07.05.2015 - 08.05.2015
I drove about an hour up the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Meadows of Dan to Roanoke.
If you have followed along, you might remember I was here in Roanoke in the middle of March. (I had to look back at my blog to learn the date!).
At that time, I thought this town might have some charms worth exploring. This is what I found.
A very nice ATC couple with a very charming colonial style house in the SW part of town who shared dinner with me at Rockfish in a local business district. For its size (<100,000), Roanoke has some good independent neighborhoods with restaurants and shops.
A library with a McDonald's style children's playground with slide from the mezzanine to the 1st floor, a rather limited stack of books, and very good free Wi-Fi.
which is the cultural center of the city and includes:
A museum of the African-American experience in Roanoke with a some mildly interesting items and art, African art and masks, mid-century home décor, unreadable oral histories with non-functioning audio, and a very unhelpful, uninterested, staff. The guest book showed I was the first visitor in about ten days. After I had seen everything I queried the person-on-duty one last time about the non-functioning AV programs. Her reply only slightly looking up from the computer was "They should all be working except the one on the corner." I walked out saying, "No wonder no one ever comes here."
A Western Virginia history museum with a more cordial staff and an interesting presentation with some interactive exhibits on Roanoke history.
A theater with local actors currently performing Hairspray. I was tempted to go, but decided to save a little money thinking I would probably be a bit disappointed after full houses at Broadway musicals and it appeared that fewer than 10 seats out of 200 would be filled for the Thursday night performance. Sorry, ….. theater; you probably would have liked one more filled seat.
A surprising lobby with aquariums, including the second largest coral reef aquarium – either in the USA or east of the Mississippi, I can't remember which.
A rooftop garden from which you can look across to the roof top garden of the Taubman Art Museum – I guess rooftop gardens are a Roanoke thing - I took a picture from the Taubman when I visited there in March.
The downtown area is quite vibrant with independent shops, a market that has been operating since the 1880s, and restaurants.
Roanoke was not chartered until after the Civil War when a businessman saw it as a good linking area for major railroads as it had been historically for Indian trails and colonial wagon roads.
Of course, the railroads aren't as big and important now, but there are many inter/ and national companies. I won't bother to tell you about them here; you will have to come and visit the museum to find out.
The tracks still go through the heart of the town with bridges for both autos and pedestrians.
The railroad built an imposing hotel on the hill above the station and the tracks. It fell into disrepair in the late 20th century, but has been purchased by a university and is once again a luxury hotel being used as training facility for hospitality students.
I spent an okay happy hour at the luxury Hotel Roanoke, but don't know about the rooms. Let me know if you stay there.
Roanoke residents seem to love their town. They are especially enthusiastic about the star on the hilltop.
Their nickname is "The Star City." I don't know which came first – the star on the hill or the nickname.
I guess if Hollywood can have its name spelled out and Denver can have a funeral-home-sponsored cross adorning our hills, Roanoke can have its star.
So if you are in the area – especially if you make a twice a year trip to and from Florida – I suggest you stop for a day in Roanoke.