It’s common knowledge by now that the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular, and Roanoke is its star. Known as the “Star City of the South,” Roanoke struts its stuff with plenty to see and do. To legitimize that claim, a giant (88½-foot tall) light star shines over the city from Mill Mountain.
Railroading for kids of all ages
The Roanoke Valley celebrates its railroad heritage in many ways. The historic and luxurious Hotel Roanoke offers a Train Lovers Package that features a room overlooking the train yard. From there, fans can walk over to the O. Winston Link Museum that displays Link’s nostalgic black and white photographs of steam engines rolling through the rural landscape.
To catch an up-close view of steam engines, visit the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Located in the former Norfolk and Western Freight Station, you’ll see the largest collection of diesel and steam engines in the country, including the huge Class J-611 and Class A-1218.
Under one roof
In downtown Roanoke, Center in the Square houses the Science Museum of Western Virginia, a great family stop with interactive exhibits and a planetarium with IMAX quality films; the History Museum of Western Virginia that showcases permanent and temporary exhibitions that reveal the history and culture of the Roanoke region; and Art Beyond Center that presents the affordable works of emerging artists and artisans.
The Historic Farmers’ Market has been doing business since 25 hucksters were issued licenses in 1882. Today its offerings have expanded to include specialty shops, art galleries, country stores, and restaurants, as well as local produce.
Art warms the soul
Gallery 108 is a co-operative of regional artists and artisans who work in various styles and media. Take time to talk with Terry Lyon who has a studio-in-residence there.
The Taubman Museum’s permanent collection displays modern and contemporary art, traditional American art, and more. But exciting temporary shows are not to be missed. Showing now is an exhibition of fabulous Faberge objects from the collection of the Hodges family until January 19, 2013. Beginning June 8, look for the gritty photos that capture the suffering of the Great Depression in Dorothea Lange’s America that will be on display until August 10.
Good food warms the spirit
Roanoke has the highest number of eateries per capita of any city in Virginia, so finding good food is no problem.
For elegant dining, the posh Regency Room at Hotel Roanoke is the place to go. Enjoy a romantic dinner by candlelight with live entertainment and dancing on Saturday nights. The chefs purchase locally grown produce and support Virginia wineries. In addition to a gourmet menu, the restaurant is renowned for the popular regional dishes of Peanut Soup and Spoon Bread.
Since 1941, The Roanoker has been dishing out hearty Southern breakfasts of biscuits with honey, grits, fried apples, sausage and its gravy, pork tenderloin, rib eye steak, and much more. The landmark café also serves lunch and dinner.
Real chili aficionados recommend the Texas Tavern. The original “chile (sic)” recipe found its way to Roanoke from San Antonio in 1930 when the tavern was founded. Accolades have poured in for the “chile,” the hot dogs, and the “Best Inexpensive Lunch.” Texas Tavern is also known as the “Millionaire’s Club” because everyone is treated like a millionaire (and plenty eat there) regardless of status.
After Roanoke entertains you, you can head down the Blue Ridge Parkway.