July 27


10 Best Things To Do in Roanoke Va [That Are Cheap & Fun]

By Brian Bailey

July 27, 2021

Hiking, Nightlife, Picnics, Things To Do, Zoo

While it's true that Roanoke, Va is heavily centered around outdoor activities, there's more to do in this city that doesn't require tennis shoes.

It's always tough to condense a city, culture, people & natural surroundings into a top ten list, but it's a necessary evil when trying to tell a newcomer where he or she should go before they leave.

This list cover outdoor adventures, farmers markets, historical buildings, nightlife, museums, waterfalls, attractions and more. Below are the 10 Best Things To Do in Roanoke, Va [That Are Cheap & Fun].

1. See Roanoke from Center In The Square Rooftop

 Free    Aquarium    Arcade      

If you need a place to start your Roanoke adventure, there's no place better to begin than the rooftop at Center In the Square in Downtown Roanoke. From the top, you'll be able to get a view of the Mill Mountain Star, Read Mountain and McAfee Knob along with the sites of downtown Roanoke which can really help orient your trip and you future plans. They also have an aquarium and arcade if you're bringing the kids.

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Photo: Hotel Roanoke and Read Mountain from the rooftop at Center In The Square

2. Walk Roanoke River Greenway


Free    River Tubing    Bars & Restaurants      

Now that you've seen Roanoke from above venture toward the Roanoke River Greenway to see some parks, attractions and wildlife in the area. With endless options in the area such as tubing, ice cream, tap rooms and shopping, you'll get to experience a new layer of what Roanoke can offer. You can also check out the Unofficial Guide to the Roanoke River Greenway with stats and the best place to park (spoiler alert: it's at Vic Thomas Park). 

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Photo: Iconic Roanoke River Greenway Bridge

3. Visit a Roanoke Farmer's Market

 Free   Saturday Destination 

Roanoke has five farmer's markets for you to choose from this upcoming Saturday.  Salem Farmer's Market, The Vinton Farmer's Market & Botetourt Farmer's Market are all great choices, but if you're looking for the farmer's markets that are closest to downtown Roanoke I'd recommend you check out Roanoke City Market & Grandin Farmers Market. Roanoke City Market has a mix of crafts and typical farmer's market items while Grandin Farmer's Market is more food-centered and sourced from local farmers

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4. See Roanoke Historical Buildings

 Free   Architecture Enthusiasts    

Roanoke has as much history as it does adventure and night life. and one of the places that's reflected is in the buildings and architecture. In fact, Roanoke has 52 locations on the National Register of Historical Places listed on Wikipedia. If you don't have time for 52 stops, don't fret, here is editor's choice historical things to do in Roanoke Va you'll want to check out, and do so in a fraction of the time.

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5. Grab a Roanoke Picnic

 Free or Cheap    Seven Park Choice  

Roanoke is known for it's outdoor lifestyle and it's unique food, so I think it's a natural progression that picnicking will be on top of your Roanoke Things to Do list. The most iconic places to grab a 'nic would be the Mill Mountain Star, Roanoke River Greenway, or Carvin's Cove Natural Reserve. You can read more about these and four more stellar locations in 7 Best Picnic Areas In Roanoke.

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Photo: Explore Park Village on the Roanoke River

6. Do A Roanoke Happy Hour (21+ Only)

 Happy Hour Pricing   Roanoke Restaurants & Bars          

Finding the right happy hour in Roanoke, Va is the right combination of location, drink style and timing. Whether you're in Roanoke for just the weekend or have lived in the area for years we've found the best happy hours in the Summertime and winter have great climate control and a patio during spring and fall times are a must. Timing, location & drink type are also key factors when choosing a happy hour location which was the inspiration for the Best Happy Hour Roanoke Va drink special guide.

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Photo Credit: Instagram @kelseychance

7. Go on a Roanoke Hike

 Appalachian Trail   Waterfalls

If you're looking to take in a nature walk, expansive vista, waterfall hike or a jagged rock crawl climb, Roanoke and it's surrounding areas have you covered. There's the 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail that make up the Virginia's Triple Crown or you can take it in more manageable sections of McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs and Dragon's Tooth. For the seasoned veterans or newcomers alike, check out The 20 Hikes Around Roanoke for a complete checklist of the most popular hikes around Roanoke, Va.

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Photo: Carvin's Cove From Hay Rock via Appalachian Trail

8. See Star Trail, Mill Mountain Park & Zoo

 Free & Paid   Pandas    Overlook of Roanoke      

Everyone you ask for suggestions will tell you to go to the Mill Mountain Star, and they're right, you should definitely go to the Mill Mountain Star. What they don't tell you is that the Mill Mountain Hike starts at the base of the mountain, and at the summit of the trail is a zoo with pandas. I defy any reader to name a hiking trail that has guaranteed pandas at the summit, comments are welcomed below. 

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Photo: Mill Mountain Park Overlooking Downtown Roanoke with McAfee Knob in the Distance

9. Hike To A Waterfall

Free    Road Trip Opportunity    35 - 200 Feet Tall      

Let's face it, hiking to a waterfall is a luxury only summertime hikers would ever consider. If you're in the 6-8 month range in Virginia that waterfall hikes sound enjoyable, Roanoke and it's surrounding areas won't disappoint. Unlike the hikes, parks & attractions in Roanoke, the waterfalls are more spread out with the closet being 40 minutes away (Bottom Creek Gorge) and the furthest being 90 minutes away (Falling Springs Falls). For all destinations in between, click the best 9 Roanoke Waterfalls for waterfall height comparison, hike times, maps and more.

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Photo: Falling Springs Falls, Va

10. Unique Attractions To Roanoke

 Shopping    Museums    Brewery      

There are so many unique attractions in Roanoke that we've settled on naming four on this list. While you're here you'll have to check out Mast General Store in Downtown Roanoke for anything from outdoor gear, toys & candy. Black Dog Salvage has 40,000 sq feet of architectural salvage, designs, furniture and an reality tv show. The Virginia Museum of Transportation has automobile, railroad and aviation galleries. Big Lick Brewing Co has lagers, hard seltzers, pale ales, sours and more with brewery tour available.

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