Everything to Do in Virginia’s Blue Ridge…Beyond the Parkway

Content Produced in Partnership with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge

As one of the most acclaimed scenic drives in the country, everyone knows that Virginia’s Blue Ridge is a mecca for road trippers, but what they don’t know is Roanoke has plenty to offer virtually every other type of traveler. A hotbed of good food, insane outdoors, and everything in between, before you hit the road, make sure to experience Virginia’s Blue Ridge in all its glory.

For Outdoor Enthusiasts

As part of the Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob is the most epic hike in the area with an overlook that’s on most trekker’s bucket lists. For a more lackadaisical walk in the woods, Roaring Run in Jefferson National Forest is a laidback jaunt along the river that ends in a pulsing waterfall and a historic 1800s iron furnace. For the mountain bikers, Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is the place to play, while the James River has a scenic water designation for its beauty, perfect for idyllic float trips, kayaking, and SUP outings. And of course, it’s hard to miss the glowing Roanoke Star, which you can hike or bike to right from town.

For the Foodies

Food in Virginia is a mix of homey Southern goodness and upscale American cuisine with a number of restaurants creating craveable, shareable plates. River and Rail is the celebrity chef spot in town (get the fried oysters), while Local Roots serves farm-fresh “soul” food, which they define as S.O.L.E.: Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical. Scratch Biscuit promises breakfast sammies bigger than your face on buttery, flaky biscuits and smoked meats worth writing home about. The fried chicken is pretty unreal, but the PB&J is also a fan favorite. If you want to test your Man vs. Food skills, the Cowboy Crippler is the ultimate monstrosity. For more of a sit-down brunch, Scrambled, in The City Market is celebrated for their vanilla French toast, but it was the shrimp & grits that won me over.

For the Sweet Tooth 

If you can muster up room for dessert after all that, Altus chocolate has homemade bean to bar fondue and sipping chocolates with hand-ground, roasted, and flavored cacao beans straight from South America. There’s also Blue Cow ice cream with locally crafted flavors and seasonal favorites like honey lavender and mixed berry. You can watch them press the waffle cones right before your eyes with an intoxicating smell that’s virtually irresistible. And their motto rings true: enjoy life before it melts.

For the Boozehounds

Despite being one of the first states to adopt prohibition, Virginia’s craft beer scene is now alive and kicking. A self-guided tour down the Beerway will take you to 14 stops throughout the Roanoke Valley. There are household names like Deschutes and Ballast Point, who both chose Virginia’s Blue Ridge for their east coast operations, and local favorites like Starr Hill, Soaring Ridge and Big Lick. Each has a bit of a different vibe so hop (pun intended) by a few to find your favorite. For a rowdy happy hour, head to Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje for tequila, tacos, and tunes. They have a huge mezcal menu, but their specialty margs like kiwi, Moscato, and tropical will transport you from the mountains to the islands.

For Families

Center in the Square will easily keep your kids entertained for days with six arts, science and cultural institutions under one roof. Munchkins will enjoy exploring the aquarium, Harrison Museum of African American Culture, Science Museum of Western Virginia, and a really cool pinball museum with vintage (and addicting) arcade games. The real draw though is Kids Square. A membership-based make-believe town, there are different “buildings” where kids can go to experience the grocery store, play doctor, go to the dentist, film themselves for the local news station, rock climb and even camp. It’s educational, immersive, and entertaining for the big kids too. 

For Antique Lovers

If you’re into “As seen on T.V.” moments, Black Dog Salvage is the basis of the reality show, Salvage Dawgs. A haven for treasure hunters, the shop is a giant two-story warehouse full of reclaimed furniture, home décor, and odds and ends rescued from salvaged yards, they also make their own custom line of home products, paints, finishes, and artisan pieces.

Where to Stay 

If you want a classic, traditional experience, Hotel Roanoke has been a town staple for 130+ years. For a more modern place to rest your head, the Hampton Inn is well appointed, updated and conveniently located downtown… and when you’re ready to hit the road, well the views will be waiting.

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