Making your own way and discovering the wonders of a place are quite the delight. It’s like you’re truly uncovering a gem no one else has seen.
Perhaps within your group of friends that’s true. You’re the pioneer, yes?
Well at least allow us to point the way if we don’t personally escort you. Here are 10 self-guided tours to help you learn more about Virginia's Blue Ridge.
If you’re unfamiliar with the history of Roanoke, we’ll give you a brief intro: it’s a rail town with a grand dame of a hotel, iconic neon lights, an historic city market complete with an incredible old market building, and a rich, culturally diverse heritage.
Sweet Salem is a Main Street community and planned 25-acre downtown. Touring on your own will lead you to the beautiful campus of Roanoke College, stately French and Italian architecture, and visible references of westward migration.
Also See: Must See Main Street: Salem, VA
First, take in the historical aspects of Botetourt County with a Fincastle walking tour. After that, it’s all about your taste buds with stops for coffee, tea, cupcakes, craft beer, and more. Gifts, antiques, and the great outdoors round out a fantastic couple of days in Botetourt in Virginia's Blue Ridge.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Booker T. Washington? He was only the most prolific black educator and orator during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his very humble beginnings are available for your exploration at his birthplace in Franklin County. Get hands-on with agriculture at a variety of farms, and launch into heritage music at the beginning of the Crooked Road.
Also see: Must See Main Street: Rocky Mount, VA
Mentioned above as a part of A Taste of Botetourt, some history lovers will want to dive deeper and explore more of Fincastle and the treasures that await. Chartered in 1772, a wealth of architectural history and westward migration history is readily available.
6. Art By Bike
One of the coolest ways to get around downtown Roanoke is by bike. Rent one and head off on a two-wheeled adventure for art. Along the way you’ll find fantastic murals, sculptures, statues, and a variety of other artsy things.
Craft beer aficionados will be delighted to sip their way through the Beerway, a trail of seven delicious craft breweries. With thirst-quenching flagship offerings and creative seasonal specials, there's always something tasty on tap. The scenery along the way is pretty excellent, too.
Three wineries dot this trail through Botetourt County, which makes these visits a tremendous addition to the tasting tour of Botetourt. Enjoy a wine flight and then take a walk along the vines. If the weather is ideal, spread out a picnic and soak in the views.
Gainsboro is Roanoke’s historic African American neighborhood. Separated from downtown by the railroad tracks, the community found itself naturally segregated and so was self-sustaining with its own hospital, hotel, restaurants, etc. A most notable piece of history is the Dumas Center for Artistic and Cultural Development. It used to be the Hotel Dumas – the only hotel for traveling African Americans visiting Roanoke during segregation. If walls could talk, you’d likely hear the unmistakable voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, who stayed there while entertaining in Roanoke.
You’ve likely heard of riverwalks, but a railwalk? Yes, Roanoke is the place to safely walk alongside the railroad tracks to not only see the trains coming and going, but to also learn about Roanoke’s rail history through storyboards, signals, and even whistles.
So go! On with you! Explore, discover, and make great memories in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. You can also get other trip ideas by learning more about guided tours and adventures, as well as our Sample Itineraries. Tag us along the way by using the hashtag #BlueRidgeDay.