The charming city of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, is an often-overlooked wonder with many attractions for curious travelers.
Located on the eastern reaches of the North Carolina Piedmont, the town is packed with outdoor destinations and natural sites.
These include the Roanoke River, a body of water famous for the bountiful Rockfish swimming in the turbulent shallows.
Then there are the manmade attractions of the city, which range from historic to recreational.
From community parks to galleries to performance venues, the city boasts many destinations for the whole family.
So when planning an upcoming weekend getaway, make this place your top destination.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Roanoke Rapids, NC:
Brave the Turbulent Waters of Roanoke River
The meandering Roanoke River is a historically important river in the country, serving as the site of early Native American settlements and European colonies.
Today, it has become a source of hydroelectric power and irrigation for the agricultural lands this side of the coastal plains.
Roanoke Rapids Lake is the last place where the river is impounded, with the rest of the way uninterrupted before it empties into the Atlantic.
Because of this, residents and visitors of Roanoke Rapids get to enjoy the deeper waters of the lake and the shallower segments of the river.
And as you might have guessed from the town’s name, this section of the river is filled with turbulent rapids.
This makes excellent whitewater rafting and kayaking experiences that only the most adventurous would dare.
Then there are the many fishing spots on the river, with rockfish as the most plentiful species living in the rocky shallows.
See Marvelous Artworks at Halifax County Arts Council Gallery
Even though Roanaoke Rapids has a small population, it hasn’t stopped the community from creating a thriving art scene.
The hotspot for this practice is at the Halifax County Arts Council Gallery, located downtown.
This facility brings together not just local artists but also other talented individuals from all over Halifax County.
Inside, you’ll find stunning works like paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other types of visual art.
On occasion, the organization holds special events where they paint public spaces or put up art sales.
Joining these activities is a great way to immerse yourself in the community and celebrate human talent at the same time.
Cruise the Magnificent Roanoke Rapids Lake
One of the two main bodies of water in Roanoke Rapids is the glimmering Roanoke Rapids Lake.
Spanning 4,600 acres in surface area, this attraction has more than 50 miles of shoreline that’s mostly open for recreation.
The main access point to the lake is the northeastern edge of Roanoke Rapids, with its boat launches and ramps.
Many people board boats, kayaks, or canoes to explore the length of the lake.
Within the hidden coves, there are spots for birdwatching and fishing, especially on the more isolated northern banks.
Swimming, wakeboarding, and wading in the shallows are also fun activities to try with the family.
Just make sure that you’re extra careful, as most swimming areas do not have lifeguards on duty.
Catch a Show at Roanoke Rapids Theater
The regal Roanoke Rapids Theater is one of the region's most visited performance arts venues.
Seating up to 1,500 people, the complex offers plenty of room for the huge audiences that it regularly attracts.
Upon arrival, you’d be immediately struck by the majestic beauty of the building, a magnificent Greek Revival structure with royal violet roofing.
Inside is the large auditorium, which regularly hosts live music concerts, theater plays, and dance recitals.
There’s also the atrium for smaller sets or shows like comedy skits and acoustic performances.
Then there are the rest of the grounds used for bombastic outdoor concerts that will have you rocking with talented local bands.
On occasion, drive-in movie showings are held in the outdoor venue—a great date night idea for couples!
Tour the Roanoke Rapids Historic District
Roanoke Rapids has a rich colonial history evident in its culture and heritage.
But the best way to get a glimpse of the city’s past is by touring the Roanoke Rapids Historic District.
Located in the city’s central business area, this group of 1,130 contributing buildings contains some of the oldest structures in town.
You’ll find residential properties, commercial establishments, and public buildings showing Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and American Craftsman architectural styles.
One of the most prominent amongst these is the Roanoke Rapids High School.
Using the combination of Tudor Revival or Gothic style, this magnificent structure was built as the centerpiece of the Roanoke Rapids community.
It’s still being used today as an academic institution, with most of the city’s kids learning in a historic and exquisite building.
Play a Few Rounds at Chockoyotte Country Club
Neighboring Weldon also boasts lots of manmade attractions.
One of these is the gorgeous Chockoyotte Country Club, less than 10 minutes away from Roanoke Rapids.
The 18-hole course was designed by renowned architects, taking advantage of the region’s rolling terrain and towering pine trees.
The result is a magnificent course with well-maintained greens and a challenging layout.
But don’t worry if you’re just a beginner—you just need good course management and putting skills to hit the ball into the hole.
After a few rounds, visit the beautiful in-house restaurant for some filling Southern dishes.
Bring the Family to Roanoke Rapids Lake Day Use Area
The scenic Roanoke Rapids Lake Day Use Area is the premier community park in the city, sitting right next to the eponymous body of water.
With an area of 17-acre, this lakeside destination has plenty of space for various activities.
You can have a picnic or read a book in one of the many shady areas next to the small patches of trees.
For those who want more sporty activities, there’s a sand volleyball court, some horseshoe pits, and a nine-hole disc golf course.
One of the favorite sections is the handicapped-accessible fishing spot, a wooden ramp that juts into the lake.
Aside from shore fishing, this area serves as an ideal spot for sunrise and sunset viewing.
If you’re ready to get wet, there’s a swimming area for public use, but there are no lifeguards, so you have to stay on the shallower end for safety.
Go Restaurant Hopping along Julian R Allsbrook Highway
On the southeasternmost edge of the city lies Julian R Allsbrook Highway, a major road that most people from the south would encounter before entering Roanoke Rapids.
