Onward and upward! After our great week in West Virginia, we made our way south to our next stop in Roanoke, Virginia. Because our drive was longer between long stops than we generally like to drive, Roanoke was a great spot to spend a couple of days relaxing before hitting the road again.
Once again, we didn’t see very much flat land on our journey, as the trip from Davis, WV, to Roanoke is nothing but mountains. I love this kind of driving, weaving in and out and up and down, as it’s both more scenic and less boring than taking those straight interstates. Sure, it takes longer, but it’s pretty much always worth it.
After going every possible direction to get from Point A to Point B, we landed in the Star City.
I don’t often hear people talk about Roanoke, which is a shame considering how pretty it is. This city of nearly 100,000 is smack-dab in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains. However, it feels better to say that it’s actually in the mountains, considering that tons of hills, ridges, and actual mountains look like they were dropped randomly into the middle of a bustling urban area.
And that thing which makes Roanoke look so geographically interesting is also the thing that makes it a pain in the butt. As a city, it’s nearly impossible to get from one place to another without jumping on a highway, because of all the mountains that are directly in the middle of the city.
I think it would drive me nuts to live here, having to get on a highway just to go a mile or two. I’d almost always rather take local roads, and we didn’t find it a particularly easy thing to do in Roanoke.
Alas, such is life and I guess you have to give to get! So then, we’ll do just that and say we really enjoyed the uniqueness of all these small peaks darting out of random places in town.
Anyway, let’s get into the nitty-gritty!
Where We Stayed
As we tried to stick with IHG hotels during our hotel stays on most of this trip – they’re always comfortable and we were racking up points – we booked into the Holiday Inn on the southern end of town. It was a very busy week(end), so we were lucky to get ourselves a nice spot in the city. It wasn’t downtown, but it worked out just fine as families came into town from everywhere on their way to wherever for the holiday weekend.
As has been our problem at a lot of hotels, the WiFi was rather unpalatable. This is quite an annoying state of affairs considering it’s 2016 and this regularly happens to us. Especially considering how expensive hotels are these days.
Outside of that, we had a very comfortable stay here, and the staff – especially Jamie and Art – were great to us and we enjoyed joking around with them. There’s also a nice pool here, although it was constantly full of kids due to how crowded it was. So it goes, no problem! I completely understand that kids get first priority at hotel pools, as I remember my youth on road trips with my parents. Oh, how I loved it when we got to stay in hotels and spend all afternoon in the water.
The hotel also has a pretty good restaurant attached to it, and room service was quite reasonable. Usually, prices get way out of hand for things like this, so we enjoyed ourselves one night at “home” in the room. More on that down below.
We usually recommend IHG hotels, and this is no exception. Louis agrees!
What We Did
Roanoke might only be 100,000 people, but that’s pretty big if you really think about it. Also, this is a metro area three times that size, and there’s plenty to do and see, drink and eat in this western Virginia hub.
Our first stop for this short stay was to drive up to Mill Mountain Park. This mountain and park – obviously – juts 1,000 feet (300 meters) up in the center of Roanoke. There’s a winding road that leads all the way to the top, and its entrance is just at the edge of a residential neighborhood in town. I always think it’s so cool when there’s a big, natural wonder that’s just sort of there, even though the neighborhood was obviously built long after the mountain showed up!
We drove up, up, and up, past crazy cyclists and walkers to reach the top.
Up here, there’s a zoo, as well as trails to walk around, a discovery center, and a playground. There’s also the massive Roanoke Star (aka Mill Mountain Star). The structure itself is pretty huge, sitting atop the mountain overlooking the city. It lights up as well, making it a beacon for all of the town’s denizens below.
We sort of just walked around, enjoying the scenery while bobbing and weaving around a wedding party that happened to be there at the same time.
We also made our way into the discovery center, where a local beekeeper has installed a hive for people to watch with curiosity and learn about one of the most important fauna in our world. We didn’t need anyone to motivate us to sit there, staring at these little guys while they did their thing.
Roanoke also has the great City Market in the center of historic downtown, which brings vendors of both food products and crafts seven days a week.
We spent plenty of time admiring the downtown area, talking to vendors and roaming around, peeping into local restaurants and shops along the way.
A market is such a great place to get local insight, and we highly recommend it – both in Roanoke and in whatever city you might go visit.
Being who we are, we had to find a brewery to check out as well. There are a few in Roanoke, and given our short time here, we had to pick only one. Agh! That particular one was Big Lick Brewing Co., which is located downtown, just a few blocks from the City Market.
This small tap room has a very nice bar along with regular tables, and we grabbed ourselves a flight – and maybe a bit more – of their delicious treats for some rest and relaxation.
What they do here is spot-on, and we recommend you spend more time here than we did. Given that we had to (unfortunately) drive, we could only stay so long. We’re not into taking risks like that! They didn’t have food when we were there, but they did tell us that folks are welcome to bring food from other places.
The cool thing is that they have local people who prepare and serve food for patrons in the brewery most evenings, but we were sadly not there late enough to experience this. We did see the setup, though, and wished they’d been there for us. They do offer free popcorn though!
Where We Ate
Ah yes, food! Although we were only in Roanoke for a couple of days, we did have a very special treat while we were there.
Indian food isn’t all that great where we spend most of our time in Spain, so we’re always on the lookout for a good fix. Not too far away from our hotel, we found Indika Cafe. This place bills itself as takeout Indian food, with paper plates and all the basic things that come along with it. It had good ratings, though, so we made our way over.
And the first thing we saw after walking inside was this.
If you know what that is, then you know what that is. If you don’t know, Chicken 65 a very special, very delicious Indian dish that’s also very hard to find. In fact, this is the first restaurant we’ve ever been to that actually has it on the menu. And we’ve been to a lot of Indian restaurants.
Chicken 65 is marinated for a while in delicious spices. Then, it’s breaded and fried with a sauce and served up with some veggies. It’s basically heaven. And Indika Cafe did not disappoint! This was just…so amazing.
We also had some other Indian staples, filling ourselves up way beyond an amount that any person should.
For our other dinner in Roanoke, we decided to stay in and kick it, working and watching The First 48 (a hotel staple for us haha), relaxing and having some beers. A restaurant called Elephant Walk – which I think is a chain – is attached to the hotel and also offers room service.
So, we indulged in some hotel basics, which were plenty good enough for us to keep our room relaxation going. I think this place might actually be closed now as their website is dead, but if it is, I’m sure there’s another restaurant opening up there if it hasn’t already.
And that concludes our short stay in Roanoke, Virginia!
We had a great time here, and could easily see ourselves spending more days in the area doing some exploring. Roanoke has a zillion things to offer, far more than we had time for. If you want to give the city a good look-see, or if you’re only in the area for a few days, start your research at the Downtown Roanoke website.
Until next time, Roanoke!
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Have you ever been to Roanoke? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!