The Southeastern Conference comes to Music City Wednesday, March 11 through Sunday, March 15 as the fourteen conference member schools bring their men’s basketball teams to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for the SEC Basketball Championship Tournament. Along with them will come their legions of fans, washing the streets of Lower Broad around the arena in their respective team colors. Although each school receives the same allotment of tickets, somehow University of Kentucky Wildcat fans always seem to be able to score more than their fair share, leading to a phenomenon known as “The Blue Mist” descending on the city as their followers fill the streets and bars whenever their beloved ‘Cats aren’t on the playing floor.’
While most of the games have already sold out, the structure of the tournament means that the bottom teams in the standings face off against each other on Wednesday, so tickets for that evening’s session are still available. Another opportunity to score tix comes from the fact that fans must buy tickets to the entire tournament to be able to see their teams play, so the higher ranked teams’ fans might not be interested in seeing the early rounds and be willing to sell their tickets on the secondary market. Additionally, as teams are eliminated, their fans often want to go home early rather than watch other schools play on, so they often try to unload their tickets as well. Just a guess here, but since Nashville’s hometown team of Vanderbilt is so terrible this year, there’s a really good chance that their ticket holders will have seats to sell since they won’t already have committed to hotel rooms in town instead of just sleeping in their own beds. Look for fans wearing black and gold if you want a deal on seats for later rounds!
Each session of the tournament is two games, so there’s a lot of downtime between watching your team play. Fortunately, that’s a major reason why Nashville has been named the tournament host city for ten of the next eleven years. If you can’t figure out how to have a good time for a few hours in Nashville, well, you just must not be any good at having fun! But if you do need a little extra advice, here are some of the best places to spend a little time between games within walking distance of the ‘Stone’:
Visit Some Celebrity Bars
If you’re a country music star and want to bend an elbow in one of your favorite celebrities’ namesake drinking establishments, Lower Broad is the place to be! Design your own country pub crawl with stops at any (or all) of these watering holes:
AJ’s Good Time Bar – Alan Jackson
Acme Feed & Seed – Alan Jackson
FGL House – Florida Georgia Line
Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row – Dierks Bentley
Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar – Jason Aldean
Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink – Luke Bryan
Ole Red – Blake Shelton
Redneck Riviera – John Rich
“Country-adjacent” celebrity bars
Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
Nashville Underground – Gavin and Joey DeGraw
Kid Rock’s Big A$$ Honky Tonk & Rock ‘n’ Roll Steakhouse– Kid Rock
Drink a Longneck Beer and Listen to Authentic Country Like a Local
It’s hard to find a bad band in Music City, but these are the best bets where locals go when they want to hear the bets of the best.
Throw Some Darts, Bags, Axes, Bowling Balls or Play Your Favorite Vintage Arcade Games
You won’t even need to bring along a roll of quarters with you since most of these establishments have their vintage arcade and pinball machines set for free play.
Watch the Games in a Sports Bar
Join like-minded sports fans to cheer along with the games you don’t have tickets for at these favorite downtown sports bars.
Enjoy Some Great Local Barbecue or Tacos
Downtown has all sorts of great dining spots to check out, but if you’re looking for a quicker, more casual dining experience these are some solid choices for tacos and smoked meats.
On second thought, with all those great options, maybe you’d better just scalp your own ticket!