Oct 8, 2020 - Neighborhoods

18 things to do, eat, and drink in University City

university city neighborhood guide 1300

university city neighborhood guide 1300

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Our University City guide is proudly presented by Wyndham Capital Mortgage. With the UNC Charlotte campus, expanded light rail line, and ever-growing list of Fortune 500 companies setting up shop, UCity is an ideal place to call home. Let Wyndham Capital help you make it official  with their seamless digital home loan process and clutch pre-approvals.

Home of UNC Charlotte, University City can feel like its own college town just north of the city. This is a guide for students and everyday Charlotteans alike.

The cool factor? Ever since the Blue Line expanded north in 2018, the University area has been scooping up cool developments. A new Topgolf location is under construction near campus, and Centene, a Fortune 50 company in the healthcare industry, is building its regional headquarters here along with nearly 3,200 jobs.

New farmers market: Another recent development in University is its farmers market located lakefront at The Shoppes at University Place. The market and festival run every Saturday in October with cooking demonstrations, yoga classes, fresh produce, and more.

All this to say, don’t sleep on the University area. Here are 18 things to do, eat, and drink.

(1) Order the chicken shawarma at Le Kebab Grill.

This Mediterranean spot serves falafel, shawarma, and, as the name implies, kebab. I got the chicken shawarma double, which is two pressed pita wraps with sliced grilled chicken, pickle, garlic mayo, and a side of fries.

(2) Grab an ice cream sandwich from Ninety’s.

Le Kebob Grill
Chicken shawarma double from Le Kebob Grill.

And I’m not talking about just any ice cream sandwich. I’m talking about the Insta-famous macaron ice cream sandwich. Ninety’s is known for serving up playful and oversized desserts like seasonal milkshakes and breakfast-cereal inspired treats. The Boardwalk shop serves savory sandwiches, too.

Location: 9009 J M Keynes Dr., Ste. 4

[Related Agenda Guide: The Agenda Guide to Charlotte Ice Cream]

(3) Pick up a bottle of wine from The Wine Vault.

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake
Ninety’s pumpkin pie milkshake is only available in the fall.

For more than 30 years The Wine Vault has been a signature gathering spot for both casual drinkers and wine connoisseurs. Wednesday night wine tastings are currently on pause, but check the Wine Vault’s Instagram and Facebook page for updates.

Location: 9009 J M Keynes Dr., Ste. 1 (a couple doors down from Ninety’s)

(4) Take a stroll through the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

The Wine Vault

The Susie Harwood Garden is a beautiful oasis that’s just a short walk from the student union. Inside you’ll find a butterfly garden, native ferns, and multiple spots to stop for a picnic. The outdoor gardens are open every day from dawn to dusk, and they’re completely free to go and see. The McMillan greenhouse is currently closed due to the pandemic.

Location: 9090 Craver Rd.

(5) Shop for affordable furniture at IKEA (or just go for the meatballs)

UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Even if you’re not looking for furniture, you should visit just to see the size of this store. It’s like going through a maze. Plus it’s the only location in all of the Carolinas.

Location: 8300 Ikea Blvd.

(6) Get vegan soul food from Veltree.

ikea long line covid
IKEA is limiting capacity during the coronavirus pandemic so you might see a long line outside the store. It goes faster than it looks.

If you thought vegan and soul food couldn’t exist in the same sentence — think again. Veltree will leave you questioning everything in the best way possible. The Chic’n Drumsticks ($4.99) are a crowd favorite, there’s even a skewer in the middle to imitate the chicken bone. The menu has a few mainstays but mainly features rotating daily specials. This particular day, I went with the “beef” tacos.

Location: 7945 N. Tryon St., Ste. 110

(7) Go for a spin around the water on Dave’s Paddle Boats.

Veltree Vegan Soul Food

Paddle boating is one of those activities that’s fun at any age. It’s $15 for 30 minutes on the water. Weather permitting, you can rent paddle boats from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Location: 8933 J M Keynes Dr.

(8) Order a hazy IPA at Armored Cow Brewery.

Dave's Paddle Boats

The 3,500-square-foot taproom has 18 taps with a mix of both regular and gluten-free beer. Bang Bang, a hazy IPA, is a crowd favorite, and Outlander, a pumpkin spiced ale, is a must-try for the fall season.

Location: 8821 JW Clay Blvd., Ste. 1

(9) Walk around UNC Charlotte’s campus.

