Families can enjoy many outdoor activities around Roanoke.

Family Activities in Roanoke

by Heather Frances J.D.

Roanoke, located in southwest Virginia along Interstate 81, is one of Virginia’s largest metropolitan regions. It sits halfway between New York City and Atlanta, just 168 miles west of Richmond, Virginia’s capital city. While the area is a hub for industry, it also offers families the chance to enjoy the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, along with other family activities.

1. Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains provide camping, hiking and sightseeing opportunities. The Blue Ridge Parkway, operated by the National Park Service, winds through the heart of these mountains, offering families 469 miles of scenery. The parkway is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Roanoke, but there are six entry points to the road overall. Along the parkway, families can find campgrounds, hiking trails and hotels to make their stay more convenient, comfortable and entertaining.

2. Museums

Families can find educational fun at the Science Museum of Western Virginia, which provides plenty of hands-on exhibits. The museum’s butterfly garden offers visitors the chance to interact with live butterflies in an enclosed setting. At the museum’s "How it Works" gallery, interactive exhibits help visitors discover how automobiles have advanced, how steel is recycled and how fiber-optic controls work. At the Virginia Museum of Transportation, visitors of all ages learn about rail, road and air transportation. Since Roanoke was headquarters for the Norfolk and Western Railway, a company that greatly influenced the city’s history, the museum offers many railroad-based exhibits, including a rail yard with more than 50 pieces of rolling equipment such as steam and electric locomotives.

3. Sports

For active families, Roanoke offers athletic activities, too. The County of Roanoke operates Splash Valley, a family water park featuring two 34-foot high water slides, a lazy river and children’s “sprayground.” Though it requires a separate admission, the water park is part of the county’s Green Ridge Recreation Center, which offers an indoor pool, walking track and gym. Families can enjoy a day of inflatable fun at Jump, southwest Roanoke’s only indoor inflatable jump center. The center has a full-service snack bar, arcade and five inflatables, including a slide, obstacle course, basketball court and bounce house.

4. Fishing

Families can find dozens of fishing spots in and around Roanoke. For example, nearby Philpott Reservoir, managed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, offers black bass, black crappie, catfish and one of the better walleye populations in Virginia. Fishermen must comply with state regulations that govern how many fish they can take each day. Families who want to learn about fish rearing and view tiny fish before they get into area lakes can visit the Paint Bank Trout Hatchery, which stocks fish around the Roanoke area. The hatchery is open seven days a week.

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