If you're lucky enough to go to Lees-McRae College and live in the Banner Elk area, you know how hard it is to leave such a special place. When you're around the same 1,000 people every day for the majority of four years, you start to think of the campus as your true home away from home.
But all things do come to an end eventually, so you might as well make the most of North Carolina's best kept secret as much as you can.
1. Add a dollar to the Bayou Bar
A common bar practice but the Bayou, located just a couple hundred feet from campus, is the only one in Banner Elk that does this. It's pretty surreal looking up and seeing all the names of alum who have scribbled their names on this little bit of currency.
2. See a sunset at Rough Ridge
You can watch it from Sugar which is a lot closer, but it's actually way more breath-taking watching the sun set from Rough Ridge's huge boulders and 360 view of the mountains.
3. Actually take a faculty member to lunch
A practice that's hardly ever used but really should be. Lees-McRae prides itself on being such a small (about 900 residential undergrad), close knit campus that thrives on it's student/teacher relationships. Chances are your advisor or favorite professor becomes a parent away from parent for you, so treat them to the caf.
4. Ski on Beech
Even if you're not a ski bum, Banner Elk is home to two of the biggest ski mountains in Western Carolina, both being within a ten minute drive from campus. It's worth at least a try, even if you do bust your ass all the way down.
5. Attempt to house an unregistered animal
It may be pet friendly, (after you pay a $250 pet fee) but you even go to Lees-McRae if you didn't house an illegal animal at some point?
6. Race a Woolly Worm at the Woolly Worm Festival
The Woolly Worm Festival is I C O N I C. It's one of the high points of fall in Banner Elk, complete with the opportunity for the public to race little fuzzy worms. Its a lot more hype than it sounds.
7. Visit the Land of Oz (Legally or Illegally)
Little known fact; Beech Mountain is home to the Land of Oz, an old theme park that was entirely based on the Wizard of Oz until it closed in 1980. Now it opens once a year in the fall for Oz Fest on Beech, but for the longest time it was tradition to hop over the fence and try to explore the park after hours. They beefed up security in recent years, but you can still try if you have the guts.
8. Ghost hunt at the old cannon hospital
Along the same lines as the Land of Oz, Cannon Memorial Hospital has been abandoned for years and students still try to sneak into it despite the threat of cops and the large amounts of asbestos in the air. The huge hype surrounding the building is that it was featured as a location in an episode of Ghost Asylum, so enter if you dare.
9. Drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway during the fall
There are few things more beautiful than the Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks with fall foliage, so with it being a 20 minute drive from campus do not miss this opportunity.
10. Grab an RC Coke at the Mast General Store
The Mast General Store opened it's doors in 1883 and still serves the public to this day while maintaining the original decor and atmosphere of an old fashion general store. Step back in time and enjoy a soda in vintage glass bottles on the back porch, its the best thing on a hot September afternoon in the high country.
11. Join the mile high club
Grandfather Mountain is the top tourist attraction in North Carolina and a big part of that is it's suspension bridge that hangs 1 mile in the air. It's scary but the view on a clear sunny day in the spring more than makes up for it.
12. Hike Profile Trail
Not wanting to spend the $35 entrance fee to Grandfather? Just hike up Profile Trail, this challenging 3 mile hike takes you all the way to the top of Grandfather for free, with other trails leading off of it for you to explore.
13. Jump off Compression Falls
Need an adrenaline rush without the risk of dying like at Elk River Falls? Compression Falls has a deep enough landing pool to not worry about where you land. If you don't mind plunging to the depths below or the steep hike up and down, this is something I highly recommend.
14. Take a ride on the elk
The most iconic thing to do amongst the student body at LMC. Whether its your 21st birthday, a wild night during Homecoming Weekend, a late night at Flat Top, or just for a photo op, it's the symbolic initiation ritual that makes you a bobcat.
Once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat.