Family Life

Mill Mountain Zoo and Star – Roanoke, Virginia

Learn more about the Mill Mountain Zoo and Star in Roanoke, VA for a great summer road trip and staycation idea!

Staycation - Things to do in Virginia - Mill Mountain Star and Zoo

Summer is almost here! Schools are out or will be soon so it’s time to start thinking about keeping those kids entertained.

Not all of us have the time or the money for a nice long relaxing vacation. How about a staycation instead? Look around your own state for things to do close by that only takes a day to visit.

One of the places in my state of Virginia that I love to visit is Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia. I can make a day out of visiting the Mill Mountain Star and Zoo and the Discovery Center, which all sit at the top of the mountain.

Mill Mountain Star

The Mill Mountain Star sits at the top of Mill Mountain in Roanoke, Virginia. It is the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. Because of the star’s construction in 1949, Roanoke was nicknamed “Star City of the South”.

The star sits 1,045 feet above the city of Roanoke and can be seen 60 miles away! It is 88.5 feet tall and includes 2,000 feet of neon tubing, which require 17,500 watts of power. I’d hate to pay that electricity bill!

You can drive up the parkway to the star and park in the parking lot area behind the star. There is also a trail at the base of the mountain where you can hike to the star if you wish.

Mill Mountain Star - Roanoke, VA

Overlook

Directly in front of the star is an overlook with beautiful views of the Roanoke Valley and downtown Roanoke. From here you can also take in the breathtaking view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. A Star Cam on the star itself shows the amazing views you’ll see from the Mill Mountain Star overlook.

Overlooking Downtown Roanoke, VA

On one side of the star is the Mill Mountain Star Trail where you can hike to see excellent views. It leads to the base of Mill Mountain. On the other side is a another trail, but this is more of a walkway type of trail. This trail is paved for easy walking and has benches along the way so you can sit and enjoy the beautiful views beyond the trees.

Overlooking Downtown Roanoke, VA

The walkway opens up to picnic areas, water fountains, and a small play area for kids. There is another smaller overlook with picnic tables so you can enjoy the fabulous views of the city of Roanoke while eating lunch.

Slide at Mill Mountain

Discovery Center

The Mill Mountain Discovery Center is next to the park area of Mill Mountain. There is a parking lot here so you do not have to walk from the star if you do not want to or can’t.

The Discovery Center is free to visit and offers great Nature Education programs. Here you will find a beautiful wildlife garden, a bee hive, a black snake and a corn snake, and a box turtle. Inside the Discovery Center you will find interactive educational exhibits and tons of information.

Mill Mountain Zoo

Beside the Discovery Center you will find two trails: one leads down a pathway with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the other leads through a beautiful wildlife garden. Both paths lead to the Mill Mountain Zoo.

Welcome to the Mill Mountain Zoo!

The Mill Mountain Zoo is home to over 80 animals! When I was younger, the main animal that everyone visiting the zoo wanted to see was Ruby the Tiger. She was usually asleep and hidden, but every once in a while she would come out. It was an awesome day if you got to see Ruby! She died in 2006, which left a lot of broken hearts.

Today you you will see a wolf habitat in Ruby’s place, which is a really neat experience. You can also expect to see a red panda and a snow leopards, which are currently on the endangered list. The zoo recently added some new animals including otters, which are so much fun to watch! Of course my daughter’s favorite are the foxes.

Monkeys at the zoo
Spotted Cat in the Mill Mountain Zoo

Each animal has an educational board so you can learn more the animal. There are lots of interesting facts about the animals on these boards. You’ll learn about it’s habitat and what it eats along with some other great information.

Zoo Animal Fact

Reptile House

Mill Mountain Zoo recently added a reptile house as one of its exhibits. The house is rather small and gets a little crowded with not a lot of space for more than a few people at a time. However, it does hold some very interesting snakes and turtles and even a cute little gecko!

Snake in the reptile house
Gecko at the Zoo
A turtle at the zoo

The zoo also includes an interactive aviary, a small playground area, an events area where special events are held, and a picnic area with concessions. Gifts and souvenirs can be purchased in the zoo’s gift shop. Don’t leave the zoo without taking a ride on the famous Zoo Choo! The Zoo Choo is a miniature train that follows a track around the entire zoo giving you different views of the zoo and the animals.

Programs and Events

Another great thing about the zoo is that they have a lot of programs going on year round, especially for the little ones. Breakfast with the animals is a great program where you get to have a buffet style breakfast while meeting an educational animal. Afterwards you get a chance to chat with the zookeepers and then there’s a fun activity to do.

