This 3-day itinerary will introduce you to the rich Black history and culture of Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy delicious food & drink from Black-owned restaurants & coffee shops, visit unique local museums & attractions that showcase the region’s Black heritage, and discover the ways people of color are helping create the vibrant arts & culture scene in the region.
We hope this guide of Black history and culture helps you plan your next getaway to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Begin with a self-guided tour of Historic Gainsboro in Roanoke. Learn about the community originally considered “Roanoke’s Black Wall Street,” which included various Black-owned businesses, medical offices, churches, schools, hotels, and entertainment spots.
Take the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge into downtown Roanoke for shopping, dining and more exploring.
Visit She’s International Boutique for upscale accessories and clothing from around the world. Shades of Color is another great boutique shop featuring unique clothing & accessories, located along Roanoke's historic Market Street, which is also home to the Historic Roanoke City Market.
Explore on two wheels with RIDE Solutions' self-guided bicycle tours. The West End by Bike Route is a 5.3 mile ride through Roanoke’s West End & Historic Gainsboro neighborhoods, showcasing many notable locations and figures of Black history.
Uncover art in all forms by talented artists around the region. Seek out the bigger-than-life Nipsey Hussle mural curated by @XavierTramaine and painted by Bryce Cobbs (@artbybryce), two Roanoke natives.
Hear the “We Are Art” rap cypher, a powerful display of the region’s vibrant arts and culture by local musicians, then check out live entertainment when the sun sets at spots like Mill Mountain Theatre, The Spot on Kirk, and Verses Listening Lounge.
Be sure to check the calendar to see if your visit will coincide with Soul Sessions, a monthly event series that serves as an open space for expression and creativity through open mic poetry.
Check out the Discovery Center then follow the Wildflower Garden trail to the Mill Mountain Zoo. Top off the adventure with a sweet treat at nearby Blue Cow Ice Cream - we recommend the ice cream flight for a sampling of flavors!
Enjoy a day of fun inside Center in the Square, an arts & cultural hub in the heart of Downtown Roanoke. The building is home to the Kids Square Children's Museum, Roanoke STARCADE, Roanoke Pinball Museum, Science Museum of Western Virginia and the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, which showcases local Black history and the influence of African culture in the Roanoke Valley.
At the Transportation Museum, don’t miss the “From Cotton to Silk” exhibit, which focuses on the unique individuals and stories of how African Americans contributed to the development and growth of the railroad industry in the region.
Start the morning off at with coffee at Verses Listening Lounge before your next adventure.
The story and legacy of one very influential man, Dr. Booker T. Washington, begins in nearby Franklin County. Learn about the life and legacy of Dr. Washington at the Booker T. Washington National Monument. Continue to the park’s outdoor farm and on-site walking trails.
Grab a bite to eat at Bridgewater Plaza while overlooking Smith Mountain Lake, meet alpacas at the Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca Farm and soak up the sun along the beaches of the nearby Smith Mountain Lake Community Park (photo below courtesy of Matt Ross - Franklin County Parks & Recreation).
Plan a visit to Virginia’s Blue Ridge during annual festivals like the Henry Street Festival, Local Colors, Warren Street Festival, and Juneteenth, which celebrate the region’s cultural diversity.
Visit our section on Black History in Virginia's Blue Ridge and learn about other notable figures from the region who made an impact locally and beyond. You can also check out our list of Black Owned Businesses in Virginia's Blue Ridge for other options to help you plan your visit.