In recent years Charlotte’s University City area has flourished into much more than just a college town. It’s a vibrant area with a lot to offer its residents from entertainment and cultural amenities to new dining and shopping destinations. There’s also no shortage of ways to live a healthy, balanced life with a multitude of options to get active, stay fit, and eat well.

We consulted with the doctors and staff at ORTHOCAROLINA’S University Office at 9848 North Tryon St. as our April experts on Locals Living the Healthy Life, The University Edition to create a list of the best places in the area to Be Healthy!

Best Places to Walk/Bike/Run in University

If you like to walk, bike, or run, then you’re in luck. University City is home to 12 miles of walking and biking trails that are made up of three greenway systems that all connect. For a short trip consider taking the Toby Creek Greenway, which offers runners, walkers, and bikers approximately two miles of paved trail. Or, for a longer trip add Clarks Creek Greenway and Mallard Creek Greenway to your route to cover the entire 12 miles. The three greenways snake through tranquil forests, several area neighborhoods, and the UNC Charlotte campus.

The Mallard Creek Greenway is part of the Cross-Charlotte Trail, which will eventually span 26 miles and connect the NC/SC state line to Cabarrus County upon completion.

Best Places to Walk Your Dog in University

University City’s 12 miles of greenway offer a great place for lengthy walk with your dog, but if you’re looking for somewhere your four-legged friend can roam off-leash then Reedy Creek Park and Nature Preserve is the ideal place. Reedy Creek features Barkingham Park, a four-acre, fenced-in space where pups can run free from a leash and burn off some energy. Within Barkingham there’s a designated area for smaller dogs to safely roam, water stations, trash cans, and waste bags within reach. The park is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to sunset.

Most Underrated or Unknown Exercise Options in University

Open Water Adventures is just a short drive from the University area and offers a wide array of water activities in their indoor heated pool. Activities include everything from swimming and diving lessons to scuba certification. The company has been teaching students how to safely dive for more than 20 years and even offers dive club socials and international diving trips.

Best Free or Almost Free Fitness in the Area

Not only does the Keith Family YMCA — located on Old Mallard Creek Rd. — offer open gym to its members, but it also has several group classes designed to fit all types of fitness goals. A sampling of daily classes includes cycling, bootcamp, half marathon training, boxing, and aqua Zumba. There are also classes specifically targeted for children and active seniors. Standard membership rates are $72 a month for an adult, so if you go more than seven times a month you’re paying less than $10 a visit.

For access to a gym that features a variety of cardio and weight lifting equipment without any exuberant monthly fees or lengthy contracts to sign, consider working out at the Mallard Creek Recreation Center. The center spans 20,000 square feet and features everything from treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes to free weights and resistance equipment. It also has an indoor playroom for children to enjoy. A monthly membership for adults is $12.

Best Nearby Outdoor Activities for Families

The 310-acre Mallard Creek Community Park features an expansive playground that has everything from swings and slides to climbing stations. Visitors will also find several athletic fields, a concession stand, walking trails, and two picnic shelters that provide the perfect spot to take a break and enjoy a packed picnic between activities.

For a unique way to get the entire family active visit DefyGravity, where you’ll find 5,000 square feet of trampoline fun. Along with the facility’s popular trampoline grid that’s a combination of 20 trampolines, there’s also a ninja obstacle course, extreme dodge ball, trapeze, and stunt falls to try. On Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. DefyGravity offers Family Night, which allows the whole family to jump for an hour for only $45.

Best Nearby Outdoor Activities for Dates

For a low-key date outdoors plan a trip to the incredibly beautiful UNCC Botanical Gardens. The property is home to three gardens that feature a plethora of vibrant and rare plants from all over the world. The tranquil setting and colorful backdrop of blooms provide an idyllic ambiance for a romantic stroll along the gardens’ pathways.

Challenge your significant other to a little friendly competition at the Paradise Valley Par-3 Golf Course. The course plays host to 18 holes that are designed to be fun for everyone — even people who have never played golf before. Or, if you’re feeling a little nostalgic you can test your putt-putt skills on the 18-hole Lost Duffer Miniature Golf Course for $5.

Best Neighborhood Studios in University

Take your fitness goals up a notch at the Orange Theory Fitness University location. Classes are designed to give participants a full-body workout in just an hour — no matter their fitness level — with a combination of cardio and strength training exercises that are led by an instructor who’s there to help, so there’s no more guessing if you’re doing a move correctly, or not. Classes start daily at 5 a.m. and are scheduled through 7:30 p.m., providing plenty of options for even the busiest of schedules. Memberships are available for four classes a month, eight classes a month, or, unlimited. First-timers can get one class free to give the workout a shot.

Tight schedule and need a quick workout? 9Round Fitness will have you in and out in 30 minutes. The kickboxing-themed workout consists of nine different stations that will have you breaking a sweat, burning calories, and toning up in no time. Stations range from using kettle bells and medicine balls to kickboxing and intense ab workouts. Newcomers can take their first class for free.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan/Juice Restaurant in University

University-based Wrapway offers an impressive selection of raw, vegan, and vegetarian-friendly options that include a number of filling salads and fusion bowls. There are also several gluten-free options on the menu. One of the restaurant’s specialties is the flavorful Grain Burger, which is a combination of cracked wheat, 18 different spices, nuts, and vegetables.

Best Place to Eat After Your Workout

If you like to work out early in the morning the Famous Toastery has you covered when it comes to a post-workout breakfast. The menu boasts delicious options like an avocado Benedict, plenty of fresh fruits, and omelets. Like to workout later in the day? They’ve got plenty of healthy lunch options to choose from, too.

Fill up without the guilt after a workout at the popular Le Kebab Grill. The restaurant’s menu features a variety of delicious Mediterranean dishes that range from grilled lamb and vegetarian kebabs to tilapia filets and house-made hummus, soups and salads.

Best Neighborhood Outdoor/Athletic Store to Buy Your Gear in University

For over 30 years Run For Your Life has been outfitting Charlotte runners in the best of the best gear. Not only is the store teeming with everything a runner could want (or need) from shoes and clothing to equipment, but the store’s staff will also take the time to help customers with tips on things like injury prevention and nutrition.

Now that you’ve seen our list of bests, we’d love to hear how you stay fit and healthy in the University area. Leave a comment with your favorite places to get active or grab a healthy meal.

A special thank you to Bradley Joyce for his time and help putting together this list of bests.

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