Plan a weekend trip to Roanoke, a charming city surrounded by Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit the Taubman Museum of Art, explore the City Market, go on a food tour and spend a morning in Mill Mountain Park. Best things to do in Roanoke, VA with kids include the Science Museum of Western Virginia & Hopkins Planetarium and the Mill Mountain Zoo.
1. Taubman Museum of Art
© Courtesy of digidreamgrafix - Fotolia.com
The Taubman Museum of Art is one of the best things to do in downtown Roanoke. The museum building is a significant feature of the city skyline, and the uniquely modern façade, built in 2005, is a Roanoke attraction in and of itself.
The museum’s mission is to provide art to the community in order to encourage and foster discovery, learning, and enjoyment. The museum features primarily American artists, including a large collection of local pieces specific to West Virginia and the Appalachian region.
Featured artists include Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, and Winslow Homer. Throughout the year, the museum hosts several events, workshops, and family and children centered attractions. Read more
110 Salem Ave SE, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-342-5760
2.Roanoke Valley Greenways
© Courtesy of Claudio Divizia - Fotolia.com
Roanoke Valley Greenways is a network of trails through urban green space located throughout of the city. Within the Greenway’s space, nearly 26 miles of various trails are available for biking, walking, and cycling.
The trails converge throughout important landmarks in the city, including Mill Mountain, Carvins Cove, and Read Mountain, offering trekkers the opportunity to extend their outdoor time and engage in further vigorous activities. The paths vary based on location, but are primarily gravel or pavement.
Some paths may be wheelchair accessible, but others might be more challenging. If you are wondering what to do in Roanoke with kids, this is a great place to visit.
3.Mill Mountain Star and Park
© Courtesy of digidreamgrafix - Fotolia.com
The city of Roanoke sits at the base of the majestic Mill Mountain, home to Mill Mountain Park. This nearly 600-acre wilderness park is open to the public for a variety of recreational activities. The park is home to two scenic overlooks with views of the surrounding landscapes, and it also features the Discovery Center, Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden, a playground, the Mill Mountain Zoo, 10 miles of trails, picnic areas, and general usable green space.
The park is also home to the notable Roanoke Star, a nearly 90 foot tall landmark that lights up the mountainside overlooking downtown. Built in the 1950s, the star was originally a Christmas decoration that is now a permanent fixture with special red, white and blue lighting. It is used during significant holidays or commemorations.
4.Virginia Museum of Transportation
© Courtesy of pkphotography01 - Fotolia.com
The Virginia Museum of Transportation highlights the history and significance of the development of transportation technology.
The museum features several permanent galleries with both interpretive and interactive educational features. The oldest gallery is the automobile gallery, which is entitled From Mud to Mobility: A History of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Interestingly, this gallery features a dirt-painted floor to give a fully immersive experience.
A railroad exhibit features five subsections detailing local and regional use and development while an aviation gallery demonstrates both historical and modern aircraft, including an authentic, historical hot air balloon, a gyrocopter, a hang glider, and two airplanes.
303 Norfolk Ave SW, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-342-5670
5.Jeter Farm, Roanoke, Virginia
© Jeter Farm
Jeter Farm is a 5th generation farm that allows visitors to experience farm life and seasonal events. The farm is particularly popular in the fall when it is open for hayrides, pumpkin picking, apple picking, apple cider, and fall seasoned treats.
The annual Fall Festival runs for several weeks, offering visitors a chance to tour the barn and facilities, engage with the property and farming family, and pick up fall treats for purchase.
181 Blue Ridge Blvd, Roanoke, Virginia
6.Things to Do in Roanoke, VA: O. Winston Link Museum
© O. Winston Link Museum
The O. Winston Link Museum highlights the story and work of the 20th century American photographer, O. Winston Link. Link is widely known for his artistic niche in railroad photography. Located in downtown Roanoke, the museum itself is housed the historic Norfolk & Western railway station, a restored passenger train station. Inside, a gallery containing a collection of hundreds of prints, photographs, and displays showcases Link’s work, which is primarily printed in large scale, black and white formatting.
Alongside the photographs, the museum illustrates the stories of the subjects, which range from rural families to famous train rides. Throughout the museum, interactive and interpretive displays provide information on the artist’s background and history, including his early life, career, and success.
101 Shenandoah Ave NE, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-982-5465
7.Roanoke Food Tours, Roanoke, Virginia
© Courtesy of dwags- Fotolia.com
Inspired by local foodies, Roanoke Food Tours provides visitors with an outlet to explore everything the Roanoke food scene has to offer while learning about the city’s rich cultural history. Roanoke Food Tours is centered on what it considers to be some of the most distinct and notable food in the city, and it simultaneously highlights the historical and cultural facts that make the city unique.
