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The Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of the American landscape. Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are home to the Blue Ridge Parkway, known as America’s Favorite Drive, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail, one of the most visited footpaths in the world.
I had the opportunity to visit this extraordinary place to see firsthand what families could expect. Take a few days off and see what Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer!
Day 1: Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains!
I find that learning about a place with kids is most enjoyed by experiencing it at the same time. The Roanoker, is known for serving patrons during World War II making sure to make each homemade meal affordable for all. There is memorabilia hanging on the walls from years of veterans who poured in weekly for nostalgic favorites and welcoming vibes.
Just a few minutes away at Mill Mountain sits The Roanoke star, a Virginia landmark and man-made star built as seasonal decor during the holidays. It is lit up every night, but seeing it during the day is just as beautiful. The view from where the star sits really captures the essence of the downtown area and highlights the peaks in the distance.The 10 miles of hiking trails is not the only feature here–besides the iconic star, there’s a zoo, mountain biking trails, and picnic areas so you can really spend the bulk of the day exploring at this all-in-one smorgasboard of adventure.
When visiting a new place, checking out the baseball scene is a good way to get a new taste of American culture. Grab a hot dog and check out the Salem Red Sox in Single A baseball form in the impressive Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium. A leisurely game with Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop has to be seen to be believed.
Pro Tip: Book your family travel through Booking.com. They guarantee the best prices for any type of property and no booking fees!
Day 2: Roaring Run Blue Ridge Fun
As a parent I appreciate trips that accommodate not only kids, but adults too. But first, breakfast. Angelle’s Diner is everything you look for in service and food. Be sure to get in on the hash browns (add cheese!) and feel free to ask about a meatloaf tasting since they make that daily. Who say’s you can’t have meatloaf for breakfast?
If you’re not too full from breakfast and you want something to munch on during the day, you’ll want to pick up a sack lunch at Leonardo’s Pizza & Subs for the best meatball sub and sandwiches. Each meal is enough to have leftovers wrapped and ready for hungry, young bellies later.
Roaring Run Recreation Area is the ideal setting for families wanting to do a nature hike on the most epic Streamside Trail with a beautiful waterfall reward at the end of the 1.5 mile loop. There’s rushing waters at every turn and climb. Once you get to the waterfall, you’ll head back in the direction you came in but on the Woodland Trail where you’ll start hearing a small crunching noise beneath your feet–remnants of the hematite slag made from the furnace still remain and can be a fun artifact to observe.Just down the road about 20 minutes South, is Blue Ridge Vineyards, a vineyard that has plenty of green hills to roll down or just plain admire. The property itself has an open barn-setting with the most amazing, picturesque views of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Owners, Barbara Kolb and her husband Jim Holoday are originally from Texas and took their love of wine making to the mountains.
When you’re done getting a tour of the facility and tasting (check out the original saloon-style cabinet), ask Jim for a ranger ride to the hidden moonshine cave (yes, I repeat, secret moonshine cave)–a true experience for anyone who loves to go off trail.
For dinner, there’s no place like Martin’s Downtown Grill, a lively restaurant whose music scene is coveted by locals. Plus, you have to wonder what a menu with a section titled, “Best Burger” means right? Don’t forget dessert: Glazed donut bread pudding. The name speaks for itself.
Day 3: Go Out with a Splash!
Smith Mountain Lake and Bridgewater Marina is the scene for water sports including jet skiing, kayaking, boat rentals and more. On your way there, grab the best breakfast in Franklin County at Old Oak Cafe. Don’t let the modest decor fool you–favorites like the classic eggs Benedict is lick-your-plate delicious.
A 25-minute drive will take you to the lake where you can rent the vessel of your choice at Bridgewater Marina & Boat Rentals. Or if you’re craving a bit more excitement, test out your skill on a wake board at Smith Mountain Wake Company. Both locations have knowledgeable experts and can answer any questions you have before heading out.Spending time on the water all day will leave you famished and Mexico Viejo Bar & Cantina is the perfect spot to relax on the patio. Manager Jimmy Santos puts as much detail into the service as he does the vibrant flavors of the food: House-made, table-side guacamole is the perfect accompaniment with their signature pina coladas served in ice-cold pineapples. Order virgins for the kids and you’ll be transported to a tropical island.
Go back to the Bridgewater Marina for some outdoor mini golf at Harbortown Mini Golf or play at the Fun N Games arcade. Everyone loves to earn prizes in exchange for loads of tickets. Across the dock is Lucky Duck, a family entertainment center complete with a 5-faced rock wall and bungee trampoline station–you can’t miss the rock wall from the parking lot as it towers over the docks edge.Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are truly a gem and I know there are so many things I did not mention. Here are some of my personal favorites and from some of the locals I got a chance to speak to throughout my visit:
Hike to McAfee Knob – A strenuous 8 mile hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains that boasts beautiful views at 3,000+ feet elevation.
Booker T Washington National Monument – Take a guided tour of one of the most influential African American men of our history.
Bridgewater Marina Carp – Tons of carp come to visit tourists at the docks on a whim. Catch this phenomenal event at any given day.
Champloo Dessert – Try the rolled ice cream fad at this new dessert parlor that make their own ice cream from scratch and tapioca pearl drinks. Lines get crazy here!
FREE fishing days in Virginia – June 2-4 are FREE fishing days in Virginia.
See why Virginia is for lovers. A map details where these LOVE artworks are located so you can take some detours to find during your to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Alpacas in Virginia – There are about 30 alpaca farms in the state of Virginia and each has it’s own unique features.
Head over to the Virginia Blue Ridge website for more ideas on what to do as a family while you’re there. This trip encompasses everything I would want for a family trip. I know my kids will enjoy the plethora of fun that is offered in such a beautiful setting and I hope you get a chance to, too.Note: Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge regional tourism organization provided complimentary airfare, accommodations, activities, and dining for the purposes of this article.
Stephanie Harper is a freelance writer who lives in Asheville, NC. Originally from Oakland, CA, she and her husband, James, decided to move their blended family cross-country in hopes to broaden their landscape for outdoor adventuring and love of nature. You can follow the Harper family on her blog raisingkidswild.com.