Travel to Virginia: Southern Charm and Hipster Vibe in Roanoke

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A Little Abstract Cupid Spotted in Roanoke, Virginia

A Little Abstract Cupid Spotted in Roanoke, Virginia

Oh, Roanoke. What have you done to me? Months after my spring visit, your traditional Southern charm and hipster vibe are still in my heart.

“Did a spaceship crash here?” I thought while walking up to the Taubman Museum of Art. If I had been in Chicago, New York or London, this silver, oval-shaped building wouldn’t look out of place, but I was in Downtown Roanoke and one of these things just didn’t look like the other.

What Do You Think of the Taubman Museum of Art Architecture? Roanoke, Va.

What Do You Think of the Taubman Museum of Art Architecture? Roanoke, Va.

I confess to having a preconceived vision of this Southern city and it certainly wasn’t this. The building, designed by Randall Stout, opened its doors to the public in 2008 and its design was described by one woman as the “wreck of the Flying Nun.” Indeed, the Taubman looks out of place next to the traditional brick buildings of Downtown Roanoke but its eclectic collection of modern and abstract art is a nice complement to the destination’s old-school character.

Inside the Taubman Museum of Art Architecture?

Inside the Taubman Museum of Art Architecture?

Vintage Theatre, Cupcakes, Ice Cream and More in Grandin Village
During my visit, music poured onto the sidewalks and downtown’s Elmwood Park’s new amphitheater is a hub of activity. For more of that hipster vibe, head to Grandin Village, a trendy 1920s neighborhood housing restaurants, shops, and the popular Roanoke Natural Foods Co-Op.

Ms. Pennie Ahuero, Owner of Viva La Cupcakes in Grandin Village, Roanoke, Va.

Ms. Pennie Ahuero, Owner of Viva La Cupcakes in Grandin Village, Roanoke, Va.

Come hungry and grab a gourmet S’mores cupcake from Viva la Cupcake and creamy ice cream from Pops Ice Cream and Soda Bar. Plan to view a first-run movie in the historic Grandin Theatre, Roanoke’s non-profit movie palace that dates back to the 1930s.

For Fresh, Creamy Ice Cream, Visit Pop's in Grandin Village, Roanoke, Va.

For Fresh, Creamy Ice Cream, Visit Pop’s in Grandin Village, Roanoke, Va.

Farm-to-Fork Dining in Roanoke
Roanoke’s lively dining scene boasts bountiful farm-to-fork restaurants sourcing food from local farms. While in Grandin Village, grab lunch or dinner at Local Roots where the menu changes depending on what’s in season. In the historic South Roanoke neighborhood dine at The River and Rail, a Southern Bistro housed in a pharmacy building. This is where traditional South meets the 21st century and I dined on pork rinds and pimento cheese, tender and flavorful chicken, and coconut and jalapeño sorbet.

Locally-Sourced Ingredients are Used at the Southern Bistro, The River and Rail in Roanoke, Virginia

Locally-Sourced Ingredients are Used at the Southern Bistro, The River and Rail in Roanoke, Virginia

Don’t worry, if you’re seeking traditional Southern fare, the kind your doctor warns you about, those restaurants are plentiful. Try The Roanoker Restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for more than 65 years. A must are the flakey and light biscuits. Oh, boy.

Mighty Fine Biscuits at the Roanoker Restaurant, Va.

Mighty Fine Biscuits at the Roanoker Restaurant, Va.

Good Dawgs
Pop-culture hounds need to visit Black Dog Salvage, home base of DIY network’s “Salvage Dawgs.” If you’re lucky, you’ll meet some of the stars including Sally, the resident black Labrador retriever. I love sorting through architectural salvage and could have spent all day combing through treasures. Good thing I flew to Roanoke because I could have easily loaded up a car with all sorts of vintage metal signs, repurposed furniture and a life-size cement pig sculpture.

Up Close to the Roanoke Star, Va.

Up Close to the Roanoke Star, Va.

Almost Like the North Star
When out and about at night, you’ll likely spot the Roanoke Star. The 100 foot-tall Star was built in 1949 on Mill Mountain and is illuminated nightly until midnight. Journey up the mountain during daylight for a spectacular view of the Valley and selfie with the iconic star.

H&C Coffee Sign, Downtown Roanoke, Va.

H&C Coffee Sign, Downtown Roanoke, Va.

#LoveVA
While walking Roanoke’s downtown, take time to stop and soak up the old-school charm. Enjoy the vintage neon signs, cleverly designed shop windows and sidewalk mosaics. Of course, look for the “Virginia Love.” Plan a Saturday morning visit to coincide with the weekly market full of fresh produce and hand-crafted goods.

Lobby of Hotel Roanoke, Va.

Lobby of Hotel Roanoke, Va.

Getting to Roanoke is easy by car and air. The airport is currently serviced by several airlines including nonstop flights on Allegiant, which makes it easy for me to hop on a flight from the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport. Or, I flew on United out of Tampa International Airport. Rest your head at the grand Hotel Roanoke, which was built in 1882 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I’’s within walking distance of downtown.

Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, Va.

Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, Va.

I’m sorry Asheville, but Roanoke is now my favorite Southern city.

Visit www.visitroanokeva.com for additional information on planning your visit to Roanoke.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for visiting and your kind words about our great city! Come back soon and often to get your fill. There’s always plenty to do and see here! 🙂

  2. Good looking food. I drive right by Roanoke often but this is encouraging me to stop next trip.

  3. jennifer,
    Thanks so much for the Roanoke Love!! I grew up in Roanoke, and manage the consignor portion of Black Dog Salvage…We really appreciate your spreading the word about our Star City! Come say “Hi” the next te you arein town????

  4. Roanoke is definitely worth a stop, Charles. Do it!

  5. I love your city, Liz, and look forward to visiting sooner than later 🙂

  6. Thanks for all of the cool things you said about Roanoke. Having lived here for many years, it’s been fun watching this little southern town transform itself into something much more. The Virginia Tech/Carilion Medical School has certainly attracted a new type of resident. So great to hear that young, professional people WANT to move here and enjoy all Roanoke has to offer. We are growing by leaps and bounds. Local craft breweries, funky restaurants, clothing boutiques, and awesome outdoor activities galore! All that but still maintains it’s small town charm and friendliness. Come on back anytime, bring your friends, we love having you!

  7. Thanks for visiting and for the great pics! As you may recall, the “Cupid” in the mural pic is actually one of a pack of prehistoric hunters, who are aiming at (and will miss hitting) the huge stampeding beasts on the other side of the wall. Roanoke is a sweet, savvy, very livable city. I LOVE living here. It’s a nearly perfect place to live and work. You can see more pics of the mural on the RAMP Facebook page

  8. I think Richmond is more Southern and Hipster than Roanoke. Although I’ve only been to Roanoke a few times!

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