Planning a Trip
Contact the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, 101 Shenandoah Ave. NE, Roanoke, VA 24016 (tel. 800/635-5535 or 540/342-6025; fax 540/342-7119; www.visitroanokeva.com), in the restored Norfolk & Western Railway Passenger Station (which it shares with the O. Winston Link Museum). The station sits across the tracks from Market Square in front of the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. The bureau's visitor center is the best place to pick up maps and brochures for walking and biking tours before starting to explore Roanoke, and you can make same-day hotel reservations here. Be sure to watch the 8-minute video about the valley and go behind the staff desk for a look at a 1/8-scale model of steam locomotive No. 1218. The center is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
By Plane -- Roanoke Regional Airport (ROA; tel. 540/362-1999; www.roanokeregionalairport.com), 5 1/2 miles northwest of downtown off Hershberger Road (Exit 3E off I-581), is served by Allegiant, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways. The major car-rental units have booths on-site. Roanoke Airport Transportation Service (tel. 800/228-1958 or 540/345-7710) runs vans to downtown and to Blacksburg and to other highland points as far away as Abingdon and throughout the Shenandoah Valley. If you're not in a hurry, you can catch the Smartway Bus (tel. 800/388-7005 or 540/982-6622; www.smartwaybus.com), an express service that stops at the airport nine times a day Monday through Saturday on its way between Roanoke and Blacksburg. One-way fare to downtown is $3.
By Car -- From I-81, take I-581 (Exit 143) south into the heart of Roanoke. I-581 becomes U.S. 220; together, they form an expressway that passes all the way through town. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the top of the mountains east of the city; the major Roanoke exits are at U.S. 460, Va. 24, the Mill Mountain Spur Road (at Mile 120), and U.S. 220.
By Train -- The nearest Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) stations are at Lynchburg and Clifton Forge, each about 50 miles from Roanoke.
Yellow Cab (tel. 540/345-7711) is the largest taxi company here. Valley Metro (tel. 540/982-2222; www.valleymetro.com) provides public bus service Monday through Saturday from 5:45am to 8:45pm. The downtown transfer point is Campbell Court, 17 W. Campbell Ave. The visitor center distributes free Ride Guide route maps.