If Union County were a puzzle, you could find all the right pieces for a good suburban lifestyle.Emphasis on suburban, because you’ll log some miles driving, but the trade-off is worth it.Are you looking for a small-town atmosphere you can embrace? Union County has 14 towns. Are you looking for good schools? Union County Public Schools consistently ranks among the state’s best districts. Do you want reasonable access to a metropolitan area? Depending on where you are in Union County, the drive to uptown Charlotte is about 30-40 minutes.There are county fairs, an array of seasonal festivals, a host of recreational activities and other attractions that make life in the suburbs satisfying.The county has a population of just over 200,000. There’s ethnic diversity, religious diversity and geographic diversity because the county has grown fast over the past decade. Still, there’s plenty of Southern charm.I live in Stallings. I have a daughter who attends public school. My wife and I commute to Charlotte most work days. We’ve lived here a little more than 16 years.We’re comfortable.We’re 15 minutes from Union County’s Monroe Crossing Shopping Mall. We’re also 20 minutes from Carolina Place Shopping Mall, 25 minutes from Charlotte’s SouthPark mall and 30 minutes from Concord Mills.We can attend Panthers games and Bobcats games, but high school sports are a big deal out here – and we’re minutes away from some of the state’s best high school athletic programs. In Union County, you’ll find Porter Ridge, Sun Valley, Weddington, Marvin Ridge, Monroe High, Piedmont, Forest Hills and Sun Valley. Just across the border in Mecklenburg, minutes away, you’ll find Butler (former state football champion), Providence, Charlotte Catholic, Charlotte Christian, Charlotte Latin, to name a few.The outer belt of Interstate 485 is a key piece of the puzzle. It links you to many of the key destinations. You’ll need to know the freeway’s rhythm because, like Independence Boulevard, it jams during rush hour. And there’s not nearly enough emphasis on mass transit.But you should know that you have other routes into and out of Mecklenburg County, or anywhere else you want to go. Again, depending on where you live, there are alternatives like Idlewild Road, Monroe Road and Providence Road. Want to go to the beach? Take U.S. 601 south. Want to go to the mountains? Take U.S. 74 to Interstate 40. And Union County has character.Drive the rural roads and see acres of growing corn. (Watch out for the deer who feed on the corn.) You’ll see cattle ranches and barns where horses are boarded. You can enjoy an evening of Legion or Little League baseball. Work out at the YMCA. Swim at the Monroe Aquatic Center. Fish at Cane Creek Park. Visit Museum of the Waxhaws. Or examine Bible translations at JAARS.The only missing piece to this puzzle? The one called city life. And if you’re like me, you won’t exactly miss it.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
You won’t miss the city
‘Must’ list 1. Extreme Ice Center (4705 Indian Trail-Fairview Road, Indian Trail) is home to two NHL-size rinks. It’s also the practice site for the Charlotte Lady Checkers, adult, college, high school and youth hockey teams. The venue hosts plenty of birthday parties and offers a fitness center and a tavern. 704-882-1830; www.xicenter.com. 2. Cane Creek Park is a 1,050-acre park surrounding a trophy bass lake that is one of only three such bodies of water in North Carolina. The park is near Waxhaw in the southern part of the county and is conducive to many family activities, including camping and swimming. 704-843-3919; www.waxhaw.com. 3. Museum of the Waxhaws (8215 Waxhaw Highway, Waxhaw) provides guests with a view of the region’s history from 1550 to 1900. 704-843-1832; www.museum ofthewaxhaws.com.