We must admit that living around the Washington, D.C area, there is no shortage of five star accommodations and restaurants, but once you venture more than 100 miles to the Southwest your choices to find something that matches modern big city life with country style are few and far between. This is exactly why our staff recently ventured on a three and half hour road trip to the small town of Roanoke, Virginia to find why parents of Virginia Tech students, business groups and leisure travelers alike choose the Doubletree Hotel Roanoke as their choice hotel in Southwest Virginia.
For those who are history buffs and are making Roanoke part of their Virginia history trip, the hotel itself has plenty of history behind it. Roanoke, which originally went by the name of Big Lick, became the town it is today when enterprising railroad magnate Frederick J. Kimball chose it as the site of a railroad juncture and a major city. After Kimball combined two of his railroads into the Norfolk and Western Railroad, he then needed to have a place to stay that would bring the community together. In 1882 Kimball began construction of the Hotel Roanoke shaping the city and becoming the centerpiece as we know it today.
The railroad, now known as the Norfolk Southern, and its presence in Roanoke have changed dramatically, but it has left its mark and shaped the community and has played a huge part of the development of the city to what people see of it today. Long gone are the days of passenger trains departing from across the street of the hotel to major cities such as New York and Washington, D.C, but what remains is a city that is rich in railroad and Virginia history and with the Hotel Roanoke, it makes visiting the city for pleasure or business a charm of its own.
When we arrived after almost 3.5 hour drive down Interstate 66 and 81, what we found was the start of why travelers will find this hotel to be hidden gem for all to find. The mountainous surroundings almost ease you back in time and upon arriving at the hotel you will soon find why they offer a Southern Style of service. Both the bellman and valet were at the car before we could get out. Self parking is $7.00 and valet is $10.00. We have paid more for valet in other cities and had to beg to get our car parked. It was a nice change to not have to look for someone to park our car. Five star curb service for $10 a night is one of the many great deals you will find at Hotel Roanoke.
After we walked down the red carpet running the entire length of the front stairs we stepped back in time into the cozy lobby, rich with Virginia history, all part of the 1993 re-opening of the hotel.
A huge part of the hotel as we know it today came from a $2 million dollar Virginia Tech grant, who now also owns the property after taking over from the Norfolk Southern. Virginia Tech has made the hotel what it is today. If you haven’t been to the hotel in a number of years, it is a far cry from when the Norfolk Southern owned the property and shut its doors in 1989, for what some thought would be for good.
The first set of renovations that wrapped up in 1993 changed the hotel dramatically and how it re-emerged is nothing short of amazing. From the large fireplace that sits at one end of the lobby to the original Czech-made chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and the wooden trim that lines surrounds the entire lobby, it certainly is closer to a museum than a hotel. You can learn and sleep all in one place.
Phase one of the renovations were completed in May, including 150 guest rooms located on floors two and three of the hotel. The new dÃ©cor was designed by Jillian Van Dresser of Atlanta, who has roots to both Virginia Tech and Roanoke, growing up in Blacksburg.
Our room had a great view overlooking the small, but quaint, pool area and for those wanting an escape from all of the hustle and bustle some hotels have, ask for a room at the very end of the hall. These rooms are perfect for those taking advantage of the hotel’s romantic weekend get-away packages.
The updated rooms are decorated in red, black, and white, with a mix of classical with a modern twist. Our review room had a large flat screen television (great for the traveling sports fan during NFL and College Football season), a king 4 poster bed and a beautiful wall sized framed mirror. Complete with a large antique wooden desk, and plenty of space to relax with a chaise lounge, it is a comfy room with a down home Southern feel.
Hotel Roanoke offers a total of 18 suites for someone looking for that real roomy feeling. The Governor’s Suite has 1680 square feet of living area and a rooftop terrace if you really want to be big pimpin this is the room for you.
Our staff has always been a huge fan of a nice spacious bathroom, and this one was large and in charge. Complete with a huge/tub shower and the curved shower rod, they have put every effort into maximizing space for a more relaxing way to unwind. Marble white flooring and great lighting can also be found within. For those who like to get up and go and feel refreshed, this is your perfect bathroom.
Just when we thought the hotel could not get any better, wait until you step into the Regency Room for dinner and see what Head Chef Billy Raper has put together for guests. Raper and his culinary staff at the hotel truly have a passion for five star dining. They know what you will not find anywhere in Roanoke or maybe Virginia. We will give you just a small taste of what they have to offer in this review.
Some of their appetizers will certainly surprise you, in a good way as you would never expect to find something so unique as what the Hotel Roanoke offers on their menu.
The Lump Crab Cocktail Done Two Ways is unique with the Japanese Tempura Style with Asian Slaw and good to the last bite with the Caribbean Ceviche Style served with Grilled Tomato Salsa for $15.
If you like salads their Asparagus and Roasted Beet Salad is so amazing, you will definitely want another serving. The Roasted Shallots and Blood Orange Vinaigrette with Brunoise of Cold Smoked Salmon offer simply melts in your mouth with each bite.
No one can leave the restaurant without the House Specialty since 1940, the famous Peanut Soup. Wow—¦. This is absolutely delicious. Ask for a cup to take home, or at $5 for a big bowl, just pack your own to-go cup and order more than one bowl, it’s that good.
If you can get past swooning over the appetizers, we recommend the Corn Crusted Virginia Trout Veronique and the Rack of Lamb Encrusted with Fennel and Rosemary. Both are excellent selections for $26 and $29 respectively. Expect very good size proportions.
If a Sunday is part of your stay, then we suggest that you do not miss out on the Regency Room Breakfast Buffet, which we found to be almost as delightful as dinner. Except you have to get up early for this one. A full breakfast menu is also available along with a Continental Breakfast served outside of the Pine Room if you are looking for a little more of the casual feel.
For those looking for a way to unwind, kick back and have a drink and light fare, then we suggest stopping in the Pine Room for a sandwich and a game of pool. We felt as if we were at a vacation lodge not at a hotel. The Pine Room is great way to have an afternoon of family time either inside or on their porch depending on the time of year your travels take you to Roanoke.
If you have a desire to take your evening time into overtime hours, Hotel Roanoke offers Club AKA in the basement, where you can dance and have drinks to the wee hours of the morning and stumble back to your room if so desired. We passed on that idea this time due to a late night photo shoot, but it will tempt, so be careful.
Another amenity that sets the Hotel Roanoke apart from its competitors is the meeting and conference space. Over the past 10 years, the hotel has created considerable economic impact to the Roanoke community. More than 350 jobs have been created as a result of the additions and renovations, producing $15.9 million in tax revenues to the City of Roanoke. More than 720,000 people have met in the Conference Center, contributing over $144 million to the local economy. Virginia Tech has brought in an additional 275,000, to attend over 3,000 educational programs. Needless to say, this hotel has done well more than just serve as a great place to sleep in Roanoke.
So if you are looking for a perfect weekend get-away for you and that special one, or planning a meeting or convention or just want to explore the new Roanoke, we highly suggest that you take the time to make a reservation at this classic property. Check out the O Winston Link Museum across the street and see some of the most classic photographs by one of the most heralded photographers of the 20th Century and take a walk down the brand new Link rail walk and head over to the Virginia Museum of Transportation where two of the most significant steam locomotives that shaped this city are housed. It is a great city that many should take the weekend to explore.
Roanoke is celebrating its 125 Anniversary this year and many events are planned throughout the city. Check with the hotel to see what might be interesting around the city that explores more of he history of the city.
Reservations can be made by calling 540 985-5900 or you can visit the hotel online at www.hotelroanoke.com