7 of the Biggest and Best St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the US
The Irish emigrated to the four corners of the globe—and brought St. Patrick’s Day revelry with them. This festive holiday, commemorating the patron saint of Ireland, is celebrated each year with parades, traditional music, all things green, and raising a glass of Irish beer or whiskey. While the holiday may be the same across the country, festivities can differ by location. Here are seven of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day bashes in the US.
New York City
New York’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1762—that’s more than a decade before the signing of the US Declaration of Independence. What began as immigrants singing Irish songs and playing Irish instruments has evolved into one of the city’s biggest annual events. Today, the parade fills 5th Avenue with more than 300,000 marchers and 3 million spectators, while Irish pubs keep the revelry going with music, hearty Irish fare, and plenty of Guinness afterward. To learn more about immigrants in New York, take a tour of Ellis Island during your trip to NYC.
In celebration of St. Paddy’s Day—not St. Patty’s Day—the Windy City of Chicago dyes the river green. A tradition since 1962, the dyeing of the river draws a big crowd, so arrive early to witness the show. There’s also a festive parade with colorful floats, Irish bands, and Irish dancers. Don’t be afraid to wear green from head to toe, and continue the celebrations in local pubs, where you’ll often find similarly green beer (although the Irish themselves would recommend sticking to good old Guinness). The next day, explore the river further on a Chicago architecture cruise.
The second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country is found in Savannah, Georgia. In a city known for its rowdy festivals (and open-container policies—you can carry open cups of drinks on the street), St. Patrick’s Day is often cited as one of the city’s biggest and boldest parties. Celebrations along the riverfront include live music, Irish-themed food and drink, and games. While you’re in town for the festivities, sign up for a Savannah Irish history walking tour to learn about the history of Irish immigrants in the city.
A common joke in Ireland is that the westernmost city in the Emerald Isle isn’t Galway, but across the Atlantic in Boston. The substantial Irish population means that St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated across the city for almost 300 years. Find a place along the 3-mile parade route in South Boston for a bit of Irish cheer, music, and dancing, before joining the locals in the pubs for Irish entertainment, food, and drink. Alternatively, learn about the local Boston beer scene on a guided brewery tour.
New Orleans and Dublin, Ireland share a common trait: they both know how to throw a street party and both cities have a largely pedestrianized historic district that hosts festive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. In the Big Easy, Paddy’s Day is marked with parades, block parties, and lots of live music. Expect to see the beads and flowers of Mardi Gras alongside hearty fare such as Irish stew. Want to eat and drink like the Irish? Order half a dozen oysters and wash them down with a Guinness, before getting to know the local culinary scene during a food-themed walking tour.
Denver proves that you don’t need to be east of the Mississippi to find a great St. Patrick’s Day party. Each year, more than 10,000 marchers and dancers (as well as festive floats) fill the streets of Denver to the delight of almost a quarter of a million spectators. Irish or not, enjoy music from local DJs, bounce on giant inflatables, shop from local vendors, and sup a variety of drinks at the parade. Or, take part in the Runnin’ of the Green race before enjoying a St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl (or local craft beer tour).
San Francisco offers some of the US’s best St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, from block parties and pub crawls to a doggie costume contest. Begin the Irish-themed fun with an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Café before heading to Market Street to check out the official parade, complete with Irish dance companies, bands, and more. The city also celebrates Irish culture for St. Patrick’s Day, so look out for readings of Irish poetry and traditional Irish music concerts.