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The Essential Guide to St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

The Essential Guide to St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Last Updated on February 29, 2024

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching. People in countries around the world will celebrate the patron saint of Ireland on March 17 by doing things like dressing in green, decorating with shamrocks, wearing leprechaun-like attire, and drinking Guinness.

While the celebration originated to celebrate St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, today it’s more about simply celebrating Irish culture and heritage in general.

Out of all the destinations that celebrate the day in style, Chicago arguably celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with greater aplomb than anywhere else.

So, if you live in the Windy City or you’re heading to Chicago to celebrate the day, you’ll want to check out the following essential guide.

Chicago St Patrick's DayThe Dying of the River

While St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17, the celebrations in Chicago always happen on the Saturday before the date.

Every year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The tradition began back in 1962 when members of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union decided to add green dye to the river to enhance the day’s festivities.

This year’s event takes place at 10am on March 16, so you’ll want to find a spot on a location like Michigan Avenue Bridge, Chicago Riverwalk, State Street Bridge, or Columbus Drive Bridge to watch the event.

But even if you don’t watch the river being dyed, you can view the green river for the following five hours.

The Main St. Patrick’s Day Parade

After you’ve watched the river being dyed, you can enjoy the main attraction of the day: the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which includes floats, dancers, bands, bagpipers, and people dressed up as leprechauns.

The parade starts at 12.15pm.

This year, it begins at the intersection of Columbus and Balbo Drives and concludes at Monroe Street.

The best spot to watch the parade is at the viewing stand in front of Buckingham Fountain, as the people in the parade pause to wave to the crowds.

The South Side and Northwest Side Irish Parades

The main parade that takes place on Saturday isn’t the only parade that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.

On Sunday, you can catch either the South Side Irish Parade or the Northwest Side Irish Parade.

The South Side parade moves through some of the most historically Irish neighborhoods in Chicago. It begins at 103rd Street and ends at 115th Street.

The Northwest Side Irish Parade starts at William J. Onahan School and ends on Harlem Avenue.

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Other St Patrick’s Day Events in Chicago

Two other St. Patrick’s Day events in Chicago that you might like to check out are the annual Shamrock Shuffle and Chicago Irish Film Festival.

The former involves three events in which participants dressed in green run along a five-mile route or a one-mile loop or walk along a two-mile route.

The latter, the annual Chicago Irish Film Festival, shows feature films, shorts, and documentaries connected with Ireland.

St Patrick's day guide ChicagoDrinking Guinness

Once you’ve watched the river being dyed, watched the main parade, and caught other events, you might like to join in the celebrations that carry on throughout the afternoon and into the night at Chicago’s Irish pubs.

While it’s certainly not compulsory, most people enjoy a few pints of Guinness, which was of course created in Ireland.

Some of the best places to drink on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago are Paddy’ Pub, Charm’d, and Timmy’s Leprechaun Lounge.

Dressing Up for St Patrick’s Day in Chicago

If you’ve never been to Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations before, you’re in for a treat. And you might like to get into the festive spirit even more by dressing up.

Whether you just wear green clothing or dress up in leprechaun fancy dress, you can become a key part of the celebrations yourself.