Roanoke feels fresh. New buildings and businesses dovetail with a preserved turn-of-the-century downtown that’s the lively heart of the city. Shops and restaurants surround the town square, which hosts a daily outdoor market with craft artisans and fresh produce and flowers.
The Center in the Square is a multi-story arts, culture, and performance center. The Harrison Museum of African-American Culture, the History Museum of Western Virginia, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia are all here. The star of the Science Museum is the largest living coral reef in the mid-Atlantic. Admission price to the new Pinball Museum includes unlimited play on the 45 machines from the 1950s to the ’90s.
The nearby Taubman Museum of Art houses folk art, American masters and contemporary regional artists. Photographers shouldn’t miss the O. Wilson Link Museum for its stunning black-and-white photo vignettes of the last years of steam railroads.
Nightlife centers on music. This is the heart of bluegrass country, so fiddles and dobros are much in evidence. But check local clubs for jazz, blues and rock. Dining out? Metro! is known for its martinis and sophisticated menu; Alexander’s consistently wins kudos as one of the best restaurants in Virginia; and Burger in the Square is justly famous for its burgers and waffle fries.
You cannot stay indoors in this mountain location. The pet-friendly greenways throughout the town are popular with walkers, bikers, and joggers. The Appalachian Trail and other hiking venues are just footsteps away from downtown.
Roanoke’s tourism website, www.visitroanokeva.com, suggests itineraries and has tools that let you plan your own.
For more travel tips go to www.insightguides.com.