Virginia’s Blue Ridge area includes the largest metropolitan area in the Western portion of the state – Roanoke. It’s considered the “Star City of The South” and it certainly lives up its name with so much to do. The area is famous for outdoor adventures, but there’s plenty of laid back fun for families too. I scoured the city (and it’s surrounding areas) and discovered these amazing things to do in Roanoke, Virginia with kids.
Since Virginia’s Blue Ridge is known for being the “Mountain Biking Capitol of The East” you automatically assume that everything to do is for thrill seekers. Surprisingly, there are so many family-friendly things to do in Roanoke that are much more tame.
It’s a fantastic central destination that’s a beautiful drive from the surrounding major cities. You can take the scenic way and drive through Blue Ridge Parkway. Families can easily pack in the best of Virginia Blue Ridge in a 2-3 day itinerary, making it a great weekend trip.
Looking for even more great things to do in Virginia? Check out some of these other things to do in the state, with kids:
- 21 Family-Friendly Virginia Beach Attractions That Kids Will Love
- Virginia Aquarium: Intimate Animal Encounters For Kids
- State of Virginia Coloring Pages & Activities
Best Things To Do In Roanoke Virginia With Kids
If you’re traveling with younger kids, I suggest bringing a jogging stroller for some of the outdoor areas. The suspension is helpful with the area’s hills and definitely wear comfortable walking shoes. Some of the downtown attractions are within walking distance from each other.
Virginia Museum of Transportation
Hands down, the Virginia Museum of Transportation is my children’s favorite thing to do in Roanoke. Whether they’re watching model trains run around imaginary cities, seeing engines up close in the train yard or gazing at vintage cars, there’s so much for kids to love about this museum.
Parents will appreciate how the museum ties history into the hands-on attractions that kids love. The exhibits display how transportation changed over time and how world events effected transit as we know it today. My kids could spend hours watching the model trains repeat the same loop and play in the train yard. Be sure to check museum hours because the train yard closes first, before the museum does – and kids don’t want to miss an opportunity to play on a train!
Mill Mountain Star and Park
Every night, the Mill Mountain Star lights up the skyline of Roanoke. If you want the opportunity to see the sheer size of this amazing icon, you’ve got to take a trip to Mill Mountain Park. The park spans 568 acres and houses the 88.5-foot-tall Mill Mountain Star at the top!
Guests can hike to the star, or (easier for families) drive to the top. Use the opportunity to see the star up close and check out the views of Roanoke. It’s the perfect spot for a family photo and it’s really neat to see the world’s largest illuminated, freestanding man-made star. Read about the history of the star, too!
Mill Mountain Zoo
If you have little animal lovers, you’ve got to check out the Mill Mountain Zoo after seeing the star. It’s a small zoo, but where it lacks in size they make up for it by having character and being kid-friendly. There’s plenty of staff on hand to answer your kid’s animal questions and you might even see a few critters up close.
See red wolves, Japanese macaques, red pandas, snow leopards and visit the reptile house. The zoo is stroller-friendly and offers even more amazing views of the city, from on top of the mountain.
Discovery Center At Mill Mountain Park
While you’re visiting the star or the zoo, you’ve got to pop into the Discovery Center at Mill Mountain Park. Kids will love the hands-on areas to learn about the critters and nature that they can find at Mill Mountain. They even house several snakes that kids can see up-close. If you see anything interesting on your hike, they’re the experts to ask about it!
Blue Cow Ice Cream
If you’re craving something sweet, don’t miss the opportunity to grab a few scoops at Blue Cow Ice Cream. Located in Downtown Roanoke, this creamery makes artisan flavors daily with non-dairy selections to pick from as well. They pride themselves in quality ingredients that are locally sourced.
They’ve got a great outside patio area with a view of the Roanoke River and you can see the Mill Mountain Star from it. Blue Cow Ice Cream is a great spot for younger kids, but be aware that they do not have high chairs for toddlers or babies.
If you’re looking for some family-friendly outdoor fun, then head to Explore Park. It features hundreds of acres of rolling hills, pristine woodlands, hiking trails and river views. They have a Treetop Quest ropes course if your kids want a birds-eye view and kids as young as four can participate. If you’re looking for kid-friendly mountain biking, Explore Park is where you should head. When night hits, and all of the outdoor adventure wears you out, stay in one of their overnight cabins or rent a campsite.
Roanoke Pinball Museum
Located in Center of the Square, tweens and teens will love the Roanoke Pinball Museum. It’s a blast from the past, as you can spend hours playing real vintage pinball machines. It’s home to 45 pinball machines that date back from 1948 to the 1990s. They’re organized by date, so you can play through time until your heart is content.
Roanoke River Greenway
Bike or walk on the Roanoke River Greenway which following along the Roanoke River, throughout the city. It’s also a great way to commute through the the different neighborhoods, with easy stops for food (or a sweet treat) along the path. There are seven trailheads that you can pick from to park at.
Kids Square Children’s Museum
If you have younger kids, I promise that the Kids Square Children’s Museum is worth the ticket price. Kids will play for hours at this completely hands-on museum. They can play, create, discover and learn with all of the life-size exhibits. Kids will love pretending to be a Vet, Doctor or Banker – or maybe they want to work on a pretend car? They can do all of that! It’s the best children’s museum I’ve ever been too and I recommend it to everyone.
Science Museum of Western Virginia
Kids won’t even realize how much they’re learning, because they’re having so much fun, when they visit the Science Museum of Western Virginia. It’s packed with visual and hands-on exhibits that brings science to life for kids. Also located at Center in the Square, you can combine your visit with the Children’s Museum and Pinball Museum.
If you’re looking to make your visit to the Science Museum truly unique, consider purchasing tickets for the Parakeet Garden. Kids and adults can feed over 150 parakeets together in a beautiful garden. It’s amazing to see how they’re trained for visitors.
Hunt Down LOVEworks Signs Throughout Roanoke
Scattered all throughout the great state of Virginia, you can find the LOVEworks art. It’s literally the word “love” made into art that you can take your photo with. They’re huge and fun to hunt down with the kids. Track down all of the LOVEworks signs in the virginia, and locate the ones that are specific to Virginia’s Blue Ridge area.
No matter what your kids are interested in, there’s so much fun to enjoy in Roanoke. It’s a great mid-size city for families to explore and you can easily hop from the great outdoors to the downtown area multiple times in a day. Roanoke is definitely a great southern city to visit with kids that’ll keep us coming back.