Winter is out. It’s time to uncurl yourself from your home fire and dance with the spring blossoms and warmer weather.
We know you’re itching to explore regions close to Raleigh that are focused on the outdoors in a safe way.
Start the car and head a short three hours north west to Roanoke in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. With its surrounding mountains and valley location you are spoilt with opportunities to get outside and enjoy the Spring weather.
Take your pick from mountain bike, zip-line, paddle board and tube down rivers and wash it all down with a refreshing local brew at the end. In the largest town on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, you don’t have to give up the culinary and cultural pleasures of a city.
Here are several ways to enjoy Roanoke and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway in the spring.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia show off during spring with an explosion of blossoming colors.
Grab your camera and enjoy the stunning vistas, the return of lush landscapes and spring flowers such as the white flowering dogwood, rose Eastern redbud, violet rhododendron, and bright red or orange azaleas.
Take your time to soak up the views from many of the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks and see why this is known as ‘America’s Favorite Drive.’
The Parkway is only a 10-minute drive from Downtown Roanoke and there are plenty of stops along the way for hikes (both short and long) and scenic overlooks.
While the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from North Carolina to Virginia, the section from Milepost 120 at Mill Mountain to Milepost 86 at the Peaks of Otter will cover most of Virginia’s Blue Ridge region.
The Parkway is under construction in multiple places currently. Check this detour page for updated information.
Hike the Peaks of Otter Trail to Sharp Top Mountain
The most well-known trail of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway is the Peaks of Otter trail. It’s a 1.5-mile hike to the summit of Sharp Top. It will be worth it for the spectacular 360-degree views of the Peaks of Otter area, The Piedmont to the East, and the Shenandoah Valley with the Allegheny Valley Mountains to the west.
If you don’t want to hike the steep trail (with multiple stairs) you can catch a shuttle to the top of Sharp Top Mountain (and back down if you don’t want to walk it).
As we were short on time, we caught the shuttle up and walked back down. After walking back down, we realized it would have been a manageable hike for us. It’s worth doing.
Consider visiting the nearby Abbott Lake for lunch after at the Peaks of Otter Lodge. You’ll have beautiful views and if you need any more exercise, there is a short 0.9-mile flat walk around the lake.
Fruit Wine Tasting at the Peaks of Otter Winery & Orchards
Take a short detour off the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Peaks of Otter Winery & Orchards for your seasonal wine tasting. It’s a perfect stop after a morning of hiking and exploring.
The winery produces over 25 different fruit wines, all grown on the farm through sustainable farming practices. For $8 you can sample eight of their eclectic fruit wine flavors.
For some delicious springtime flavors, consider sampling the Peach of Otter, Vino Colada, and the spicy award winning, Chili Dawg,
The wines are paired beautifully with the views and an apple cider donut – get in early as they disappear fast.
Fly Through the Trees at the Zipline Explore Park
The Treetop Quest in Explore Park, Roanoke was one of the best zipline courses we’ve done – and we’ve done a lot.
There are four courses of various levels with an age limit of seven. We recommend allowing enough time to do all of them.
Our favorites were the giant punching bag obstacles, rope tunnels, and swinging crooked ladders of Course 2A and the mostly zip-lines of Course 3.
Hike or Bike Explore Park
After your time zip-lining through the canopies, head back to the ground for the 14 miles of hiking and biking trails in Explore Park, many of which will take you down to, or along, the Roanoke River. Plenty of spring wildflowers will wave to you along the way.
Of course, you’ll want to stop at the Twin Creeks Brewpub when finished for a Virginia brew and a bite to eat. If you’re lucky, there may be some outdoor live music.
Bike the Roanoke Valley Greenway Trail
Want a fabulous way to get around Roanoke and appreciate the beautiful Spring weather?
Hop on your bike, or walk, the Roanoke Valley Greenway Trail.
The Roanoke Valley Greenways winds for over 30-miles through the various communities of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
The pathways connect you to interesting parts of the region, downtown districts, and the Roanoke River.
Visit some of the popular business in Roanoke along the way like the popular Black Dog Salvage (of TV fame), The Green Goat for lunch, and Hang 10 Hawaiian Ice Cream for a finishing treat (see below).
Springtime is perfect for the 7-mile Art by Bike Greenway trail, which will take you past several sculptures and murals created by local artists.
Sunset Selfie at the Star (Mountain)
Of course, any visitor to Roanoke wants to check off “selfie with the star” from their list. We recommend you do that BUT turn around and admire the view. That’s the real Star Attraction.
We saw the views over the valley and Roanoke with the vibrant colors of Autumn. I know the springtime blooms will color pop just as much.
The 88.5 ft tall Roanoke Star (aka Mill Mountain Star) was constructed in 1949 as a holiday decoration and has now become the progressive symbol of the town giving it the nickname of Star City, and it’s one of the most popular things to do in Roanoke VA!
