Surely you know this by now, but in case you haven’t heard, Mississippi State is playing in the Belk Bowl against North Carolina State in Charlotte, North Carolina this year, the program’s first appearance in the bowl. With the team in town December 26th through gameday on the 30th, and with many fans likely staying through New Year’s Eve, a compilation of reasons to go to the Belk Bowl and things to do while there seemed like a good idea.
I had actually never been to Charlotte in my life until last year, but now in the last 14 or so months I’ve been through three times, as the SEC Network headquarters are located in Charlotte. I had pretty much no expectations, good or bad, going in, and it turns out Charlotte is an incredibly cool city. Clean, nice, cool uptown (not downtown) and with a lot going on for anyone, families and single young adults alike. Check out the website www.charlottesgotalot.com to see what I mean.
Anyway, here are the Top 12 Reasons to Go to the Belk Bowl, or something like that. (Tickets available here!)
Do we really need to expand on this? The seven-time Grammy winner will be performing for the price of free at 1:30 eastern time at the Belk Bowl Fanfest on game day.
Fanfest and Fan Central
Speaking of the FanFest, that event begins at 10 a.m. on gameday, the 30th, and is basically a big party with food, live music (did I mention Carrie Underwood?), face painting, cheerleaders and the school bands. The night before, Fan Central is the big Belk Bowl Eve party at EpiCentre, a quite-large complex full of restaurants, shops and revelry, which also feature bands and cheerleaders and the usual excitement. Check out the EpiCentre website here http://epicentrenc.com where you’ll see there’s a lot going on.
If you are even mildly into racing, and really even if you’re not, the entire experience of NASCAR-related activities in Charlotte is pretty neat. The Charlotte Motor Speedway featuring the Richard Petty Driving Experience is cool, as is the NASCAR Hall of Fame. If you want the whole shebang check out the Racing Insiders Tour http://www.charlottesgotalot.com/all-events/racing-insiders-tour
Last game for Dak and the seniors
The Belk Bowl will, very literally, be the last chance to ever see Dak Prescott and the entirety of the senior class play for Mississippi State.
He’s famous enough to just go by his first name, right? As the Kobe Bryant farewell tour goes around the country, it will hit Charlotte for a game against the Hornets on the 28th. The Hornets also host the Memphis Grizzlies on the 26th and the Los Angeles Clippers on the 30th.
MSU’s bowl game reputation
Over the last half-decade, State fans have earned a reputation for traveling to support their team, even outside of football when they packed out the stands in Omaha for the College World Series. That’s a respect MSU would like to maintain.
Seriously, under the events tab for the week MSU is there, the EpiCentre website has three different items listed relating to tacos, including Taco Tuesday at Vida Cantina. Charlotte even has a restaurant called Cowbell (maroon and white sign, too, how perfect?) that has a full taco menu. People I trust in Charlotte strongly recommend the restaurant and bar as a whole, while I’ve also been told Cabo Fish Taco and Krazy Fish (1/2 off tacos from 4-6) are places worthy of a visit.
Beyond food, nightlife and NASCAR, Charlotte has a thriving arts and culture scene, headlined by several museums and nature centers. Discovery Place, a science and technology museum, looks particular fun and family friendly. Check out their website here: http://www.discoveryplace.org The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Charlotte Nature Museum also come recommended.
One more chance to fire up the grill and stuff yourself on dips before the meat is actually ready. If you plan to tailgate, make sure and check out the Belk Bowl’s page on policies here http://belkbowl.com/fan_guide/travel_to_the_game/tailgating/
Bowl game rubber match
After the 1963 Liberty Bowl (an MSU victory) and 1995 Peach Bowl (an NCSU victory), Mississippi State and North Carolina State are 1-1 against each other in the postseason. Winner takes the lead. Currently, the Wolfpack lead the all-time series 3-2, so MSU can tie things up before the two schools have a pair of regular-season games in 2020-21.
The team is staying at Hilton City Center in Uptown, if there are rooms available and you’d like to reserve them, though staying at any of the area hotels is convenient. There are over 200 restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, and Bank of America Stadium is walking distance, as well, so pack your best holiday sweater for the short jaunts around town.