Armored Cow Brewery Interior
Armored Cow’s “Bang Bang” hazy IPA
Armored Cow Brewery Exterior

I’m ashamed to admit that even as a native Charlottean and having lived in the University area for several years, I had not had the opportunity to visit UNC Charlotte’s campus — but I’m so glad I finally did. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour and explore the campus at your leisure. There’s even a PDF you can print out to assist you with your tour.

While you’re there pick up a copy of the Niner Times, the student newspaper.

(10) Grab a pulled pork sandwich from City Barbeque.

UNC Charlotte Student Union

As a Southern girl, I’m about my barbecue. Go with the pulled pork sandwich, collard greens, and cornbread. City Barbeque also has brisket, turkey, chicken, and ribs, among other things.

Location: 8948 J M Keynes Dr, Ste. 420

(11) Make a stop at Insomnia Cookies.

City Barbeque
City Barbeque’s pulled pork sandwich ($6.99) with cornbread and collard greens.

I can’t say no to warm cookies. For a limited time, Insomnia is serving galaxy cookies, which are chocolate cookies with melted white chocolate chips and iridescent galaxy-inspired sprinkles.

Location: 9211 N. Tryon St., Ste. 4

(12) Enjoy bar bites and a waterfront view at Boardwalk Billy’s Raw Bar & Ribs

Insomnia Cookie University
Insomnia Cookies limited edition Galaxy Cookie ($1.75).

The best way to describe Boardwalk Billy’s is part restaurant, part college sports bar, and part relaxing vacation spot. Expect seafood, barbecue, and more. Even though the name says “Raw Bar & Ribs,” the smokehouse wings are a customer favorite.

Location: 9005 J M Keynes Dr., Ste. 2

(13) Try one of BACHI‘s 39 sushi rolls.

boardwalk billy fries
Boardwalk Billy’s smothered fries ($9.99).

BACHI is a casual spot that specializes in Japanese and Filipino cuisine. Plus, there’s a full vegan menu. If it’s your first time, go with one of the basic rolls, but if you want to venture out try one of the deep-fried rolls. I ordered the Eugene Krabs deep-fried roll ($12).

Location: 2700 W. Mallard Creek Church Rd., Ste. 200

(14) Reach new heights at DEFY trampoline park.

Bachi University

Everybody has an inner child, and this place definitely brings it out. There are several different jumping zones, some with wall-to-wall trampolines. DEFY is open at limited capacity and has increased sanitation protocols. Masks are required when walking around the facility, but not when jumping.

Location: 8116 University City Blvd.

(15) Cheer on the Charlotte 49ers football team.

DEFY trampoline park interior shot

While football season looks a little different this year, you can still root for the 49ers. Tune-in on TV or on the radio, and buy some 49ers gear while you’re at it.

(16) Visit the University City Farmers Market.

Photo from UNC Charlotte’s Bahamas Bowl game in 2019.

Head to the University City Farmers Market to shop for locally sourced fruits, veggies, fresh produce, and even natural beauty products. The market runs every Saturday in October from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Located along the lake at The Shoppes at University Place.

(17) See a concert at PNC Music Pavillion (once it’s safe to do that again).

university city farmers market
Photo by 3rd Rock Events, courtesy University City Farmers Market.

Remember when concerts were a thing? Yeah, me, too. The good news is, they’ll be a thing again in 2021. Jimmy Buffett and Dave Matthews are set to perform at PNC Music Pavilion in T-minus 198 days, but who’s counting?

Location: 707 Pavilion Blvd.

[Related Agenda guide: 57 cool outdoor concerts and virtual shows in Charlotte in October]

(18) Stroll along Mallard Creek Greenway or Reedy Creek Nature Center and Preserve.

Find butterflies and a variety of birds along Mallard Creek Greenway, which connects to Clarks Creek Greenway as part of the Carolina Thread Trail.

While Reedy Creek’s nature center is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rest of the 927-acre preserve is open to the public. Walk along the 10 miles of pine tree-shaded trails and spot birds and botanicals while you stroll.

Location: Reedy Creek is at 2900 Rocky River Rd., a couple miles east of UNC Charlotte. Park at 201 E. Mallard Creek Church Rd. to access Mallard Creek Greenway.

[Related Agenda guide: 7 trails for fall colors within 50 minutes of Charlotte]

Looking for more neighborhood guides? Here are all Agenda neighborhood guides including Uptown, Plaza Midwood, South End, and the West End.

Reedy Creek Park
Reedy Creek Park Entrance
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