There are town’s that claim to have something for everyone – and Roanoke is definitely one of those! This town is nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and has the outdoorsy side, outstanding food, museums, and a downtown that does not disappoint. The most visible attraction is the Roanoke Star. Standing at 100 feet tall, this structure has been at the top of Mill Mountain for 60 years and is a “symbol of progress”.
I teamed up with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge on this trip, and I highly recommend reaching out to them if you have any questions or need recommendations (seriously an incredible resource). They are immensely knowledgeable and kind, making our trip one to remember!
We have compiled a list of the three A’s: Accommodations, Adventures, and Appetite! If you have any questions about Roanoke or our trip please shoot us an email!
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Roanoke Hollins/I-81, a convenient location off I-81 and about 15 minutes from downtown Roanoke. This hotel was ideal for our family because of the refrigerator in our room (I wish more hotels still had these!) and complimentary breakfast which delighted us (as parents) and our girls (as picky eaters). The staff was very hospitable and we enjoyed our stay!
Roanoke Star and Overlook – At the top of Mill Mountain stands the Roanoke Star – giving you a stunning view of the city and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The star is just minutes from downtown – bring a picnic lunch and stay a while, you will want to soak in the beauty. There is also a small park for children with a rock climbing wall to get to the slide – it was 40 degrees and my daughter did not want to leave!
Center in the Square – This is a hub of entertainment for families – be sure to check out the roof of this seven-story building before leaving, there are beautiful views!
- Roanoke Pinball Museum – This museum is a gamers dream! After a minimal entry fee you get to play all the machines at your leisure – they have rows of games ranging from vintage to newer models. Kids and parents alike will be entertained.
- Kid’s Square – This is a must for families with young children. Their setup encourages play, education and gross motor skills. The Mill Mountain Zoo had a few animals while we were there – a fun bonus! We could have stayed here for several hours.
Science Museum of Western Virginia – this was a fun hands on museum. The exhibits were educational and enjoyable for the littles and us parents! It was two floors but you can go through rather quickly.
Mill Mountain Zoo – This zoo is located on Mill Mountain with almost 90 species. It is a very small zoo, so easily walkable with small children. The weather was cold and rainy so a lot of animals were not out, but the red panda and snow leopard were highlights for us! The train there looked like fun but does not run in winter months. This is a short walk from the Roanoke Star – I would pair these together.
Caverns at Natural Bridge – This was a highlight of our trip. While not technically in Roanoke, it was only a 35 minutes drive from our hotel. Our guided tour lasted about 45 minutes, and it was strangely warmer in the cavern (was about 35 outside). Our guide was hilarious and we really enjoyed the “total darkness” experience. Our 3.5 year old walked herself the whole time, but our 1.5 year old had to be held (slippery floor). I highly advise bringing a baby carrier – we forgot it in the car and that was a mistake!
Natural Bridge State Park – Right next to the Caverns you will find Natural Bridge State Park. Natural Bridge is a National Historic Landmark, a natural arch within a limestone gorge formed by Cedar Creek. According to legend, George Washington surveyed the bridge and Thomas Jefferson once owned it. There are A LOT of steps to get down to the bridge, so do not bring a stroller.
Starr Hill Pilot Brewery – A small brewery located near the VA Tech Medical School Hospital. The beer was good and they had a food truck. Because of its proximity to the med school hospital, it felt like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in there. A lot of doctors and med school students!
The City Market Building – Great spot for lunch. Several restaurants inside for a food court feel, but most of them also have their own restaurants on the outside.
Big Lick Brewing Company – Great selection of beer, very family friendly. They have two delicious restaurants close by – you can order from the brewery and get your food delivered (super convenient!).
Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje – This is across the street from Big Lick – seriously delicious food. Try the tuna tacos or nachos carnitas – you will not regret it!
Blue Cow Ice Cream – Do NOT leave Roanoke without stopping here, please please please. Even in the 35 degree weather this place had a constant stream of customers and its easy to see why – delicious ice cream!
Until next time Roanoke…