The famous Blue Ridge Parkway winds south through Virginia’s Blue Ridge, revealing countless scenic overlooks and a variety of enticing stopping points.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hotel Roanoke was built in 1882 by the Norfolk and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern Railway).  

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The Hotel Roanoke 1882 – Courtesy of The Hotel Roanoke

Roanoke was just a little town named Big Lick when enterprising railroad magnate Frederick J. Kimball chose it as the site of a railroad juncture and built his vision of a comprehensive community with the Hotel Roanoke as its grand centrepiece. Built-in a wheat field on a little hill, the Hotel Roanoke started as a rambling wooden structure of less than three dozen rooms. Today, both the hotel and its Regency Room restaurant hold the coveted AAA Four Diamond rating and you can still ride a train right into town, to the foot of the iconic hotel. Learn more about the fascinating history of the hotel here.

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Largest Franklin County Still, 1972 – Courtesy of the Blue Ridge Institute

The railroad and Hotel Roanoke helped put Virginia’s Blue Ridge on the map. But it was moonshine that made it famous. Nestled in the mountains is Franklin County, known as ‘The Moonshine Capital of the World.’ America’s 18th amendment made distilling alcohol for consumption illegal and with the start of Prohibition ‘moonshine’ was born. The high-proof liquor was named for its tendency to be made, and run to speakeasies, under the light of the moon, to avoid authorities. Read and watch videos outlining the story of Franklin County and its moonshine history here. The Blue Ridge Institute & Museum also offers a wealth of online exhibits. A final piece of everyone’s moonshine education is the major motion picture Lawless, the story of Virginia’s notorious Bondurant Boys.

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Mountain Biking in Virginia’s Blue RidgeToday, making moonshine is legal and some of its makers are the grandsons of those famous outlaws. But moonshine is not the only draw for visitors to the region. Virginia’s Blue Ridge is designated a Silver-Level Ride Center™ by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). One of only 15 Silver-Level Ride Centers in the world, Virginia’s Blue Ridge is the only one on the East Coast of America, luring mountain bikers worldwide to visit and ride some of the most beautiful and diverse trails in the world.


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