Visit the Rolling Mountains of Roanoke

Art, museums, theater and plenty of trails to hike make for a delightful fall getaway to Roanoke, VA.

By Sadye Osterloh
Photography by Marie Snow


Driving into Roanoke in the fall is like taking a step into a storybook fast-forwarded into modern times. Rolling mountains splashed with dogwood blossoms rise up to meet the charm of an old railroad town jazzed up with an artsy, modern twist.

Winding my way through the beautiful Old Southwest neighborhood, I finally made my way into downtown Roanoke to meet up with my mom to officially kick off our weekend vacation. We drank a tasty microbrew and had a quick bite of cheese fries at the Fork in the Market before heading off to settle in at one of the most dog-friendly hotels, the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center. A pang of guilt overcame me when I realized what a dog-friendly town Roanoke is...and I hadn’t brought my two pups!

Roanoke is a vibrant town rich with railroad history, arts, music, theatre and museums. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to take in about eight different museums, but we absolutely had to check them all out, and they were all within walking distance. By the end of those few hours, I had some sore feet and a head overflowing with new information and experiences. We visited the Center in the Square, which is home to an aquarium, the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, a science museum, a regional history museum, a butterfly habitat and the Mill Mountain Theatre.

After a quick rooftop lunch soaking in the sun, we hustled over to the Museum of Transportation to learn anything and everything you’d ever wanted to know about trains and steam engines...and then a little bit more. For the train enthusiast, there is no place you’d rather be than Roanoke.

But wait! There was still one more museum left, the Taubman Museum of Art. When taking in a view of the city, one sees a beautiful town with old brick buildings, charming cathedrals, railroads and then WHAM! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a spaceship? Nope, it’s the Taubman Museum of Art. This strikingly modern building situated in the middle of town houses both permanent collections and special exhibitions of both modern and classical art.

For the more adventurous and active traveler, or if you’re just looking to take in the fresh mountain air, Roanoke boasts miles upon miles of hiking trails in town leading to the splendidly illuminated 100 ft. “Roanoke Star” perched on the top of Mill Mountain. It is also minutes away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which offers endless viewing and hiking experiences as well as being a direct route to the Château Morrissette, a pet-friendly, dog-themed winery perched in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Patrons are invited to bring the pooches along and enjoy the panoramic scenery as they sip on specialty wines such as “My Dog Blue” or “The Black Dog” named after their beloved black labs.

Now with the Sheraton offering rooms with dog beds, dog bowls and a staff with pocketfuls of dog treats, it’s almost my duty as a dog owner to make a speedy return with the dogs in tow. Next time, along with my dogs, I will bring comfy shoes, more time for museums, extra cash for shopping and more time to explore and take in all that the area has to offer.