Mountain Biking at Carvins Cove Nature Reserve
Mountain bikers, you’ve found your dream playground in the Blue Ridge VA region.
Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, located just 10 miles from Downtown Roanoke is known as one of the best places on the East Coast for mountain biking.
It has nearly 60 miles of trails to suit your style and ability including cross country single track, free riding downhill trails, and fire roads.
Not into mountain biking?
No problem. You have a 630-acre reservoir for paddling, and plenty of hiking trails to take you through the hardwood and pine forests.
You can even go horse riding here.
Paddling Upper James River Water Trail
About 40 miles from Roanoke, the Jackson and Cowpasture rivers merge to form the James River, the longest entirely in Virginia.
The Upper James River Water Trail is designated as a Virginia Scenic River. With its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and abundant wildlife, it’s the perfect spot for paddling. You can choose from short or longer paddles, and some sections are fun to tube.
Watch a Salem Red Sox Baseball Game
You’ll love the backdrop views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as you’re watching the Salem Red Sox Baseball team batter up at the Salem Memorial Ballpark
The Salem Red Sox are a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. Baseball games start up again in May, but the ballpark often has other events like concerts and movie nights.
Taste the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail
Roanoke and the Virginia’s Blue Ridge region has a collection of 30 breweries, wineries, and craft spirits producers. Many have outdoor seating and live music.
To help you explore the flavors of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail you can grab a Cheers Trail Passport. It’s free and instantly delivered via email and text message.
The passport tells you a little about each of the craft beverage producers and where to find it. There may even be a special discount for you!
If you check in or redeem an offer at 5 different locations on the Cheers Trail and you’ll score yourself a FREE Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail T-Shirt!
Many of the breweries produce seasonal beers so keep an eye out for your favorite spring flavors!
Here are a few of the breweries we visited:
Big Lick Brewing
Big Lick Brewing has a fantastic outdoor seating area underneath a stunning mural that covers the entire wall of the building.
It’s known as Downtown Roanoke’s premier brewery, beer garden and taproom. They have a large selection of beers brewed on site which rotate frequently.
Big Lick is in brewery row with Golden Cactus across the street and Beamers 21 around the corner.
Olde Salem Brewing
Located at the very heart of Salem Virginia’s Historic Main Street District, Olde Salem Brewing is the perfect place for you to stop before taking in a baseball game.
We loved the high ceilings and large, open space of this 114-year-old building. The brewers aim to give you a taste of that history in every glass., which come in every beer style you can imagine.
Star Hill Pilot Brewery & Side Stage
Star Hill Pilot Brewery is close to the Greenway and makes the perfect stopping point on your bike ride or walk/run for a refreshing IPA or lager. Their hazy IPA was a standout.
It’s the second oldest craft brewery in Virginia with locations around the state with a focus on great beer and live music.
Among the most award-winning craft breweries on the East Coast, Starr Hill has won 24 Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Great British Beer Festival medals.
Sweet Donkey Coffee house
Sweet Donkey was our daily stop for a good Roanoke coffee. It’s 1922 historic home location invites you to sit inside by the cozy fire or soaking up the sun’s rays on their porch or front yard.
It’s a perfect stop on your way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, or on your way back down. On one day they had fantastic live music on the porch to enjoy with the late afternoon sun.
Be warned: this is a local’s favorite and can get busy.
Hang 10 Hawaiian Ice Cream, Wasena
You may be in the Virginia Mountains but in Roanoke you can experience a taste of Hawaii at Hang 10 Hawaiian Ice Cream down by the Roanoke River in the Historic Wasena neighborhood.
They use the same machines and techniques as Hawaii for the most flavorful shaved ice, that come in 25 flavors.
Their pineapple soft serve ice cream is also not to be missed.
Local Roots, Grandin Village
Seasonal, farm to table dining experiences are what gives you the best understanding of local flavors and stories.
Local Roots Restaurant in Grandin Village is that extraordinary culinary experience you are looking for in Roanoke. It is driven by the philosophy of providing Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical dining experiences.
They also prefer beverages that are small batch, family-owned, rare, and unique.
Local Roots is a small, intimate setting with attentive service. Be sure to reserve ahead of time. Sometimes they have live music.
Stay: SpringHill Suites, Roanoke
We loved the modern comfort and location of the SpringHill Suites located just minutes from Downtown Roanoke.
It was the perfect location for all the places we visited and is near popular places like Black Dog Salvage, Star Hill Brewery, and the greenway trail. In fact, you could walk along the Greenway Trail from there to Wasena Park and Black Dog Salvage.
The hotel has a free daily breakfast and a casual lobby bar for evening cocktails. There is also a complimentary shuttle to popular destinations including the airport.
The suite rooms are spacious and comfortable, especially for families. We love the extra living area where our girls could watch TV.