Roanoke, Virginia is the largest municipality in Southwest Virginia and has a population of 100,011 as of the 2020 census. This makes it the 8th most populated city in Virginia. The city is situated within the Roanoke Valley, an area about 20 miles long. Roanoke is the principal municipality of the Roanoke Statistical Metropolitan Area, composed of the cities of Roanoke and Salem as well as the counties of Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, and Roanoke. The Roanoke River runs through the city of Roanoke, making it a commercial and cultural focal point of Southwestern Virginia. Roanoke was originally called Big Lick when it was first settled in 1852. The name was changed to Roanoke when the city was incorporated in 1884. The city of Roanoke is divided into 49 distinct neighborhoods.
Roanoke’s early industries developed around the Norfolk and Western Railroad and was originally the headquarters for the Norfolk and Western Railway until it merged with Southern Railway. Norfolk Southern Railway was established in 1982 and continues to operate a rail yard and maintenance facilities in Roanoke.
The city of Roanoke hosts a number of local festivals including the Chili Cook-Off, Festival in the Park, Big Lick Blues Festival, and the Strawberry Festival. Roanoke is also the home of the Roanoke Star, also known as the Mill Mountain Star, the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. It was constructed in 1949 and is located at the top of Mill Mountain. When illuminated the star is visible for up to 60 miles. It was originally constructed to denote the beginning of the holiday season, but the star’s meteoric rise to popularity led the city to keep the star lit year-round instead of limiting it to the holiday season. In 1983, Center in the Square opened near downtown Roanoke. The Center was built in a converted warehouse and is the site of the History Museum of West Virginia, a museum that showcases exhibits and artifacts related to the area’s history. Center in the Square also contains the Science Museum of West Virginia and the Hopkins Planetarium. Other museums located in Roanoke include the Taubman Museum of Art and the Virginia Museum of Transportation. Other points of interest in Roanoke include Blue Ridge Parkway, Mill Mountain Zoo, O. Winston Link Museum, and Virginia’s Explore Park.
Despite being located along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke has a humid subtropical climate. The city is 42.85 total square miles. Of that, 42.52 square miles is land and 0.33 square miles is made up of water. As of the 2020 census, 55.94% of the total population was White, 27.07% was Black or African American, 8.48% was Hispanic or Latino, 5.26% identified as Mixed or Multi-Racial, 2.46% were Asian, 0.52% identified as Other, 0.21% were Native American, and 0.04% were Pacific Islander.
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