Keeping Family And Friends Entertained In Roanoke

Taste of Wander Blog, Top 13 Things to do in Roanoke With Family and Friends

Originally featured on Tour Roanoke | November 17, 2016

It’s that time of year again…a frenzy of holiday celebrations, parties and out of town guests; loved ones, dear friends or your favorite Great Aunt Myrtle are a wonderful addition to the season but we all know what Benjamin Franklin had to say about guests.

Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery and a good plan, so show off Roanoke VA and head out on the town with your guests and keep everyone happy, busy and smelling sweet.  Here’s a list of ideas to impress and occupy friends and family (and yourself) in the weeks ahead!  We know this isn’t a complete list, so share your ideas as well.


1. Christmas Lights Neighborhood Tours

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season

Many neighborhoods and home owners in the Roanoke Valley put on a festive winter wonderland show during the holiday season.  We’ve listed a few streets and homes we know about.  Please email us with others that should be seen and enjoyed as well. Also feel free to email us photos. Click on links for Google Map directions.


2. Fashions For Evergreen At Hotel Roanoke

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Hotel Roanoke

Image: Hotel Roanoke

From whimsical and outlandish displays to elegant and traditional designs, visitors of this year’s Fashions for Evergreens, will be inspired by the glamorous trees and gather ideas from professional decorators for a truly memorable holiday season. This unique Christmas tree decorating competition is free and open to the public and includes 24 professionally decorated trees on display throughout the hotel. The  event runs from Thanksgiving day to New Years Day and the public is asked to vote monetarily for their favorite tree


3. Ice Skating At Elmwood Park

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Elmwood On Ice

Image: Don Petersen

100% chance of ICE in Downtown Roanoke’s Elmwood Park! Elmwood On Ice will be open from November 23 through February 12.  The Holiday schedule will include days that schools are out from 11am-10pm. There will be limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, New years Day, and the rink will be closed Christmas Day. Admission is $6. Season pass is $75. Skate rentals are $2. Skate time is unlimited the day of purchase.  Private rentals are available outside of normal operating hours.

Regular Ice Rink Hours:

  • Monday & Tuesday – CLOSED
  • Wednesday & Thursday –  4pm – 9pm
  • Friday & Saturday – 11am – 10pm
  • Sunday –  12pm – 7pm


4. See A Movie At The Historic Grandin Theatre

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Grandin Theatre

Image: Grandin Theatre Foundation

A true piece of Roanoke’s history and great popcorn too! In 1931, Roanoke architect John Zink and his crew began construction on The Grandin Theatre. On March 26, 1932, Roanoke’s top movie palace opened its doors for the first time for a screening of “Arrowsmith.” The Grandin Theatre was the first theatre in Roanoke to have “talking pictures.”  Tickets were 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for kids.  Tickets are a bit more today, but well worth the experience.  There’s great restaurants in “the village” as well.


5. Take A Tour With Tour Roanoke

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Tour Roanoke

Discover Roanoke like never before! Enjoy a Culinary Adventure Walking Tour of downtown on a Roanoke Food Tour. If craft beer captures your fancy, explore local breweries on the Roanoke Craft Beer Tour  and go behind the scenes and discover why our local breweries are hopping. If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur then the Blue Ridge Wine Tours will take you on a guided tour to local farm wineries! Want to go on a adventure tour? Then how about taking a Rock Climbing and Craft beer Tour or a Biking and Craft Beer Tour. For info on any of these group tours, you can book online at Tour Roanoke.


6. Bike The Roanoke River Greenway

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Roanoke River Greenway

Image: Roanoke River Greenway

Weather in Roanoke during the holidays can be surprisingly mild. The Roanoke River Greenway offers the opportunity to not only get out of the house but also to get some exercise to burn off the holiday pies and cookies. Cycle the Greenway to the Green Goat restaurant located in the old transportation museum.  Need a bike?  No worries, affordable rentals available from Roanoke Mountain Adventures or Underdog Bikes, both located right off the Greenway.


