24 Things to Do in Roanoke, Virginia: Museums, Outdoor Activities, Food + Photo Op Spots

Taubman Museum in Roanoke Virginia city skyline in the mountain valley of appalachia

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Looking for fun and interesting things to do in Roanoke, VA? Don’t worry, this college town boasts plenty of attractions and activities to keep visitors (and locals!) of all ages busy and entertained.

Roanoke is surrounded by the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, so take advantage of the proximity by hiking or biking the many trails nearby.

Not the outdoorsy type?

There are tons of overlooks where you can drive, park, and enjoy the views without having to earn them!

In Roanoke itself, there are many niche museums that cater to history buffs and art lovers.

There is also a plethora of great places to eat!

You might also like our top day trips from DC if you want to explore Northern Virginia.

If you love a mix of fun and adventure, try visiting some of the best state parks in VA.

Or if you’re looking to explore towns and cities in the state, read our Virginia bucket list guide.

Top Things to Do in Roanoke, Virginia

Our guide starts with the best things to do in Downtown Roanoke and goes out from there to the Blue Ridge Parkway beyond city limits.

Explore Center In The Square

For some of the best Roanoke attractions, start your visit right in the center of downtown at Center In The Square (1 Market Square SE).

The area has plenty of restaurants, shops, and a seasonal market.

Center In The Square is made up of a plaza surrounded by small roads and retail.

The square is pedestrian-friendly and visitors can spend hours walking around to all the different locations within it.

Roanoke Pinball Museum

The Roanoke Pinball Museum (1 Market Square SE, Floor 2) is a unique interactive museum experience.

The museum has many vintage machines, and for a small entrance fee, visitors can view and play on all of them for as long as they wish.

The Museum also has a few other retro video games for visitors to try out.

Large groups can also book out the entire museum and its refreshments bar at select times of each week.

Roanoke, Virginia, USA downtown skyline from above at dusk

The Candy Store Roanoke

For those looking for a sweet treat, The Candy Store Roanoke (1 Market Square SE) is located in the southwest corner of Center In The Square

The Candy Store has many different types of sweet treats, including fudge, house-made chocolates, and a jelly bean bar.

Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company

Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company (108 Campbell Ave SE) is a great place for lunch in downtown Roanoke.

Despite being almost two hundred miles from the Chesapeake Bay, Awful Arthur’s serves seafood as if it was right on the water.

The restaurant has shrimp, fish, crab, and oysters, and is a perfect place to grab lunch downtown.

O. Winston Link & Roanoke History Museum

Just on the other side of the tracks from the Taubman is the Roanoke History Museum (101 Shenandoah Ave NE).

Southwestern Virginia has a longer history than most of the United States, and that is showcased here.

The branch of the museum located on Shenandoah Avenue focuses on conveying the history of railways in the area, and their strong influence on connecting small towns.

Food & Culture Tour

To make the most out of visiting a new city, take a guided walking tour to learn the stories behind the places you would otherwise just walk past.

This 3-hour walking tour is one of the best activities in Roanoke.

The tour includes 5-7 tastings at different spots around the city with a local guide who can share so much more about the Star City as you go.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Just across the street from the Roanoke train station you’ll find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Take time to listen to his speeches over the speaker system set up around the benches in this space designed for reflection.

MLK statue in Roanoke Virginia city skyline in the mountain valley of Appalachia

Tour the Taubman Museum of Art

The Taubman Museum of Art (110 Salem Ave SE) is one of the top places to go in Roanoke, at least to take photos of the beautiful building itself!

This contemporary art museum showcases a diverse collection of artworks and hosts exhibitions, educational programs, and community events.

The Taubman is home to a local collection of art, as well as traveling seasonal exhibits, of which they usually have three at any given time.

The museum also has a gift shop, cafe, and black box theater inside.

Taubman Museum in Roanoke Virginia city skyline in the mountain valley of appalachia

Crescent City Bourbon and Barbecue

Crescent City Bourbon and Barbecue (19 Salem Ave SE) is a new barbecue restaurant open in downtown Roanoke.

The joint was a main driver in ensuring downtown Roanoke became lively again after the pandemic, with their location and establishment date of May 2020.

Crescent City smokes its meat indoors for up to sixteen hours…you don’t want to skip this delectable BBQ!

Century Plaza

For casual things to do around Roanoke, head to Century Plaza (14 Church Ave SE), which is a popular place for local events and activities.

The plaza is lined with trees and statues, and serves as a gateway between downtown and Elmwood Park.

During the summer, fountains at the north end of the plaza are turned on as well, making it more enticing as a path between the two areas.

String lights at Century Plaza at night, in downtown Roanoke, Virginia

Bread Craft

Bread Craft (24 Church Ave SW) is a fantastic place for lunch in downtown Roanoke.

Not only does this bakery bake bread, but it also has a small breakfast and lunch menu.

It has four tartines (open-faced sandwiches) to choose from, as well as salad options.

For those just looking for a local loaf of bread, their baking schedule can be found here as well.

LinDor Arts

LinDor Arts (306 1st St SW) is an art gallery that showcases the work of local artists in Southwest Virginia.

The gallery has works from over eighty artists, ranging from paintings to 3D sculptures.

LinDor also participates in local events in downtown Roanoke.

This is a great place for tourists looking for a more local experience at a lesser-known place.

