Fall in the Magic City
- November 01, 2021 |
Beautiful fall colors in the mountains make it a season of magic, especially in Roanoke. Known as the Magic City in the late 1800s because of its incredible growth linked to the railroad, the city is still the star of the Blue Ridge with outdoor adventure around every turn along with dining and entertainment opportunities to fill every itinerary.
Start your visit to Roanoke with an overview in the most literal sense of the word. Mill Mountain overlooks the city of Roanoke and is a focal point for residents and visitors. Named for the mill that was built at the base of the mountain in the mid-1700s, Mill Mountain features miles of multi-use trails, the Mill Mountain Zoo, and picnic areas. You can enjoy a 20- and a 60-mile view from the top that is breathtaking anytime you visit. You’ll also want to wander through the gardens, which are a labor of love by the Mill Mountain Garden Club. The gardens feature native plants along an ADA-accessible trail.
The largest feature at the park is the Mill Mountain Star. In 1949, Downtown Roanoke merchants were looking for a way to call attention to the holiday shopping season. Many suggestions were made, but the one they landed on still shines brightly on the city. It was illuminated for the first time on Thanksgiving Eve and is the largest free-standing star construction in the world.
The Hotel Roanoke has a storied history and sets the standard for hospitality. Originally constructed in 1882 by the Norfolk and Western Railway, it had a steady stream of guests thanks to the convenient location of the train depot. The hotel continued to grow and change with several upfits including 1916, 1931, and 1938. In 1989, Norfolk Southern, the owner of the hotel, decided to focus solely on transportation, so the hotel was deeded to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).
As a part of the Renew Roanoke campaign, Virginia Tech raised enough money to re-open the hotel in 1995 (and major donors to the cause included Norfolk Southern). Today, the Grand Old Lady hosts visitors from around the world who come to enjoy its warm hospitality and beautiful surroundings. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, it’s a marvelous place to wander through history. And we highly recommend enjoying Sunday Brunch – it’s an experience to behold and reservations are needed, so call ahead (540-853-8280).
On the “other side of the tracks” from the hotel is a staple from Roanoke’s earliest days – the Historic Roanoke City Market. Get to know the farmers, bakers, and artisans, some of whom have been a part of the market for generations, that bring the best local produce, meats, and handcrafted items directly to you. The Market is open every day except Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s a great place to pick up the fixin’s for a meal or snacks for a hike.
As you know, there’s no way we can let you wander around the city hungry. Thank goodness there’s a plethora of palate pleasers in the City Market Building (32 Market Square). From Caribbean to Mexican and Mediterranean to American, order up and enjoy your meal in the central seating area or in the open air at the Center in the Square.
Connect with the arts at the Taubman Museum of Art. Its roofline looks both unusual and familiar. The architect drew inspiration from the soft, rolling Blue Ridge Mountains and Roanoke’s iconic Mill Mountain Star when developing this space that interacts with the environment and is a work of art itself. With 11 galleries, the Museum has 15-20 exhibits each year featuring artists from John James Audubon to Norman Rockwell. Its permanent collections include works by Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins, Purvis Young, and John Cage. Image borrowed from Facebook.
“X” marks The Spot – no, really, it does! The Spot on Kirk is a great place to enjoy a concert without the clink and clanging of dishes and pots and pans or the rumble of patrons shouting across the room at their friends or the bartender. While beverages are served at The Spot, the real focus is on the performers in a comfortable space that could be likened to your own living room. Bring your friends, bring a date, and settle in for an experience. Musical genres include soul, Americana, jazz, art-pop, and more.
Roanoke has so much to discover from the ridgeline along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the sidewalks in the city. You’ll want to come back over and over again. To complete your itinerary, click on over to Visit Roanoke.