinball Museum is also a much-loved family experience. For those with young children, take the time to introduce them to the games you played at their age.
8. Blue Ridge Parkway
The 469-mile tree-lined Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to North Carolina is “America’s Favorite Drive.” You can connect to Park Avenue within 10 minutes from Roanoke, and there are numerous turnoffs nearby to enjoy beautiful valley views and explore the mountains on various trails, including the famous Appalachian Road.
From Milestone 120 you can see the iconic Mill Mountain Star and the Zoo, and at Milestone 115 you can turn to Discovery Park. But the best way to experience the beauty of driving is to sit behind the driver’s seat and see where the windy road takes you. This is especially true in autumn when the rolling hills turn red and the crisp mountain air creates fog rising in the valleys.
9. Virginia Transportation Museum
The Virginia Transportation Museum has numerous interactive and interpretive exhibits that tell local and national transportation stories from all eras. The museum discusses the important role played by trains and aviation, as well as other forms of sport, in the development of Roanoke.
Most of the museum is filled with special permanent exhibits, including a car showroom from Mud to Mobility. This section has dirt-stained floors so you can fully grasp the concept at hand. The highlights of the exhibition are fascinating vintage cars, including the first electric car. From here, you can explore the railway exhibits displaying toy trains that kids will love. Finally, there is a demonstration of human flight, including hot air balloons, gyrocopters, and modern airplanes.
10. Mill Mountain Star & Park
Built in 1949, the Mill Mountain Star and Park won the heart of Roanoke as a temporary decoration this Christmas and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the largest star in the United States at about 90 feet tall, and when illuminated, the Mill Mountain Star can be seen 60 miles away.
With over 10 miles of trails to choose from, exploring the park on foot is a must. The moderate to difficult 3.5-mile hike will take you to Mountain View with stunning views from the Roanoke River. From there, connect to the Watchtower Walk to reach the base of the expansive star to take photos and capture more of the breathtaking views.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Roanoke. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Roanoke, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.