By Randy Yagi
St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and for those hoping to visit a new city to mark the occasion, time is running out very quickly. On a day when people around the world dress in green clothing and celebrate everything Irish, some destinations take it further by hosting enormous parades and festivals, lighting famous attractions in varying hues of green or even dyeing its rivers green if only for a short time. While it was originally intended as a religious and cultural celebration to honor the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has grown to become one of the most popular celebrations in the world, with major events held across North America, Europe and even South America and Asia. For last minute travel plans, here is a look at five destinations for a proper and more traditional St. Patrick’s Day.
With nearly a quarter of city’s population boasting an Irish heritage, Boston will be an exceptional destination to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially on the heels of a record setting New England victory in Super Bowl LI. In fact, the city whose professional basketball team is called the Celtics and whose logo features a decidedly inspired Irish character, is known to have held the America’s first St. Patrick’s Day observance back in 1737. Moreover, not only is Boston the capital and largest city Massachusetts, it’s also the seat of the only county (Suffolk County) in America that marks March 17 as a legal holiday in observance of both St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, the day of the British evacuation of the city in 1776.
While the prominent St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston is held on March 19 and with an attendance of approximately one million spectators, the city will host a number of other related events all week, including the Irish Film Festival and Boston’s own Celtic punk rock band Dropkick Murphys continuing its annual traditional of live performances at the House of Blues and at Agganis Arena on March 18. Of course, the city’s many popular Irish pubs such Brendan Behan Pub, the Burren, Doyle’s Cafe, as J.J. Foley’s, the Druid and Plough and Stars will be serving plenty of Irish foods like corned beef and bangers and mash, as well as Irish whiskeys and Guinness beers, also known as the “black stuff”.
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New York’s parade may be older, larger and perhaps more famous, but Chicago definitely knows how to throw a St. Patrick’s Day party. In fact, major festivities begin several days in advance with a full slate of bands to perform traditional Irish music at multiple venues on March 10 and the following day, when the city dyes the Chicago River green, albeit only for about five hours, a world famous tradition that first began purely by accident back in 1962.
That same day, Chicago hosts its own lively St. Patrick’s Day parade, complete with marching bands, street performers, a Parade Queen and Court and an estimated crowd of one million spectators. Throughout the day, visitors can also take a boat cruise along the Chicago River to enjoy green beer or simply the magnificent vistas of the city and its emerald waters. Several more events are planned in the following days, such as the Northwest Side Irish Parade on March 12, Siamsa na NGael: Celtic Celebration at the Symphony Center March 14, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Irish American Heritage Center and the 42nd anniversary celebration of Forever Green 42, featuring Irish music, dancing and craic (Gaelic for fun and amusement) at the Young Fellowship Club on March 17.
For a proper St. Patrick’s Day, it’s difficult to imagine any other destination in the world than in Dublin. The capital and most populous city of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day for hundreds of years but has only had an official festival since 1996. However, this important national holiday is celebrated not just on March 17 here, but over four days, with a festive parade, live music daily and a host of other fun activities. The highlight of the St. Patrick’s Day Festival is the grand parade, featuring an enormous procession of bands and entertainers resembling a sea of green hats and clothing. The center of all the day’s activities will be in the historic Temple Bar area, particularly outside its namesake pub, where a sizable crowd of approximately one million will fill the streets to enjoy the holiday with an Irish brew or two.
While the locals tend to have a quieter evening with good friends and family in other parts of the city, the party will continue in the Temple Bar area well into the evening and all weekend. Other outstanding pubs to visit in the Temple Bar area include the Porterhouse Temple Bar, the Norsemen, the Turk’s Head, the Front Lounge and Teac na CeiBe. Of course while in Dublin, visitors should also take the time to visit the famed Guinness Storehouse, Ireland’s most popular attraction, in addition to the Jameson Bow Street Distillery just steps away and scheduled to reopen just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
Celebrations begin early in America’s largest city as the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade marches along a 1.5-mile route on Fifth Avenue in front of millions of spectators beginning at 8 a.m. Held annually in the city since 1762, the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest of its kind in the world, with an estimated 150,000 parade participants, as well as the world’s oldest civilian parade.
While the parade is literally an all day affair as it proceeds along Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and towards Central Park, the festivities will continue well into the night all across the city and particularly at the nearly 2,000 Irish pubs. Top recommendations for visitors looking for traditional Irish food and drink include popular spots like Molly’s, the Dead Rabbit, Foley’s NY, O’Brien’s, Paddy Reilly’s, the historic Fraunces Tavern and McSorley’s Old Ale House, known as the oldest Irish tavern in the city.
Related: Best Irish Pubs In The Bay Area
The world’s best destination for a proper St. Patrick’s Day may very well be the Republic of Ireland, yet its neighbor across the Irish Sea also celebrates this joyous occasion. Although St. Patrick’s Day is not an official public holiday in the United Kingdom, there are a number of prominent celebrations throughout the country, such as in Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and possibly the most festive of all in London. Like Dublin, the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in England’s largest city are held over multiple days, with an estimated 125,000 celebrating the official festival in Trafalgar Square and a grand parade past many of the city’s most famous attractions on final day of the festival.
Of course, London has its own sizable share of craft beer bars and legendary pubs to enjoy the occasion, some of which has a history that dates back to the 1500s, such Ye Olde Mitre in Holborn, Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, Spaniards Inn in Hampstead and the Mayflower in Rotherhithe. However, the one neighborhood that holds the largest collection of pubs for visitors to bar hop is in the Soho district, just a short Tube ride from Trafalgar Square, with top spots like 68 & Boston, the Toucan, the Porterhouse, O’Neill’s, Philomena’s Irish Sports Bar and Kitchen and Waxy O’Connor’s.
For more St. Patrick’s Day fun, visit cbsSF.com/StPatricksDay