The 3-hour walking tour provides anecdotes and stories referencing the city’s past while passing by significant city landmarks. The tour visits a variety of local eateries, focusing on notable, original, and historical contributions to the city’s food scene, and tasting samples are provided at every stop. The departing location varies based on the tour, and transportation to and from the tour may be available depending on the location.
8. Science Museum of Western Virginia & Hopkins Planetarium
© Courtesy of Uzfoto - Fotolia.com
The Science Museum of Western Virginia & Hopkins Planetarium is a large educational complex in Roanoke. Open throughout the year as an educational post and local attraction, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to engage with science and learning through interactive and engaging activities.
The Science Museum hosts a variety of permanent exhibits that touch on topics like the Earth, the human body, the development and utilization of steel, science labs, and more. A center specifically for young children is available for kids under five, and a butterfly garden hosts an annual event in which visitors can engage with live butterfly species. If you are looking for top things to do in Roanoke VA with kids, this is a great attraction. The planetarium hosts daily educational programs specifically on space, stars, and space travel. Read more
1 Market Square SE #4, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-342-5710
9.Roanoke Mountain Adventures
© Courtesy of RioPatuca Images - Fotolia.com
The only full service outdoor sports outfitter in the city, Roanoke Mountain Adventures offers tours, guides, transportation, and more for a variety of outdoor pursuits. The activities available range by season but can include kayaking, mountain biking, trekking, cycling, paddle boarding, and more.
The company offers both group and custom trip options, allowing visitors to personalize their experience as needed. Mountain Adventures provides necessary equipment to renters along with instruction on usage and round trip transportation. If the trip is guided, they also provide expert recommendations throughout the activity.
Roanoke Mountain Adventures is dedicated to helping the community enjoy the outdoors and become acquainted with the region’s beautiful landscape and recreational opportunities.
806 Wasena Ave SW, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-525-8295
10.Center in the Square, Roanoke, Virginia
© Courtesy of Jaroslav Machacek - Fotolia.com
Center in the Square is a community-based regional arts and cultural organization located in the center of downtown Roanoke. The Center is an expansive campus of various attractions, including an aquarium, five museums, and a live performance theatre company, The Mill Mountain Theatre, which features acting, dance, and opera performances throughout the year.
The Center offers a variety of historical and museum based attractions, including an African American culture museum, a West Virginia history museum, the Roanoke Pinball Museum, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia. The aquarium features a living coral reef exhibit, a seahorse and jellyfish exhibit, a fresh water exhibit, and a turtles of Virginia fresh water exhibit.
1 Market St SE, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-342-5700
11.Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke, Virginia
© Courtesy of peych_p - Fotolia.com
The only professional, community-based theatre in the Roanoke region, Mill Mountain theatre plays host to numerous performances throughout the year. The talented company offers a preset calendar of upcoming shows and also provides classes, summer camps, and private lessons to both children and adults.
The 50-year-old production company performs on two local stages, the larger and ornate Trinkle Main Stage, and the more intimate Waldron Stage. If you are looking for romantic date night ideas in Roanoke, this is a great place to visit.
1 Market St SE, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-342-5749
12.Read Mountain Preserve, Roanoke, Virginia
© Courtesy of Smileus - Fotolia.com
Located outside of downtown Roanoke, Read Mountain Preserve is a 250-acre nature park and preserve. A favorite spot for outdoor pursuits, the Preserve has a 4-mile out-and-back hiking trail that begins in the parking lot and ends at the Buzzard Rock summit.
The trail leads through a lush, dense forest, eventually gaining enough elevation to provide visitors with an expansive view of the valley, surrounding countryside, and downtown Roanoak in the far distance. Additionally, two smaller trails meander throughout the park and offer more accessible trekking options. A small parking lot is available for hikers and guests, along with picnic benches and a restroom facility.
13.Things to Do in Roanoke, VA: Mill Mountain Zoo
© Courtesy of digidreamgrafix - Fotolia.com
At the top of Mill Mountain just minutes from downtown Roanoke sits the Mill Mountain Zoo. This animal sanctuary and educational center has called this location home since the 1980s, and today, it continues to provide visitors and locals with exciting attractions and the chance to see and learn about notable creatures.
Today, the museum is home to a varied collection of species, including snow leopards, cougars, red wolves, red pandas, tufted deer, Black hornbills, and Indian crested porcupines, among many others. Visitors are able to engage safely with the animals and take note of their natural environments and behaviors while receiving interpretive and interactive education from Zoo staff and posted literature. Read more
2000 J P Fishburn Pkwy, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-343-3241
14.Firefly Fare, Roanoke, VA
© Firefly Fare
Located in the historic Market Building, Firefly Fare serves lunch and dinner in the heart of downtown Roanoke. Chef and culinary artist Chris Parkhurst has developed a menu with seasonal offerings that change on a regular basis. The restaurant typically updates menu changes on the shop’s social media sites.
