With a favorable schedule and a full fan base back for the first time in two long years, the University of Kentucky Wildcats are expected to make some noise in head coach Mark Stoops’ 9th season at the helm. The return of fans to Kroger Field also means the return of tailgating at the University of Kentucky, one of the hidden gems of SEC partying.
In this guide, we’ll get you near downtown Lexington and help you find the most likely places for game-time revelry and tailgating service at the University of Kentucky.
Before Game Day
Wildcats 2021 Home Schedule
Here are the teams the University of Kentucky is facing at Kroger Field this autumn. All games are on Saturdays.
- Sept 4 – Louisiana/Monroe
- Sept 11 – Missouri
- Sept 18 – Tennessee/Chattanooga
- Oct 2 – Florida
- Oct 9 – Louisiana State
- Nov 6 – Tennessee
- Nov 20 – New Mexico State
Rivalry Games: Tennessee is Kentucky’s natural rival as the two states share a long border. The Nov. 6 game will bring Wildcats fans out in force.
UK offers season tickets, mini-packs, single-game, and group tickets on their online ticket office. Single-game tickets just went on sale, and it’s best to get them as soon in advance as you can.
Travel, Accommodations, and Transportation
Lexington, KY, is about 80 miles east of Louisville. Here’s information on how to get there and where to stay.
Traveling to Lexington
Driving: I-64 and I-75 are the two big interstates crossing through Lexington. US Route 25 passes near Kroger Field. You might also take US Route 60 or 68 to get to town, depending on where you’re coming from
Air Travel: Blue Grass Airport (LEX) accommodates non-stop travel to and from 15 destinations, including major hubs like Chicago O’Hare, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and a cluster of cities in Florida for some reason. Louisville (SDF) and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) are within 100 miles of Lexington.
Nearby Hotels and Accommodations
UK is conveniently located close to downtown Lexington, so there are plenty of hotel options for out-of-town guests. Closest to Kroger Field are Holiday Inn Express, The Campbell House, SpringHill Suites, and The Inn on Broadway. There are many more options in the city center just northeast of the University.
Check out TripAdvisor’s recommendations for additional options.
If you’re setting up your own tailgating rig at the game, it’s best to stay at an Airbnb or motor inn that can accommodate all of your equipment and your trailer — avoid the downtown snarl altogether. You may also want to check into tailgate equipment rentals!
Getting to Kroger Field
The UK transit system runs four routes past Kroger Field; the Green Route makes a loop around the stadium and nearby places. The city’s public transit service, Lextran, runs several buses that serve the University as well and offers game-day shuttle service for $1.
How to Tailgate at University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky has one of the more underrated tailgating scenes in the SEC, probably because it’s known more for its basketball program than for football. In actuality, football tailgating is just as ardent at UK as anywhere else.
Here are some tips for making the most of tailgating at the University of Kentucky.
Where to Tailgate at University of Kentucky
Many of the parking lots closest to Kroger Field are open to game-day permit buyers, although a few sections are reserved for VIPs and season-ticket holders. All of them allow tailgating, and lots open at 8 a.m. on game days. Plan to arrive early.
RV parking at the University of Kentucky is a bit more limited than at many other schools. Gluck Equine Center Lot and a part of the Orange Lot allow permit parking beginning at 7:30 p.m. the night before the game. There are two lots and a parking structure for non-permit RV parking a little distance from the stadium. You can’t tailgate in the structure.
Gluck Equine Center
The center of Wildcat madness on game days, Gluck Equine Center is just off Nicholasville Road near the Department of Veterinary Science. Situated next to a pond, you won’t be able to miss it if you steer anywhere near it. Many of the best pop-up tailgating tents will be found right here.
Just south of Kroger Field, the Wildcat Refuge is a more family-oriented tailgate, as evidenced by the complex of inflatable entertainment. You’ll also enjoy visits from UK alumni and the spirit squad, food and drink, autograph sessions, and state-of-the-art face painting. The party starts three hours before kickoff.
Tailgating at University of Kentucky: Rules
There are a few regulations to keep in mind at University of Kentucky tailgating, including:
- Tent setup is allowed starting at noon on Fridays
- Tents must be removed by noon on Sunday after game
- Portable generators must be approved by UK Athletics
- Open flames are not permitted unless the fire marshal approves
- No tents larger than 10’ x 10’ are allowed on the green spaces
Find out more about regulations and what needs a permit on the UK Athletics parking page.
Tailgating at University of Kentucky: Traditions
Some of the can’t-miss game-day traditions at the University of Kentucky include the following:
Wildcats players walk from the field house to the stadium about 200 yards away, as devoted UK fans line their path and shout generalized words of encouragement.
Rubbing President Patterson’s Foot
James Kennedy Patterson was the first president of the University, and there’s a statue of him on campus sitting in what seems to be an awkward position. The foot of the statue is said to have remarkable curative powers and is therefore enthusiastically massaged by UK fans before the game.
Northington, Page, Hackett, and Hogg Statue
Erected in 2016, this statue depicts the first four Black men to play football in the SEC — all of them Kentucky Wildcats.
The Wildcats have a live mascot, Blue, who resides at the Salato Wildlife Education Center. Stop by and say hi. Unfortunately, Blue prefers to stay out of the stadium. Instead, he watches the game on TV.
Off-Campus Drinks and Food
If you can’t make the parking lot tailgates or have simply wandered away from the blue-and-white canopies, here are some of the best dining and drinking options around Kroger Field.
Bars Near Kroger Field
You’ll have to walk a little to get to local bars, but they’re worth the hoofing. Lynagh’s Irish Pub, Campus Pub Lexington, Shamrock Bar & Grill, and Tilted Kilt are a few of your closest choices. Brothers Bar & Grill, a little further out east, has chicken wings and it’s a very decent sports bar.
Check out Google Maps’ recommendations for bars near the University.
Restaurants Near Kroger Field
There’s a big and diverse cross-section of eating establishments around the University, especially downtown near Ashland Park:
- Josie’s upscale American cuisine
- Joella’s not-to-be-missed hot chicken
- Bourbon n’ Toulouse, serving Cajun and Creole food
- Puccini’s for pizza and pasta
- Corto y Lima for Mexican food and margaritas
For more suggestions, look at TripAdvisor’s list of restaurants near Kroger Field.
University of Kentucky Gameday Gear
With the new season fast approaching, it’s time to get some new Kentucky gameday gear to rep at your tailgate.
If you want to rep Kentucky before gameday, this is a great-looking ball cap! Linked here.
Or if you want to throw the ball around with your friends at your tailgate, here’s a Kentucky branded football.
For all things attire Fanatics: the University of Kentucky is a great place to start. They have something for every member of the family. Be sure to only buy when they have promotions running, which is quite often!
Fanatics also has a fun section University of Kentucky: Tailgate & Party that has cute decorations, car decals, and tailgate games. Outside of cornhole (bags) games, I’d stick to Amazon for your bigger tailgate items like tents, tables, chairs, etc.
If you’re thinking of upgrading some of your basic equipment, be sure to check out the following blogs:
It’s a season of hope for the Kentucky Wildcats, both on the field and out in the pre-game parking lots. Tailgating at the University of Kentucky is going to mean something extra special this autumn, so you’ll want to do everything you can so that you don’t miss out.
Please note: Tailgater Concierge is a participant in the Amazon and Fanatics Affiliate Programs and may receive commissions on purchases. Tailgater Concierge only recommends products that we find valuable for our tailgating community! Thanks!