As an Asheville native, I feel that it is my duty to create a list of things all UNCA students need to do before they graduate and leave the area. It is easy to overlook all the wonderful things that make Asheville such a unique place when you are a nose deep in trying to receive a college education, so I figured I can do the dirty work for you! Whether you're an incoming freshman or a graduating senior, it is never too late to start having fun in Asheville. Maybe you've already done some of these things or a couple of them don't interest you, and that is totally fine! The point of this list is to get you thinking about having some fun while getting a college education. My dad always told me, "You gotta work hard and play hard." (By the way, my dad is the smartest person I know.) So, without further ado, here is a compilation of all the things (I think) all UNCA students should do before walking the stage.
1. Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Seriously, get in your car, make sure you have a full tank of gas and go. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, a drive through the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina is a great way to take a break from the daily grind of going to class and is a fool-proof stress reliever. If it's warm enough, roll down your windows and smell the delicious mountain air while you let the soft breeze ripple through your hair. I promise it's a feeling like none other.
2. Go hiking!!
If you're up there for a drive you mine as well hike, right? There are so many great hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out some of them here.
3. Go to the Grove Park Inn for a fancy brunch.
This one might take a little planning because it's rather pricy and making a reservation in advance is almost necessary during the spring and summer when their outdoor patio brunch is rather popular. Nonetheless, it is well worth the money. Don't feel like going for brunch? That's totally fine! There is always something to see and do at the Grove Park Inn. (Like the National Gingerbread House Competition that happens every winter!) Oh, and did I mention it's less than a 10 minute drive from campus?
4. Go to the on-campus event, Turning of the Maples.
This annual campus event happens in mid- to late-October and celebrates the changing colors of the sugar maple trees on the quad. There's free apple cider, gingersnap cookies, apples, and even some great live music.
5. Watch or be part of the homecoming parade.
6. Relax on the quad on a warm, sunny day!
7. Go to a sporting event.
Even if you have zero interest in sports at all, at least attend one event! Men's soccer, women's soccer, swimming, cross country, track, men's basketball, women's basketball, tennis–I don't care which one you pick, but seriously go to at least one! Not only does it boost morale for our sports teams, it's also a great way to be social and some humanities teachers will even count it as a cultural event. (Score!!)
8. Play ping-pong in the game room.
This may sound silly, but I am being 100 percent serious. Hitting a hollow plastic ball back and forth is not only a great way to procrastinate, it's also a great way to relieve stress.
9. Go to The Hop.
Located just five minutes from campus, this local ice cream shop serves up some of the most delicious ice cream in town. They have both regular and vegan ice cream in a variety of delicious and creative flavors such as beet swirl, salted caramel, and UNCA's own flavor Bulldog Tracks! For directions go here.
10. Go on a trip with Outdoor Programs.
One of the best things about living in such a beautiful area is that there are tons of adventures to go on. If you're uncomfortable exploring by yourself, UNCA's Outdoor Programs offers dozens of day trips and weekend getaways that will allow you to explore the area under the guidance of trained staff. They offer trips for all levels of adventure - skiing, snowboarding, night hiking, caving, backpacking, horseback riding - that foster positive social interactions in the great outdoors. Oh, and all trips are at a discounted student price! Check out their upcoming trips and events here.
11. Enjoy a show at The Orange Peel.
12. Become involved with a student org, club or intramural sport.
UNCA has over 60 clubs and organizations. From anime club to lacrosse club, there is literally something that is up everyone's alley. It's also really easy to create a new club. If you're more interested in athletics, try doing intramural sports. Both are awesome ways to be social and get involved on campus.
13. Attend a fitness class.
From spin class to kickboxing, Campus Rec offers a variety of weekly fitness classes for students of all fitness levels and they are so much fun!! Check out the schedule here.
14. Go to the drum circle downtown.
Located in Pitchard Park, this lively gathering happens every Friday night from the months of April to October. It's free and drummers usually arrive at 6 p.m. and the crowd builds until around 10 p.m. Anyone can participate by drumming, dancing or watching.
15. Have s'mores at Mullen Park.
This delicious campus event is planned by Outdoor Programs and typically happens a few times each year. Students gather around the campfire and enjoy ooey gooey s'mores; it's such a great time!
16. Explore downtown Asheville.
I feel like this one is a given, but just in case you haven't done it yet you definitely need to. There are so many great local shops to explore, food to eat and souls to meet.
17. Eat at Nine Mile.
Four words: BEST. FOOD. IN. TOWN. For locations and directions go here.
18. Have coffee at High Five.
I kid you not, High Five serves the best cup of coffee in town. Not to mention that their latte art is some of the best I have ever seen. Plus, it's only a five-minute drive from campus and it is a great spot to study or hang out with a group of friends! Find directions here.