Roanoke

Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States Virginia Roanoke

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Introduction

Roanoke is a city in the southern U.S. state of Virginia. It is located in the Roanoke Valley of the Roanoke Region of Virginia. Roanoke is the largest municipality in Southwest Virginia, and is the principal municipality of the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). It is composed of the independent cities of Roanoke and Salem, and Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, and Roanoke counties. Bisected by the Roanoke River, Roanoke is the commercial and cultural hub of much of Southwest Virginia and portions of Southern West Virginia.

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Sights and Activities

  • Center in the Square (Downtown). Roanoke's cultural center and museum on the City Market.
  • Explore Park. Unfortunately now closed except for concerts and special occasions, Explore Park features houses and re-enactors from various periods in American history.
  • Grandin Theatre. Locally owned theatre located in the Grandin Village area. Shows free cartoons on Friday and Saturday morning and hosts a quarterly "Open Projector Night" that shows locally produced short films.
  • Hotel Roanoke. The restored historic luxury hotel was given to Virginia Tech by the Norfolk Southern Rwy. A major conference center was added.
  • Jefferson Center. A former High School that has been restored into a luxurious performance center.
  • O. Winston Link Museum. In a former passenger rail station downtown. Dedicated to the work of railroad photographer O. Winston Link. The Museum and the rail station are both treasures. The rail station has great architectural and terrazzo details.
  • Mill Mountain Star (Mill Mountain). The star has been lit with neon since it was built in 1949. It gives Roanoke it's name of "Star City." There is an overlook accessible directly in front of the star that looks at downtown Roanoke. Follow the signs from downtown to Mill Mountain Park.
  • Mill Mountain Theater (Downtown). In addition to professional performances, Mill Mountain Theater is also home to Roanoke's No Shame Theater - Friday nights at 11PM. This is open to any performance that is "original, five minutes or less, and doesn’t break anything – people, the space, or laws".
  • Mill Mountain Zoo, JP Fishburn Parkway, Mill Mountain Park, ☎ +1 540 343-3241.

Mini Graceland (SE Roanoke). A collection of miniature Elvis landmarks built by Don Epperly.
Roanoke Higher Education Center (across from Hotel Roanoke). Part of Virginia Tech. It was formerly the headquarters of the Norfolk & Western Railway.

  • Berglund Center. A major convention and exhibit facility with a performance center.
  • Taubman Museum of Art, 110 Salem Ave, ☎ +1 540 342-5760. Mon & Tue closed, Wed-Sat 10:00 - 17:00, Sun 12:00 - 17:00. Formerly called the Art Museum of Western Virginia. The new building opened in November 2008 and is worth a visit in itself. It was designed by Los Angeles' Randall Stout Architects. Randall Stout and others on the team previously worked with Frank Gehry's office in LA. The Museum's primary focus is American art, with particular attention to Appalachian and Southwestern Virginian art. Free.
  • Virginia Museum of Transportation, 303 Norfolk Avenue SW (Downtown), ☎ +1 540 342-5670, e-mail: info@vmt.org. Houses many Norfolk and Western Locomotives which used to run through Roanoke, and also features aviation and automobiles.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.

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Getting There

By Plane

Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport (is also known as Woodrum Field ROA IATA) (5.5 mi (8.9 km) northwest of the central business district of Roanoke. The airport is about 10 minutes from downtown and right next to the major city mall - Valley View Mall.). Airlines serving the airport are Allegiant Air, American Eagle, Delta Air Lines, and United Express.

By Train

Passenger rail service has returned to Roanoke station (in downtown, on Norfolk Ave SE.). after a long hiatus, with Amtrak running a once-daily Northeast Regional service from New York City and Washington, D.C.. The nearby cities of Lynchburg and Clifton Forge, an two hour drive, has additional train services.

By Car

Roanoke is at exit 146 on I-81, about 40 minutes north-east of Blacksburg, 40 minutes south of Lexington. It is about 4 hours drive from Washington, D.C. and 3 hours from Richmond.

By Bus

A Greyhound bus station is located on Campbell Avenue in downtown Roanoke.

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Getting Around

The city layout of Roanoke does not lend itself well to effective mass transit, and in fact most locals never use mass transit at all.

