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The Roanoke Star shines over the “Star City” of Roanoke from Mill Mountain in Virginia — and on a clear night you can see it from up to 60 miles away.
But did you know that you can visit the Roanoke Star up close?
I was so excited to finally get an up-close and personal encounter with the Mill Mountain Star recently.
I’m going to share with you how to get to the Roanoke Star and overlook — and some important things you’ll want to know before you go!
History Of The Roanoke Star
The star on Mill Mountain has shone over Roanoke since November 23, 1949, when it was first illuminated on a very cold Thanksgiving eve to brighten the spirits during the holiday season.
The Roanoke landmark, built by Roy C. Kinsey of Kinsey Sign Company and his three sons, consists of three star-shaped neon frames configured together to create one massive star.
The star in Roanoke Virginia, which cost $28,000 to build, was originally intended to only be a temporary thing — lit up only for the holiday season. But locals fell in love with the shining beacon, and it remains a permanent year-round fixture to this day.
The mountainside attraction rightfully helped Roanoke earn the moniker “Star City of the South.” And the Roanoke Star proudly continues shining over this charming city when the sun settles behind the Blue Ridge Mountains each evening.
Fun Facts About The Star In Roanoke, VA
You’ll find a plaque near the base of the landmark explaining the history of the Roanoke Star and its impressive stats.
The plaque states:
“The Roanoke Star — World’s largest man-made star. Erected in 1949 as a symbol of the progressive spirit of Roanoke, Star City of the South.”–Roanoke Merchants Association, Roanoke Chamber of Commerce
Roanoke Star Facts
- Height of steel structure: 100 feet
- Height of star: 88.5 feet
- Weight of star: 10,000 pounds
- Weight of steel structure: 60,000 pounds
- Weight of concrete base: 500,000 pounds
- Depth of base: 6.5 feet
- Length of neon tubing: 2,000 feet
- Current consumed: 17,500 watts
- Height above sea level: 1,847 feet
- Height above city: 1,045 feet
- Visibility from the air: 60 miles
- Several possible color combinations
- Illuminated every night till 12
Roanoke Star Colors On Special Occasions
I was curious about the “several possible color combinations” for the Roanoke Star — because it is generally lit in white.
Turns out there are occasions when the star is illuminated in red, white, and blue:
- Memorial Day in May
- Flag Day (June 14)
- Independence Day (July 4)
- September 11
- Veterans’ Day (November 11)
Other occasions when the star has been illuminated in patriotic colors include:
September 11, 2001 — the day of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
The shooting at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 was somberly marked with the star remaining white from April 22 through May 24. (The Roanoke Star went dark on the night of April 16, 2008 to remember the first anniversary of the tragedy, and it was illuminated in red, white, and blue the following evening.)
How To See The Roanoke Star Close Up
The first time I saw the Roanoke Star in person, it was from the ground in downtown Roanoke while touring some of the museums and street festivals one weekend.
It looked awesome from the streets of the Star City, but I wanted to see the star up close!
My cousin had told me about an overlook near the star — so I knew there had to be a way up Mill Mountain, where the star stands over the city.
I used my phone’s map app to find the path up to the Mill Mountain Star. And let me tell you, you best not be afraid of heights getting up there!
Roanoke Star Directions:
- The official address is 2000 JB Fishburn Pkwy SE, Roanoke, VA 24014
- Coming from downtown Roanoke, the drive is nearly 1,000 feet up Mill Mountain on a two-lane road known as the J.B. Fishburn Parkway.
- You can also get to the Roanoke Star from Mill Mountain Parkway — a winding road that connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite fall foliage treks. It takes you 469 miles from Cherokee, North Carolina, to Rockfish Gap, Virginia.
The Roanoke Star resides in Mill Mountain Park.
Good To Know Before You Go…
Once you make it to the top of Mill Mountain, your reward is some terrific views!
Oh, and here’s more good news…
Visiting the Roanoke Star is totally FREE! That’s right… There’s no admission or tickets necessary to see the Roanoke Star on Mill Mountain.
Can you visit the Roanoke Star overlook at night?
Yes, you can visit the Roanoke Star at night — and it’s absolutely gorgeous! My wife and I did this on our first trip there. Just be aware of the operating hours — which may change and could be dependent on local weather conditions on or near the mountain.
Other Things To Do Near The Roanoke Star
The Roanoke Star is certainly the iconic attraction on the mountain, but there’s actually more to see and do at Mill Mountain in Virginia besides seeing the star up close…
The star is located next to the Mill Mountain Zoo (another beloved Roanoke attraction and something to see along the Blue Ridge Parkway).
Hikers will love the trails around the mountain. My wife and I walked some of the Roanoke Star trails.
And sightseers will enjoy taking in the incredible vistas from the M. Carl Andrews Overlook — which is right near the base of the Roanoke Star.
Check out the “live” view of the overlook from the Roanoke Star webcam right now.
Whatever you do, be sure to bring some good shoes, a camera, and maybe a sweater — it can get cold up there on Mill Mountain, especially in the fall and winter.
Most of all, have fun!
The shining star on Mill Mountain has brought joy to generations of Roanokers and those who visit the area. Visiting the Roanoke Star will surely leave you with memories that will sparkle for a lifetime.
Here are lots of Roanoke Star pictures and reviews from others who have visited
I’m a Florida native, a roller coaster junkie, and a frequent traveler. (Long road trips are my favorite.) Born and raised in Tampa, I grew up visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I authored the book Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Images of Modern America, which details the colorful history of the Busch Gardens theme park. As a local historian, I’ve also written about other popular landmarks and attractions for a variety of publications. Here, on this Travel Guide, I like sharing little-known facts and fun stuff about all the places I’ve been — so you will have a good idea of what those places are like and what you should know before you go. I especially enjoy helping others plan fun trips… on a budget!