Here in the Roanoke region, there’s a little something for everyone. From outdoor adventures, to art and culture, to craft beer and moonshine, here are 10 things to do in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Hike (or bike) to the Roanoke Star
The Roanoke Star is the ultimate icon for Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Standing almost 100 feet tall on top of Mill Mountain, the star can be seen for 60 miles when lit up at night. It’s the largest man-made, free-standing, illuminated star in the world and also offers incredible views of downtown Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bonus: there’s a live camera feed at the star so you can have friends and family tune in as you wave hello to them on your trip!
2. Bike the Roanoke Valley Greenway
The paved greenway runs for 30 miles through the valley and is a great way explore the region. It’s mostly used for walking, jogging, and biking and offers views of historic neighborhoods, as well as beautiful nature scenery. We rented bikes from Roanoke Mountain Adventures and stopped along the way at Blue Cow Ice Cream and Starr Hill Brewery. I mean, adventure, ice cream, and craft beer…does it get any better than that?!?
3. Center in the Square
Center in the Square is the one-stop shop for families and adults alike. The seven-story building includes the Roanoke Pinball Museum, the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, Mill Mountain Theatre, the Science Museum, Kids Square, and the old-school STARCADE. It’s a mix of culture and fun and with a one-time ticket price to each location, you can enjoy hours of fun! The non-profit cultural center is right in downtown Roanoke and the rooftop views of the city are incredible. Definitely a must-visit for families!
4. Kayak the Upper James River
About 20 miles north of Roanoke, is the Upper James River Water Trail. There are lots of ways to explore this beautiful area. Twin River Outfitters offers canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and rafting adventures. We took a 4-mile kayaking trip that took about 2 hours and offered incredible views of the mountains. At the end of our run there was even a little hidden waterfall!
5. Black Dog Salvage
Black Dog Salvage started back in 1999 when Mike and Robert decided to preserve architectural details of a historic building that was about to be demolished. After starting the salvage business out of a warehouse, in 2012, the TV show Salvage Dawgs was created to document their adventures. Just outside of downtown Roanoke, you can visit their 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse to shop for speciality pieces and see where the magic happens.
6. Adventure at Explore Park
Just off the famous Blue Ridge Parkway is Explore Park, an 1,100-acre recreational park that offers, camping, mountain biking, tubing and the adventure ropes course, Treetop Quest. I had an absolute blast challenging myself (and my fear of heights) through aerial obstacles and ziplines. This is another great family destination where you can get out into nature and create some team-building fun!
7. Drink your way along the Cheers Trail
The Cheers Trail is a collection of 30 breweries, wineries, and distilleries throughout the Blue Ridge region. There is no shortage of incredible craft beer here! From Starr Hill Brewery, Big Lick Brewing Company, to Olde Salem, and the famous Ballast Point Brewing Company, in the few days I had here, I got a good taste for what this area has to offer!
And if beer isn’t your thing, head to Franklin County Distilleries to do some Moonshine Tasting. I highly recommend this even if you’re not a hard alcohol person. Franklin County has a long and wild history as the “Moonshine Capital of the World” and the distillery is a great place to learn about it and LEGALLY try it out for yourself. If flights of moonshine seems a little too hardcore, they also offer incredible cocktails and will soon have a food menu as well. Check out my other blog to learn more about Franklin County Distillery.
8. Check out the food scene
Roanoke really surprised me with their incredible food scene! From southern BBQ, to homemade bagels, Italian food, and even ice cream and milk sampling, the Blue Ridge definitely knows how to feast! West Salem Barbecue had some of the most incredible brisket I’ve ever had! Fortunato had a huge selection of Italian entrees and even lots of vegan options.
The best part was the amount of homemade pride is in this region. Donnie D’s Bagels are made fresh and you can even see them rolling out the dough in the kitchen. Homestead Creamery is a market and dairy that produces their own milk and ice cream right on site! You can even take a tour of the facility. They also let us try out samples of the unique types of milk they create from Strawberry and Chocolate, to Orange Cream, Cowpaccino, and Golden Milk it’s definitely a “moo-stop”.
9. Taubman Museum of Art
Another great stop for families is the Taubman Museum of Art. This FREE museum has 11 galleries and rotates 10-15 exhibitions a year. I loved the variety of art. They had a beautiful exhibit from Collette Wu with the largest pop-up book in the world. Bob Tortman’s exhibit “Business As Usual” was an interesting look at corporate America. The museum also has a variety of paintings, sculptures, and a children’s area for some hands-on art making.
10. Smith Mountain Lake
Smith Mountain Lake is the perfect summer destination in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. With over 500-miles of shoreline, the lake offers a ton of water recreation! We rented a pontoon with Bridgewater Marina and headed to a beach area for some stand-up paddleboarding. I definitely could have spent the entire day (or week) relaxing on this gorgeous lake. And if you’re really interested in learning about the lake, look up the mystery of the sunken city of Monroe; a town that supposedly sits at the bottom of Smith Mountain Lake. Whether under water, or staying topside, this a great destination!
Virginia’s Blue Ridge is one of the most beautiful regions in the United States. There is so much to do here and I highly recommend giving yourself plenty of time to explore, relax, and take it all in! Check out the full video below!
To learn more go to www.visitroanokeva.com