When you visit the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge, one of the things you'll quickly notice is that locals love it here. It's home.

People who live in Virginia's Blue Ridge have a passion for this area and want to see it continue to flourish, as well as highlight what makes it a special place for visitors.

One of those residents who holds a special love for this region is Ariel Lev. Many know Ariel through her job as the Executive Director of Roanoke's CoLab, but she's also a familiar face with many of the exciting projects happening in Virginia's Blue Ridge, as well as an active voice on social media who regularly posts about the fun things she's doing.

Currently, she's focused on planning the 2016 CityWorks Xpo - a national conference held in Virginia's Blue Ridge that focuses on placemaking and creating stronger communities.

As it relates to placemaking and strong communities, Ariel was kind enough to take some time to tell us about five of the things that make Virginia's Blue Ridge home for her. Take it away, Ariel!

1. Locals care about our region.


A photo posted by ariel lev (@a_lev_) on

When we arrived in Roanoke in early 2014, I got the immediate impression that folks here cared a great deal for this place. Since then, I’ve learned that this is not only true, but I’ve learned that our rich and complex history invites us all to work hard to create a Roanoke where all Roanokers want to stay and can thrive.
Pictured: Downtown Roanoke from the rooftop of Center in the Square.

2. I eat well & I drink well.


A photo posted by ariel lev (@a_lev_) on

Food and drink options continue to grow in our region. One of the things my husband and I love most is the process of discovering and learning about the incredible cultural diversity in this city. Often times, this happens over an incredible meal at one of our many ethnic restaurants, followed up by a beer at a local brewery.
Pictured: Viet Sub on Williamson Road.

3. We live in a beautiful place, and that beauty is accessible.


A photo posted by ariel lev (@a_lev_) on

We moved to Roanoke knowing very little about the city and its people. One of our biggest priorities was access to mountains. It took us no time getting to know the local hikes, which happen to be some of the most beautiful, photographed spots in the world. I try not to take this for granted.
Pictured: Carvins Cove from the Appalachian Trail at Hay Rock.

4. The option for true ownership.


A photo posted by ariel lev (@a_lev_) on

This is a picture I took during a January sunrise standing on my back porch. Our dream of owning a house was far-off until we moved to Roanoke, but that’s not the only kind of ownership I’m talking about. Since becoming a Roanoker, I’ve taken much more ownership of what it means to be a citizen - I have learned from my neighbors, coworkers and from those I’ve yet to meet what it means to care about place, and I know I have a lot left to learn. Every day here is another chance to make an impact, to add to the story. It’s an exhilarating feeling.

5. Collaboration is common and welcomed, both in business and community development.


A photo posted by ariel lev (@a_lev_) on

I’ve had the opportunity to spend my working hours collaborating with the region’s leaders - the entrepreneurs, the activists, the teachers - through both the CoLab and CityWorks(X)po. In a few short days, CityWorks(X)po 2016 will kick off, and the streets of Grandin Village will be filled with those who care about all of the above and so much more, and who are ready to share their big ideas with each other. I can’t wait to be a part of this as a representative of Roanoke, my home.
Pictured: The CoLab in Grandin Village.

Thanks so much to Ariel for sharing her time, perspective and photos with us. Be sure to give her a follow on Instagram at @a_lev_ to see more of her adventures.

You can also meet her in person at this year's CityWorks Xpo, which is a great way to learn more about the exciting things happening in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge and the way people are transforming their communities around the country. Check out the CityWorks Xpo website and keep up with what's planned for this year's conference by liking the event Facebook page.