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A Ultimate Guide to Living in Roanoke, VA

Are you considering living in Roanoke, VA? Often referred to as the “Star City of the South,” nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Roanoke seamlessly combines its rich railroad history with modern amenities, offering residents a high-quality life with a touch of Southern charm. Rent-a-Space offers resources to help you settle into your new home and get to know the neighborhood, including affordable storage units in Roanoke and its surrounding areas. The city has lots to explore, whether you prefer the great outdoors or a downtown scene. Check out our Ultimate Mover’s Guide to Roanoke, VA, for our recommendations on the best places to eat and visit in the city!

Table of Contents

I. Economy & Industry

II. Culture & Community Events

III. Restaurants

IV. Outdoor Adventure & Attractions

Explore the Economy

Quick Facts

Population: 99,578

Median Home Value: $140,600

Median Rent: $845

Historically, Roanoke’s economy has been built around the manufacturing and transportation sectors. Indeed, Roanoke, VA was formerly the headquarters of Norfolk and Western Railway until its merger with the Southern Railway created the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982. Currently, Norfolk Southern continues to operate maintenance facilities and a rail yard in Roanoke, although its marketing department has since moved out and closed its downtown office building in 2015. Still, the manufacturing and transportation sectors continue to be dominant factors in the Roanoke economy, largely due to the city’s central location within the Western Virginia area.

Beyond the city’s manufacturing and transportation industries, Roanoke, is noted as a large health care and retail hub. Notable employers and companies headquartered within the area include Advance Auto Parts, the Valley View Mall, New Horizons Healthcare, and the city’s largest healthcare employer, the Carilion Clinic. Formerly known as Carilion Health System, this Virginia-based non-profit integrated health care organization provides care for nearly one million Virginians and West Virginians, and is responsible for the employment of 13,200 employees, with 737 physicians covering more than 70 specialties at 225 practice sites. Indeed, a recent economic study conducted by Carilion has noted the following impact on the Roanoke region:

  • Carilion Clinic contributed more than $3.2 billion to the state’s economy and supported nearly 24,000 jobs in 2018, the year before the health system announced a $1 billion expansion.
  • Carilion’s impact accounted for nearly 10% of the Roanoke metropolitan statistical area’s $17 billion gross domestic product that year.
  • Carilion is Virginia’s largest private employer west of Richmond and has a $1 billion annual payroll.
  • The company directly employed 13,317 people during its 2018 fiscal year and contracted with another 4,100 Virginians as vendors.

Moving forward, Roanoke, VA’s economy is expected to trend toward growth, an outlook largely influenced by the city’s overall affordability, as well as its diverse talent pool as dictated by the area’s collection of universities and medical centers. These are just some of the few reasons our residents choose this city to settle down in.

Explore Roanoke’s different neighborhoods to get a look into life here!

Explore the Culture

Culturally, Roanoke, VA is an exciting city, and the city is notably host to a number of significant theaters, museums, performance centers, and more. Pictured above, perhaps Roanoke’s most signature cultural attraction is the Taubman Museum of Art. Formerly the Art Museum of Western Virginia, the Taubman Museum is an art museum in the heart of Downtown Roanoke that features a permanent collection of more than 2,000 works of art, including prominent 19th- and early 20th-century American art, as well as significant modern and contemporary art, photography, design, and decorative arts, and several smaller collections including Southern folk art. Notable artists featured within the museum include Norman Rockwell, George Inness, Winslow Homer, Jacob Lawrence, and Audrey Flack, among many others.

Additionally, beyond the city’s museum and theater scene, Roanoke is noted to host a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Festival in the Park, Local Colors Festival, Henry Street Festival, Big Lick Blues Festival, and Strawberry Festival. Of the aforementioned, Roanoke’s Festival in the Park is perhaps the city’s largest celebration. Celebrated annually in September since 1968, this festival is a multi-day event that features numerous musical and entertainment acts, kids activities, commercial exhibits, an exhibition from the antique car club of Roanoke, various food vendors highlighting local Roanoke restaurants, and much, much more.

There are plenty of ways to get involved in community happenings year-round. Keep an eye on the community calendar for unique events around Roanoke.

Explore the Cuisine

Overall, Roanoke’s culinary scene is remarkedly diverse, with the city hosting a number of celebrated restaurants across varying culinary styles. We’ve highlighting a few of our favorite Roanoke area restaurants below!

