Guiding Notes

The Roanoke Valley is perfectly set in the heart of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

In addition to its stunning views and wide assortment of outdoor activities, Virginia's Blue Ridge also offers small-town Southern hospitality and big-city amenities, such as great restaurants, shops and attractions. The region is also well-known for its railroad heritage, festivals and local farmers markets.

The following Guiding Notes are meant to help you become more familiar with Virginia's Blue Ridge and why it's an ideal stop for your tour.

Roanoke Virginia SkylineAwards & Accolades

The Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge regularly receives various awards and accolades as a great place to live, work and visit. Whether it's what makes the region enjoyable as a resident or visitor, people are raving about all there is to experience in Virginia's Blue Ridge!

  • Top 10 Mid-Sized American Cities to Visit - World Property Journal

  • Blue Ridge Parkway named one of America's Best Road Trips - Travel & Leisure

  • Ten Best American Vacation Towns to Live in Year Round - Money Crashers

  • One of America's Best Small Cities on the Rise - Smarter Travel

  • Downtown Roanoke was named one of America's Next Great Neighborhoods - Southern Living


Average January temperature: 34.5°F
Average July temperature: 75.6°F
Annual rainfall: 41.13 inches; Annual snowfall: 24 inches

Enjoy the seasons - especially spring with the blooming of the Redbud, Dogwood and Bradford Pear trees, along with the Azaleas and Rhododendron in the summer.

The downtown areas of Salem, Vinton and Roanoke proudly hang flower baskets along the street lights. The fall season is spectacular from the middle of October to the first of November, displaying mountain landscapes of red, yellow and orange.

View our Weather page to see the current conditions and forecast of the region.


The history of the Roanoke Valley began in the 1740s when Mark Evans and Tasker Tosh came from Pennsylvania and took up land near the salt licks where Native American and animal trails crossed in the center. For generations, these salt marshes, or "licks" as they were called, had been a gathering place for buffalo, elk, and deer, as well as the natives who hunted for them.

The original town was called "Old Lick," but in 1874 the town was chartered as the "Town of Big Lick."

In 1881, when the Shenandoah Valley Railroad came to town, Big Lick was renamed "Roanoke." Roanoke came from the Indian word, "Raw-re-nock," a name for shell beads worn by the Native Americans and used as trade goods.

Today, the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge is the largest metropolitan area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The population of the City of Roanoke is almost 100,000. The region, which includes the City of Roanoke, City of Salem, Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Franklin County, has a total population of approximately 300,000.


The Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge is ideally situated in the mountains along Interstate 81 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The region is approximately 251 miles south of Washington, DC, and 245 miles west of Colonial Williamsburg.

Learn more about the convenient location of Virginia's Blue Ridge on our Maps page.

Virginia Museum of Transportation - TrainsRailroad Heritage

Virginia's Blue Ridge celebrates its rich railroad heritage at the remodeled historic N&W Railway freight station housing the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Downtown Roanoke.

The museum is home to the largest collection of diesel and steam locomotives in the United States, including the Class J No. 611 steam engine, with over 40 pieces of rolling stock in the museum yard. Also on display are antique carriages, cars, trucks, buses, trolleys and more.

Breathtaking images of the end of the steam era are on display at the O. Winston Link Museum, located in the former N&W Railway passenger station, which is also home to the Roanoke Valley Visitor Information Center.


Download our Statistical profile to receive helpful numbers and notes about Virginia's Blue Ridge. The profile includes information about top employers, geography, tax rates, and more.

Roanoke Region Spotlight

Take your group on an amazing tour of Virginia's Blue Ridge!