Black History & Culture Itinerary for Roanoke, VA

Virginia's Blue Ridge - 3-Day Itinerary of Black History & Culture

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.

Day One - Historic Gainsboro, Downtown Roanoke Shopping, West End by Bike, Local Arts & Culture

Historic Gainsboro - Roanoke, Virginia

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.

Martin Luther King Jr. Statue & Bridge

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.

She's International Boutique - Roanoke, VA

Find beautiful hand-crafted leather goods by @TreeFairfax and shop Hmble Hstle merchandise from the Virginia is for Lovers collaboration, which celebrates Black culture and Black travel in Virginia.

Hmble Hstle Clothing Company - Roanoke, VA 

Indulge in the bold flavors of Caribbean soul food at Caribbica Soul or choose Screaming Vegan’s specialty plant-based comfort food.  

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.

Nipsey Hussle Mural - Roanoke 

Experience the Elmwood Park Art Walk and don’t miss a chance to shop in Crafteria, Roanoke’s own Appalachian Etsy, for a diverse selection of artisan wares.

Elmwood Art Walk - Downtown Roanoke 

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.

Day Two - RND Coffee, Mill Mountain Park, Harrison Museum of African American Culture, Taubman Museum of Art, Virginia Museum of Transportation

RND Coffee - Roanoke, VA

Start the morning off at RND Coffee in Roanoke’s Wasena neighborhood or at their new location in the Town of Vinton.

Plan to hike, cycle or drive up Mill Mountain to visit the iconic Roanoke Star and Overlook. Mill Mountain Park features a fantastic variety of trails for hiking & mountain biking.

Roanoke Star & Mill Mountain Overlook - Roanoke, VA

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!

Mill Mountain Zoo Kids

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.

Harrison Museum of African American Culture - Roanoke, VA 

Next, experience the Taubman Museum of Art and Virginia Museum of Transportation, each with rotating exhibits featuring vibrant stories, art and artifacts honoring the region’s history.

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.

From Cotton to Silk - Virginia Museum of Transportation

Finish the day exploring the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail and the local cuisine at 2 Chill Restaurant, Lazy Bulldog Bistro, or small plates at Bloom followed by dessert at Sweets By Shaneice.

Day Three - Verses Listening Lounge, Booker T. Washington National Monument, Smith Mountain Lake, City of Salem

Start the morning off at with coffee at Verses Listening Lounge before your next adventure.

Booker T. Washington National Monument Statue - Franklin County, VA

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.

Learn more: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Booker T. Washington >

Booker T. Washington National Monument - Franklin County, VA

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).

Smith Mountain Lake Beach Park - Franklin County, VA 

Sip local beverages and enjoy tasty cuisine at Gina’s Food with Flavor in Salem before heading to the ballpark for a Salem Red Sox baseball game surrounded by mountain views.

Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium - Salem Red Sox  

Additional Resources

Plan a visit to Virginia’s Blue Ridge during annual festivals like the Henry Street FestivalLocal 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.

Roanoke Valley Spotlight