“Gaptivities” to stay busy during a gap year

Public relations graduate Sydney Bell inside of Walker Hall on April 15, where most of her classes were held. Bell graduated in May 2023, worked part-time at Adobe Home Design,  and has recently left that position to start her new job as a healthcare consultant at All Star Health Care Solutions.
Public relations graduate Sydney Bell inside of Walker Hall on April 15, where most of her classes were held. Bell graduated in May 2023, worked part-time at Adobe Home Design, and has recently left that position to start her new job as a healthcare consultant at All Star Health Care Solutions.
Ashton Woodruff

The Boone Boomerang: a phenomenon reserved for a quaint mountain town in the top west corner of North Carolina, during which those who have graduated from App State return to Boone and experience the college-town lifestyle from a new perspective. 

This phenomenon has called both recent graduates and professors back to the whispering mountain wind and the dining-hall-tray-sled winters. For some, however, the Boonerang hooks them in before they’ve even left Boone after graduation. 

Take Sydney Bell, a recent public relations graduate, for example. Though she graduated in May 2023, she decided to take a gap year and work part-time at Abode Home Design before continuing her career.

“I decided to take a gap year because I realized that I did not want to rush myself in finding a career job,” Bell said. “I think it’s important for everyone to have some sort of break, whether it’s a whole year or even just a few months or weeks. I’m still so young and did not feel the pressure of having a job lined up right after graduation.”

According to a Forbes survey of 1,000 college students, graduates and hiring managers, 78% of students felt taking a gap year helped them determine what they wanted to do with their career. Of the hiring managers, 67% believed gap years were beneficial and 80% believed them to have an impact on personal growth.

For those wanting a break before jumping into the workforce by taking a gap year after graduation or staying in Boone until their lease is up, Boone has much to offer in terms of ways to fill time without homework or class to attend. 



Since Boone is settled in the Blue Ridge mountains, various hiking trails are a short drive away. If one hasn’t had the chance to complete a Boone hike as a student, this time before you leave Boone is the time to do it. For one of Boone’s most popular overlooks, try out Rough Ridge Trail, a moderate level 1.5-mile hike just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Parking is available at the parkway’s 302.8 mile marker, and the overlook is at a summit 4,773 feet above sea level. 

For a hike featuring a waterfall, opt for Cascade Falls, located at mile marker 271.9. The trail is a 1-mile loop and features jagged-rock scenery and various greenery. According to exploreboone.com, it is heavily advised that hikers not climb on the rocks.


Jones House

Live music and a picnic are staples of Boone summers, and Jones House Cultural Center offers free concerts on its lawn starting June 7. According to the Jones House website, the concerts run weekly through August and showcase various local artists, ranging from jazz and folk to bluegrass. The concerts start at 5:30 p.m. and parking is available in metered spots close by. 


High Country Beer Fest

At the end of August each year, the High Country Beer Fest returns to Boone, hosting various local breweries for those of age to explore. They also host local music artists and food vendors to build a festival-like atmosphere. This year, the 17th annual festival will be on Aug. 24. The festival is actively looking for volunteers for the day, and those interested can sign up here.


Farmers Markets

There are various farmers markets within Boone’s town limits, most notably the Watauga County Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday morning from May through November, local vendors gather off of Horn in the West Drive and offer fresh produce, locally sourced poultry and meat, fresh flowers and handcrafted jewelry and wood products. There are also live music and cooking demonstrations to indulge in.


Boone Blown

A recent addition to Boone, Boone Blown provides classes on glass blowing, where those interested in sculpture can learn about the science behind glass and can make anything from a glass bead to a flower. The classes range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, with no experience required. Most are specific to certain styles of glass art, but there is an introduction course that covers the basics of glass blowing and lamp making. 

Public relations graduate Sydney Bell poses outside of Walker Hall on April 15. (Ashton Woodruff)

Boone is catered toward the three main pillars of the college lifestyle: going to class, doing homework and being with friends. When those who are not in school are surrounded by the collegiate lifestyle, it can be disorienting, especially as a postgraduate student. Bell said, though, that her life doesn’t feel much different from what it was like while she was in school.

“If I could tell pre-grad me anything it would be not to stress so much about what is coming next,” Bell said. “There is nothing wrong with taking time off of school and giving yourself a break. My gap year has been one of the best years of my life. I have found hobbies and interests that I probably would not have found otherwise. Everything will work itself out when it is supposed to.”

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