Best Places In Chicago To Visit On Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day, a cultural and religious celebration held on the 17th of March, is a day of festivity that has spread far beyond its Irish roots.

In cities around the world, people come together to celebrate Irish heritage with parades, wearing of green attire, public feasting, and, of course, a lot of fun.

One city that truly knows how to celebrate this day is Chicago. From dyeing the Chicago River green to hosting one of the largest parades in the country, the Windy City offers a variety of unique and exciting activities for Saint Patrick’s Day.

The Greening of the Chicago River

One of the most iconic events in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day is the dyeing of the Chicago River. This tradition started in 1962 and has been a crowd favorite ever since.

The river is dyed a vibrant green, creating a stunning spectacle that sets the mood for the day’s festivities.

The best places to view this spectacle are the bridges at Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, and Wabash Avenue. Remember to arrive early to secure a good spot as this event attracts thousands of spectators.

Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

No Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago would be complete without its famous parade. The city’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators each year.

The parade features colorful floats, marching bands, bagpipers, dancers, and more, all celebrating Irish culture and heritage.

The parade route starts at Balbo Drive and proceeds north on Columbus Drive. Some of the best viewing spots are near the starting point, but make sure to arrive early to secure a good spot. The parade is free to attend, making it a great option for families and groups.

Best Bars and Irish Pubs

After the parade, many locals and tourists head to the numerous bars and Irish pubs in the city to continue the celebration. Here are some of the best places to consider:

  1. The Irish Oak: This Wrigleyville pub is known for its lively atmosphere and traditional Irish fare. On Saint Patrick’s Day, you can expect live music and a festive crowd.
  2. Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant: Named after the Chief of Police who organized the first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago, this pub offers a wide selection of Irish whiskeys and traditional food.
  3. Fado Irish Pub: Located in the heart of River North, Fado is a favorite among locals for its authentic Irish ambiance and extensive beer list.

Family-Friendly Events and Activities

Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago isn’t just for adults. There are plenty of family-friendly events and activities that kids will love. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Irish American Heritage Center: This cultural center hosts a variety of events for Saint Patrick’s Day, including traditional Irish music and dance performances, arts and crafts for kids, and Irish food and drink.
  2. Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: As mentioned earlier, the parade is a great event for families. Kids will love the colorful floats and the festive atmosphere.
  3. Chicago Children’s Museum: The museum often hosts special Saint Patrick’s Day activities for kids, such as crafting leprechaun hats and learning about Irish folklore.

Dining Options

After a day of festivities, you’ll likely be looking for a place to eat. Here are some restaurants that offer special menus for Saint Patrick’s Day:

  1. The Gage: Located near Millennium Park, this upscale gastropub offers a special Irish menu for Saint Patrick’s Day, featuring dishes like corned beef and cabbage.
  2. Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro: This family-owned restaurant in North Center serves traditional Irish food, and their Saint Patrick’s Day menu is a local favorite.

Remember, Saint Patrick’s Day is a popular time in Chicago, so it’s a good idea to make reservations in advance.

Unique Experiences

Chicago offers some unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else on Saint Patrick’s Day. Here are a few that you might want to check out:

  1. Chicago Riverwalk: After the river is dyed green, take a stroll along the Riverwalk. It’s a great place to take in the city’s architecture and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
  2. Skydeck Chicago: For a different perspective, head to the Skydeck at Willis Tower. You can see the green river and the parade from 1,353 feet in the air!
  3. Navy Pier: This iconic Chicago landmark often hosts Saint Patrick’s Day events, including live music and dance performances.

Staying in Chicago

If you’re visiting from out of town, you’ll need a place to stay. Here are some hotels that offer special deals for Saint Patrick’s Day:

  1. The Drake Hotel: This historic hotel often offers special packages for Saint Patrick’s Day, including discounted room rates and complimentary breakfast.
  2. The Palmer House Hilton: Located in the heart of the Loop, this hotel is within walking distance of many Saint Patrick’s Day events.

