Roanoke: the Star City of the South

We were so fortunate that the weather was cooperative for our journeys into and out of Roanoke, Virginia, because the two full days we spent there we had thunderstorms and high winds, which would have made for some rough travels days. 😩 Our time here was fleeting, but we made the most of it despite the unpredictable weather.  This city used to be called the Big Lick before being renamed Roanoke.  It has now adopted the nickname the “Star City of the South” because it is home to the largest freestanding illuminated star in the world. ⭐️

Explore Park

This county park turned out to be a great find if you can do without full hookups for a few days.  We stayed in the first loop, which had electric-only hookup sites, yurts and cabins, but they also have tent camping (glamping with tents already set up) and primitive camping (you bring your own tent 😉).  There are a bunch of hiking and mountain biking trails, a couple of disc golf courses, ziplines, a brew pub on site that is open on the weekends, and river access.  

Getting here was a little confusing coming up Highway 220 from the south due to road closures on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the section between Highway 220 and the campground access off of the Blue Ridge Parkway is indeed open.  The only other things to be aware of are deer ticks, which we saw while camping there.  Make sure you wear long pants and socks and deet or similar insect repellent to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases.  Further, you must pick up your welcome packet just outside the visitor center if you want bathroom/shower code access and Explore Park’s detailed maps.

We liked this location because it was clean, quiet, located right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just 10 minutes from downtown Roanoke, and the facilities were really well maintained.  I also loved the extensive trail systems, which were well marked, and the historic buildings on the park grounds between the visitor center and the river.  It was such a peaceful stay that we appreciated and needed at that time in our journey. 😌

Blue Ridge Parkway

We had been warned that the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) can be very busy and even dangerous for cyclists, especially on the weekends.  As it turns out, we were presented with a golden opportunity to have an extremely safe experience biking along the Blue Ridge Parkway right from our campground! 🚴‍♂️ There were road closures both just east of the turn off to the campground and just west of the entrance off of Highway 220 that intersects the BRP north/south.  This afforded us a 16-mile round trip with only local traffic driving through, or about a half dozen cars in total.

It was a very gusty day, so the ride along the connecting Roanoke River Parkway was challenging, but the views atop the overlook on this road were worth the effort.  Thankfully, most of the bike ride along the BRP was sheltered from the wind, so we simply enjoyed the scenery and relaxed on this picturesque ride.  It looked like there were other roads closed to traffic that connected with the BRP I could possibly explore; however, we weren’t staying in the area long enough to do so. 

Downtown Roanoke

Downtown Roanoke is only about 10 minutes away from the campground, so we went there to pick up groceries and sight see.  After grocery shopping on the second evening, we were tired and hungry!  We decided to get dinner instead of cooking, and there happened to be a restaurant in the mall next to us called the Wildflour Cafe.  We were pleasantly surprised at how delicious the food was.  I had salmon cakes and a salad, and Matt had a quesadilla and a salad.  Everything was seasoned well and the portions were just right.  We may have been the youngest people in this place, but I do recommend this cafe. 😂

Flavorful salmon cakes and salad at the Wildflour Cafe

On the second day we went to The Green Goat for lunch, located in Wasena Park along the Roanoke River and Greenway.  The food was just ok, but the service was excellent.  They have an outside patio that overlooks the park as well, but it was too windy for us to enjoy on this particular day.  After lunch we meandered along the greenway for a few miles and encountered a small sculpture garden created as a Memorial to Ann Davey Masters, who was involved in environmental initiatives and was also passionate about the arts.

 Albeit a short stay, we made the most of our time in Roanoke and loved the park where we stayed because it was quiet, scenic, and conveniently located next to trails, the Blue Ridge Parkway and close to downtown Roanoke.  Off we go on our journey through the Northeast.  Our next stop is Charlottesville and the Shenandoah National Park.  

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