The first full day here, we hit the ground running, beginning our day as guests at The Sheraton Roanoke Hotel & Conference Center. Newly designed with a recent $18 million renovation, the hotel is an oasis of comfort and down-to-earth style with a very warm and welcoming staff, beautiful open relaxation and dining areas, spacious and comfortable rooms, a great fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools and lush foliage all about the property. It is a wonderful place to start and end the day, whether traveling for business or pleasure.
For breakfast, we ate at the aptly named The Roanoker Restaurant, a staple in the city since 1941 and recently named by Southern Living magazine as one of Virginia’s five best breakfast spots. For breakfast, lunch and dinner you’ll find a wealth of sumptuous homemade and southern specialties with a bit of southern and Virginia flair, including their famous Roanoker breads: biscuits, rolls and others.
Next we took off to visit one of the city’s star, literally, attractions: The Roanoke Star and Overlook. Located on Mill Mountain some 1,045 feet above the city, it is over 88 feet tall, weighs 10,000 pounds and is currently the World's largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. Originally installed in 1949 as a seasonal, Christmas decoration, it is actually three stars in one illuminated by 2,000 feet of neon tubing, and visible for 60 miles. The panoramic views of the city and beyond from the Star are stunning and you can check them out via their Starcam.
Other attractions on Mill Mountain include the Discovery Center, offering exhibits, activities and more that highlight the distinctive natural environment of the hundreds of acres of rugged forests surrounding it; the Mill Mountain Zoo, home to more than 175 including several endangered species; and the wonderful trails and walkways for walkers, cyclists and others who enjoy the mountain ambiance.
Back in Town
Popping back downtown to the Historic Market District, in addition to another leisurely walk through the Historic Roanoke City Market, we got a sneak peak at the expansion and re-invention of Center in the Square (opening spring 2013). Entities here will encompass the Mill Mountain Theatre, presenting high-quality theatre productions; the History Museum of Western Virginia, which through a wide array of permanent and traveling exhibits offers the largest repository of material devoted to tracing the human history of Western Virginia; and the Science Museum of Western Virginia, providing hands-on and interactive exhibits that engage the senses and stimulate curiosity for learning about science and technology, among other entities.
Just a short stroll from there is the historic spot well worth the visit – the city’s David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk, a unique, half-mile, outdoor museum walk paralleling the train tracks featuring historical signage and memorabilia including displays, whistles and other elements that detail the history of the railroad in Roanoke up to the present day.
After crossing the railroad tracks via the Market Square Walkway you come to the O. Winston Link Museum which also plays an integral role in the city’s railroad history. The museum is in homage to its namesake, Winston Link (1914-2001), a prolific photographer and photo editor who made his mark during WWII for his dramatic images of locomotives, industrial interiors, factories and related entities, and expertly imparts the rich culture and heritage of the Norfolk & Western Railway, last major steam railroad in the country.
There’s more to see and do in town coming up. To start at Part 1 click here.