Need to escape the ‘noise’? Try these 4 refuges in University City

Winter Garden at UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens.

The holidays can get so hectic, you just wish you could escape for an hour or two. That escape is close by in University City. Here are four of our favorite places. All are free and open from dawn to dusk!


UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Ten acres of beautiful year-round flora await you at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Stroll the Asian Garden, Winter Garden, Water Garden and a native woodland garden daily from dawn to dusk. Or visit the McMillan Greenhouse, offering tropical plants, orchids, desert plants and carnivorous plants.

The outdoor gardens will be open throughout the holidays. The Greenhouse will be open 9 am-4 pm Mondays-Saturdays and 1-4 pm Sundays through Dec. 21, and closed Dec. 22-Jan. 1 for the winter break.  704-687-0721  Website

UNC Charlotte campus

Ruth G. Shaw Trail at UNC Charlotte

Ruth G. Shaw Trail (part of the Toby Creek Greenway) at UNC Charlotte.

This 1,000-acre center of higher education is also a beautiful place to explore, especially in late December.

The official winter break is Dec. 22-Jan. 1, but most students will be heading home this week. Some buildings such as the Pop Martin Student Union will be open through Dec. 21.

The campus is pedestrian and bike friendly. Toby Creek Greenway runs through the heart of the campus.

Several streets have bike lanes, and you can ride bikes on any campus sidewalk (but watch out for stairs!). You may be able to rent a Gotcha Bike from several outdoor racks around campus. Click on the link for details and rack locations.


Toby Creek, Mallard Creek and Clark’s Creek greenways

You can hike or bike for hours on these three connected greenways that stretch for about 13 miles through the UNC Charlotte Campus, University Research Park and several neighborhoods. All of the greenways are paved, as well, except for about a mile between David Taylor Drive and Mallard Creek Road.

  • Parking – Good places to park and ride or walk are the Town Center Plaza Shopping Center on University City Boulevard, and Mallard Creek Elementary School on Mallard Creek Road. Kirk Farm Fields on Mallard Creek Church Road near North Tryon Street is closed for repairs of a major sewer line next to Mallard Creek.
  • Bike rentals – Want to bike but don’t have one? Consider renting a bike from Bike Line of Charlotte, in Town Center Plaza where Toby Creek Greenway crosses University City Boulevard. The store is also a great place to get tips on riding the greenway. 704-549-8804  Website
  • Get maps – Toby Creek Greenway   Mallard and Clark’s Creek greenways


Reedy Creek Nature Preserve and Park

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve fall color

Fall color at dawn in Reedy Creek Nature Preserve

When you really need to escape, consider Reedy Creek Nature Preserve and Park – 1.5 square miles of forests, ponds, hiking trails and abundant wildlife, plus a nature center, playgrounds, picnic shelters and sports fields.

Though some of the park’s 10 miles of trails are closed now while the county restores Reedy Creek (read about the project here), you will not lack for space far from the holiday crowds!

The park entrance is at 2900 Rocky River Road. Visit dawn to dusk daily. 980-314-1119   Website

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