What to Do with Visitors in Roanoke, Part 1

In life, there are some conundrums that never go away. What’s for dinner? Who’s in charge here? Does money grow on trees? Why is a raven like a writing desk? While each of these would make a great blog post, the age old question I wish to address now is, how do I successfully entertain visitors? 

Of course, the hard part about this question is that visitors take so many forms. There’s your sophisticated big city college roommate, your dear aunt who still can’t believe you’re all grownup, your childhood friend with a family of 8 in tow, your in-laws who you can’t quite seem to have a non-awkward conversation with, or even the nerdy guy who writes snarky blog posts. And occasionally, a terrible combination of the above. (Please, don’t let politics come up at dinner!) So, where do you take overnight visitors for a fun, interesting experience in Roanoke? Fortunately, our team of experts have come up with some answers for you.

Energetic family: Roanoke is a perfect place for the high energy family to get out the house and avert the breaking of your great-grandmother’s heirloom china. For the best of the best, there is of course the “triple crown” of McAfee Knob (most photographed place on the Appalachian Trail), Dragon’s Tooth, and Tinker Cliffs, with their jaw-dropping views and their leg-burning hikes. (You could even send off your most extreme visitors to do the 32-mile loop of all three. “We’ll have dinner ready when you get back!”) But there are plenty of other options for the reasonably adventurous, all within an hour’s drive. Try the Peaks of Otter, Cascade Falls, Carvins Cove, Explore Park, or Rocky Knob. And that’s just scratching the surface. 

Low-key family: If, on the other hand, you have visitors with small children, limited mobility, or general disinterest in spending their entire vacation performing cardio workouts, Roanoke is still the perfect place. First, the excellent Roanoke Greenway system. From Salem to Vinton, enjoy the smooth paths along the beautiful Roanoke River. Alternately, enjoy the area’s parks, with attractions as diverse as Mill Mountain, Green Hill Park, or Elmwood Park. To get a mountain feel, try scenic Pandapas Pond.

Cool places for summer heat: Yes, Roanoke is a veritable sauna for a few weeks in the late summer. But if you’re unfortunate enough to host out-of-town visitors during that period, the Blue Ridge Mountains have you covered. Try beautiful and cool adventures such as Hanging Rock Overlook on Pott’s Mountain, Roaring Run, or Bottom Creek Preserve. And Peaks of Otter is again a great alpine microclimate. Of course, if it’s air conditioning you’re after, there are always indoor places too. We’ll get to them shortly.

Mild places for winter chill: It is just possible that you’ll have to entertain holiday company, of course. While it’s customary to spend most of this time eating and shredding gift wrap, there are other climate-controlled options: Dixie Caverns (a nice 55 degrees year-round), the Exotics and Aquatics pet store (a remarkable hands-on experience of exotic animals with a great staff), or the Virginia Museum of Transportation, the state’s official transportation museum.

Sophisticated city friend: There are two courses to take here. First is the shock and awe approach, where you overpower your friend with the clear superiority of good old country living. In this case, you need to consider the Floyd Country Store, the Homestead Creamery, the Paint Bank Fish Hatchery and buffalo farms, the Blue Ridge Ax Throwing range (within SafeSide Tactical), and the moonshine-themed Blue Ridge Institute and Museum (alas, only open virtually right now). Alternatively, you can showcase the considerable culture of Roanoke with places like the Taubman Museum of Art, the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op, or the chic new breweries such as Twisted Track or A Few Old Goats. Maybe not Manhattan, but hey, our apartments don’t go for an average of $3000/month either.

Well, we haven’t near covered all the Roanoke attractions or guest stereotypes, so we’ll have to pick it up another time. Please note that during the course of the pandemic hours for some of these venues may be restricted. Tune in later for more great advice!

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