  • Viet Sub – Viet Sub is a sandwich shop specializing in Vietnamese banh mi in a no-frills setting with outdoor seating. Despite their limited menu, this Roanoke staple is known for their generous portions, and affordable prices.
  • The River and Rail Restaurant – At The River and Rail serves Southern bistro-style cuisine in an elegant and elevated restaurant setting. Executive Chef Tyler Thomas is noted for his use of locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients in his menu that includes NC Catfish, Black Angus Hanger Steak, Black Grouper and more. This restaurant is the ideal setting for a romantic date night, or a celebration event such as an anniversary, or graduation party.
  • Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint – Established in 2009, Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint is a joint venture between two childhood best friends, Aaron Ludwig and Mike Sabin. This casual bar-chain serves a variety of creative burgers, and is noted to feature an extensive craft-beer list showcasing numerous local brews.
  • Local Roots – Local Roots Restaurant is a casual contemporary-American restaurant that offers a menu highlighting the absolute best of the Roanoke region, from locally-farmed and sourced vegetables and meat to the handcrafted dining room tables produced by area artisans. Menu highlights include a local cheese board, the LR Pappardelle, and the restaurant’s signature dish, their Brasstown Beef Sirloin.
  • TJs Backyard BBQ – Frequently cited as Roanoke, VA’s “Best Barbeque Restaurant”, TJ’s is a casual barbeque eatery that specializes in a variety of smoked meats, and a number of mouth-watering sides. Highlights of their menu include the restaurant’s Smoked Brisket, Rib Tips, Chicken Wings, and more!
  • BILLY’S – This upscale tavern brings elevated dishes to its historic downtown setting. BILLY’S makes for the perfect date night and special occasion celebration.
  • Alexander’s – Searching for a fine dining restaurant? Alexander’s combines “old world charm with new world flavors,” offering contemporary American cuisine favorites like seared scallops, lamb, or duck.
  • Athens Corner Grill – Get your Mediterranean fix with a menu featuring a long list of gyros and sandwiches, as well as specialty platters.

Alternatively, beyond the city’s culinary scene, Roanoke, Virginia is host to a number of celebrated and innovative breweries, brewpubs, and distilleries, such as:

  • Big Lick Brewing Company, LLC – Located in the heart of Downtown Roanoke, Big Lick Brewing Company is Downtown Roanoke’s premier brewery, beer garden and taproom. Overall, this brewery produces craft beer with an emphasis on quality and variety, and the venue features an extensive outdoor seating area frequently used for events and celebrations.
  • Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen and Brewery – Originally opened in Charlottesville, VA in 2013, Three Notch’d Brewing Company has since expanded to add additional locations in Roanoke and Virginia Beach. This brewpub is known for their innovative craft beer selection, as well as their elevated pub-style menu.
  • A Few Old Goats Brewing –  Originally opening in 2018 as a 2-barrel nano-brewery located on the west end of Downtown Roanoke, A Few Old Goats Brewing features a rotating draft-list of small and seasonal batches of beer. Additionally, this brewery hosts food trucks on a near weekly basis. Stop in today!

Explore the Excitement

Largely due to its location between the Alleghany and Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is an excellent site for avid hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers. Notably the city’s surrounding area is host to a number of acclaimed and celebrated hiking trails and destinations, including the Sharp Top Mountain hike, Apple Orchards Falls, the Mill Mountain Star Trail, and McAfee Knob. Of the aforementioned, McAfee Knob is the most notable of the hikes. As one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail, it is a bucket list item for hikers around the world. Over the course of its 4.4 mile climb, hikers will ascend to a peak of 3,197 feet that offers spectacular panoramic views of the immediate surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain area. This is one hike every outdoor enthusiast should consider if they are ever in the Roanoke area.

During the winter these same mountain ranges provide a recreational area for winter sports, including cross country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowmobiling. Notable area ski resorts include the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre in Lynchburg, Wintergreen Ski Resort, and the Omni Homestead Resort in Hotsprings. The Liberty Mountain Snowlflex Centre is of particular note, specializing in year-round mountain activities open to Liberty University students, faculty, staff, and the general public. Developed by Briton Engineering, Snowflex is a synthetic multilayered material that simulates the effects of snow, and the facility currently offers a variety of ski and snowboarding runs, tubing runs, and an Olympic trampoline where visitors can practice aerial tricks.

Find Affordable Storage Space in Roanoke, VA, with Rent-a-Space

As seen, Roanoke, VA, is an exciting and diverse city to call home, with its growing economy, its wealth of spectacular restaurants and breweries, as well as its abundance of natural attractions and cultural attractions. So, now that you’ve read through our city guide, and you have a good understanding about life in Roanoke; what are your next steps? Look no further than Rent-a-Space in Roanoke, VA!

When you need to store your items for your move, come to Rent-a-Space. We have two self storage facilities in Roanoke, as well as one nearby in Salem to serve you. Our Roanoke locations are on Valley Avenue and Patrick Road, and they offer drive-up, temperature-controlled, and indoor storage options to help you tackle any organizational project. Storage experts are available on-site or over the phone to answer any questions about the storage process. Talk them through your needs, and they can help match you to the right features and size storage unit. One you find your storage, stop by our storage office to stock up on packing supplies, like boxes and bubble wrap. Rent or reserve your storage unit online today!

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Tim Glasow

About the Author: Tim is an SEO Strategist at Storage Asset Management in York, PA. He is a self-storage industry specialist who has written about everything from storage advice and helpful resources to industry trends. In his free time, Tim enjoys sampling craft beer and exploring the local music scene.