Roanoke is the metropolis of western Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. It lies on the Roanoke River in a valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, about 160 miles (258 km) west of Richmond.
Originally a pioneer community known as Big Lick, the city began to grow when a junction was made between the Norfolk and Western and the Shenandoah Railroads in 1882. The name was changed to Roanoke at this time, derived from a Native American word meaning "money." Railroad shops and foundries attracted more and more people.
While the city's economy now rests on a broad industrial base, it remains a transportation hub. Among the city's attractions are the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mill Mountain, featuring Mill Mountain Star and panoramic views of the Roanoke Valley.
Roanoke maintains active sister city relationships with Florianópolis, Brazil; Kisumu, Kenya; Lijiang, China; Pskov, Russia; Saint-Lô, France; Wonju, South Korea; and Opole, Poland.