Chicago's Irish spirit shines on St. Patrick's Day

Many Irish immigrants call Chicago home, so it’s no surprise that this is a city that goes all out when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day. The city dyes the Chicago River green before the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade begins, and events throughout the day keep revelers entertained.

If you’re traveling to Chicago to get in on the weekend festivities, there’s still time to book a room at one of the many Chicago hotels within walking distance of the parade route. But don’t wait too long – this annual event draws visitors from all over.

Notable events

While not on St. Patrick’s Day, the annual "Wearin' of the Green dance" on March 3 sponsored by the Irish American Heritage Center is a great way to kick off the green month of March. The dance includes a corned beef and cabbage dinner, and lively Irish music by Joe McShane and the SilverBridge Band. Tickets are $40, and reservations are required by a Feb. 25 deadline.

Following is a list of things to do in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day, March 16:

  • Enjoy Irish food: You’ll find a number of restaurants serving up traditional corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. Or start off your day dining on bangers and mash, a traditional Irish dish of sausage and potatoes. And of course, most pubs will be serving green beer, and some even feature bagpipers.
  • Dyeing of the Chicago River: “The road from Chicago to Ireland is marked in green,” was a favorite saying of Stephen Bailey, one of the men who was instrumental in starting the tradition of dyeing the Chicago River emerald green.  For more than 50 years, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers have released 40 pounds of an environmentally friendly dye blend into the river which first turns the water a surprising orange, but soon turns the Chicago River temporarily “Irish” green. The event takes place on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day and since the dye naturally washes downriver, the effect disappears from view in a few short hours.
  • Chicago Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: The parade is always scheduled for the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and begins at noon. The first ever Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1843 and today is a grand procession of hundreds of citizens, dignitaries, floats and green-hued surprises for kids and adults alike. The parade route starts at Balbo and Columbus and proceeds along Columbus to Monroe. Come early to get a good spot, wear warm layers, comfortable shoes and bring your Irish pride.

St. Paddy’s at night

If your Irish eyes are still sparkling by evening, there are dozens of Irish bars and restaurants where you can grab a meal and enjoy a libation or two. For a traditional Irish pub experience try Irish Oak, Celtic Crossings or the Emerald Loop.

The downtown neighborhood known as “The Loop” is home to several Irish pubs so you can spend the night pub-crawling without having to crawl too far. O’Callaghan’s, Poag Mohone’s and Fado Irish Pub can be counted on to throw a St. Patrick’s Day party where everyone is welcome. Wherever you decide to party, don’t miss the free fireworks show at Navy Pier. The show starts and 7 p.m. and includes Irish artists and Celtic music.

A visit to Chi-town is a treat for the whole family any time of year, but when it’s time for the wearing of the green, you’ll find Chicagoans are at their best, bursting with pride and eager to share it with visitors from around the world.

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