Memorial Day weekend in Virginia's Blue Ridge is a chance to honor fallen heroes while soaking up the region's breathtaking beauty. What better way to pay tribute than by exploring the refreshing waters and stunning landscapes?

The region boasts tranquil lakes, exhilarating rivers, and water activities for everyone to enjoy over a long weekend getaway. 

Memorial Day weekend in the Roanoke Region in Virginia's Blue Ridge offers a unique opportunity to weave together remembrance, outdoor adventure, and family fun. It's a chance to honor fallen heroes, explore the region's breathtaking beauty, and create lasting memories with loved ones.

Know Before You Go: Please remember to recreate responsibly when exploring the outdoors in Virginia's Blue Ridge. Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace 7 Principles and help do your part to keep this region beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

Boating, Fishing & More

Smith Mountain Lake

Spend the ultimate day outdoors on and around this lake gem. The mighty Smith Mountain Lake covers over 40 miles and holds 20,000 acres of water. Over 500 miles of scenic shoreline surround it. With temperatures heating up, the lake is a popular destination for Memorial Day or the entirety of the weekend.

Stop by the marina, rent a jet ski or boat, and hit the water. Other ways to enjoy the lake are canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and swimming. The Smith Mountain Lake views are stunning by land, but there’s something special about absorbing them from the water. Fishing piers, camping, picnic spots, a theater, and miles of scenic trails offer additional ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Smith Mountain Lake Community Park (pictured above) in Franklin County is a great spot for families to enjoy easy access to the lake, and the park even has a beach.

Boat Rentals at Smith Mountain Lake >

Upper James River Water Trail 

Kayaking - James River - Botetourt County, Virginia

Head to the Upper James River Water Trail for fun river activities. The trail comprises 64 miles of the breathtaking James River and is a playground for outdoor recreation lovers. From fishing and paddling to camping, there are many ways to enjoy the Memorial Day weather and magnificent Virginia landscape. 

Paddling and tubing the Upper James Water Trail is a refreshing way to appreciate miles of unspoiled shorelines and unreal mountain views. 

It’s important to note that the Upper James Water Trail offers 11 sections. Some of these sections deliver more challenging rapid classifications than others. Before heading out, study the skill level required for each section and which is suitable and safe for you and your party.

Twin River Outfitters - Upper James River Water Trail >

Philpott Lake

For another Memorial Day water wonderland, you won’t want to miss Philpott Lake. Combine highly celebrated fishing with 100 miles of undeveloped shoreline, and this 3,000-acre lake is a top contender for your weekend celebrations. If casting a line for smallmouth bass and trout is heaven to you, then Philpott is your lake.

There are six beach areas, all sandy, where you can relax and soak up the sun before taking a refreshing dip in the water. Goose Point Recreation Area, Bowens Creek Recreation Area, Horseshoe Point Park, and Salthouse Branch Recreation Area are among them.

Things to Do at Philpott Lake >

Roanoke River Blueway

Roanoke River - Roanoke River Greenway - Roanoke, Virginia

The Roanoke River Blueway runs 45 miles, providing plenty of Memorial Day outdoor recreation opportunities. The Blueway includes Tinker Creek, Back Creek, and the South Fork Roanoke River sections. There are many spots to get your fill of water adventure and more.

You’ll discover access to wildlife viewing, fishing, wading, canoeing, kayaking, and more.

With access to the river, trails for hiking & biking, ziplining and aerial obstacles at Treetop Quest, food & drink at Twin Creeks Brewpub, and cabins & camping for overnight lodging, Explore Park is a great destination for a weekend of adventures in Virginia's Blue Ridge.

Roanoke River Blueway Maps & Access Points > 

See Historic Sights & Attend Memorial Day Events

High Ground Veterans Monument Vinton

While enjoying the stunning scenery and outdoor activities, take time to honor America's fallen heroes with these commemorative historical landmarks and events. 

National D-Day Memorial (Bedford): Witness a poignant ceremony remembering the sacrifices made during D-Day on Memorial Day itself. The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford hosts a special commemoration event, a powerful way to pay tribute.

High Ground Veterans Monument (Vinton): This impressive monument honors veterans from all military branches. Take a moment of reflection here during your visit to Virginia's Blue Ridge.

Veterans Memorial Park (Rocky Mount): Pay your respects at this park dedicated to veterans in Rocky Mount.

Other Memorial Day Weekend Events

NCAA Lacrosse Championship - Salem, VA

Festival in the Park (May 23-26): Immerse yourself in a lively community festival with multiple days of food, crafts, great live music and entertainment, and more.

NCAA Women’s DIII Lacrosse Championship (May 24-26): Cheer on the top teams in collegiate women's lacrosse as another champion will be crowned in Salem - Virginia's Championship City.

Plan Your Weekend Getaway

Beyond water activities, explore hotels, restaurants, and other things to do for the ultimate long weekend in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Photos courtesy of Matt Ross - Franklin County Parks & Recreation, Twin River Outfitters, Jennifer Griffin, Foundation for Roanoke Valley, Ryan Hunt.