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Breaking Down Kentucky’s Possible Bowl Destinations


This time last week, Kentucky fans were centering their bowl plans around three potential destinations: the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, and the Birmingham Bowl. Kentucky’s big win over Louisville vaulted the Cats into the next tier of bowls, bringing in a new trio of possibilities: the Music City Bowl in Nashville, the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, and the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville. While Kentucky’s bowl destination won’t officially be announced until Sunday, negotiations are currently in the works, and word could leak out as early as tonight (right now, it looks good for Jacksonville). The ins and outs of where the Cats end up are complicated, and honestly, boring, so I spent my day breaking down something far more interesting: the destinations themselves.

Let’s compare the Music City, Belk, and TaxSlayer Bowls and their respective cities to find out which bowl reigns supreme for the Big Blue Nation.

Bowl “Prestige”: TaxSlayer Bowl

Technically, all four of these bowls are in the SEC’s “pool of six,” meaning on paper, they’re of equal status, but off paper, it still feels like there’s a pecking order. To my eyes, the TaySlayer Bowl (formerly the Gator Bowl) is the most “prestigious” of the four (although that may just be because it’s in Florida), followed by Belk and Music City on the same level.

Timing: Music City or TaxSlayer Bowls

The Belk Bowl kicks off at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 29, the same day as the basketball team’s game at Ole Miss, which tips off at 8:00 p.m. ET. The timing there is not ideal for fans who want to make both trips, or don’t want to miss a minute of the UK Sports action.

The Music City Bowl kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday, December 30 and the TaxSlayer Bowl at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, December 31. Neither conflict with a UK game and would set you up perfectly for a long New Year’s Eve weekend in either Nashville or Jacksonville.

Payout: TaxSlayer or Music City Bowls

Last year, the TaxSlayer and Music City Bowls both paid each team $2,750,000, followed by the Belk Bowl at $1,700,000. So, if you’re rooting for Kentucky to make money money make money money money (a portion of which will go back to the SEC), then root for TaxSlayer or Music City Bowls.

City: Nashville (Music City Bowl)

I’m obviously a little biased here, but Nashville is by far the best city of the four in contention. Sure, Jacksonville might have a beach, but Nashville is one of the fastest growing, most exciting cities in the country, with a downtown that I’d put up against any other in terms of nightlife, world-class music (not just country), a thriving food scene, and distinct neighborhoods near downtown for variety. If I had to rank the three cities, I’d go…

1. Nashville
2. Jacksonville
3. Charlotte

This is probably a rant for another day, but after four years at Davidson (which is located about a half hour north of the Queen City), I can say with complete certainty that Charlotte is one of my least favorite cities in the country to visit, and I’ve been to Houston, Dallas, AND Atlanta. Sure, it has some really cool cultural stuff, like the Mint Museum and the science museum, but if we’re talking fun downtowns (excuse me, uptown) to walk around, Charlotte is way too clean and has very little character, which makes complete sense when you consider it’s the banking hub of the south. It may be a great place to live, but visit for a bowl game? C’mon.

To all my Davidson friends who still live in Charlotte, sorry. (Also, what are you doing reading a Kentucky blog?)

Food: Nashville (Music City Bowl)

Nashville has hot chicken, Jacksonville has…fish?, Charlotte has…Cheerwine, Pepsi, and apparently liver pudding. I guess if we’re extending this to all of the Carolinas, you could include Carolina pulled pork with vinegar BBQ sauce, which is really good, but not as good as the tantalizing torture of hot chicken.

Proximity to Kentucky: Nashville (Music City Bowl)


This one’s easy. Driving times from Lexington, via Google Maps:

  • Nashville (Music City Bowl): 3 hours 20 minutes (not if you’re in my car)
  • Charlotte (Belk Bowl): 6 hours 16 minutes
  • Jacksonville (TaxSlayer Bowl): 10 hours 31 minutes

If you’re able, fly to Florida. Or, pull a Matt and make your friends ride with you!

