There is plenty to do every weekend if you live in an apartment in Roanoke, VA. Want some ideas? Roanoke is a exciting city set in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains where a farmers' market takes over in the middle of downtown, surrounded by cafes, fair-trade stores, boutiques and several museums.
You can see the history of trains, planes and automobiles at the Virginia Museum of Transportation and a beautifully told story of steam trains at the O. Winston Link Museum.
The Virginia Museum of Transportation has a large garage full of all kinds of cars, from Model T's to VW bugs to Ford Mustangs. The airplane area shows aviation from all angles but the biggest part of the museum, literally and figuratively, is the train exhibits.
One room is full of toy trains making their rounds on several levels of tracks and is fun to watch. Outdoors are engines of all kinds.
The museum is a pleasant half-mile stroll from the Virginia Transportation Museum on the Rail Walk, an outdoor museum with plenty of railroad signage, displays and whistles to play with, and benches made of train axles to relax and watch trains roll through the city.
Watch a short documentary about the man and the steam engine and how he shot amazing photographs of engines and trains traveling throughout the area. It's a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a man who knew the public would miss the mournful wail of a steam train whistle as it traveled its route.
Follow the path from the star to the Discovery Center. Learn about the birds and animals living in the area, see what a working beehive looks like, follow hiking trails and stop by the Mill Mountain Zoo.
Right in the middle of town is the Hotel Roanoke. Built in 1882, the hotel is constantly being both restored and updated. The main rooms and exterior are listed on the National Register of Historic Places while the guest rooms are kept up to Doubletree and Hilton Hotel standards.
House specialties are peanut soup and spoonbread. Try both and you'll want to buy the book, “Peanut Soup and Spoonbread: An Informal History of the Hotel Roanoke.”
Stroll through the hotel's public area and take a step into the past. One gallery has murals of gentlemen and ladies in period dress. One hallway honors the current Miss Virginia and Miss Virginia USA.
Art, theater, music
The newest jewel downtown is the Center in the Square. The five-story building houses a rooftop restaurant; butterfly garden; the Science Museum of Western Virginia; the History Museum and Historical Society of Western Virginia; the Harrison Museum of African-American Culture; the Mill Mountain Theatre; Opera Roanoke; Roanoke Ballet Theatre; and Roanoke Symphony Orchestra. It also includes a series of aquariums on the first floor with live coral, jellyfish, sea horses and a fresh water area features aquatic life found in the Roanoke area. A box office offering tickets to these plus other events in town is in the Center in the Square, as well.
Across the tracks from the Roanoke Valley Visitor Information Center is the sleekly metallic Taubman Museum of Art. Light floods each floor, displaying each exhibit to its best advantage. Stop by for a snack or meal at Norah's Cafe on the ground floor or do a bit of research on a piece of art that caught your eye in the Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore Resource Lounge.
Roanoke is an easy city to see by foot or bicycle. It's a beautiful city, which you can see for yourself if you can keep your eyes from straying up to the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the town.