The menu caters to a variety of tastes, and the restaurant also features a juice bar, tapas menu, and a specialty desert selection. The small and casual eatery offers a relaxed environment with quirkily detailing and flashes of color that add to the comfortable and welcoming charm of the space.
32 Market Square SE, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-206-2630
15.The River and Rail
© The River and Rail
The River and Rail offers local cuisine in a charming bistro environment. They serve dinner throughout the week along with a Sunday Brunch. Chef Aaron Deal specializes in Southern cuisine made local to West Virginia, infusing Cajun flavors with French touches and putting a new spin on classic dishes. The menu is based around seasonal availability and locally grown produce, and it changes regularly to accommodate produce cycles.
The restaurant itself is located in a historic building and features unique architectural features and a casually upscale ambiance. Unique lighting, beautiful wood features, and nail head upholstery trim add to the modern yet warm surroundings.
2201 Crystal Spring Ave SW, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-400-6830
16.Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
© Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
The only brewery in downtown Roanoke, Soaring Ridge is a popular local spot. Visitors to the site are welcome to enjoy locally brewed craft beers, take a brief tour of the brewing facility, and take advantage of the games, special events, and live music events hosted by the brewery.
Known for a fun and lively environment, the brewery often hosts game tournaments, live music performances, and other attractions, all of which are open to the beer loving public.
523 Shenandoah Ave NW, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-529-2140
17.Beamers 25, Roanoke, Virginia
© Beamers 25
Beamers 25 is a casual bistro with a menu of American cuisine for lunch and dinner. The menu highlights the restaurant’s specialty, which is burgers, along with other American fare like wings, salads, sandwiches, and wood fired pizzas. The restaurant’s namesake and honorary dedicatee is Coach Frank Beamer, the head football coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies. This highly acclaimed individual has a notable athletic and coaching history, and his character marks the décor, art, and literature around the eatery.
However, the restaurant does not fall predominately into sports bar territory, and instead maintains a modern vibe with casual but snappy décor and architectural features.
357 Salem Ave SW, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-904-6233
18.City Market, Roanoke, Virginia
© Courtesy of ronstik - Fotolia.com
At the core of downtown Roanoke is the City Market. Comprised of local retail, dining, and entertainment options, the market is a buzzing attraction. The small district is a historic landmark of the city, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The focal point of the market is the City Market Building, which presides over the center of the Market Square.
Throughout the year, various events are held at the Market, including an Art Market, sidewalk-shopping festivities, and live music events. The market always bustles with guests who stroll around the buildings and enjoy several floors of expansive eating and shopping options.
32 Market Square SE, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-342-2028
19.Roanoke Craft Beer Tours
© Roanoke Craft Beer Tours
Designed by local beer lovers, Roanoke Craft Beer Tours allows visitors to explore the best craft beer options the city has to offer. Boasting traditional methods utilized by local craftsmen, Roanoke Craft Beer Tours focuses on what it considers to be some of the finest beers in the world, typically known as Virginia’s Blue Ridge region beers.
The tour visits three local breweries and provides chartered transportation to and from each stop. Snacks and food are available for purchase along the way. The departing location varies based on tour, and transportation to and from the tour may be available depending on location.
2409 Lincoln Ave SW, Roanoke, Virginia, Phone: 540-309-1781
20 Best Things to Do in Roanoke, VA
- Taubman Museum of Art, Photo: Courtesy of digidreamgrafix - Fotolia.com
- Roanoke Valley Greenways, Photo: Courtesy of Claudio Divizia - Fotolia.com
- Mill Mountain Star and Park, Photo: Courtesy of digidreamgrafix - Fotolia.com
- Virginia Museum of Transportation, Photo: Courtesy of pkphotography01 - Fotolia.com
- Jeter Farm, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Jeter Farm
- Things to Do in Roanoke, VA: O. Winston Link Museum, Photo: O. Winston Link Museum
- Roanoke Food Tours, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of dwags- Fotolia.com
- Science Museum of Western Virginia & Hopkins Planetarium, Photo: Courtesy of Uzfoto - Fotolia.com
- Roanoke Mountain Adventures, Photo: Courtesy of RioPatuca Images - Fotolia.com
- Center in the Square, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of Jaroslav Machacek - Fotolia.com
- Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of peych_p - Fotolia.com
- Read Mountain Preserve, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of Smileus - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Roanoke, VA: Mill Mountain Zoo, Photo: Courtesy of digidreamgrafix - Fotolia.com
- Firefly Fare, Roanoke, VA, Photo: Firefly Fare
- The River and Rail, Photo: The River and Rail
- Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers, Photo: Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
- Beamers 25, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Beamers 25
- City Market, Roanoke, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of ronstik - Fotolia.com
- Roanoke Craft Beer Tours, Photo: Roanoke Craft Beer Tours
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com