Blue Ridge Bounties in Roanoke
Anniversaries, outdoors, food, and shopping in this Virginia city
This year full of milestone anniversaries is a perfect opportunity to take in what’s new in 2024 and revisit what has stood the test of time, making up Virginia’s Blue Ridge bounties.
In November 2024, The Roanoke Star, the largest freestanding illuminated star in the world, will celebrate its 75th year of hosting gorgeous views of the Roanoke Valley. Also called “The Mill Mountain Star” after the mountain it sits atop, the star is easily seen from downtown, even at night when it is lit with white or colored lights, depending on the event it celebrates.
Regional icon Mill Mountain Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. The theater, whose focus is to ensure “economic and artistic sustainability of the performing arts in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia”, hosts productions, educational classes, and outreach programs. While you’re in town, also drop by the Grandin Theatre, which is still going strong with regular showings and musical productions.
“Salvage Dawgs” fans will be thrilled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Black Dog Salvage in 2024. The adventures of this institution have been aired since 2012 on networks from HGTV and DIY to Discovery and Great American Country, and even internationally. Stream all 143 episodes on Discovery+, Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube. I could have spent an entire day taking in the live edge wood, Egyption iron, local artwork, and antique treasures that comprise this DIY mecca.
Need a place to stay while in town? Book the property’s Stone House, an updated 1911 gem that is a cross between the well-documented architectural wizardry that Black Dog does and comfortable, livable design. Book on Airbnb or VRBO and enjoy beautiful function and upscale features, easy greenway access, and a short walk next door for a day of shopping and exploration at Black Dog! Salvage Dawgs fans will see projects throughout the house that were featured on the show, like the coffee bar, kitchen island, dining room chandelier, and more.
Remarkable food options
While celebrating these anniversaries, you won’t go hungry! Roanoke has a surprising variety of amazing food.
I visited Delicias Boricuas VA for some authentic Puerto Rican food, including their delicious Alcapurrias, and also left downtown Roanoke’s Crafteria: Handmade Food & Goods with a specialty coffee from Little Green Hive Coffee & Smoothies. Try the Mexican Mocha with a touch of cayenne and cinnamon with dark chocolate – so good!
Nordic and Scandinavian-inspired food? The fried saltines (yes, indeed!) at Stock Café & Bar were completely irresistible with fried smelt and a perfectly crunchy wedge salad with crispy shallots.
Sidecar features incredible small plates such as the Oysters Sidecar, served in a white wine sauce with braised leeks and Parmesan that could have been its own dish!
I cannot say enough about Bloom Restaurant & Wine Bar. The NC Shrimp Skewer (featuring a crispy Charleston Rice cake, inked sunchoke, shiitake, napa, and meyer lemon) and the Smoke in Chimney’s Trout (curry rub, fingerlings, cauliflower, safe chermoula, pomegranate, apricot gel) small plates were two of my favorites, but every ingredient in every dish truly shone, and the service was impeccable.
Low-key food options
For food that’s a bit more traditional, try breakfast at Scratch Biscuit (or breakfast taco, as the case was for me). Looks to be the locals’ secret when you walk in, but based on their 10k social media followers, it appears the secret has gotten out.
If you’re downtown, grab a latte and Maple French Toast at artisan bakery Bread Craft Bakery in the morning or a delicious Ham & Brie Tartine for lunch.
Crystal Spring Grocery Co. is a local lunch mecca with traditional lunch options, as well as upscale grocery selections.
The Green Goat in Wasena Park (in the former Transportation Museum location) features a laid-back, homey feel and traditional food, along with adventurous options such as the Korean Beef tacos I tried – so good!
Looking for the spirits of the region? Twin Creeks Distillery in nearby Rocky Mount utilizes grains and fruits harvested from Franklin County and spring water from their property to produce spirits such as their First Sugar Moonshine, Apple and Peach Brandy, and Peg Hatcher’s Straight Whiskey. Both celebrate their 10th anniversary this year.
Small-batch roastery and café RND Coffee (Roasters Next Door) celebrates five years in 2024. I highly recommend the Golden Caramel latte and avocado toast – yum! Food Network fans will be fascinated to learn that RND owner and Food Network alum Chef Quincy Randolph made his debut on “Chopped” on Jan. 9, 2024.
