Roanoke is a mid-sized commercial and transportation center located between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains in the western part of the state. The city area spreads through a narrow valley surrounded by hills and mountains. The downtown area itself is an American classic with museums, shops and a famous farmer’s market in a lively historic central core known as Market Square. More modern commercial structures surround this core. On the whole Roanoke is more “old” than “new” South, but is bringing in a strong influx of northern migrants (evidenced among other things by a minor league hockey team).
The relatively diverse economy includes an industrial base ranging from heavy steel products to textiles and electronics. Cultural amenities are varied and abundant for the town’s size, and nearby mountains offer recreational opportunities. Cost of living is reasonable and the climate attractive. Healthcare is excellent, anchored by the large Carilion Health Foundation medical complex centered just south of town. Poor air quality can result from the valley location, and some parts of the area still have a bit of an industrial feel from its days as a rail center. However, it is largely clean and well kept.
Roanoke sits at the point where the Blue Ridge Mountains pinch against the main ridge of the Appalachians. The surrounding terrain is hilly to mountainous and generally wooded. Numerous mountain creeks and small streams empty into the headwaters of the Roanoke River. The climate is relatively mild. The mountains offer a natural barrier to winter cold and the destructive force of Atlantic hurricanes, which the inland location also helps to avoid. The elevation usually produces cool summer nights. Extreme temperatures are rare. Rainfall is well apportioned throughout the year. Snow usually falls each winter, occasionally producing significant accumulations. The mountain stream convergence can produce damaging floods. First freeze is late October, last is mid-April.