The zoo holds summer camps every year for ages 6-13 where they get hands-on experience while shadowing and assisting zookeepers. There’s also plenty of fun and games to keep campers busy and entertained all while learning.

Every October the zoo holds Zoo Boo, which is a fun-filled day of costume contests, trick-or-treating, activities, and performances. Zoo Boo is fun for the entire family and all the activities are free with admission.

What I love about Mill Mountain

I loved visiting the star and zoo as a child and I love bringing my children to the zoo as well. The zoo is always changing and adding new exhibits and programs. It is inexpensive to get in to the zoo, with the entire trip costing under $30. You can save even more by packing a lunch and enjoying the breathtaking mountain views while eating at one of the picnic areas.

Every year that I visit Mill Mountain I learn something new. Not only do I enjoy learning for myself, but I also enjoy hearing about what my kids have learned that day. Overall, Mill Mountain is one of my favorite places in Roanoke to visit, especially if you’re looking for a family friendly and relaxing day.

Where is your favorite place to visit closest to you? I’d love to hear about it!

Be sure to check out my money saving tips so you can save up for fun summer road trips and vacations!
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Things to do in Virginia - Mill Mountain Star and Zoo - Roanoke, VA

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64 thoughts on “Mill Mountain Zoo and Star – Roanoke, Virginia”

  1. Excellent post MichelleπŸ’― you took us to the Mill Mountain and I’m only in Algeria lol
    I also loved the animal pictures you took they are so cute although wild, glad that you had a great time without spending a fortune😊😍🌷

    1. I’m sorry! I guess switching to a different server means I’m no longer in the reader. πŸ™ I didn’t realize that. Thank you for commenting and supporting me!

      1. I’m praying over making a move back. My mom and many other family members are there so it would be great to be closer to them. 😊 There is no one in Florida except me and my daughter and she’s out of college now so I’m free to go lol.

    1. Thank you! I do, too, although I miss the monkey they used to have. She escaped and they had to send her away after they finally caught her. She was so funny though, throwing her toys around and yelling at people. πŸ˜€

  2. I love staycations! Travel can be such a hassle and so expensive that I love this idea. I’m such a fan of a nice zoo too πŸ˜‰.

  3. Michelle! This looks like a fun outing πŸ™‚ I love staycations because you get to sleep in your own bed. We are new to our area so there is still so much to see, it will probably take us 10 years to get through it all. That star looks like a nice hike!

  4. Virginia is one of the places I didn’t get to see in 2008 or 2010. Maybe one day.

    Michelle, each time I visit your blog or you like/comment on one of my posts, the “Follow” link says I’m not following. I have to refollow every time. I’m not sure why this is happening.

    1. Hopefully one day! πŸ˜€

      The same thing is happening to me with a lot of blogs. I refresh the page and then it says I’m following. I’m not sure if it’s a WordPress issue or what it is. Thank you for letting me know! I’ll keep looking into it. πŸ™‚

  5. Michelle, thank you for sharing a tour around some close to home attractions in the area. If one lives in an urban areas, there are multiple avenues of interest at a minimal cost.

  6. Michelle, thank you so much for taking me along with you to Mill Mountain πŸ™‚ You know that I too love those Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d have to say that is also my favorite place to visit – somewhere in Patrick or Franklin County. β™₯

    The trails you mentioned sound absolutely incredible. I’ll have to get Bill over there next time to try those out. I adored your photos. What spectacular views. Nothing like it!

    Thanks for making me smile today. God bless!

  7. My grandparents used to go to a camp-meeting in Roanoke. I might have been there at some point, but it would have been over fifty years ago. My goodness, fifty years ago… that makes me feel ancient.

  8. Hi Michelle. I haven’t been to the Mill Mountain Zoo in years but my daughter did with her troop last year. I think we’re neighbors. πŸ€—πŸ˜„πŸ’•

  9. Michelle, that’s such a great post. I felt like, I was right there with you guys in the Zoo. Kids love to go to Zoo and this one looks like have a lot to offer. I had no idea about the world’s largest freestanding illuminated man-made star. We used to take our kids to the Zoo. I think we should plan a trip to Zoo as after reading your post, I even want to go have some fun with my kiddos.

    1. Thank you!! I love going to the zoo no matter how old I get. πŸ™‚ It’s so much fun to watch the animals and learn more about them. You should go! πŸ˜€

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