Tourist boats on the river in Chicago, which is dyed green for St. Patrick's Day
Believe it or not, St. Patrick's Day's parades have roots in the good ol' USA. And Chicago goes all out. | Big Joe/Shutterstock
Believe it or not, St. Patrick's Day's parades have roots in the good ol' USA. And Chicago goes all out. | Big Joe/Shutterstock

Try Your Luck at the Best St. Patrick's Day Parades in the U.S.

All the street party details plus the most anticipated pub crawls, concerts, and more.

St. Patrick’s Day may have direct roots in Irish Catholicism, but it is a uniquely American holiday. Which isn’t to say that the Irish don’t celebrate it: Every year, Americans who have never been to the Emerald Isle—much less during St. Patrick’s Day—wag their fingers at anyone wearing green on March 17 and say, “You know, they don’t even celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.” They do. I’ve been there. Partied with a bunch of Dubliners and their friends from all over Europe. It was nuts. Good times. So shut up.

Anyhoo, while those people are mostly wrong, they are right to imply that this is an American holiday, because—well, it pretty much is. Or at least, the parades are. America held its first St. Patrick’s Day parades in the 1700s; Ireland didn’t have its first St. Patrick’s Day Parade until 1903, and it wasn’t a national holiday there until 1904 (though it technically isn’t a state-sanctioned holiday in the US either, except in Boston).

While we’ve managed to export our Leprechaun-hat-wearing, binge-drinking traditions back abroad, it still holds that St. Patrick’s Day festivities are an American tradition in origin, and cities all over the country go green for it. For those of you looking for a good old-fashioned American craic, these are the best St. Patrick’s Day parades, parties, and events in the US.

confetti flies as St. Patrick's Day parade enthusiasts line the streets of Boston
Boston has a larger Irish population than any other US city (and the St. Patrick's Day festivities to prove it). | Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Boston, Massachusetts

Sunday, March 17
With roughly 23% of the population being of Irish descent—the largest Irish population of any US city—Boston is where the going really gets Irish for St. Patrick’s Day, and don’t you forget it. (Don’t worry, they won’t let you.) The big South Boston celebration arrives on March 17 this year with the St. Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day Parade at 1 pm. This parade dates back to 1901 and also commemorates the ousting of British troops from Boston on March 17, 1776—which makes March 17 an actual real-deal holiday in the city, with public schools and government offices closed for the day. This parade is known to draw in over one million spectators, making it one of America’s most popular.

And because this is Boston, the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations run strong all week, with one of the big highlights being the annual series of concerts from Boston’s own Celtic punk rock group Dropkick Murphys, who’ll play the MGM Music Hall at Fenway on March 15, 16, and 17 (that one will also be livestreamed). Another popular annual tradition is the Southie St. Patrick’s Day Road Raceit’s already sold out for 2024, so plan early next year and hop on it when registration opens mid-December. (FYI, Dropkick Murphys design the shirts for the first 600 registered runners.) There are many, many, MANY bar crawls in Boston for St. Patrick’s Day, but a good one to kick off parade weekend with is the Get Lucky Pub Crawl on Saturday, March 16, starting at noon with more than 50 stops plus party trolleys to shuttle you and your 6,000 new best friends between them. And while you’re here, pay homage to Southie’s oldest pub, Amrhein's (est. 1890), which also boasts the oldest hand-carved bar in America.

If you’re interested in Boston’s Irish heritage, the three-mile self-guided Irish Heritage Trail is a popular way to learn more about the city's long-standing Irish connection. You might even get lucky and catch a few cherry blossoms in early bloom around the city this year.

People march and dance through the streets to celebrate St. Patricks Day on March 17, 2022 in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans
St. Patrick's Day festivities in New Orleans go from day to night (to day again). | Andrew Lichtenstein/ Corbis News/ Getty Images

New Orleans, Louisiana

Throughout March
By the time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, it’ll have been just a few weeks since Mardi Gras and the two months of parades that preceded it. That hardly matters, because this is New Orleans, and these people will find any reason to parade.

Now, you may know New Orleans for its Creole culture. But what you might not know is that the Big Easy also has a strong history of Irish heritage, dating back to the 1700s when Irish Catholics were fleeing religious persecution. They were naturally simpatico with the Creole Catholics—at least as far as religious practices go—and today, there are two major hedonistic holidays of vaguely Catholic origin celebrated back-to-back. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL: New Orleanians also celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, an Italian Catholic holiday, on March 19. (You see? Another reason for a parade!)

The New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day Parade is actually a series of parades that runs for three weeks (seriously, ANY reason!). You can click here for the full list of parades and block parties, but the ones you definitely don’t want to miss are the ones happening in the Irish Channel, the historic neighborhood largely settled by Irish immigrants in the early 1800s. Be sure to hit the Irish Channel Parade at 1 pm on Saturday, March 16, which will of course involve green beads and other Irish-themed throws… like cabbages, carrots, and onions. (Essentially, the Irish spin on the Cajun Trinity.)