The city does operate a fairly extensive bus system, Valley Metro, that serves most commonly-visited points in the valley. The main transfer points in downtown are along Campbell Ave SW near 1st street. A trolley called The Star Line Trolley runs in downtown along South Jefferson Street between Campbell Ave SW and Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on the other side of the James River. Valley Metro began operating a new bus service in 2004 called The Smart Way that connects Blacksburg and the New River Valley with Roanoke.

The town of Blacksburg, a small college town not far from Roanoke operates Blacksburg Transit, has a far more effective mass transit system,. Many students at Virginia Tech do not own a vehicle of their own and rely on the "BT" for their daily commute.

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Eat

  • International Food Court. Variety of different cuisines for mostly reasonable prices. Includes Chico's Big Lick Pizza, Hong Kong Restaurant, Kim's Seafood and Deli, New York Subs, Nuts and Sweet Things, Paradiso (Cuban), Zorba Restaurant (Greek and Mediterranean), and Burger in the Square.
  • Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea, (alt: Mill Mountain). There are several locations throughout the Roanoke Valley, including the Roanoke market area, Salem, and Daleville. The Market area Mill Mountain Coffee outlet serves food. Good for lunch or breakfast, or open late for a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Hollywood's Restaurant and Bakery, 4646 Plantation Rd, ☎ +1 540 265-1250. M-Sat 11AM-10PM. Delicious sandwiches and seafood. Plenty of cakes and pastries on display. The atmosphere is friendly with original art hanging on the walls.

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Drink

  • Chateau Morrissette Winery (in the Meadows of Dan on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke). Produces the very popular Blue Dog, an exquisite white wine increasing in popularity.
  • AmRhein Wine Cellars, Patterson Drive, Bent Mountain. Another popular winery producing award winning wines. A room is available for tasting and sales. AmRhein Governors Cup award wines are also available at popular retail outlets. Spring, summer and fall wine festivals are available at the winery.

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Sleep

  • Econolodge, 308 Orange Ave, ☎ +1 540 343-2413.
  • Best Western Inn at Valley View, 5050 Valley View Blvd., Roanoke, Virginia 24012 (I-81 at Exit 143 to Exit 3-E), ☎ +1 540 362-2400, e-mail: 47094@hotel.bestwestern.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Contemporary decor, 37" flat screen TV, premium channels, refrigerator, microwave, leather recliners with ottomans and free WiFi throughout the hotel.
  • Cambria Suites, 301 Reserve Ave, ☎ +1 540 400-6226, fax: +1 540 400-6279, e-mail: hotelhelp@choicehotels.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. All-suite hotel with a microwave, refrigerator, free internet, and 2 flat-screen TVs in every guest room. $89-199.
  • Holiday Inn Tanglewood, 468 Starkey Rd SW, ☎ +1 540 774-4400, fax: +1 540 774-1195.
  • MainStay Suites Airport, 55080 Valley View Blvd (I-81, Exit 143 to I-581. Take Exit 3E, Hershberger Rd. Take the shopping center exit to the hotel on the right), ☎ +1 540 527-3030, fax: +1 540 527-3035, e-mail: hotelhelp@choicehotels.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Extended stay hotel.
  • Ramada Inn Roanoke, 1927 Franklin Rd SW Roanoke, ☎ +1 540 343-0121. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Suites, outdoor pool, fitness center, games room, free high-speed Internet, free full hot breakfast.
  • The Roanoke Plaza Hotel (near Roanoke Regional Airport).
  • Rose Hill Bed & Breakfast, 521 Washington Ave, ☎ +1 540 400-7785. Check-in: 3-7PM.
  • The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, 110 Shenandoah Ave (North side of railway tracks, connected via footbridge to downtown), ☎ +1 540 985-5900, e-mail: information@hotelroanoke.com. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Historic and restored Tudor style hotel, part of the DoubleTree by Hilton group, and built in 1882. Outdoor pool, fitness center, several allergy friendly rooms, in-room spa services. 35 meeting rooms, lecture hall, 2 boardrooms, conference center lounge, 1,400 guest ballroom. Includes the excellent The Regency Room restaurant, opened in 1938. $15-40 for main courses, with many regional menu options, and an extensive wine list. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and a grand buffet brunch on Sunday. $119-229.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Roanoke Travel Helpers

  • Bill Hall

    I grew up near Roanoke and have been in and out of the city my entire life. I have friends there and visit fairly often. I know Roanoke and the New River Valley area well. If I can be of help, please ask!

    Ask Bill Hall a question about Roanoke

This is version 3. Last edited at 9:26 on May 6, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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