Thanks to the ease of access, many hospitality and retail establishments are located here, like hotels, restaurants, and a Walmart.
So if you’re looking for a place where you can try the comforting Southern cuisine of the region, this road is your best bet.
The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store offers homey American staples while also having its in-house general store.
If you want more filling and savory fares, Zaxby's Chicken Fingers & Buffalo Wings offers iconic chicken dishes with a Southern touch.
Ruby Tuesday has a more casual vibe and a menu consisting of burgers, salads, and refreshing cocktails.
Immerse in History at Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail
The once-productive Roanoke Canal now stands as a remnant of when water transportation was vital to the region.
It was used for navigation, trade, and power generation, but the structures built were never designed to last long.
To preserve what remained of the original system, the Roanoke Canal Commission was created.
Under their management, the attraction was eventually placed under the National Register of Historic Places, with the Roanoke Canal Museum as the most recent addition.
Here, you will find artifacts, photographs, and reading materials about the canal and its history.
You’ll learn the engineering accomplishments, how it was used for navigation, and the hydroelectric system that once powered nearby homes.
Then there’s the Roanoke Canal Trail, which runs parallel to the canal's original route.
It’s open for exploration and fitness activities like jogging and walking.
Let the Kids Play at J. A. Chaloner Recreation Center
For those bringing kids to their Roanoke Rapids adventure, the J. A. Chaloner Recreation Center is a great stopover.
While it’s not as large as the other community parks, this attraction packs many amenities for hours of fun.
One of these is the splash pad, a great place to cool off during the warm summer days.
Let your kids play and socialize with other children as fountains spray jets of cooling water.
There’s also a well-maintained playground for the kids who don’t want to get wet just yet.
This section even has an adult exercise area where grownups can flex their muscles and move their limbs.
But if you just want a relaxing experience while the kids play, there are walking trails that bring you to wooded sections and the banks of Chockoyotte Creek.
Other Things to Do Nearby
After your tour of Roanoke Rapids, why not check out these other places just a few minutes away?
Go Swimming at Lake Gaston
The panoramic Lake Gaston is another hydroelectric reservoir fed by the Roanoke River, and it sits next to Roanoke Rapids Lake.
There are many access points to the lake, including the aforementioned Adam Fields Wakeboard School.
But the one used most by the public is the Lake Gaston Day Use Area.
It’s only 15 minutes away from Roanoke Rapids, so reaching it would be a quick and convenient drive.
Once there, you can enjoy verdant grounds, views of the Gaston Hydro Power Station, and well-paved walking trails.
There’s a small beach with golden sand and swimming access.
But like most other parks in this region, there are no lifeguards.
So you need to be extra careful when swimming to avoid any untoward incidents.
Ride the Waves at Adam Fields Wakeboard School
Are you up for an exhilarating experience on this side of Northern Carolina?
Visit the exciting Adam Fields Wakeboard School, located just thirty minutes away from Roanoke Rapids.
This facility was established by a champion wakeboarder across Lake Gaston, a body of water next to Roanoke Rapids Lake.
As the name implies, this facility is mainly used for wakeboarding instruction.
So if you’re interested in the thrilling watersport or want to brush up your skills, the instructors here are more than ready to help.
There are also equipment rentals for those who want to explore the rest of Lake Gaston.
Check out their selection of paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis, accessories, safety gear, and even small boats!
Trek the Trails of Medoc Mountain State Park
Another half-hour destination from Roanoke Rapids is the panoramic Medoc Mountain State Park, located in nearby Hollister.
This outdoor attraction covers more than 3,800 acres, with Medoc Mountain as the highest point at 325 feet.
Within the vast wilderness, you’ll find winding trails, small brooks and creeks, and a serene ambiance for communes with nature.
But the whole area becomes alive with activity during the Medoc Trail Marathon, an annual race that takes advantage of the rugged terrain.
For the rest of the year, nature lovers and adventurers can explore the paths of the state park to see the magnificent views and abundant wildlife.
There are also campsites where you can set up traditional tents or RVs if you’re planning on staying for a few days.
Experience the Supernatural at The Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum
Littleton is a small community just 20 minutes away from Roanoke Rapids.
One of its most famous attractions is The Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum, a haunting destination for the curious and the daring.
This is not your normal facility, as it houses artifacts that you won’t encounter in classic museums.
Haunted dolls, Bigfoot casts, alien-looking specimens, mermaid skeletons—these are just some of the wondrous and mysterious items you’ll see.
Some people might think it’s not a good idea to put all these creepy items inside a single house, but it hasn’t stopped thousands of visitors from checking out the intriguing place.
So if you want a hair-raising experience, add this destination to your itinerary!
Stay Awhile at River Falls Park
Weldon is dubbed the Rockfish Capital of the World, and one of the best places to partake in this bounty is at River Falls Park.
This outdoor attraction serves as a starting point for fishing trips into the rapids, with a few ramps at the edge of the park.
But if you simply want to enjoy the gorgeous views, you can stay in one of the picnic shelters and shaded areas.
The walking trails will bring you closer to the river and the wooded section if you want peace and isolation.
But if you’re up for adventures, the lower section of the park is a great launching point into the turbulent rapids of the Roanoke River.
Nature meets history here at Roanoke Rapids, so get ready for some wholesome family adventure when visiting the city.
From its grand historic district to the vast lake and river, there are plenty of sights to discover and activities to try in this city.
Reference this list so you won’t miss the tops spots when making your itinerary!