Hotel prices: Charlotte (Belk Bowl)

This is one category in which I cannot defend my town. Hotel prices in downtown Nashville have skyrocketed over the past two years to astronomical levels. On the average weekend, it’s more expensive to stay in downtown Nashville than it is Manhattan, which is just nuts. Part of that is due to more demand than supply; Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the country as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations. There simply aren’t enough hotel downtown right now to keep up. They’re building new ones left and right, but until those are done, get ready to shell out at least $400/night for a good hotel room in the middle of hustle and bustle. (Or, get a hotel room just out of town for infinitely cheaper and Uber/Lyft in.)

Average hotel prices in all three cities for the dates in question (near each stadiums):

  • Nashville: $400/night
  • Charlotte: $190/night
  • Jacksonville: $200/night

Ticket Prices: Music City Bowl

Bowl Ticket price range
TaxSlayer Bowl $60 – $125
Music City Bowl $22 – $120
Belk Bowl $38 – $135

A quick search of Ticketmaster gave me the lowest prices, but if you request bowl tickets through UK, they also list the highest potential price. By that measure, Music City Bowl is the cheapest, but not by a sizable margin.

Also of note: UK says that preordering tickets to the bowl you’d like to go to through them is a good way for that bowl to gauge fan interest. Of course, if that bowl doesn’t pick UK, you won’t be charged for the tickets, but if you really, really want to go to one bowl over another, get to clicking.

Extra bowl events: Belk Bowl

Bowl related events in Nashville include the Hattie B’s Hot Chicken Eating World Championships if you want to kill your digestive system, the traditional Battle of the Bands (featuring “Rubiks Groove,” Nashville’s best 80s & 90s dance party!), a pregame concert featuring Jason Eskridge, and a postgame concert featuring LOCASH. And, of course, Broadway, Nashville’s New Year’s Eve event featuring Keith Urban, and several Bang This twins sightings.

Game week events in Jacksonville are a little more subdued, with the VyStar 5K run taking place on December 30, along with the Community First Jacksonville Light Boat Parade that night, and various pep rallies and tailgate events. (LAME.)

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s putting all of its eggs in one basket with a Tim McGraw concert before the bowl at 2 p.m. Considering he’s the only one of the artists I’ve mentioned that I’ve heard of, I’ll give the slight edge to Charlotte here. …But that Hattie B’s Hot Chicken Eating Contest sounds both awesome and dangerous.

Twitter accounts: @BelkBowl

@BelkBowl is running away with this category, especially after they called out @MusicCityBowl for mistakenly saying Rick Pitino was still UK’s basketball coach. I may not like Charlotte, but I admire @BelkBowl’s social media sass. @TaxSlayerBowl has yet to enter the Twitter competition for #BBN’s affections, but at least they know the path to our hearts:

…and I just realized if I read this paragraph ten years ago I would officially send myself to the looney bin.


According to this breakdown, Nashville is the ideal bowl destination for Kentucky, but I’ll fully admit that’s because it’s my ideal bowl destination for Kentucky. Besides, it seems like buzz is heading in the TaxSlayer and Belk Bowls’ directions, and really, the BBN will have fun wherever the team goes. But, half of the fun of going bowling is talking about where we want to go bowling, so have at it.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

20 Comments for Breaking Down Kentucky’s Possible Bowl Destinations

  1. VinDatuk
    8:25 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

    Couple things: when was the last time you were actually in Charlotte? I’m from Cornelius and have several Davidson friends. You all never left that bubble of a campus. Can’t say that I blame you, it’s gorgeous, but unless you’ve experienced Charlotte as an adult, you really haven’t experienced it. There is so much more to it than uptown, although the stadium and all the bars within walking distance certainly trumps anything Jacksonville has to offer. Have you ever been to Jacksonville and experienced its “nightlife” and stadium location? Nashville and Charlotte run circles around both.