Remember to book early as hotels can fill up quickly on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Transportation in Chicago

Navigating through the city on Saint Patrick’s Day can be a challenge with the large crowds and street closures for the parade. Here are some transportation options:

  1. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA): The CTA provides extensive bus and train services throughout the city. It’s an affordable and convenient way to get around, especially on a busy day like Saint Patrick’s Day.
  2. Taxis and Ride-Shares: Services like Uber and Lyft operate in Chicago. These can be a good option if you’re traveling with a group or prefer a more direct route.
  3. Biking: Chicago is a bike-friendly city with numerous bike lanes and rental services like Divvy Bikes.

Remember to plan your route in advance and allow extra time for travel.

Weather and What to Wear

March in Chicago can be unpredictable, with temperatures ranging from chilly to mild. It’s a good idea to check the forecast before you go and dress in layers. Don’t forget to wear green!

Photography Tips

Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago offers numerous photo opportunities, from the Green River to the vibrant parade. Here are some tips:

  1. Arrive Early: The best spots can fill up quickly, so arrive early to secure a good vantage point.
  2. Use a Wide-Angle Lens: This can help you capture the scale of the parade or the crowd.
  3. Experiment with Perspectives: Try shooting from different angles and heights for unique shots.

Shopping for Saint Patrick’s Day

Whether you’re looking for festive attire, decorations, or souvenirs, Chicago has plenty of shopping options for Saint Patrick’s Day:

  1. Irish Shop: Located in Lakeview, this shop offers a wide range of Irish goods, from clothing and jewelry to home decor and gifts.
  2. Saint Patrick’s Day Store: This online store offers a variety of Saint Patrick’s Day merchandise, including t-shirts, hats, and accessories.
  3. Party City: For all your party supply needs, Party City has a section dedicated to Saint Patrick’s Day, with decorations, costumes, and more.

Detailed History of Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th, has been a part of Chicago’s cultural fabric for over a century. The city’s first recorded Saint Patrick’s Day celebration dates back to 1843, just a few years after the city was incorporated.

The event was organized by the Hibernian Benevolent Society, a group of Irish immigrants who sought to preserve their cultural heritage while providing aid to fellow Irishmen in need.

Early Celebrations

In the early years, Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago was marked by religious ceremonies and modest gatherings. Irish immigrants would attend mass at one of the city’s Catholic churches, followed by small community gatherings where they would share traditional Irish music, dance, and food.

The First Parades

The tradition of the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago began in the 1850s. These early parades were simple affairs, often consisting of a march to a local church for mass.

However, they served an important purpose: they were a show of strength and unity by a community that was often marginalized and faced discrimination.

Over the years, the parades grew in size and scope. By the late 19th century, they had become major events featuring marching bands, floats, and participants from various Irish societies and organizations.

The Greening of the Chicago River

One of the most iconic Saint Patrick’s Day traditions in Chicago is the dyeing of the Chicago River.

This tradition began in 1962 when Stephen Bailey, a plumber and business manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union, noticed that a dye used to detect leaks and illegal discharges of sewage into the river turned the water a perfect shade of Irish green.

Bailey proposed the idea of dyeing the entire river for Saint Patrick’s Day, and with the approval of Mayor Richard J. Daley, the tradition was born.

Today, the dyeing of the river attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators and is a beloved part of the city’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Saint Patrick’s Day Today

Today, Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago is a grand celebration that attracts people of all backgrounds.

The city hosts one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day parades in the country, and the weekend closest to March 17th is filled with events, including the dyeing of the Chicago River, neighborhood parades, and numerous parties and concerts.

Despite the scale of the modern celebrations, the spirit of the day remains the same as it was in the 1840s: a celebration of Irish heritage and culture, a testament to the contributions of the Irish community to the city, and a chance for everyone to be a little bit Irish for the day.

Interviews and Personal Stories

To truly understand the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago, it’s best to hear from the people who have experienced it firsthand. Here are some interviews and personal stories that highlight the unique experiences and memories associated with this festive day.

Interview with a Parade Participant

John O’Reilly, a member of the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, has been participating in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for over 20 years.

“The energy on the parade day is electric,” John shares. “Seeing the streets lined with people all decked out in green, cheering and celebrating, it’s a sight to behold. And being a part of the parade, it’s an honor and a thrill. The sound of our bagpipes echoing through the streets of Chicago, it’s something I look forward to every year.”

A Family Tradition

Maggie Sullivan recalls attending the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade with her family as a child.

