A City of Culture
Downtown Roanoke galleries include Appalachia Press, Gallery 108, The Market Gallery, and Signature 9 Gallery, along with the Taubman Museum of Art. The latter, designed with a unique architectural style, serves as a center for the visual arts. Collections on display during our visit included a variety of Faberge items and Judith Leiber handbags. Art Venture, a large studio in the Taubman, offers children and parents an opportunity to experiment and create their own pieces of artwork.
Train enthusiasts are drawn to Roanoke’s two outstanding rail museums. The O. Winston Link Museum, located in the old passenger train depot, includes the Roanoke Valley Visitor Information Center and is an excellent starting point for a tour of the city. The Link Museum is comprised of seven galleries of Link’s famous steam locomotive photographs. It has been said that his photos are “vignettes into history and sociology of life in the late 1950’s along the Norfolk & Western Railway.” A 30-minute film introduces Link and describes the process he utilized to produce his fascinating photographs.
The nearby Virginia Museum of Transportation is housed in the old Norfolk & Western freight station. The focus here is on the area’s railroad history, although the collection has been expanded to include antique cars, trucks, and buses, with aviation to be added soon. The building houses superb model train displays along with other train related exhibits. The rail yard showcases over 50 pieces of rolling stock, including a collection of diesel locomotives and two of Norfolk & Western’s advanced steam locomotives.
Exploring the Roanoke Valley
Roanoke is a convenient base from which to explore the Roanoke Valley. Outdoor activities within an hour of the city include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and golfing. Over 600 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the Appalachian Trail, are within easy reach. Mill Mountain Star Trail leads to the 60-year-old hundred-foot tall star that serves as the city‘s signature landmark. A nearby overlook offers an excellent view of the Roanoke Valley.
The valley’s lakes, rivers and streams provide excellent fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Kayak and canoe rentals are available with or without guides. Guided fishing trips are also offered. Possible catches include large and smallmouth bass, striped bass, crappie, and walleye.
If golf is your bag (aren‘t we clever?), at least five public and semi-private courses in the valley are available for working on perfecting your game. A few of the courses offer specials and many lodging facilities offer packages that include golf.
Several sites in the Roanoke Valley area are popular with history buffs. Three of particular note are the National D-Day Memorial in nearby Bedford; Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy that preserves the birthplace of this famous American; and Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s nearly forgotten retreat near Lynchburg. Special events are offered at each of the three locations.