Roanoke & Around
Illuminated by the giant star atop Mill Mountain, Roanoke is the largest city in the valley and is the self-proclaimed 'Capital of the Blue Ridge.' It has a compact set of attractions based around the bustling indoor-outdoor Historic City Market, a sumptuous farmers market loaded with temptations.
Galax claims to be the world capital of mountain music, although it feels like anywhere-else-ville outside of the immediate downtown area, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The main attraction is the Rex Theater, a musty, red-curtained belle of yore. Frequent bluegrass acts cross its stage, but the easiest one to catch is the free Friday-night live WBRF 98.
One of the most photogenic towns in Virginia, Abingdon retains fine Federal and Victorian architecture in its historic district, and hosts the bluegrass Virginia Highlands Festival over the first half of August. The visitor center has exhibits on local history. Fields-Penn 1860 House Museum has exhibits on 19th-century life in southwest Virginia.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Where Skyline Dr ends, the Blue Ridge Parkway picks up. The road is just as pretty and runs from the southern Appalachian ridge in Shenandoah National Park at Mile 0 to North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Mile 469. Wildflowers bloom in spring, and fall colors are spectacular, but watch out for foggy days; no guardrails can make for hairy driving.
Tiny, cute-as-a-postcard Floyd is nothing more than an intersection between Hwy 8 and 221, but life explodes on Friday nights at the Floyd Country Store. Every Friday starting at 6:30pm, $5 gets you four bluegrass bands in four hours and the chance to watch happy crowds jam along to regional heritage.
Mt Rodgers National Recreation Area
This seriously beautiful district is well worth a visit from outdoor enthusiasts. Hike, fish or cross-country ski among ancient hardwood trees and the state's tallest peak. The park headquarters offers maps and recreation directories. The NPS operates five campgrounds in the area; contact park headquarters for details.