Situated West of the Blue Ridge and east of the Allegheny Mountains, Roanoke, historically known as the cultural hub of southern Virginia, is experiencing a resurgence downtown. A burgeoning medical and education sector has helped fuel the district's evolution as young professionals choose to live in lofts within walking distance of galleries, parks, and a seven-days-a-week farmers' market.
Locals aren't the only ones reaping the benefits, though. This year, the Center in the Square—home to the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Harrison Museum of African American Culture, and others—has reopened after $30 million in renovations, attracting visitors from across the region. Here's a quick guide to the flourishing few blocks.
1. Lucky The perfect date spot with mood lighting and an impressive mix of shareable French-Southern dishes, this neighborhood restaurant features the best of Virginia's bounty. Don't miss the regional cheese plate ($12), oysters ($26/dozen), and, if you dare, an absinthe-infused Death in the Afternoon cocktail ($9).
2. Jacks This old-fashioned barbershop, tucked away inside Davidsons, a menswear institution that caters to dapper downtown men, features classic services such as hot shaves ($30), plus more modern treatments like pedicures ($30) and facials ($25).
3. Taubman Museum of Art The steel-and-glass building houses more than 2,100 pieces, with a focus on American art. Don't miss the sizeable collection of Southern works, including paintings by folk artist Howard Finster and wood carvings by Fred Webster. Now through January, Beatles fans should check out the Imagine Peace exhibit with art made by John Lennon in the 1960s, and multimedia works by Yoko Ono.
4. S&W Market Shop from Virginia-made products, like Duchess Dairy milk from Rural Retreat ($5/gallon) and Bread Craft's sourdough ($3.50/loaf), at owner Mark Linson's specialty store that opened last year, but be sure to save room for a Toscana pizza ($9 and up) and a glass of malbec ($6) from Cork & Crust, his new wood-fire pizza bar, inside the market.
5. The Inn on Campbell Keith and Cindy Hummer opened this charming four-suite inn two years ago to provide a resting place for the growing downtown tourism scene. Start your day with the house-made gourmet breakfast of fresh-squeezed juice and bananas Foster waffles. And check back in the afternoon for the complimentary (and bottomless!) cheese and wine reception served at 5 p.m. every day. Rates from $189.
6. Roanoke Natural Foods Co-Op The new neighborhood grocer has 800 square feet of free-range eggs, locally grown produce, prepared lunches, and fresh-cut flowers from Heritage Point, the largest urban farm in the country run by a co-op.
7. Penny Deux Lounge This historic watering hole in the former Patrick Henry Hotel (now luxury apartments) is the happy hour spot for hip thirtysomethings. Find a spot at the handsome wooden bar, modeled after the hotel's original front desk, and order the signature Penny Deux cocktail, with bourbon, peach preserves, mint, and simple syrup ($8).
8. 310 Rosemont Stocking his-and-hers contemporary fashions, the rustic, brick-walled boutique on Market Street is the locals' go-to for handsome Southern Tide button-downs ($99.50) and Collared Greens bow ties ($55), and, for the ladies, Tory Burch tunics ($295), Michael Kors handbags ($195), and classic Hunter rain boots ($140). You can even schedule a private shopping event for you and your friends—the salespeople will help you all choose an outfit.
Have any additions to our itinerary? Tell us your favorite spot in Downtown Roanoke.