7. Visit And Browse Black Dog Salvage

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Black Dog Salvage

Image: Black Dog Salvage

Plan for a full day of browsing and “picking.” Believe it or not, Black Dog Salvage is one of Roanoke’s top tourist attractions. Folks from throughout the U.S. make a pilgrimage to Roanoke for a “Black Dog weekend” thanks in large measure to the popular TV series Salvage Dawgs.  A local success story and tons of fun! This architectural salvage destination is a combination of antique shop, history museum and salvage paradise!  Envision a 40,000 square warehouse filled with architectural antiques, custom designs and everything in between.

8. Have A Dickens Of A Christmas

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Dickens Of A Christmas

Image: Roanoke Valley CVB

Be a part of the memories for the Roanoke Valley’s premiere holiday celebration, The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas! Celebrating its 34th anniversary, Dickens occurs on the first three Fridays in December. This free, family-friendly event happens annually in Downtown Roanoke and includes favorites like roasted chestnuts, carriage rides, street performers, and more!

This year’s schedule is:

  • Friday, December 2nd from 5:30pm to 10pm – featuring the City of Roanoke Christmas Tree Lighting at 6:15pm
  • Friday, December 9th from 6pm to 10pm – featuring the City of Roanoke Christmas Parade at 7:00pm
  • Friday, December 16th, from 6pm to 10pm – featuring the Coca Cola Snow Zone and RVSPCA Pet Costume Contest at 6:30pm


9. Explore The Historic Roanoke City Market And Market Building

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, City Market Building

Image: City Market Building

The oldest continually operating farmers market in the Commonwealth of Virginia began operating in 1882. The City Market Building and the adjacent farmer’s market has been the hub of food distribution since we were the town of Big Lick. Today the Market area is the center of downtown activity, complete we a thriving restaurant scene and great shopping. Make sure to have lunch at one of the delicious restaurants located in the City Market Building such as The Wall Street Tavern or Fork In The Market. Don’t miss the delicious breakfast from Scrambled, where everything is made fresh daily!


10. Go Indoor Rock Wall Climbing At The River Rock

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, The River Rock

Image: The River Rock

Children friendly, The River Rock is an indoor rock climbing gym located on the first floor of the River House in the Wasena Village next to the Roanoke River Greenway.  It features over 8,500 sq. ft. of climbing with over 30 top-rope and lead routes, plus plenty of world-class bouldering.  Great for beginner and experienced adventurers. 


11. Play Pinball At The Pinball Museum

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Roanoke Pinball Museum

Image: Roanoke Pinball Museum

Located in Center in the Square in downtown the Roanoke Pinball Museum is a retro pinball paradise. You’ll get unlimited play with your ticket. Children 8 & under are free with a paid adult. Open every day of the week except Monday. This interactive museum is dedicated to the science & history of pinball. Featuring over 45 machines from the 1930s to modern times, admission allows patrons to play at their leisure. Pinball players, young and old, will be introduced to the history of pinball, the science behind the game, and have fun!


12. Take In A Performance At Mill Mountain Theatre 

12 Ideas To Keep Friends And Family Entertained This Holiday Season, Mill Mountain Theatre

Image: Mill Mountain Theatre

What better way to support the local arts community than taking in a performance in one of Roanoke’s theatres. Gather the entire family and head over to Mill Mountain Theatre for a showing of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. This musical-comedy will be playing from November 30 through December 18, making it a perfect holiday outing for either Thanksgiving or the Christmas Holidays.


13.  Run, Walk or stroll the Drumstick DASH 


Race Info – 9:00 AM Thanksgiving Morning – 5K (3.1 mile) RACE/FAMILY WALK

Join thousands of Roanoker’s in downtown on Thanksgiving morning for a worthy cause.  Great fun and the DASH is sure to get you into a thankful spirit as you and your family help feed the hungry. Enjoy the music and sense of community along the route as the Drumstick DASH provides a fun, family-friendly, rain or shine Thanksgiving morning event. This year, the Rescue Mission will provide more than 300,000 meals to hungry families.

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