    • Mrs. Tyler Thompson
      8:35 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

      Been there three times in the past five years, stayed uptown each time. Just not impressed with the scene, although NoDa is nice.

    • jjthomp2
      8:48 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

      I’d like to second VinDatuk comment regarding Jacksonville. In terms of nightlife “Jax” is in 3rd place and it’s not even close between the other two.

    • VinDatuk
      8:49 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

      Fair enough. I owned a place in NODA and agree. Southend and The Plaza have really blown up. Both are quick Uber rides and Southend is easily accessible by the light rail. Nashville is clearly the best choice, but Jax just doesn’t have as much going on as Charlotte from nightlife, to location, and restaurants. Further, the UK Alumni Association in CLT is strong; not sure the same can be said for JAX. I’m going to any of the above – I just hope prefer Jacksonville be the last choice.

    • ukcamel
      8:48 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

      If you go to Charlotte and just hang out in Uptown the whole weekend then you didn’t know what the heck you were doing, which is pretty bad for a Davidson alum who supposedly has friends in Charlotte. If you only hung out in Chinatown and around the Verizon Center, DC would suck too.

      Another good point for Charlotte is the airport flies to pretty much every eastern city direct and is a $10 uber ride to Uptown/Southend.

  2. cab9560r
    8:33 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

    I want the best for the football program and the fans no matter what bowl game it is. But I love Nashville and I think the fans will swarm Nashville just like they do for the sec basketball tournament. But really it’s so great to know there are bowl options out there, to me it shows alot for the improvement of the team. But my vote is Nashville #BBN

  3. pabloco
    8:35 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

    Keep hearing TN is in the mix for Music City and hard to believe they would let the state school go. UT has a bigger following in Nashville than Vandy.

    Also, Hattie B’s is ridiculously over-rated.

  4. KYcats11
    8:46 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

    I believe UK draws a larger crowd than tennesse. We’re coming off a huge win and our fan base is very positive right now. Tennessee is coming off of an embarrassing loss to vanderbit and many are calling for their coach.

  5. Kory Henry
    9:06 pm November 29, 2016 Permalink

    Don’t forget the Go Pro Motorplex nearby Charlotte in Mooresville! You can spend a whole day out there, especially with winter prices of $15 a race. It’s a legit experience for any racing fan, and it’s frequented by NASCAR’s younger stars during the offseason.

  6. rainman
    12:23 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

    WEATHER, that is all!

  7. Luether
    1:12 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

    You’ve convinced me, Mrs TT. The Music City Bowl it is!

  8. Old_Pogue_Bourbon
    8:03 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Downtown Jax SUCKS! (J-Rock voice). However not far away are the Five Points, Avondale and Riverside areas which are pretty cool…but close early. Five Points has one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to (Hawker’s Asian Street Cafe). Other than these areas you have to go to St. John’s Town Center area or the beaches for any semblance of “night life”.

  9. Sentient Third Eye
    9:43 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

    The Taxslayer Bowl is really the Gator Bowl. UK has a chance to play in the Gator Bowl. We’ve historically been to the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Peach bowls, but never the Gator Bowl. This is an historic opportunity.

  10. bobjones
    9:52 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

    I can’t believe people are pushing for Nashville. Talk about a homer take from TT on this one. We have a chance at the Gator Bowl, and TT thinks we should be in Nashville because it has hot chicken. Hello, everywhere in America has hot chicken at this point.

    I take this bowl break down with a grain of salt as it’s written by the same person who pushed the “THATS SO KENTUCKY FOOTBALL” agenda for years and has a nashville obsession like every white chick that moves to Nashville and think’s she’s Carrie from Sex and the City.

    Gator Bowl it is!

  11. KevinM
    10:10 am November 30, 2016 Permalink

    Of those 3, the best is the Taxslayer without question.
    You’re talking about playing on New Years Eve and still plenty of time for New Years afterwards.

    This bowl pr cards the others in pecking order by far, even though Tim McGraw is a nice bonus in Charlotte.