By Charissa Roberson, Contributing Writer
College is great – but more likely than not, you and your friends don’t have a lot of extra money lying around for weekend outings. Whether you’re a returning student or a newly arriving freshman, check out these tips for some local activities that won’t stretch your budget!
If you don’t have a car, you might be wondering what options are available to you. Good news! The Salem Ice Cream Parlor is a brisk walk down Main Street from Roanoke College, and the cute spot is perfect for a Friday afternoon ice cream cone. In fact, Main Street is full of possibilities: browse the antique shops or the used bookstore, grab a smoothie at Elderberries, or join some friends for a coffee at Mill Mountain.
Need a breath of fresh air after a long study session? Situated right across the street from campus, Longwood Park offers paved walking trails and shady places to rest or enjoy a snack. Also, Green Hill Park is a short drive down Main Street. This expansive park features a river, picnic pavilions, open fields for playing soccer or flying kites, and a lovely view of the Blue Ridge Mountain – as well as hiking trails that lead up to a peaceful meadow on the hill. Whether you’re out for a Sunday stroll or looking for a picnic site, this park is a beautiful place to pass an hour or two.
Further afield, more adventures await. Do you like to dance? Check out Guia Salsa Noke, an organization that offers free events throughout the year at various venues, such as Valhalla Vineyards or Twisted Track Brew Pub. Move to the rhythm free of charge or drop a few dollars on a drink if you’re of age. Maybe you love movies? The Grandin Theatre, a picturesque cinema a short drive from Salem, offers free showings of classic films on select Saturday mornings. A nighttime visit to the Mill Mountain Star to see the illuminated structure and the dazzling city below is another memorable outing.
Perhaps the most exciting and popular activity in the Roanoke College area doesn’t cost a cent. The nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offer incredible hikes with breathtaking views, and as a result many students spend their weekends on the trail. A 12-minute drive takes you to the trailhead for MacAfee Knob: one of the most famous summits in the area. The expansive view and rock outcroppings are spectacular at any time of day. But if you’re up for an extra dose of adventure, try hiking up for the sunrise. Use the fire road for a smoother journey to the top, and make sure to bring a jacket. Without the warmth of the sun, the winds at the top can get chilly! The view of the sun emerging from a sea of misty blue mountains is unforgettable (and makes for some epic photos!).
Scraping by on a college budget isn’t easy. But thankfully, the Salem area has plenty of activities and sights that don’t require a lot of money to enjoy – and Roanoke College is perfectly positioned to take advantage of them.