In January, my old roommates and I planned a reunion in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Those who have ventured into this sleepy town are usually just passing through, but we committed to a whole weekend here.
Literally the only thing worth seeing from a tourist standpoint is the Canal Trail and Museum, which follows an old and defunct canal for 15 miles through the woods. It is very interesting to hear about how the Canal used to be a trade route and a source of hydroelectric power, but now very little if any water runs through the route. The locks and dams are all gone or destroyed, and the area is pretty empty. It was a beautiful place to walk though,and we enjoyed the time out there.
Other than that, unfortunately the town is dying. There is a paper mill that keeps a small percentage of the townspeople employed, but the houses, big and small, stand empty from foreclosures, and the shops on the main road have changed into second hand furniture and clothing stores.
We tried to look for a place to go out for dinner, or even a coffee shop to hang out in, but all the interesting and unique restaurants have shuttered. I think, what the town needs is a coffee shop that specializes in cheap breakfast sandwiches and cheap coffee in the mornings for workers going to work at the paper mill. But even though the cost of renting on the main stretch, or even buying, is cheap, no one has stepped up to try to awaken the town's economy.
Unfortunately, I have to suggest that travelers avoid Roanoke Rapids until further notice, but I hope things turn around soon for the people of RoRap!