Hotel Roanoke Highlights
I’m overdue with the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, in more ways than one. I’d had my eyes on this historic property since it was branded a Doubletree and points rates were under 30k nightly. We finally got around to staying there late this past summer in its current Curio iteration, where I paid 50k points nightly. While I wrote about their surreal Executive Lounge a few months ago, I haven’t shared other Hotel Roanoke highlights from our stay. Should you bother visiting? Hopefully, this article helps you decide.
A Proud History
The Hotel Roanoke has quite a story to tell. The original property was built by the Norfolk and Western Railway (now Norfolk Southern). The hotel, designed in the Tudor style, officially opened on Christmas Day, 1882. As has become cliche with older hotels, significant parts of the Roanoke burned down in 1890. The rebuilt hotel opened again for business in 1899.
Jumping forward to 1989, Norfolk Southern generously deeded the property over to Virginia Tech for $65k and was promptly closed. Financial issues continued, but fundraisers and donations eventually enabled a substantial remodel and the conference center addition. The property reopened in 1995, managed by Doubletree. Hilton moved the hotel to the Curio portfolio in 2016.
So rich is the history that Hotel Roanoke offers an hour or so PBS-style documentary on a dedicated TV channel. This program sucked me in multiple times during our two-night stay.
An Excellent Location
The Hotel Roanoke is located just north of downtown, across the railroad tracks. A convenient walkway stretches over the tracks and is pedestrians’ main artery to downtown. Within a few minutes’ walk, we visited fun sites like the Virginia Museum of Transportation, Taubman Museum of Art, and the Roanoke Pinball Museum. Plenty of dining is nearby, luckily – more on that in a bit.
The hotel offers self parking for a reasonable $15 daily, and escaping to sights beyond downtown, like the Roanoke Star amid surrounding mountains, was a snap. Pick up some Blue Cow Ice Cream while you’re out – banana pudding’s my go-to.
We booked a two double bed room for 50k points nightly. The front desk agent provided a Diamond upgrade to a room at the end of the hall, essentially offering a few more windows. The long, winding walk to this room may have been more trouble than it was worth for a couple more windows.
The room leans into the historical aspect of the hotel, both in terms of decor and age of the furnishings. Entering the room is like a time warp to a 1980’s Hampton Inn. think dark woods, scuffed furniture, peeling wallpaper, and a consistent hint of moisture.
Still, the room felt cozy, and I found myself giving the hotel a pass on the above, conveniently writing it off as “charm.”
Mediocre Dining Options
I’ll start with the good first. Just off the main lobby sits 1882, a striking, inviting bar that many will enjoy. I didn’t get to this time, but I plan to in the future if I return. Behind 1882 is the Pine Room, with an attractive decor that is both woodsy and bright. Unfortunately, the food was just okay – stay away from the white pizza. Fortunately, just one Get Bent Mountain IPA helped me somewhat forget that mistake.
The Regency Room, the property’s flagship restaurant, complements the overall historic feel of the hotel. I wondered how recently the drapes had been cleaned. We had breakfast here on our first morning, and it was fine enough. The restaurant offers a breakfast buffet and also a la carte options. Beware of the latter – I think the cooks just placed buffet items with my (hardly) over medium eggs and presented it as a traditional breakfast. Cheap bacon brings me to my knees.
Adjacent to the conference center is the trying-too-hard-to-sound-cool Steam, the hotel’s version of takeaway coffee and overpriced bread products. The Hilton elite food and beverage credit is fairly versatile at Hotel Roanoke, good at all of the above establishments. Many will be better off drinking their credits at 1882 and dining elsewhere.
As The Wolf dictates in Pulp Fiction, so is the service here. The Wolf tells Jules and Vincent to give a car’s back seat a good once-over to clean up the biggest parts of a significant mess. The hotel’s service is competent and friendly, and in my view, good enough to overcome the stains from tired rooms and unremarkable dining experiences.
Front desk agents are eager to help, the golf cart guy always seemed to be around to drive us to our car, and doors were always held open for us. Most workers seemed happy to be there. True or not, that appearance goes a long way with me.
Hotel Roanoke Highlights – Conclusion
There’s not a whole lot of hotel competition in the area, and the Hotel Roanoke seems to know that. Indeed, leaning into nostalgia and providing solid service seems to fill up this hotel. While we’ll return to Roanoke, I’m not sure it’ll be to this property. I’m glad I finally experienced it, but as the Daniel Tiger song goes, “that was fun, but now it’s done.” I’ll probably check out The Liberty Trust next time.
Still, Hilton loyalists looking for a convenient stay in downtown Roanoke should consider The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. It may be just enough.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.