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To the Roanoke Valley

LYSA ALLMAN-BALDWIN | 10/26/2012, 4:07 p.m.
To the Roanoke Valley

Roanoke Today

Today, Roanoke--with just under 100,000 denizens--is part of what is called the Roanoke Valley and the "Capital of the Blue Ridge," referring to its location in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Its boutique size and position as a primary center for health care, transportation, manufacturing, conventions, distribution, attractions, recreation, trade and entertainment careers and offerings makes it a popular destination for residents and visitors alike. In fact, the city has been honored with "All-America City" designations three times, and at one time was ranked by Money magazine as one of the top three "Best Places to Retire in the United States."

Famous Roanokans are numerous, including former Giants running back and TV analyst Tiki Barber and his twin brother, Tampa Bay Buccaneer cornerback Ronde Barber; former Major League Baseball player Billy Sample; NFL football player John St. Clair; artist John Alan Maxwell; former University of Virginia superstar and former professional basketball player Curtis Staples; former U.S. Secretary of Defense under the Truman administration Louis A. Johnson; and former NBA player George Lynch, among others.

Downtown

I started off my exploration of Roanoke with a leisurely walk through the Historic Roanoke City Market, still standing today as the oldest continuously operating open-air market in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Open year-round, seven days a week, the market encompasses both outdoor and indoor vendors who offer everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to baked goods, plants and flowers, clothing, handcrafted items, bath and body care products, jewelry and a great deal more, in addition to a bevy of ethnic restaurant establishments inside the marketplace that reflect the city's culinary diversity.

To learn more about the downtown area, embark upon the historic, self-guided downtown walking tour, which highlights such places as the Friendship, Kimball and Dogmouth fountains, the Virginia Carriage Co., the Main Public Library, the Shenandoah Hotel, the Commonwealth of Virginia Building and Market Street Row with a bevy of shops and boutiques, among other sites.

While downtown, one simply must stop by Texas Tavern, which bills itself as "Roanoke's Millionaires Club." A little cracker box of a place with only 10 seats at the counter founded in 1930, the tavern is known far and wide for its "World-Famous Chili" and "Cheesy Westerns"--a thin, freshly ground meat patty topped with a fried egg, a slice of cheese and relish on a toasted bun. Nothing on the menu, which is primarily diner fare with their own added flair, costs more than $3, but the real draw here is the size of the place, its long-standing history, the great service, the fact that it is open 24/7--and I hear the clientele gets quite "interesting" after midnight on the weekends!--and it just being a great, homegrown Roanoke place to meet the locals.

There's more travel in Roanoke to come!

Resource list

  • Harrison Museum of African-American Culture 540-345-4818, www.harrisonmuseum.org
  • Historic Roanoke City Market 540-342-2028, www.downtownroanoke.org/city-market
  • Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau 800-635-5535, 540-342-6025, www.visitvablueridge.com
  • Texas Tavern 540-342-4825, www.texastavern-inc.com