People view the Chicago River from the bridge and kayaks after it was dyed green in celebration of St. Patrick's Day
When in Chicago, try to match the river. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago

Saturday, March 16
Ah, Chicago: What you lack in residents of actual Irish descent (at least compared to the other cities on this list), you more than make up for in gallons of green dye and hearty Midwestern enthusiasm for drinking outdoors, no matter the reason or season. St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is a whole lot like a home Cubs game (or a Bears game, or a White Sox game) in Chicago, just with a green river: Large swaths of the city take to the streets to celebrate, and all the bars everywhere are packed.

Of course, the Windy City dyes its river green the morning of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (this year, that's Saturday, March 16 at 10 am), and while the spectacle of the city’s jewel of downtown turned a brilliant emerald green is really a sight to be seen, it only lasts a few hours and crowds get heavier the closer it gets to parade time. So get there early! And if you really want to enjoy it in full, book a St. Patrick’s Day river tour with popular boat tour outfits like Wendella or City Experiences, or rent a kayak and enjoy gliding down the waters surrounded by all the green-clad revelers. THEN go to the parade and drink.

Otherwise, start your day at Grant Park (home to some of Chicago’s most iconic sites, including Millennium Park and The Bean), where you can catch all the bagpipers and Irish Ceili dancers before they set off down Columbus Drive to march in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators in a parade dating back to 1843. If all the downtown shenanigans are too touristy for your tastes, head to the South Side Irish Parade or the Northwest Side Irish Parade for more local vibes. And for even more local flavor, start your day with a River North bar crawl; hop on board the St. Patty’s Day Trolley Crawl, or party at a 175-year-old church at Shamrock’n the Block at Old St. Pat’s.

A crowd lines the street for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City. A woman in green holds a sign up that says "Shake Your Shamrock."
New York's parade is the biggest and oldest in the country. | Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

New York City, New York

Saturday, March 16
By far the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the country (and possibly the world), the annual NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been held since 1762—14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed—and features some 150,000 participants marching in front of nearly two million spectators. It’s always held on St. Patrick’s Day except when it falls on a Sunday, when it is then moved to March 16 (for religious observance).

This year, the parade kicks off at 11 am on 44th Street, marching up Fifth Avenue all the way to 79th and passing the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral along the way. And look, even if you’re not a “churchy” person (or Catholic, or Christian, or religious at all), you’ll appreciate the breathtaking beauty of this Neo-Gothic masterpiece, opened in 1879 and designed as a New World homage to the namesake ancient cathedral in Dublin.

While the parade itself is the main attraction, there’s no shortage of places in NYC to keep the party going. The DUMBO waterfront food hall Time Out Market opens at 8 am, delivering St. Patrick’s-themed drink specials all day (including green beer, Guinness, whiskey, and a special “Lucky Charm” cocktail) and live performances by the Brooklyn Irish Dance Company in the evening. Starting at 3 pm, you can hang out in your own “glasshouse” drinking “Irish margaritas,” Guinness, and green beer at Watermark on Pier 15.

If by 6 pm you’ve somehow not yet begun to drink, join the Barcrawlerz Kiss Me, I’m Irish: NYC St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl that runs until 2 am. (If you need a do-over, they’re also doing them on March 15 and 16.) If you're still standing by 10:30 pm, hop aboard the St. Patrick’s Day booze cruise on the Hudson with Event Cruises NYC. Oh, and there’s also ALL the Irish pubs along the way. All of them..

San Antonio, Texas

Saturday, March 16
One non-Chicago city that dyes its river green for St. Patrick’s Day festivities is San Antonio, but unlike Chicago—where the color only lasts a few hours—the slow-moving waters of the meandering San Antonio River means that the dye usually lasts two to three days. All the better to celebrate all weekend long! The St. Patrick’s Day River Parade takes place right on the San Antonio River, with spectator viewing all along the San Antonio River Walk, a 2.5-mile walkway lined with restaurants and bars that is now the most-visited tourist attraction in all of Texas. (Ironically, the practice of dyeing their river started in 1968 as an attempt to draw tourists to the area, because at the time they had none.)

The annual dyeing of the river is an event in and of itself, happening twice this year on March 16 and March 17 at 11 am and 1 pm on Saturday, and 1 pm on Sunday, while the weekend-long festivities start on St. Patrick’s Day (Friday, March 17). This year’s river parade will be held Saturday, March 16 at 2 pm, and will feature a procession of Irish-themed decorated floats with costumed characters and bagpipers. Plus concerts including Fire on the Mountain, Brian Ralph, and The Kelly Singers. Other events worth checking out over the weekend include Mandy Patinkin in concert on March 16, and plenty of bar crawls. Shamrock and roll.

Gritty the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers on St'. Patricks Day entertains the crowd during the second period intermission against the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center
When in Philadelphia keep an eye out for Irish Gritty. | Len Redkoles/ National Hockey League/ Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sunday, March 10
Held since 1771, Philadelphia’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the second-oldest in the country after NYC’s festivities, drawing 200,000 participants and 100,00 spectators to the streets of Philly. This year’s big event will be held on Sunday, March 10, beginning at 9 am with the procession of the grand marshals and a commemorative mass at 9:15 am at St. Patrick’s Church, followed by the parade at 11 am.

