Start your day in the Star City with warm Southern hospitality and the lightest biscuits with gravy at the Roanoker Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants in the Roanoke area for more than 73 years. Fuel up for an active morning with a delicious, home-cooked breakfast at a reasonable price, with house specials featuring eggs, a choice of meat, hot cakes, biscuits and coffee starting from about $8.
To get to know the historic city, make your way downtown and explore the oldest continuously operating open-air market in the state of Virginia, launched in 1882 when Roanoke was a popular rail hub for the Norfolk & Western Railway. Open year-round, seven days a week, the Historic Roanoke City Market features rows of stalls selling the freshest produce, baked goods and unique wares. Browsing the goods and popping into the cute boutiques lining the streets is totally free of charge and a fun way to spend the morning hours — given you can resist the temptation to buy anything!
Also free of charge is stargazing and enjoying nature at the Roanoke Star, the world’s largest freestanding man-made star. Perched atop Mill Mountain, the overlook offers excellent views of the Roanoke Valley and surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
For lunch, visit the 188-year-old City Market Building, a newly renovated space in the heart of Roanoke’s Historic Market District. A variety of cuisines are served, ranging from chargrilled burgers with fries and drink starting from $7.14 at Allsports Café to farm fresh entrees from $8 at Firefly Fare to Cuban specials from $8 at Habana Café. A few blocks away, the old-school Texas Tavern is another excellent spot for an inexpensive and delicious meal. Try the “Cheesy Western” (a cheeseburger topped with a fried egg, onion, pickles and the diner’s signature relish) for only $2.45.
Museum lovers can spend the afternoon exploring the city’s rich rail heritage at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Fares start from $12 and also include admission to the O. Winston Link Museum, dedicated to railroad photography from the twentieth century. Those who would rather spend their time outside will find no shortage of hiking opportunities in the Roanoke Valley, offering more than 600 miles of trails. The eight-mile trek up to McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed sites along the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, rewards hikers with beautiful blue vistas.
After saving so much money on inexpensive meals and activities, head over to Black Dog Salvage, to splurge on salvaged vintage pieces, from doors, windows, mantels and more. A short walk away from downtown, the beautiful space is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Cap off the day at the historic Hotel Roanoke with dinner in the Regency Room, a classy restaurant boasting a relaxed atmosphere and high-quality menu with entrees starting from $21. Be sure to try the peanut soup and spoon bread, a classic Hotel Roanoke heirloom recipe, for $4.
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