TRAVEL

Your Guide to Visiting Virginia in July

Summer may have arrived in June, but by the time July in Virginia comes around, the season is in full swing. Many people opt for a beach, lake, or bayfront vacation during the summertime, but an underrated destination is Virginia’s mountains. With temps often about ten degrees cooler than in the lower elevations, you’ll discover the peaks of the Commonwealth a refreshing alternative to the sandy shores in the summer months. 

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Photo Credit: Kristina Love, @kristinalovephotography

There are many charming mountain towns and cities worth a visit, providing everything from quiet rural retreats to action-packed adventure getaways that the whole family will love. One such outdoor destination is Roanoke, often called the “Star City of the South”. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and right off the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke combines the urban advantages like a wide array of incredible restaurants and several bustling neighborhoods with impressive outdoor recreation and scenic beauty. 

The Newest Attractions for Virginia’s Mountains

The Liberty Trust, originally constructed as a bank headquarters in 1910 in downtown Roanoke, reopened in early 2022 after undergoing a full historic restoration. The 54-room luxury lifestyle hotel offers awe-inspiring views of the city and the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Where to Stay

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Photo Credit: Rich Grant, @richgrantdenver

Luxury lodging can be found at the newly renovated Liberty Trust, mentioned above, or at the historic Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, both in downtown Roanoke. Built in 1882, the Tudor-style Hotel Roanoke blends historic elements with modern comforts. 

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Photo Credit: Shannon Terry 

Outdoor enthusiasts can stay at Explore Park, where lodging options range from primitive campsites and RV sites to yurts and pod cabins. Rates for the campsites start at just $25 per night while pod cabins start at $60 per night and $75 per night for yurts. 

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Photo Credit: Shannon Terry 

The property features hundreds of acres of peaceful woodlands and rolling hills, with activities like mountain biking, zip lines, treetop obstacle courses, hiking trails, disc golf, and waterfront sports like canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, tubing, and fishing.  

Where to Eat

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Photo Credit: John Park, @hungryasianrke

For breakfast, we recommend visiting Scratch Biscuit Company. As the name implies, the biscuits are made fresh daily “from scratch”, and with more-than-generous portion sizes, you’ll start the day with a full stomach and possibly even some leftovers.

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Photo Credit: John Park, @hungryasianrke

Enjoy southern fare at The River & Rail, a favorite spot for locals that focuses on seasonably available, sustainably raised, and organic ingredients. 

An excellent option for dinner is Fortunato Restaurant, known for the traditional Italian fare with a twist, as well as the Neapolitan-style pizzas. Pair your meal with one of their signature cocktails or pick from the extensive wine selection. And don’t miss ending the meal with a decadent Italian dessert such as a cannoli, tiramisu, or the zeppole–a serving of ricotta doughnuts topped with honey, powdered sugar, chocolate, anisette, and orange sauce. Before leaving, peep into the dining room at the far end of the restaurant, where half of a van has been painted and mounted on the wall as a one-of-a-kind mural. 

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Stop into Pop’s Ice Cream & Soda Bar in Roanoke’s Grandin Village neighborhood with the kids for sweet treats and retro vibes. The old-fashioned soda shop also serves over a dozen wild takes on the grilled cheese sandwich, such as the “Hold the Cheese”, a grilled peanut butter and banana version, and the “Sharply Sweet”, made with cinnamon cream cheese, sharp cheddar, and fresh apple slices. 

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Photo Credit: Shannon Terry

In addition to an array of dining options, Roanoke is known for its craft brewery scene. With over a half dozen breweries within city limits and another half dozen only a short distance away, you could spend an entire day visiting the breweries in the Roanoke area and still not sample all the brews (we don’t recommend trying this–pace yourself!). 

What to Do

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

If you’re looking to add a little adrenaline to your vacation, don’t miss out on the region’s mountain biking, designated the only Silver-Level Ride Center on the East Coast by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). In addition to mountain biking trails, the Roanoke Valley Greenway winds through downtown Roanoke, offering about 26 miles of biking trails, with much of that paved.

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

Another way to enjoy the beauty of Virginia’s outdoors is to take a scenic road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Make sure you’ve got plenty of extra time to stop along the way and explore the pristine trails along this winding mountain route, as the rhododendrons reach their peak of blooming in July. One such hike is Humpback Rocks, a four-mile loop that includes part of the Appalachian Trail, but there are trails for every age and skill level along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

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Infuse a bit of history and culture into your vacation at one of Roanoke’s museums, such as the Taubman Museum of Art, the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, or the Roanoke Pinball Museum, which will delight both kids and adults. Another family-friendly museum is the Kid’s Square Children’s Museum, where kids will have the opportunity for hands-on learning and fun. 

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Photo Credit: Hannah Armstrong, @hannahelizarmstrong

The Historic Roanoke City Market is open seven days a week, but you’ll find the most vendors, farmers, and artisans lining the streets on Saturdays. There are also numerous boutiques and locally-owned shops in the downtown Roanoke area where you can peruse everything from handmade chocolates to vintage vinyl records.

Catch a Minor League Baseball game when you get tickets to the Salem Red Sox. The finest minor league field in the United States, the arena is set against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

And of course, no visit to Roanoke is complete without a stop at the Roanoke Star. In addition to getting an up-close look at the monument, the attraction also affords wide-open views of the city below. 

More Virginia Vacation Ideas for July

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Plan a trip to the Commonwealth during the first weekend in July to attend some of Virginia’s 4th of July celebrations. Brilliant fireworks displays are happening in practically every city or town, as well as parades, historic events, and live music performances. Notable locations for 4th of July events include Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon’s “An American Celebration”, Richmond’s Fireworks at the Diamond, and Wintergreen Resort’s July 4th Jubilee

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

If a more rural retreat in the Commonwealth’s quiet countryside is on the agenda, you may want to plan a summer road trip through Southwest Virginia. With hundreds of miles of trails available for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and ATV off-roading, this region’s indescribable beauty is on full display in July. Start in Roanoke and follow the less-traveled route to Abingdon to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. 

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Image Courtesy of the Tides Inn

Got a big birthday, anniversary, or notable milestone to celebrate this summer? Book a special weekend trip to the Tides Inn on Virginia’s Northern Neck during the weekend of July 16th for a once-in-a-lifetime experience–a Whiskey Run across the water followed by an extravagant dinner at the Tides Inn’s on-site restaurant, the Chesapeake Restaurant & Terrace.

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of this coastal property, the event starts with cocktails by the water, followed by a scenic boat ride across the Rappahannock River to get a signature bottle of Virginia whiskey. This trip replicates what a guest would have to do in 1947 to get alcohol while staying at the inn, as Lancaster was a dry county. After boarding the 127-foot “Miss Ann” boat docked at the Tides, guests traveled across the water to purchase alcohol, then returned to the inn and store their spirits in a designated liquor locker. While the “Miss Ann” has been retired, the handcrafted wood lockers still adorn the walls of the restaurant today, adding a historic element to the luxurious inn. 

Attend Richmond’s 5th Annual HeART & Soul Fest, part of the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, to sample Soul & African cuisine, sip on local craft brews, peruse urban art, and listen to hip-hop and soul music. Founded by Richmond’s own social entrepreneur Kelli Lemon, the event raises funds for local makers, entertainers, and artists. Bring the kids and pups, as the HeArt & Soul Fest is both pet- and family-friendly. 

Now that you’ve got a few ideas for a July vacation to Virginia, it’s time to start planning! Experience all there is to LOVE about Virginia when you explore the wondrous mountains of the Commonwealth.




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