Getting out of Lexington: Adventures in Roanoke

Roanoke is full of shopping, restaurants and art. Photo by Alex Cline, 19.

Roanoke is full of shopping, restaurants and art. Photo by Alex Cline, ’19.

Josette Corazza

Roanoke, Virginia, is an underrated gem. I am surprised that so many students make the longer journey up to Charlottesville for their shopping and foodie fixes when Roanoke is an easy, 50-minute drive and boasts many worthy attractions.

One of the first things you’ll see when driving into the heart of the city is the Roanoke Star, an iconic must-see that is illuminated every night. First constructed in 1949 to serve as a seasonal decoration for the holiday shopping season, the star has remained lit since then. You can drive up to a parking lot and take selfies right underneath the towering, 88-foot monument.

The star overlooks a city with enough attractions, shopping, dining and entertainment to keep one occupied for weeks. But if you only have the time for a day trip, consider some options that will showcase Roanoke’s spirit without extending your stay.

The Taubman Museum of Art, which boasts free admission, is a vibrant gallery open Wednesday through Sunday. The exhibitions change every few months, keeping the museum fresh and fun to visit multiple times a year. Head to the gallery to see sensational creations from world-renowned as well as local artists.

Within walking distance from the Taubman is Roanoke’s vibrant downtown scene. Bigger than Lexington’s downtown district, yet with all the same charm, the city’s blocks encircle the delightful Historic Roanoke City Market, an outdoor farmers’ market open seven days a week year-round. The market offers everything from locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to artisan handcrafted knickknacks.

Downtown, you can find locally-owned restaurants as well as your favorite chains. If you’re saving money for shopping, stop into Benny Marconi’s to get $4 giant slices of pizza. If you came to spend your money on food, however, check out Alexander’s, an American fine-dining oasis where you can get your x of seafood, Virginia-aged meats and locally sourced organic produce.

Roanoke is also home to the Valley View Mall and Tanglewood Mall, both offering many well-known and loved brands. Besides just mall shopping, Roanoke has all its retail bases covered: The Roanoke Antique Mall is a good place to source fun finds, David’s Bridal may house your next Fancy Dress gown or suit, and who can resist the pull of Target? After you peruse the $1 deals, duck in next door to PetSmart and ease some finals stress by spending quality time with furry friends.

With so many fun stops, great food and an all-inclusive world of retail, Roanoke would be the perfect place to plan a holiday season trip before the end of fall term. Do yourself a favor by checking out the vibrant city located a stone’s throw down I-81.