Visitors & Tourism

Home to nearly 100,000 residents, Roanoke is a mountain city and hub for innovation offering award-winning outdoor amenities, endless trails, friendly neighborhoods with character, public art, the famous Roanoke Star, museums, craft breweries, one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, and historical attractions. 

City of Roanoke Virginia

Kayaking at Carvins Cove in Roanoke Virginia

Mountain Living and Outdoor Recreation

Ranked as one of IMBA’s top mountain biking destinations in the world, Roanoke visitors and residents can quickly access the Appalachian Trail and plenty of other famous outdoor attractions. Roanoke, Virginia is also among one of the few metropolitan areas that sits beside the Blue Ridge Parkway - one of the most popular attractions in the National Parks System. The City of Roanoke maintains 70 parks that span 14,000+ acres and offer 100 miles of award-winning natural surface and paved trail systems for commuting, road cycling, mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Read More about Outdoor Adventures

Elmwood Park in Roanoke Virginia Concert

Arts and Culture

Offering an expansive collection of public art, captivating galleries, and daily live entertainment throughout the city, Roanoke offers a vibrant and artistic community. Catch a theatrical performance, concert, or comedy act at the Berglund Center, cheer on Roanoke's very own Rail Yard Dawg hockey team or enjoy an outdoor sunset concert or festival in Elmwood Park's open-air amphitheater. 

View Downtown Roanoke Calendar
View Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge Calendar

Roanoke Star at NightThe Roanoke Star

Constructed in 1949 atop Mill Mountain, the Roanoke Star was originally intended to serve as a temporary and seasonal Christmas decoration. Sponsored by the Roanoke Merchants Association, the Star is 88.5 feet tall and weighs 10,000 pounds. 

Read More Star Facts or Watch the Live StarCam Feed.

Location and Distance to Major Markets

The City of Roanoke is located midway between New York and Atlanta on Interstate 81 - 168 miles west of the state capital, Richmond. The city is the center of one of Virginia's largest metropolitan regions, and a hub for transportation, finance, and industry in southwestern Virginia.

  • Charlotte, North Carolina: 196 miles
  • Washington, D.C: 240 miles (accessible by Amtrak train)
  • Nashville, Tennessee: 432 miles
  • Cleveland, Ohio: 437 miles
  • New York City, New York: 465 miles
  • St. Louis, Missouri: 692 miles
  • Chicago, Illinois: 716 miles
  • Atlanta, Georgia: 444 miles

Roanoke Virginia's Rich History

Early Settlers
The first pioneers explored the Roanoke Valley region as early as the 17th Century. An exploration party's report in 1671 told of the "blue mountains and a snug flat valley beside the upper Roanoke River." For the next 70 years, after this initial exploration, the region remained undisturbed by settlers. As the land to the east of the mountains became developed, pioneers began moving into the western regions of Virginia. These early settlers from eastern Virginia were joined by people from Pennsylvania seeking new lands in the rich Shenandoah Valley. The newcomers began farming in the Roanoke Valley by 1740.

Tradesmen and Farmers
As tradesmen and farmers moved into the region, new counties and communities were established. Botetourt County was created in 1769, with the Town of Fincastle as its seat. For a short period, the vast county stretched westward to the Mississippi River. Roanoke County was separated from Botetourt County in 1838. Craig County was formed in 1851 from Botetourt County, Roanoke County, Giles, and Monroe Counties, with New Castle as its seat.

Towns formed within what is now the City of Roanoke in the first decades of the 19th Century. Antwerp was subdivided in 1801 followed by Gainesborough in 1825 (the present Gainsboro neighborhood) and Old Lick in 1834. The Gainesborough settlement remained the most populous community until 1874 when the Town of Big Lick was chartered. Named for a series of salt marshes, or licks as they were called, that ran through the area and brought gatherings of buffalo, elk and deer, this tiny village of less than 500 people was to become the Town of Roanoke in 1882 and in 1884, the City of Roanoke. The new town was located along the old Atlantic, Mississippi, and Ohio Railroad later to become the Norfolk and Western.

Shenandoah Valley Railroad
The completion of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad from Hagerstown, Maryland, to its junction with the newly formed Norfolk and Western Railway in 1882, marked the start of Roanoke's rapid growth. The adjacent town of Vinton was also incorporated at this time.

County Seat
The Town of Salem, established in 1806, became the county seat for Roanoke County. Salem was the largest town within the area during these formative years and was located on two stage lines. Salem remained the major center of activity in the Roanoke area until the mid 1880's and then became an independent city in 1968. 

Additional Resources

Economic Development and Tourism