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One day in Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke Star from below

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that it doesn’t take much for a place to interest me. I’m generally of the opinion that you can find something worthwhile anywhere you go, so if one single person, blog post or article tells me something positive about a location, that’s it—it’s going on my list.

That was the situation with Roanoke, Virginia, and I tried to convince Jake for months that we should take a weekend trip there from D.C. Not knowing much about the city, I didn’t really have a convincing argument, so it went on the back burner—that is, until we needed an overnight stop on our way to Asheville, North Carolina.

Luckily, Roanoke proved me right, and it blew both our expectations out of the water. Now, we can’t wait to go back!!

Roanoke, Virginia
August, 2018


We drove from Washington, D.C., a drive that should take about four hours. Unfortunately for us, it rained basically the whole way, and FIVE accidents on the highway slowed us down.


We stayed at the Hotel Roanoke, which is a historic hotel (on the National Register of Historic Places!) that’s now part of Hilton’s Curio collection. The hotel was both beautiful and easy walking distance to downtown—double win! We also couldn’t believe how affordable it was, considering the quality—more on pricing below. 

Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia

Sign explaining history of Hotel Roanoke
Rocking chairs on the porch of Hotel Roanoke
Couch in the lobby of Hotel Roanoke
Door and wallpaper in Hotel Roanoke
Couch and wallpaper in Hotel Roanoke
Shower in Hotel Roanoke room
Chair with cushion in Hotel Roanoke


After arriving at the Hotel Roanoke after a long afternoon/evening in the car, we went straight to the Regency Room, the Hotel Roanoke’s restaurant. The space was elegant, the food was great, and there was a jazz bland playing in the dining room, which made for a perfect Friday night.

Saturday morning, we set out for Scratch Biscuit Co., where an employee talked Jake into a giant catfish sandwich… for breakfast. Definitely recommend the fried apples, which aren’t actually fried at all and are more like apple pie filling.

Catfish biscuit at Scratch Biscuit Co.
Bag of Rooster Scratch coffee beans

My favorite spot was probably Tuco’s Taqueria, if for nothing else than the decor. My vegetarian tacos were about what you’d expect in a smallish Virginia city, but Jake had a chorizo taco on the server’s recommendation, and I think that was much better!

We topped of our Roanoke stay with ice cream at Blue Cow before hitting the road.

Bar at Tuco's Taqueria
Booth and pottery at Tuco's Taqueria
Chorizo tacos at Tuco's Taqueria
Ice cream on a table


After dinner on Friday, we ventured out to Lucky for cocktails and got a couple of seats at the bar. We each tried one and then split a third, and they all got great reviews. I was shocked to find multiple on the menu that included Becherovka, a Czech liqueur that I LOVE from my time spent in Prague—I had never seen it anywhere on a U.S. menu, let alone in Virginia! The bartenders at Lucky also couldn’t have been nicer, and one even gave us a printout of all his favorite local spots. 


If you do one thing in Roanoke proper, it has to be the Roanoke Star. You can see this free-standing landmark from just about anywhere in Roanoke, especially at night, when it lights up. No need to hike up Mill Mountain to get there—it’s a quick drive up—and it offers a great view of both the city and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Roanoke Star from behind the trees
Sun shining through Roanoke Star
Roanoke, Virginia from above
Telescope on Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia

The Roanoke City Market is another iconic stop, with tons of vendors lining Market Square. It’s right in the heart of downtown, which also has plenty of shops to explore.

Fountain in downtown Roanoke, Virginia
City Market in Roanoke, Virginia
Bouquet of flowers in a wooden crate
Street and historic buildings in Roanoke, Virginia

One activity I DID NOT enjoy, but you very well might: Black Dog Salvage. It’s a warehouse with room after room of antiques, restored furniture and the like, and you can find both kitschy, off-the-beaten path stuff and beautiful home decor pieces there. It’s also apparently the focus of a TV show? I’m not a fan of old or previously used items, though—antique stores and vintage shops kind of make my skin crawl—so we didn’t last long inside!

We also spent some time at the Hotel Roanoke’s gorgeous pool. It wasn’t huge as hotel pools go, but with such a pretty architectural backdrop, who cares?!

Hotel Roanoke pool


Because our stay was so short, we didn’t get the chance to take advantage of Roanoke’s proximity to some amazing hiking and outdoors opportunities. We specifically wanted to make the trip to McAfee Knob, which is the most photographed destination on the Appalachian Trail. Natural Bridge State Park looked beautiful, too, but it would have meant backtracking and put us farther from Asheville. 

I also would have loved to check out some more of the area’s wineries and restaurants, including Blue Apron Restaurant and The River & Rail.

Street art
Carly in front of sunflowers


Since Hilton operates the Hotel Roanoke, I had the option to redeem points for our stay. But because it was just $164.68 for the night, I opted to pay for the stay instead; I like to save my Hilton points for longer, less affordable stays when I can! I put the room—as well as parking and our Regency Room dinner—on my Hilton Honors Aspire card, earning 14 Hilton Honors points per dollar.

The Honors points from the credit card spend went on top of what I earned from the stay itself, which came out to 6,579. The stay netted 2,193 base points, which were doubled once thanks to a summer promotion and another time thanks to my Diamond status, which comes with the Aspire card.

Jake also spotted a promotion on the Regency Room menu that offered 1,000 extra points if you registered for the promo with the front desk before your meal, which we rushed to do as soon as we saw it. I’d never seen anything like that before! It was probably the easiest 1,000 points I ever earned. 

For gas on the road trip down, I used my Chase Freedom to get 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar since gas is one of the Freedom’s rotating quarterly bonus categories right now. I love this card—it’s free, but when paired with a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, the points you earn on it can be converted to valuable Ultimate Rewards points that get a great return on travel.

For more on earning and using points and miles to travel for free, check out the 52 Cities free resource library or register to join me on a future masterclass!

Have you been to Roanoke Virginia? Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite off-the-beaten-path destination? Let me know in the comments! >>

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One day in Roanoke, Virginia
One day in Roanoke

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  1. Reply


    September 1, 2019

    did you check out the Pinball Museum? We are planning to do that

    • Reply


      September 1, 2019

      No, I didn’t! That sounds very cool. Clearly I’ll just have to go back! Thanks for the tip, Barbara!

  2. Reply


    May 14, 2020

    I live in Roanoke and love it to death! It has so much to do but one of the coolest things you can do in the city is bike one of the many “greenways” or trails that encompass the combination of the urban and natural environment of the city. Another amazing place to visit very close to Roanoke is Grandin! Super cute hipster-y town with a precious ice cream shop and old fashioned movie theater. There’s lots to see!

    • Reply


      June 26, 2020

      Clearly I just need to go back and spend more time there! Thanks so much for the tips, Emilee – will definitely add Grandin to my list!


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