Friday, March 16, 2018

Six Tips for Celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow and one of the best cities to enjoy the Irish celebration is in Chicago.  Chicago has a large Irish-American population, but you don't have to be of Irish descent to enjoy the festivities.  Apparently, everyone in Chicago, from locals to tourists, is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.  

If you are planning a St. Patrick's Day trip to Chicago, here are few tips to keep in mind if as you plan your visit.

Some of the Festivities Don't Happen on St. Patrick's Day

That's right, the downtown parade and the dyeing of the Chicago river always take place on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day, unless St. Patrick's Day actually falls on a Saturday, as it does this year.  So, if you are planning to visit Chicago next year for St. Patrick's Day, the dyeing of the river and parade will occur on Saturday March 16, 2019. 

Arrive Early If You Want a Prime Viewing Spot

The dyeing of the Chicago River starts at 9:00am.  If you're short like me and want an unobstructed view of the local plumbers union turning the river a vivid shade of shamrock green, you must arrive early.  Prime viewing spots are on both sides of the river between the Columbus Drive bridge and the Michigan Avenue bridge as well as a few blocks west of the Michigan Avenue bridge along the Chicago Riverwalk.

The same thing goes for viewing the parade, which starts at noon at the corner of Columbus Drive and Balbo Avenue and proceeds northward to Monroe Avenue.

Don't Expect a Parade Like Macy's 

The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade is large parade by parade standards, but it mainly consists of marching bands, notable local and state dignitaries, Irish dance troupes, and various civic organizations riding on floats.  If you are expecting a parade the size and scope of Macy's, you will be disappointed.

Do Expect Crowds

St. Patrick's Day is a big deal in Chicago.  It draws hundreds of thousands of locals as well as out of town visitors.  Expect crowds along the river as people line up to watch the river dyed green, along the parade route, and pretty much everywhere in between in the downtown area including sidewalks, restaurants, bars, and on public transportation. 

Don't Forget About the Smaller Festivities

One of the most memorable things I did in Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick's Day was  go to the St. Patrick's Day Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center. For a mere $12, I escaped the hordes downtown and  celebrated "all things Irish" under one roof.  The family-friendly celebration features various types of Irish music performances, Irish dancing exhibitions, and the opportunity to taste various Irish foods and adult beverages.  The festival had a very cool local vibe.

The Irish American Heritage Center - Source
Corned beef and cabbage
Bangers and chips

Expect Any Kind of Weather

In the months leading up to my St. Patrick's Day visit, I prepared for typical March weather in Chicago - cold.  I had all the necessary clothing I thought I would need to endure a frigid day outside in the Windy City.  

Well, as luck would have it, Chicago set a new record high that year - 81F.  So, at the last minute, I had to adjust my wardrobe choices.  Instead of a heavy parka, thick pants, gloves, and scarf, I found myself wearing a green Chicago Cubs t-shirt and shorts.

Bottom line, even though the average temperature usually falls between 30 and 50 degrees, it could easily go below freezing or well into the 60s and 70s.

There are numerous things to do in Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, so there is something to suit everyone's tastes.  Whichever activity you chose, St. Patrick's Day in the Windy City can be a lot of fun!

Have you ever visited Chicago for St. Patrick's Day?  Do you have any tips to share?

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  1. Oh my. A rare appearance by the hubby?

  2. I've never been to Chicago :( . It's been on my wish list for ages. Would be great to visit for St. Patrick's Day.

    1. Chicago is a fun city year 'round. There are so many fun and interesting things to do and areas to explore. It's also very easy to get around in.

  3. Ah, fun memories! I used to live and work in downtown Chicago. And you are right, the early spring weather can be quite variable from really cold to unusually warm, so it's hard to know what to pack if you are heading there in March/April. But anyway Chicagoans party in all types of weather since they are used to it, and St. Pat's Day is just another excuse to wear silly hats, chow down on some street food, and enjoy celebrating the city's multi-ethnic heritage.

  4. I havne't visited Chicago in many years and didn't realize the St. Patrick's day parade was so fun! The dyed river and of course all the food look great. At least you caught some great weather last time!


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