Virginia Museum of Transportation

Due to Roanoke being a rail hub, it would only be fitting that the Virginia Museum of Transportation (303 Norfolk Ave SW) be located within it.

While the museum may have a special focus on the rail (the tracks are right behind the museum), the VMT also has exhibits of cars and aircraft.

The VMT also has a sit-down pavilion in the back with views of historic rail cars and the current train tracks.

Walk Through Elmwood Park

Just outside of downtown is Elmwood Park (505 Williamson Rd SE).

This park has plenty of amenities, including plazas with statues, walking paths, and a playground.

The centerpiece of this park however is the amphitheater.

The venue hosts live music often in the summer for locals and visitors to enjoy, making it one of the best spots for Roanoke outdoor activities throughout the season.

Athens Corner Grill

Roanoke has plenty of cuisine options to choose from.

While downtown has many options, Greek Food can be found just south of there at Athens Corner Grill (1003 S Jefferson St).

Their menu includes sandwiches and steaks, and they even have some classic Greek desserts.

The place fits many occasions from a casual lunch to an upscale dinner.

Highland Park

In the Old Southwest neighborhood, Highland Park (502 Washington Ave SW) is the perfect place to get outside.

This park is the size of five city blocks and is home to a fountain, multiple tennis courts, a basketball court, a picnic shelter, a playground, and a multi-purpose sports field.

The park also has a disc golf course, which can be a fun way to spend the afternoon for those with the materials.

Roanoke, Virginia Skyline at night

Evie’s Bistro and Bakery

Right in the middle of the residential Old Southwest neighborhood is Evie’s Bistro and Bakery (1212 4th St SW), an establishment one wouldn’t expect among the houses.

Evie’s is a fantastic spot for lunch, dinner, or dessert, depending on the time of day you start craving delicious fresh-baked treats.

And for those looking for a meal and dessert, you will not be short on dessert options, with more than forty options to choose from, with twenty flavors of cake.

Their main menu is home to sandwiches, salads, and soups.

Virginian Station

Down near the Roanoke River, more rail history can be found in a renovated old rail station.

Virginian Station (1402 S Jefferson St) is a preservation of what old rail stations used to look like in the Appalachians.

Not only does the museum in the baggage house have exhibits of old trains, but it also has a gift shop.

The station itself is open to the public with the exception of when it’s rented out for events.

Blue Cow Ice Cream Company

The Blue Cow Ice Cream Company (1115 Piedmont St SE) is a perfect place to grab a cold treat on a hot day.

The Blue Cow is a company based in Virginia, and they have five locations across the state.

They have over fifteen flavors, with a variety from vanilla to Snickerdoodle to triple berry crisp.

Fork in the Alley

Fork in the Alley (2123 Crystal Springs Ave SW) is a brewpub-style restaurant that serves pizza, burgers, and alcoholic beverages.

Their location is in a residential-style building, with patio seating and an outdoor bar.

The restaurant also hosts live music in the summer, and is the second “green” restaurant in Virginia, with nearly all ingredients being sourced locally.

Their company also owns a food truck that drives around Roanoke.

Explore the Fern Park Trail System

Fern Park (2875 S Jefferson St) is just southwest of Mill Mountain Park and connects to Mill Mountain’s trail system.

However, the trails go even further southwest, and more than three miles of trails will take hikers through the Roanoke Mountain campground and picnic area.

Even further is Chestnut Ridge, and the trails along it can be used on both sides of Mill Mountain Parkway.

Hike at Mill Mountain Park

Mill Mountain Park (2198 Mill Mountain Spur) is the crown jewel of Roanoke’s park system, and maybe even of Roanoke as a whole.

Mill Mountain towers eight hundred feet above the city of Roanoke, and the most well-known icon in Roanoke is the enormous star sitting on top of the mountain.

The park has six miles of hiking trails, with several ways to reach Mill Mountain’s summit at 1703 feet above sea level.

The park has a wildflower garden and visitor center on top of the mountain as well.

Be sure to snap a photo of the iconic Roanoke Star while you’re there!

The big Roanoke Star at Mill Mountain Park in the Star City, Roanoke Virginia

Walk Along the Roanoke River Greenway

The Roanoke River is bluer than most.

This makes it an even more enjoyable river to walk along, with rapid running water, and mountains in the background.

The Roanoke River Greenway stretches from Green Hill Park outside of Salem, all the way to the confluence with Tinker Creek on the East Side of Roanoke.

It runs through six parks in Roanoke, from Rivers Edge Park and its baseball fields to Ghent Hill Park and its views of the river from above.

Take a Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

For those with a car and looking to venture outside of Roanoke, the Blue Ridge Parkway, a road well-known on the east coast, runs through the southern edge of Roanoke.

Travelers can access it at Franklin Road SW.

Driving north out of town, travelers can stop at any or all of the eight overlooks north of the town of Montvale, like the Taylor Mountain Overlook pictured below.

Driving south, there are at least five overlooks outside of the community of Bent Mountain.

Travelers can also cross the continental divide if they drive south, driving from the Roanoke River drainage, which drains into the Atlantic, to the New River drainage, which drains into the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Road-tripping the Blue Ridge Parkway is definitely one of the best things to do near Roanoke.

To get even more out of the experience, take this self-guided driving tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The view from the Taylor Mountain Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, Virginia

Final Words

Did this guide to all of the best Roanoke activities help you plan your visit? We hope so!

Share your favorite local spots in the comments below.

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