Craft beer and adventures
Craft beer fans simply must try Roanoke Mountain Adventures’ 11-mile Views and Brews tour – on an electric bike! The tour features brewery tasting stops on a course winding from town to mountain along the Roanoke River and Mill Mountain greenway trails. We stopped at Starr Hill Roanoke, Golden Cactus Brewing with its amazing ambience and greenery, and Blindhouse Beer. My group had slight concerns starting this three-hour tour – because of my extensive hand and wrist issues, and an older couple visiting from abroad who questioned their own stamina. Fortunately, electric bikes do most of the work for you – especially on the hills here – and we had absolutely no issues riding and taking in gorgeous mountain views.
While you are in the Roanoke area, you can also stop at Big Lick Brewing Company, a microbrewery, taproom, and beer garden in downtown Roanoke that specializes in a widely varied selection of craft beers.
Outdoor time highlights Blue Ridge bounties
For more outdoor time, check out Explore Park. During the holiday season, the park transforms into a winter wonderland at Illuminights, which celebrates its 5th anniversary this year. Year-round, the park has over nine miles of walking and biking trails, campsites, a Visitors’ Center and more.
The plant lover in me will always love a garden – even in the off-season! The Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden is just beside Mill Mountain Zoo. Both are family-friendly, feature striking views, and are within walking distance of the Roanoke Star.
More from Boomer: Let Roanoke Rekindle Your Love Affair with Nature
From murals to art museums, it’s easy to get your culture on in Roanoke.
The beautiful Taubman Museum of Art features amazing pieces and beautiful exhibits including a John Singer Sargent (Norah), a Norman Rockwell (Framed), and an incredible collection of Judith Leiber bags. Until March 10, 2024, visit the Swoon exhibit. This stellar exhibit by Caledonia Curry (street artist name Swoon) is especially poignant as it relates to her tumultuous relationships and her incredibly detailed work follows the journey of her life and healing. Although this is the only current paid exhibit ($10 max) at the museum, there are many discounts including seniors, students, the Museums for All program, and many other community outreaches.
I was truly moved by the work of artist David Ramey (1939-2017) on display at the Harrison Museum of African American Culture (and more at Taubman Museum of Art) at Center In The Square in downtown Roanoke. The sheer volume of this prolific artist’s thoughtful, detailed drawings is incredible. Charles, a knowledgeable volunteer, shared experiences from an educational, historical, and personal point of view, and explained the significance of the museum’s displays. Admission to the museum is free of charge for the duration of this exhibition (through April 2024).
For more insight into the African American experience, visit the “From Cotton to Silk” exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Transportation or the life-sized sculpture of Henrietta Lacks, recently unveiled in the newly renamed Lacks Plaza in downtown Roanoke.
Visit downtown Roanoke’s Crafteria: Handmade Food & Goods for an indoor market featuring artisanal products – from candles and jewelry to cocktail mixes, beer, and wine.
If you’re looking for a quality gift for that someone who has everything, or for that artsy, creative, or fashionable friend, She’s International Boutique is the spot. Owner Diane Speaks was an international flight attendant who has curated a unique collection of pieces you won’t find elsewhere, such as unique tulip-shaped bags and Star jewelry.
Shopping for home goods or custom furniture in Roanoke? Txtur furniture is locally made and can be customized. Check them out on the first floor of the Fire Station One Boutique Hotel in downtown Roanoke.
Fire Station One with its beautifully restored historical elements features seven unique, well-appointed guest rooms. The upstairs lounge offers complimentary snacks, drinks, toiletries, and a vast workspace. Though the boutique hotel shares space with Txtur and Stock Restaurant on the first floor, there are private entrances for guests only, and its walkable downtown Roanoke location makes it convenient to shopping, food, coffee, museums and a convenient parking garage next door.
The impressive Hotel Roanoke has long been among the Virginia Blue Ridge bounties. The historic hotel offers extensive amenities, including a pool, fitness center, and spa, as well as restaurants and more. Springhill Suites by Marriott is another family-friendly location with an indoor pool, fitness center, lobby bar, free daily breakfast, and complimentary shuttle service to the airport.
There is much to enjoy among Virginia’s Blue Ridge bounties. Come and stay a while!
ALL IMAGES BY KARI SMITH. FEATURE IMAGE TOP: MURAL IN GRANDIN VILLAGE.