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Roanoke, Virginia, Capital of the Blue Ridge

The city's history began in the 1740s, but grew as a result of the railroad. Today the railroad continues to play a visible role through the Virginia Transportation Museum, the O. Winston Link Museum and the actual railroad yard downtown.

Roanoke is a getaway for us and one we wish could happen more frequently. We've been spoiled by the service and amenities of the Hotel Roanoke, a Doubletree Hotel, which has a rich connection with the railroad industry.

Back in 1882, Roanoke was just a small town, but Frederick J Kimball changed all that when he merged the Norfolk and Western railroads and decided his vision would be built around this community.

Today the hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and has changed much since its early days when it was a wooden structure with less than three-dozen rooms. It was Mr. Kimball's desire, though, that the hotel be the centerpiece of Roanoke. Even during the early 1930s and the Depression, the railroad allowed the hotel to prosper. And it was during this time, the exterior facade had evolved from Queen Anne to Tudor, which it remains today.

Although the hotel closed for four brief years after it was given to Virginia Tech, in 1993 it reopened following a multi-million dollar restoration and renovation.

The bell staff is attentive to those who desire to utilize valet car park or those who elect to self-park. The rocking chairs on the veranda give you an opportunity to enjoy the meticulous landscaping.

In the main lobby, you'll always find people milling about or relaxing in the over-sized furniture. A grand piano typically plays in the background. To the right and down the hall is the Pine Room Pub with beautiful wood walls. It's a great place for a sandwich, if you're looking for something light and casual or a game of billiards.

At check-in you'll be handed your room key and warm bag of chocolate chip cookies. Sadly, there's nothing worse than being stuck in an elevator with that incredible aroma.

Guest rooms vary in décor and furnishings to tastefully utilize nooks and crannies of the Old Gal. Each time we've stayed, our accommodations were elegant, yet cozy. We've always found the hotel's packages to be an excellent value, especially those with including breakfast. The breakfast buffet in the Regency Room on Sundays is absolutely incredible.

You may want to begin exploring just down the hill from the Hotel Roanoke. Near its parking lot is the Roanoke Visitor Center and O. Winston Link Museum in the city's former railroad depot. And it's so very appropriate that a city so immersed in the railroad industry would be the home of museum showcasing Mr. Link's love of photography and railroads. Ironic though...a museum documenting the documentation of one man.

Saturday mornings are a perfect time to take the enclosed walkway (Market Square Bridge) across the tracks to downtown. The farmer's market is bustling with vendors offering everything from flowers to fresh baked goods. And because Roanoke has such diverse architecture, many buildings still feature advertising painted on buildings, it's easy to drop back in time and imagine a by-gone era.

Shopping includes an Orvis store (and don't tell anyone, but a few blocks down on the opposite side of the street is an Orvis discount store).

Center in the Square, which is right next door to the market features the Art Museum of Western Virginia; Mill Mountain Theater, a year-round professional regional theater; Roanoke Valley History Museum; and Science Museum of Southwestern Virginia.

There's an incredible selection of restaurants downtown for lunch too.

303 Norfolk Avenue
Roanoke, VA 24016
(540) 342-5670
101 Shenandoah Avenue NE
Roanoke, VA 24016
(540) 982-5465
110 Shenandoah Avenue NE
Roanoke, VA 24016
(540) 985-5900
101 Shenandoah Avenue NE
Roanoke, VA 24016
(800) 635-5535
(540) 342-6025
213 Market Street
Roanoke, VA 24011
(540) 342-202
110 Salem Avenue SE
Roanoke, VA 24011
(540) 342-5760
One Market Square
Roanoke, VA 24011
(540) 342-5740
(540) 342-5730
One Market Square
Roanoke, VA 24011
(540) 342-5770
One Market Square
Roanoke, VA 24011
(540) 342-571

Photo Courtesy: Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC)