While stationed on Long Island to conduct secret war research for the U.S. government during World War II, O. Winston Link started snapping photographs of the Long Island Railroad tracks behind his lab. Eager to capture large-scale railroad pictures at night, he built his own customized flash equipment. After the war, Link harnessed that creative curiosity by spending five years photographing the Norfolk and Western Railway, the last large steam-powered American railroad. From his 20 trips to the railway's tracks in four states, Link collected 2,400 pictures.
His work didn't garner attention until the 1980s, when he published his first collection of railroad photos in the lauded book Steam, Steel & Stars. The West Virginia Historical Society continues to preserve his legacy with the O. Winston Link Museum, which showcases Link's Norfolk and Western project while filling in its historical context. Throughout seven galleries, patrons hear the sounds of bustling locomotive engines, adjust the lighting of an interactive diorama's photograph, and ogle Link's original photographic equipment, including flashbulbs, power boxes, and super power boxes. The museum underscores its edifying galleries with a plentitude of tours, workshops, and ongoing photography programs.
Perched on the banks of Smith Mountain Lake, Bridgewater Marina & Boat Rental launches and lends a variety of lake skimmers to pleasure-seeking pontooners. Peruse and patrol the waters for the elusive Bigfin from atop a four-stroke pontoon boat, whose flat deck area gives a surface for chips and dip and heated canasta competitions. Hedonists, meanwhile, can crank hydroplaning into high gear with a runabout ski-boat rental that—when brought up to speed—can quickly dry hair still soaked with Gatorade from last night's solitaire victory. Bridgewater gives pilots a free safety and instructional orientation before launching them onto the lake, and allows boaters to upgrade one-hour rentals to two hours, or even full days, for an extra fee.
Green Ridge Recreation Center sprawls out over 76,000 square feet, giving muscle-molders, swimmers, and other athletes plenty of room to work up a sweat. The wellness center boasts a 1/8-mile walking track so security guards can practice wandering in circles. Strength-training equipment, free weights, and more than 60 cardiovascular exercise machines build muscle and raise pulses. While they run, exercisers can absorb the view of the surrounding hills or else turn to the personal television screens attached to many of the treadmills and ellipticals in case there are any good shows about hills on. Players pick and roll across two high-school-regulation-sized basketball courts in the air-conditioned gymnasium, which also hosts pickup and free-play volleyball sessions.
With three locations in the Valley area, Roanoke/Botetourt Athletic Clubs offer extensive facilities, a focus on member convenience, and a variety of group-exercise classes a week. (Class descriptions and schedules here.) Membership to any of the clubs allows you to use all three facilities. The family membership includes the buyer, his or her spouse, and any children younger than 21 who live at home. Both membership options offer unlimited workouts at any of the locations, allowing patrons to keep their muscles nervous and on edge by constantly varying the time, frequency, and location of exercise. Fitness seekers at the Roanoke Athletic Club and Botetourt Athletic Club can make use of cardio theaters, gymnasiums, steam rooms, professional-grade racquetball courts, and the track. Indoor and outdoor pools allow aquaphiles to immerse themselves in the object of their love year-round, and pool-goers at the Botetourt location can combine the joy of swimming with low-friction delight in the form of a 23-foot water slide. Complimentary child-care is also available at the Roanoke and Botetourt locations. Members with little time can participate in lightning workout rounds at the smaller, more centrally located Zoom express fitness center in downtown Roanoke (however, your Groupon cannot be initially redeemed at this location).
Aquatic Adventures’ staff of lifelong instructors and competitive swimmers transforms young fins into formidable flippers over the course of a month. Group lessons are divided into six class levels. Green guppies can wet their feet in the Seal program, which acquaints them with basic swimming skills in the shallower depths, and Walrus-level classes build on the basics to foster independence in swimmers who are comfortable putting their faces in the water, floating, and socializing with trout. Freestyle, backstrokes, and breath control constitute the Ice Fish curriculum, before the Macaroni Penguin program prepares youngsters for endurance swimming with longer distance practice and deep-water-diving skills. Children already privy to the secrets of the deep can enroll in advanced Polar Bear clinics that aim to further refine their skills through a focus on competitive swimming strokes and salmon hunting.
A comprehensive guide to attractions and things to do.