Aside from the parade, there are myriad other ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the City of Brotherly Love, including many Irish pubs to drink at (Paddy’s Pub is legit). There are also many bar crawls to choose from here, but only one is the largest St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl in the country: Starting at noon, Urban Craft & Crawl’s official St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl (March 16 and 17) features a dozen bars and some 10,000 eager participants. Yowzers.

There’s also the Shamrock Crawl, also on March 16 and 17 and hitting over 30 bars and restaurants. And then there's the three-day Barcrawlerz Kiss Me, I'm Irish: Philadelphia St. Patrick's day Bar Crawl on March 15, 16, and 17. Another option? The Philadelphia Official St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl on Sunday, March 17. Oh look, there's another! Lucky’s St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl on March 16. Tagline: Let’s Get Lucky.

 A band dressed in eclectic green costumes plays while marching in the St. Patrick's parade down Peachtree Street, on March 15, 2014 in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta's St. Patrick's Day parade is the city's longest-running event. | BluIz60/Shutterstock

Atlanta, Georgia

Saturday, March 16
Hotlanta is one of the hottest places in the US to party for St. Patrick’s Day? Better believe it. Their BIG Atlanta St. Patrick's Parade in Midtown started in 1858, making it one of the oldest of its kind in the country (it’s also Atlanta’s longest-running event). More than 2,000 participants—including dancers, drill teams, bagpipe and drum corps, bands, local and Irish dignitaries, and clowns (!)—will march in the 2024 procession, which will honor the city’s first responders. Some of the more unique highlights include the world's largest walking Irish flag and a five-story St. Patrick balloon (everything’s bigger in…Atlanta?).

The parade kicks off at noon on Saturday, March 16, though revelers can get things started earlier with the 8th Annual St. Patrick’s Parade 5K at 9:30 am, and keep things going post-parade at the “Luck of the Square” celebration at Colony Square. And because this is St. Patrick’s Day, a.k.a. the biggest bar day-slash-weekend of the year, you can bet all the local watering holes will be in on the green beer action. Start the party at the Midtown Green Mile Block Party on Friday, and the annual St. Patrick’s Day Block Party in Buckhead on Saturday and Sunday, both of which claim to be Atlanta’s largest St. Patrick’s Day party. You be the judge!

people in green costume in a green cardboard van waving at spectators
The parade in Hot Springs might be short, but the festivity can't be contained. | World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Saturday, March 16–Sunday, March 17
The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held in America’s oldest national park. That park is Hot Springs National Park, home to 47 ancient thermal hot springs and the majestic Bathhouse Row, a stretch of grounds lined with century-old historic bathhouses that have been collectively designated a National Historic Landmark District. Nicknamed “America’s First Resort,” Hot Springs has long been a hot vacation spot for those looking to “take in the waters,” which are believed to be a curative for people with any number of ailments (including, famously, Al Capone and his syphilis—happy bathing!).

A place like this sort of has to have an oddball sense of humor, which is why they hold the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade along the 98-foot-long Bridge Street, officially recognized by Ripley’s as “the world’s shortest street in everyday use.” The parade itself is aptly wacky. To make up for being the world’s shortest, they’ve incorporated a few of the world’s largest to compensate: the World’s Largest Leprechaun, the World’s Biggest Potato on Wheels, and the World’s Largest Inflatable Irish Pub, to name a few.

This year’s celebrity grand marshall is NFL legend Emmitt Smith, the official parade starter is Yellowstone star Forrie J. Smith, the parade king is armwrestling champ Michael ‘The Monster’ Todd, and the parade queen is actual, real-life queen, actress Joey Lauren Adams. Attendees can also expect the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, “a fire truck almost as long as the parade route itself,” a kissing contest with the Arkansas Blarney Stone, green beer, green fountains, beads, beads, beads galore, and what might possibly be the world’s shortest wedding ceremony. The festivities start Saturday, March 16 at 3 pm, while The Molly Ringwalds will closet things out on Sunday night.

Savannah, Georgia

Saturday, March 16
As noted, there are several cities besides Chicago that dye their rivers green for St. Patrick’s Day. Savannah was the first to do so in 1961, but because the fast-moving flow resulted in a “greenish” streaky color, they haven’t done it since. Instead, they stick to dyeing the water spewing from nine fountains throughout their Historic District, starting with the ceremonial Greening of the Fountain in Forsyth Park the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day (this year, that's March 8).

The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest and oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country—not to mention one of the largest street parties in the South after Mardi Gras—and runs between three and four hours long. Nearly half a million people visit historic downtown Savannah over the festive weekend, and this year’s parade goes down Saturday, March 16 at 10:15 am. Don't forget to mark your calendars for the Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Savannah Rugby Tournament—the world’s largest (St. Patrick’s Day rugby tournament, that is)—on March 9 and 10.

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Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance food & travel writer who has been to Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day and can tell you definitively that, YES, they DO celebrate it there.