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

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

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(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.

Le Kebob Grill

Chicken shawarma double from Le Kebob Grill.


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

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]

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

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


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

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)

The Wine Vault


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

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.

UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens


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

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.

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.


(6) Get vegan soul food from Veltree.

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

Veltree Vegan Soul Food


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

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.

Dave's Paddle Boats


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

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

Armored Cow Brewery Interior

Armored Cow’s “Bang Bang” hazy IPA

Armored Cow Brewery Exterior


(9) Walk around UNC Charlotte’s campus.

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.

UNC Charlotte Student Union


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

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

City Barbeque

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


(11) Make a stop at Insomnia Cookies.

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

Insomnia Cookie University

Insomnia Cookies limited edition Galaxy Cookie ($1.75).


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

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

boardwalk billy fries

Boardwalk Billy’s smothered fries ($9.99).


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

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

Bachi University


(14) Reach new heights at DEFY trampoline park.

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.

DEFY trampoline park interior shot


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

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.

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


(16) Visit the University City Farmers Market.

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.

university city farmers market

Photo by 3rd Rock Events, courtesy University City Farmers Market.


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

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]

Reedy Creek Park

Reedy Creek Park Entrance


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

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