Above photo, Kids Square Children's Museum
March 2018 – Roanoke’s Blue Ridge Parkway
The Roanoke, Virginia, area boasts many unheralded treasures for families seeking new adventures. The picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway enhances driving, and a hike on the iconic Appalachian Trail is a must.
Maybe hike up to McAfee Knob, one of the trail’s most scenic spots. Enjoy fishing, boating, and horseback riding at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve.
In town, the region’s rail history is told in a half-mile outdoor walk with interactive displays, signs, and whistles. The Virginia Museum of Transportation has more than 50 pieces of rolling stock – rail cars, locomotives, and more.
With the history, mix in countless family and kids’ attractions – River Rock Climbing Wall, Launching Pad Trampoline Park and Family Fun Center, Science Museum of Western Virginia, Mill Mountain Zoo, Kids Square Children’s Museum, and Roanoke Pinball Museum to name a few.
Still more museums include Harrison Museum of African-American Culture and History Museum of Western Virginia with Native American and commonwealth history.
Unique shopping is also abundant. For example, Black Dog Salvage reclaims, repurposes, and sells varied vintage architectural and construction items from historic homes. And the historic 1920s Grandin Village neighborhood gives a look at that period.
The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum in next-door Franklin County is at the site where Booker T. Washington was born as a slave on a tobacco plantation in 1856. The National Monument there uses exhibits, films, and tours to cite his accomplishments as orator, educator, and presidential advisor that made him an enduring American hero.
In Fincastle, a quaint village 20 miles north of Roanoke, a self-guided walking tour spotlights 50 historic stops, including homes, shops, public buildings, and more. Some buildings open to the public date back to the town’s 1770s founding.
Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau
Stretching from Alabama across Tennessee into Kentucky, the Cumberland Plateau is scenically interfused with mountain streams, hidden caverns, and spectacular gorges.
It also offers the intriguing, historic Rugby, Tennessee, an authentic British village founded by author Thomas Hughes in 1880. Hughes recruited visionary British gentry to come settle in Rugby, seeking to build an aristocratic utopia.
In its glory days, Rugby claimed over 300 residents and almost 75 elegant Victorian buildings, a refined center of British education, entertainment, and advancement.
Surviving historic buildings open for tours include a library, a working print shop, a restaurant, and private homes, some of which double as inns or artisan galleries.
Grey Gables, with restful rooms, covered porches, and homey rocking chairs, offers a spectacular five-course dinner and a hearty homemade breakfast.
Each August, Rugby hosts a car show, displaying dozens of rare British cars. The entire town becomes a British festival of arts, entertainment, teas, and feasting.
Numerous state parks in the Tennessee hills around Rugby offer hiking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities.
In nearby Pall Mall, visitors can tour Sergeant Alvin C. York State Historic Park, home of one of America’s most decorated World War I heroes, made famous by Sergeant York, the 1941 Gary Cooper film. The tour includes the York home, a visitor center designed like York’s general store, a gristmill, the York Bible School, and a beautiful walking trail.
Near the park is the church where York met Christ and a cemetery where he, his beloved wife Gracie, and other family members are buried.
A free film recounts York’s humble beginnings, rowdy days before Christianity, struggles as a conscientious objector, and wartime heroism. It also depicts York’s lifelong efforts to bring salvation, education, and prosperity to his beloved Tennesseans.
historicrugby.org or tnstateparks.com