Over the past month, my wife and I had the opportunity to host family and friends visiting from out of town and, I must say, Roanoke and the area shined brightly. Of course, both visits included the requisite trip to the Star on Mill Mountain, one in a mid-afternoon downpour with fog settling into the Valley and the other just as the sun was setting over the City and the star was illuminated. Both were well received and met with the expected “it’s so pretty” and “wow, we are really high up here” – full disclosure, one of the family members is afraid of heights and the friends are from some of the flattest parts of Texas.
In addition to the Star, multiple trips were made to downtown and Market Square - the Taubman Museum of Art, Center in the Square where Kids Square thrilled a five-year old and the Pinball Museum, her father, and Grandin Village. There were also several trips out of town to experience fully what Virginia’s Blue Ridge has to offer. There were hikes, a trip to a very rainy Monticello, a visit to Floyd to listen to a mid-day bluegrass jam, a visit to Appomattox Court House – a bucket list item for my retired history teacher father, and a white-knuckle thick fog drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Peaks of Otter. There was, of course, plenty of shopping and eating at as many local restaurants as seemingly humanly possible – we have yet to find a biscuit we didn’t like!
It’s not Just the Place – It’s the People
Perhaps best, though, were the folks along the way they got to meet and talk with – each an excellent ambassador for our area. There were the Police officers at the convenience store who took some time to chat with my parents about what they like in Roanoke. The National Park Service Ranger at the Visitor’s Center at Peaks of Otter who shared with us stories of the different types of wildlife that live in the surrounding hills. The Congregationalists at our churches who made them feel welcome. The parks maintenance employee who explained to our friends why it was important to him to get the paint job on the park pavilion done properly so those visiting the park were as pleased with his work as with the beauty of nature that surrounded them.
My friend who had only once been to Roanoke many years ago on a gloomy rainy day remarked that after two days of sunshine and fun, the City had more than redeemed itself, stating that it presented itself as a much larger City might with so much to see and do. My parents, who have visited us in Michigan, Indiana, and Texas as my career evolved over the past 25 years, exclaimed we had picked a good one in Roanoke. As a recent visitor myself – just slightly over a year ago for the first time, I too can say Roanoke shows itself well upon first visits. I can also say, as I close in on a year here, that those first impressions only hint at what the area has to offer and that it just keeps getting better.
Thanks for allowing me to share a bit of a personal story and thanks for being such great hosts to my family and friends – Roanoke, you did well!
- Bob Cowell