The next time you’re in Roanoke, Virginia, check out the Museum of Transportation. This indoor and outdoor museum offers the perfect afternoon of interest and activity for people of all ages. As I toured through the museum, I noticed a lot of people with kids, and the kids were just so excited about all the realistic models and exhibits. Seriously, this place is a lot better than many of the “hands-on” science museums I’ve visited in the past. Both children and adults will get a lot out of time spent here. This is good old, wholesome fun for the whole family.
How To Get To The Museum of Transportation
When you come, be sure to wear weather-appropriate gear, because a good many of the exhibits are outdoors. A comfortable pair of walking shoes is a must, too.
The Museum of Transportation in Roanoke is just under an hour’s drive from Smith Mountain Lake and Casago's surrounding rentals. Just hop onto 40W and then take the right to get onto SR 834.
Stay on that until you come to SR 670, then go left. Next, make a right onto VA-122 going north. Take the next left to get on 116N and follow your GPS and road signs to reach the Museum.
There’s a large parking lot that’s free for paying guests right next door to the museum entrance. Otherwise, you can also park on the street or in the Salem Avenue parking garage. If you park in the garage, ask the museum attendant to validate your parking ticket on the way out.
Museum of Transportation History
The Museum of Transportation was created back in 1963. Back then, it was in Wasena Park on Roanoke River, appropriately located inside an old train depot. It had humble beginnings, but did have a locomotive train and a U.S. Army rocket on display.
A big flood in 1985 almost ruined the Museum, as well as most of its exhibits. The entire facility had to be shut down and refurbished and it didn’t open back up until spring of ’86. By then it was relocated to downtown Roanoke, where it still stands today. Notably, the General Assembly of Virginia has recognized the Roanoke Museum of Transportation as the official transportation museum of the Commonwealth.
Our Experience At The Museum of Transportation
The many exhibits here will astound you. It’s fun to just wander around and feel like you’re back in the old days, getting into a horse-drawn buggy, or riding in an old passenger train or riding a rocket into space. If you have any curiosity at all about olden days’ transportation, then this museum will enthrall you. There are too many exhibit to enumerate here in total, but they include:
Here you’ll see automobiles dating from the late 19th century to the modern day. There’s also a special, occasional special event called the “Hollywood Star Cars,” where you can view famous cars that were used in famous movies and TV shows. You’ll see diesel engine cars, the famous Ghostbusters wagon, an old 1932 Desoto, hot rods and a whole lot more.
With a focus on aviation in Virginia, this exhibit also has an oral history feature, where you can listen to tales of actual aviation workers from the first days of flight all the way to space flight. Back in 2012, the Museum received a $25,500 grant, which they used to repair the roof and beef up its hands-on exhibits as well as add interpretive exhibits that trace Virginia’s history of aviaton all the way back to the days of barnstormers.
Here, you’ll see the gigantic old train locomotives, passenger trains and steam engines from way back when. There are also model train exhibits that are fascinating to see. If your child loves trains, you’ll have a hard time getting them to walk away from this impressive exhibit!
Tours & Admission
Allow between one and two hours for a visit to this Museum. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children between three and 11 and $8 for seniors aged 60 and older. Kids under three get in for free. There’s also a 10% discount on admission for AAA members.
Opening hours are Monday through Saturday, from 10AM to 5PM. Sundays they’re open from 1PM to 5PM and they close for Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day.
They have special events throughout the year, such as the Mommy and Me day that goes on every Wednesday and includes themed arts and crafts, snacks and stories.
On Grandparents Day (September 10th), they offer $5 admission, special activities, food vendors and more, from 10AM on. Check their website for more events throughout the year.
Don’t forget to visit the gift shop, which is chock full of souvenirs and transportation-related toys and gifts to help you remember your visit.
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