Market Square, in the center of downtown at Market Street and Campbell Avenue, is Roanoke's answer to Alexandria's Old Town and Richmond's Shockoe Slip. As they have for more than a century, stands and shops at the Historic City Market display plants, flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and eggs, and farm-cured meats (Sat morning is the best time to visit). Nearby, restored Victorian-era storefronts house an eclectic mix of trendy restaurants, gift shops, art galleries, antiques dealers, an Orvis outdoor-wear, and pawnshops.
Built of redbrick in 1922, the Market Building now houses a food court offering the downtown lunch crowd an inexpensive international menu. The market and food court are open Monday through Saturday.
Center in the Square, once the Shenandoah Hotel on Market Square at Campbell Avenue (tel. 540/342-5700; www.centerinthesquare.org), has been home to the History Museum of Western Virginia and the Science Museum of Western Virginia. I heard through the grapevine that plans may be underway to revamp the center, so it could be closed for extensive renovation.
An enclosed walkway leads over the railroad tracks from Market Square to the visitor center and the O. Winston Link Museum, both in the city's restored train station. It sits in front of the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, itself a sightseeing attraction.
Also from Market Square, you can follow the David S. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk beside the tracks to the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
"The Father of Industrial Design" -- Built in 1905, Roanoke's Norfolk & Western train station not only houses the visitor center and the O. Winston Link Museum, but it's also home to the Raymond Loewy Gallery. Known as "the father of industrial design," Loewy remodeled the station in 1949 but is better known for the slenderized Coca-Cola bottle, the Studebaker Avanti automobile, and logos for Exxon, Shell, and Nabisco, all displayed here. Free admission; open daily 9am to 5pm.
Attractions on Mill Mountain
Situated between the city and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mill Mountain offers panoramic views over Roanoke Valley. The two main attractions are in Mill Mountain Park, on the Mill Mountain Parkway Spur, a winding road that leaves the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile 120. Local citizens know they're home when they see the white neon Roanoke Star on the Mountain. Erected in 1949 as a civic project, it stands 89 feet tall, uses 2,000 feet of neon tubing, and is visible from most parts of the city. Stop at the base for a magnificent view over the city and valley.
Also here is the Discovery Center (tel. 540/853-1236; www.roanokeva.gov/outdoors), which explains the wildlife, geology, and history of the mountain. Its honeybee exhibit is worth seeing. Admission is free. It's open from April through October Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 1 to 5pm; November through March Monday through Saturday noon to 4pm, Sunday 1 to 5pm.
From the city, take Walnut Avenue, which becomes the J.P. Fishburn Parkway and intersects the Mill Mountain Parkway Spur at the entry to Mill Mountain Park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.