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Special food pairings draw crowds to Downtown Roanoke during slow winter months

ROANOKE (WSLS10) - Colder winter weather means businesses are working harder this winter to get people out of their homes and exploring downtown Roanoke to shop and eat.

Now is the time that many businesses take a hit-- as more people would rather stay warm at home than venture out for dinner or to explore downtown. That's why events like Restaurant Week and Dickens of a Christmas are so important to the downtown economy.

This is the fifth year for the Restaurant Week and it's expected to be the biggest one yet, with more than 30 restaurants participating. From Awful Arthur's and Billy's to Frankie Rowlands, Lucky and Tuco's, there's a good mix of new restaurants and old favorites you can visit.

Downtown Roanoke Inc. hopes people will come downtown for all of the deals and dinner specials-- and stick around to shop and explore.

"They come to visit restaurants and while they're down here they see some of our great retailers or maybe visit a museum," explains Jamie Clark with DRI. "We find that anytime we can get someone down here, it's much more likely they'll come back again."

This year restaurants are offering a $10 lunch option and a $20 or $35 three-course dinner option. Click here for a full list of the restaurants participating.

The Taubman Museum of Art is also launching its own series of events to bring people downtown-- starting this week. Thursday night is the first ever Wine + Dine event. It's a creative way for people to explore some of the unique things the Star City has to offer. The event starts with a guided tour of the art galleries, then there's live music by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, followed by a view of Downtown and the Mill Mountain Star while people taste wine and food pairings from Blue Ridge Catering.

The Charitable Gifts Officer for the Taubman Museum of Art, Holly DiGangi, says it's a great way to show people what the museum and the City of Roanoke have to offer-- while raising money to fund other activities at the museum, including free public admission to the museum.

"It runs the full gamut of our educational programming for children, our exhibitions upstairs and helping to underwrite that free attendance so that people can come and enjoy the galleries free of charge," she says.

This week's Wine + Dine is just the first of several food and drink pairings at the museum. On January 29, the International Wine Festival will kick off. In February, the museum will hold a Bourbon and Bacon pairing.

Events like these are having a positive impact on Downtown businesses as a whole this winter.

"A lot of businesses and museums have events downtown," says Clark. "It's just something to draw people downtown when it's a little cold and they might not come otherwise."