10 Ways to Get Outside this Winter in Roanoke, Virginia

From 100 Miles to 1000 hours, check out these great ideas to get Outside this Winter

By Beth Bell, Publisher January 7, 2024

Whether you are participating in the 1000 hours outside challenge, Roanoke 100 Miler, or just trying to be intentional in spending time outdoors during the winter, we've pulled together 10 ways you can enjoy your outside time in the Roanoke Valley this winter. 

Before you go on these 10 adventures, sign up for PLAY Roanoke's 100 Miler Challenge and earn rewards for your efforts.  The virtual event starts on January 8th.  Participants agree to move their bodies 100 miles in 100 days or 30 minutes doing any movement = 1 mile.  All participants will receive encouraging messages, check-ins, and fitness tips from PLAY Roanoke and will have opportunities to win gift cards and other prizes. You can also register to receive a T-shirt.  Register here.

1. Go on an Art Walk.  

Roanoke is home to many colorful murals and outdoor sculptures and each year brings new ones. 

2. Visit a park or playground. 

This one may seem obvious, but have you noticed all of the upgrades our local parks have been getting?  PLAY Roanoke, Roanoke Parks and Recreation department, manages over 71 parks! Several have received face lifts, including new playground equipment, in 2022 and 2023. Learn more about PLAY Roanoke's annual updates here.

3. Go on a Winter Scavenger Hunt. 

Bundle up and take photos of the way things look in the winter.  Explore how things look differently in the Winter. The trees, water, and animals.  

Here's a list of things to look for in the Winter:  Animals (note how their fur is different), Animal Tracks, Winter Hats or Mittens, Smoke in Chimneys, Firewood, Trees - evergreen and without branches/leaves, Water/Mud puddles that are frozen, boots, Rosy Cheeks, Breathing "smoke", snowflakes, icicles.

I think this could be a fun seasonal project for your family.  Take photos of the same areas/things each season and compare them at the end of the year.  Make sure to include photos of the family- from bundled up to sun-kissed and barefoot.

4. Visit the Zoo

Mill Mountain Zoo continues with programming throughout the winter. You can visit and ovserve the animals during their feeding times. Incorporate some of the Winter Scavenger Hunt ideas in this article.  How do the animals adapt to the cooler weather? How do their bodies and habitats change?   Explore the trails and playground while on top of the mountain and get an even wider view of the region from the Mill Mountain Star.  Mill Mountain has made several updates in 2023, it's practically a new zoo! What's New at the Zoo?

5.  Go on a History Walk. 

Roanoke offers several history walks.  A history walk is a great way to earn more about our city and the people who founded and grew it.  These are do it yourself walks, but we also list group walks on our calendar when they are available.

🚶 Historic Gainsboro History Walk

🚶 Downtown Roanoke Walking Tour by Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge

🚶 Historic Walking Tour of Salem

🚶 Go on the David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk 

The walk runs along Norfolk Avenue from behind the Taubman Museum of Art to beyond the Amtrak platform. The walk features historic information markers,  rail exhibits and other transportation artifacts. It ends at the Virginia Museum of Transportation which allows for more fun train, auto, and plane exploration. 

6.  Visit a Farm. 

The Smith Mountain Lake Alpaca Farm offers tours daily.  Meet over 60 alpacas and learn about all of the products created with their fur. 

Lottie J Farm offers many fun outings throughout the year but are by appointment only during the winter months.  Visit with many farm animals and play on the fun Barn themed playground. 

Spring Valley Farm in Moneta is a great place to get introduced to horses, trail rides, and they also have a petting zoo. 

7.  Visit a Cemetery

Cemeteries can be fascinating. They are full of history, unique markers, and memorial gardens.  If for nothing else, just to have a safe place to walk outdoors and enjoy some of the elaborate monuments.  There's a few ways to make your visit educational and entertaining. 

- Look for the oldest birthday, who lived the longest? 

- Look for all the letters of the alphabet and etch them on paper rubbings. 

- Find your own name/last name.

- Take a sketch book and draw some of the monuments, memorials and gardens you see.

Evergreen in Roanoke invites you to stop by their office for a Walking Tour guide for information on notable citizens buried there. 

Sherwood Memorial in Salem, VA has over 100 acres of gardens, sculptures, fountains,and a nice paved walking trail. 

The Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg has graves as early as 1806, a pet cemetery, and a horse cemetery.  Learn some of the histories of the inhabitants here.  The grounds are beautiful to visit in the spring. 

Here's a few reminders of basic cemetery etiquette and respect to cover before you go. 

8.  Geocaching

Geocaching is a fun activity to start with your family, while you're home and while traveling.  It's a treasure hunt in your own backyard!  Here's some information and tips on making the most of geocaching.

9.  Check out a Roanoke Adventure Dog from the RCACP

The RCACP's Roanoke Adventure Dogs program allows members of the community to take out adoptable dogs on offsite, day-long field trips. When you arrive, ask to take a dog out for an adventure.  A staff member will discuss your plans for the day, match you with an appropriate dog, go over basic rules, and you'll be on your way in 15-20 minutes.  

10.  Visit a state park

Within an hours drive, you can be at Smith Mountain, Claytor Lake, Fairy Stone or Douthat State Parks.  Each park offers trails, interpreter led hikes and outings, and other nature related crafts and activities. Find Your Park Here