Born from a desire to bolster a destitute post-World War II downtown Roanoke, Center in the Square was created. Community voices were heard and the destination you now visit is the realization of dreamers and builders who have made the McGuire Building a haven for the arts, sciences, and culture.
Center in the Square opened in 1983 to 40,000 visitors over the first weekend. Today more than 400,000 visitors enter the doors, of which nearly 200,000 are school children. The draw? Several museums under one roof, one heck of a view and a garden on the roof, huge common area aquariums, and a multitude of events year ‘round. Visit to see what you’ve been missing!
It takes a little while to make your way past the lobby aquariums, especially the 8,000 gallon coral reef aquarium. It’s the largest of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic Region and home to the types of fish kids love. If you still haven’t found Nemo or Dori, consider this a tip-off as to their location.
Other aquariums include an Amazon River exhibit with Arowana, a predator fish that hunts bugs looming above the water. Those who love turtles will want to find the Virginia Turtle exhibit and its resident Map Turtles, Painted Turtles, and Red-Eared Sliders.
A professional non-profit theatre resides at Center in the Square. Mill Mountain Theatre was one of the first residents of the Center when it opened in 1983 and has delivered incredible theatrical entertainment ever since. Mill Mountain Theatre presents classics, musicals, and also hosts premieres. More than 400 productions have been performed during their Center in the Square residency.
As with many towns and cities, Roanoke’s black history is still being curated in an effort to tell the stories of its residents. The Harrison Museum of African American Culture is the leading organization cataloging and exhibiting stories, objects and pieces, memoirs, art, and even spoken word accounts of the black experience in Roanoke and Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
More than 50 pinball machines from the 1930s through today are on display at the Roanoke Pinball Museum inside Center in the Square. A recent addition to the Center, the Pinball Museum opened in 2015 and welcomes kids 1 to 100 the opportunity to not only play pinball but learn the history of the machines and game. Perhaps not surprisingly, a visit to the museum can also comply with Standards of Learning within the public education system.
The newest museum at Center in the Square is the Don & Barbara Smith Children’s Museum – Kids Square. Geared toward children 10 and younger, Kids Square includes a 4,000 square foot miniature town filled with real Roanoke community businesses. In The Forest a kid-sized RV awaits, as does a hobbit house and tree forts. Little aspiring actors, actresses, and stage hands will love The Theater! They’ll control everything from their wardrobe to stage lighting. Children who have sensory challenges will enjoy spending time at Sensory Cove, a space built just for their needs.
A cornerstone destination within the destination is the Science Museum of Western Virginia, an American Association of Museums accredited museum. A key focus of the Science Museum is to educate children in the ways of not only science, but also technology, engineering, healthy living, and ways they can be good stewards of the environment. A touch tank, butterfly garden, design and build area, and larger than life anatomical exhibits make learning fun.
Rooftop Patio & Gardens
The rooftop at Center in the Square is free to access and features one of the best views in Virginia's Blue Ridge, with panoramic looks at the surrounding downtown skyline and nearby mountains on the horizon. The gardens showcase the innovative use of urban green space and kids will love feeding the fish in the Koi pond.
You’ll love the assortment of gourmet, artisan, and vintage candy at The Candy Store, located on the first floor at Center in the Square. Fill your bag with gummy bears, jelly beans, chocolate truffles, and classic candy bars that’ll satisfy any sweet tooth.
Roof Top Riot Event Series
Rooftop Riot is a summertime concert series on the Center in the Square rooftop. Remaining acts for 2018 include Melissa & The Growlers on August 30 and Lazy Man on September 27. Admission is an affordable $5.
Whatever your reason for visiting Virginia’s Blue Ridge, consider a stop at Center in the Square. The Star City Pass is a great way to see it all for one low price, and Sunday Funday is an exciting second Sunday admission option, too.
Location & Parking
1 Market Square SE
Roanoke, VA 24011
Center in the Square has its own parking garage that offers hourly rates. You can also visit our Downtown Roanoke Parking Page for more information on nearby public parking areas.
Learn about other fun things to do in the nearby area by checking out the blog post – Must See Main Street: Downtown Roanoke.