Got meetings or an event in the University part of town? The northeast Charlotte neighborhood, home to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers, offers plenty to do during a visitor’s down time.
Check out the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, which include a woodland glen and rain-forest plants, in addition to multitudes of native plants and flower varieties.
Sparked by a biology professor's vision, the gardens were created in the mid-’60s as a living classroom for students, as well as a horticultural and botanical resource for the Charlotte community. Located on the east side of the UNC Charlotte campus, the gardens now comprise 10 acres of outdoor gardens, a 4,500-square-foot greenhouse and a teaching classroom with a 1,200-book, botanical-horticultural library. The McMillan Greenhouse is home to exotic plants year-round, as is the Susie Harwood Garden with its camellias, azaleas, Japanese maples, winter-blooming plants and late-blooming perennials. The Van Landingham Glen peaks with blossoms in the spring, but it, too, can be enjoyed anytime with its woodland atmosphere and a wide collection of native plants.
The gardens and greenhouse are open daily; greenhouse hours are 9 am to 4 pm Mon-Sat and 1-4 pm Sun. Admission is free, but a $2 donation is suggested. Guided tours also are available for a fee and with a minimum of seven visitors.
Shop at some reliable chain stores or just enjoy the view from an adjoining, tranquil lake at the Shoppes at University Place, W.T. Harris Boulevard and North Tryon Street.
Adjacent to UNC Charlotte, this shopping center seems ready-made for vacationing families: Mom can shop for the latest fashion at TJ Maxx or Chico's Outlet while Dad takes the kids down the boardwalk over the lake to rent a paddleboat, feed the ducks or release energy on a playground. There's also an annual outdoor concert series in the spring. Need to grab some lunch? Dining options abound, including Tijuana Flats for TexMex, Noodles & Company for pad Thai and pasta dishes, and Ciro's for Italian.
Raise a glass to the flat-screen action and enjoy some classic bar bites, including ribs and a raw bar, at the Shoppes’ Boardwalk Billy’s, 9005 J.M. Keynes Drive. (There's also a second location in the Matthews area.)
While a full complement of TVs beaming live sports action surround you in the Billy's beach vibe (it does sit beside the University Shoppes’ lake, thank you), order up from a varied menu that includes coconut shrimp, fried pickle chips and wings for starters and smoked St. Louis-style ribs, beer-can chicken, crab legs, oysters, burgers and other sandwiches, tacos and wraps for the main course.
Got a big party gathering for the Carolina Panthers or some other NFL game? Boardwalk Billy's accommodates with large platters of veggies, wraps, chicken fingers, buffalo wings and peel ’n’ eat shrimp. A large beer selection includes several regional crafts (Olde Mecklenburg's Mecktoberfest, check ... Atlanta's Sweetwater, check), and bloody mary and mimosa specials are frequent. Check Billy's website and Facebook page for entertainment specials that include live music, DJs and trivia nights.