University City is about 20 minutes from uptown and has 160,000 residents. It’s not only a great area of town to live in, but to visit, too.

In April, University City Partners hosted the first-time event University City Wine Fest that featured more than 100 wines from over 25 wineries. Attendees were able to sample wine as they strolled along the boardwalk, listening to live music and interactive entertainment. The event benefited literacy programs for the University City Regional Library. This event made me wonder what other events this neighborhood had to offer.

I spoke with Darlene Heater, Executive Director of University City Partners, to get the scoop. Heater has lived in Charlotte for 25 years, with 21 one of those being in University City.

The role of University City Partners is to sustain and grow the economic vitality of University City through planning and development, marketing and more.

“I Iove the people…our inclusiveness and multicultural differences,” Heater said. “I love this community’s heart and the commitment to community: Businesses partnering with our schools and nonprofits; UNC Charlotte, CHC University Hospital, our libraries, police, and YMCA all diving into enhancing our communities in a big way.  I love that it’s a great place for large and small businesses to succeed. And I love that our neighborhoods are working together for the best University City.”

So what should you do when taking a day to enjoy University City? Here are a few options inspired by Heater.

Shake your groove thing

Take a lesson at The Dance District, Charlotte’s first hip-hop dance studio and performance company for adults, whose mission is to create countless opportunities for local dancers to train, perform and live out their dreams. The studio is run by Ana Ogbueze, who started as an NBA dancer for the Charlotte Bobcats (now Charlotte Hornets), danced and assisted with choreography for fitness guru ShaunT ‘s dance fitness program CIZE, toured with the Oxygen Network’s “Dance Your Ass Off,” and more. She opened the studio in 2010.

While Heater hasn’t tried taking a class at Dance District yet, she does plan to take a Zumba class at Camino Community Center.

Get active on the greenway

Get your walk, run or bike in on the neighborhood’s greenways. University City has miles of connected paths that extend through UNC Charlotte, University Research Park, and a dozen neighborhoods with side trails.

“University City has a lot of connected greenways,” Heater said. “In fact, we have 15 miles of connected greenways with one more (Barton Creek) under construction.”

Toby Creek Greenway
Parking: 210 East Mallard Creek Church Road

Mallard Creek Greenway
Parking: 210 East Mallard Creek Church Road and 9014 Mallard Creek Church Road

Clark’s Creek Greenway
Parking: 9729 Mallard Creek Road, 4424 Saxonbury Way and 4423 Saxonbury Way


Eat your way through UCity

University City also has an abundance of international food options so pick a cuisine and make a reservation.

“We have a rich, diverse offering of some of the best and most unique international cuisine in the area,” said Heater.

She literally made me hungry with her favorite dishes at restaurants in the area. Read and drool:

For Thai: Thai House. 230 E WT Harris Blvd., B9. “I absolutely love the yellow curry and pad prik.”

For Indian: Godavari Charlotte, 520 University Center Blvd. “You can’t beat some tikka masala and fresh naan.”

For Mediterranean: Lajeez Mediterranean Grill, 9311 JW Clay Blvd. “I swear they have the creamiest hummus in town, and their falafel! Just the best.”

Vietnamese: Pho Real, 440 E. McCullough Dr., # 206. “When Pho is in your name, you should give it a try and they live up to their name.”

Mexican: Zapata’s8927 J M Keynes Dr.  “I can’t get enough of their enchiladas.”

For Japanese/HibachiNakato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar8601 University Executive Park Dr.“This is a great place to take a group of your friends and enjoy the hibachi chicken.”

For Japanese/Sushi: TinTin Café3020 Driwood Ct. B. “Sushi, sushi, sushi! They have a wonderful variety of rolls, sashimi, and nigiri for you to choose.”


Upcoming events

Now to work off all the food, how about taking the kiddos to Charlotte Kids Fest? This inaugural event will highlight more than 100 activities and will take place at UNC Charlotte on Oct. 28.

“We’re so excited about hosting the Charlotte Kids Fest,” Heater said. “The young and the young at heart will enjoy performing arts, science and hands-on activities, performed story book readings, and of course lots of play, play, play.”

Looking for music? Grab a ticket to a concert at PNC Music Pavilion.  Upcoming shows include Brad Paisley and Kings of Leon.

Meanwhile, sports enthusiasts can take in a Charlotte 49ers game this season. Get tickets here.


Did someone say shopping?

For me when University City got IKEA (8300 Ikea Blvd.), I was beyond excited, so I would be remiss if I did not mention shopping (one of my favorite pastimes) that you can take part in.

Northlake Mall and Concord Mills are close by too if you want to venture out a bit, but first try the Shoppes at University Place Shoppes at University Place (8929 J M Keynes Dr.). This is where Heater takes friends and family that visit. Some of her favorite shops include Habitat Restore, IKEA and The Grid.

Try Habitat Restore (8104 University City Blvd.), which is a business run by non-profit Habitat for Humanity that accepts new and gently used items like clothes and furniture, and makes them available for purchase to the public to support local homebuilding. Heater says, “It’s just fun to browse and see what’s there.”

And IKEA? “I love to cook and they have fun cooking gadgets,” she said. “They also have inexpensive European designed dishware that never chips.”

With The Grid (9605 North Tryon St.), which is a discount electronics store run by Goodwill, Heater says it is “always full of techies” and she “feels smarter just walking in the door.”

Now that you’re equipped with some great options, it’s time to explore University City.

Photo courtesy: University City Partners