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Your guide to Roanoke
All About Roanoke
Surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is the largest city along the world-famous Appalachian Trail — a major draw for visitors to this area of Southwest Virginia. During Prohibition, the area was known as the Moonshine Capital of the World. Craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries are still a local fixture here, and you can make your way along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail to get a taste of the scene.
Roanoke is a mountain-biking haven. Whether you’re a newbie looking for a half-hour ride at Carvins Cove or a pro in search of a full day’s adventure at Mill Mountain Park, there’s a trail for everyone. Alongside its outdoor attractions, Roanoke is also an artistic community. You’ll find plenty of musicians and actors performing live while painters and sculptors stock the region’s galleries, boutiques, and museums, including the futuristic-looking Taubman Museum of Art with its 77-foot peaked glass atrium.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Roanoke?
The best time to book Roanoke vacation rentals is in the fall, when you can expect pleasant temperatures and foliage exploding with color. There are also two big festivals nearby in September. Olde Salem Days in downtown Salem is one of Virginia’s largest arts and craft festivals and includes live music, food, and classic cars. The Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival showcases wineries in the region and the Shenandoah Valley.
December through February, temperatures hover around freezing, which makes the ice skating rink in Elmwood Park a popular place. Hot summer days see many kayakers on the many rivers in the area, along with scenic hikes in mountains and parks — just remember to bring sunscreen and plenty of water.
What are the top things to do in Roanoke?
Natural Bridge State Park
A road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most scenic routes in the United States, with plenty to see along the way. Less than an hour north of Roanoke, stop off at Natural Bridge State Park to walk under the main feature, a 215-foot-tall rock arch above the Cedar Creek Nature Trail, and learn about the area’s heritage at the Monacan Indian Living History Exhibit, a re-created interpretive village.
Smith Mountain Lake
Around an hour southeast of town, Smith Mountain Lake is a popular summer destination, where you can admire the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains from the water. Rental services offer equipment for water-skiing, fishing, and sailing, or you can simply cruise along on a pontoon. If you’re staying on dry land, there are golf courses, restaurants, and shops within easy reach.
Upper James River Trail
More than 50 miles of the Upper James River have Virginia Scenic River status, boasting placid waters as well as Class I and II rapids. Launch from Buchanan, a 30-minute drive from Roanoke, where you can rent fishing gear, get kitted out for a relaxing day’s tubing, or book a guided trip. Look out for herons at the water’s edge and bald eagles overhead.