Area Information


The town that would become Roanoke was first known as "Big Lick" when it was established in 1852 and ultimately chartered in 1874. It was so named for a large outcropping of salt near the Roanoke River that drew the wildlife to the area.

In 1882, the town was renamed "Roanoke," and in 1884 it was chartered as the independent city of Roanoke. This name was derived from an Algonquian word for local shells that were used as a form of currency. This was also the name of the river that is likely where the shells came from. Roanoke grew frequently through annexation up until 1976.

The railroad was run through town in the 1850s, which laid the groundwork for Roanoke to become a prominent shipper of coal and rayon for years to come. In fact, the region became famous for its productive fields where bituminous coal was mined.

The average high temperatures in Roanoke climb to 87 degrees fahrenheit in July, and average lows get down to 27 degrees in January. The monthly precipitation average is 3.5 inches. Annual snowfall averages 22.8 inches.

More than 15 public schools and 11 private schools offer education to local students. Higher education is offered locally by Hollins University, Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke College and a few specialty institutions. Alternatives within 50 miles include Radford University, Washington & Lee University, New River Community College and Liberty University.

Carilion Medical Center serves local health care needs.


Atop adjacent Mill Mountain, there is an electric star that glows every night, earning Roanoke the nickname of "Star City." Near the star, a scenic overlook awaits visitors interested in getting a view of the entire city below. The top of the mountain also plays host to Mill Mountain Zoo, where 85 animals of 35 different species dwell, including three animals that are on the endangered species list. This zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Roanoke has loads of cultural events each year. Some of the regular features include Festival in the Park, the Local Colors Festival, Henry Street Festival, Chili Cook-Off, Big Lick Blues Festival and the Strawberry Festival.

Center in the Square is a converted warehouse in downtown Roanoke that now contains the History Museum of Western Virginia, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Mill Mountain Theatre and the Hopkins Planetarium. The Center helped revitalize the city's downtown area after it opened in 1983.

The Taubman Museum of Art used to be located in the Center of the Square, but has since left and established its own facility. Focusing on the 19th and 20th centuries, it presents American art, contemporary and modern art, decorative arts, and works on paper, and presents exhibitions of both regional and national significance.

If you prefer performance art over the more stationary variety, check out the Shaftman Performance Hall, Virginia Western Theatre, Showtimers Community Theatre or Roanoke Symphony Orchestra to catch plays and live music.

Roanoke was once well-known as a place where trains were built, and as a result, the Virginia Museum of Transportation sits in town to present visitors with many of the locomotives that were constructed here in decades past. The museum also houses exhibits focused on aviation as well as cars and buses. The landmark train station in town is where you can find The O. Winston Link Museum, where the late steam-era railroad photography of O. Winston Link is on display.

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs by Roanoke, offering travelers access to 469 scenic miles of Appalachian Mountain beauty. Many wildflowers line the parkway, numerous rivers and lakes provide opportunities for water recreation, and the mountain views are spectacular.

Neighboring Salem is home to the Salem Red Sox, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The team has been a part of Salem since 1968, and has enjoyed excellent attendance since opening a new stadium in 1996.

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