“My parents would bundle us up in our warmest green sweaters, and we’d stake out a spot early to watch the parade,” Maggie reminisces. “I remember being in awe of the colorful floats, the marching bands, and of course, the bagpipers. Now, I carry on that tradition with my own children. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate our Irish heritage and create lasting family memories.”

First Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Liam, a recent transplant from Ireland, shares his experience of his first Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago.

“Back home in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is more of a quiet, religious holiday,” Liam explains. “So, experiencing the festivities in Chicago was a bit of a culture shock, but in a good way. The city truly goes all out—from the river dyeing to the parade, the citywide parties, and concerts—it’s a grand celebration of all things Irish. It made me feel right at home.”

These stories offer a glimpse into the personal experiences and traditions that make Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a unique and memorable event.

Whether you’re a lifelong resident, a newcomer, or a visitor, there’s a place for everyone in Chicago’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Detailed Guide to Irish Pubs in Chicago

Chicago is home to a vibrant Irish community, and this is reflected in the city’s many Irish pubs. Each pub offers its own unique atmosphere and selection of food and drinks. Here’s a detailed guide to some of the best Irish pubs in Chicago:

The Irish Oak

Located in the lively neighborhood of Wrigleyville, The Irish Oak is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The pub offers a cozy, traditional Irish pub atmosphere, complete with dark wood interiors and a fireplace.

Their menu features classic Irish dishes like Shepherd’s Pie and Fish and Chips, and they have an extensive selection of beers and whiskeys.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, The Irish Oak hosts live music and serves green beer, making it a popular spot for celebrations.

Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant

Named after Francis O’Neill, the Chief of Police who organized the first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago, Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant is a testament to Chicago’s Irish heritage.

The pub is known for its large outdoor garden, live traditional Irish music sessions, and Sunday brunch buffet. Their menu features a mix of Irish and American dishes, and they offer a wide selection of beers and spirits.

Fado Irish Pub

Fado Irish Pub, located in the heart of River North, is known for its authentic Irish ambiance. The pub was designed and built in Ireland and then shipped to Chicago.

Fado offers a wide range of beers, including several Irish favorites, and their menu features both traditional Irish dishes and modern twists on classics. They also host live music and sports events, making it a lively spot to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Galway Arms

Situated in Lincoln Park, Galway Arms is a charming Irish pub that offers a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.

The pub features a beautiful outdoor patio, live music, and a menu filled with hearty Irish fare. Their drink menu includes a variety of beers, wines, and an impressive selection of Irish whiskeys.

Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro

This family-owned restaurant in North Center is more than just a pub—it’s a celebration of Irish culture.

The two-story building houses a restaurant, a pub, and even a grocery store selling Irish goods. Their menu offers a modern take on traditional Irish cuisine, and their bar boasts one of the largest selections of Irish whiskeys in Chicago.

Each of these pubs offers a unique experience, but they all share a common theme: a love for Irish culture and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Whether you’re looking for a place to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day or just want to enjoy a pint and some good food, these Irish pubs in Chicago have got you covered.

Irish Culture in Chicago

Chicago has a rich Irish heritage that dates back to the city’s early days. The first Irish immigrants arrived in Chicago in the 1830s, and by the mid-19th century, they made up about one-quarter of the city’s population.

Today, the influence of Irish culture can be seen throughout the city, from its architecture and music to its food and annual events.


Irish immigrants played a significant role in shaping Chicago’s cityscape. Many worked as laborers and builders, contributing to the construction of some of the city’s most iconic structures, including the Chicago Water Tower and the Old St. Patrick’s Church.

The latter, built in 1856, is one of the oldest buildings in Chicago and serves as a testament to the enduring presence of Irish culture in the city.


Irish music is a vibrant part of Chicago’s cultural scene. The city is home to numerous Irish pubs where traditional Irish music sessions, known as “seisiúns,” are a regular feature. Musicians gather to play traditional Irish tunes on instruments like the fiddle, tin whistle, and bodhrán.

The Irish Music School of Chicago also offers classes and workshops for those interested in learning to play Irish music.


Chicago’s culinary scene reflects its diverse cultural influences, including its Irish heritage. The city boasts several Irish pubs and restaurants that serve traditional Irish fare, such as corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, and soda bread.

Some establishments, like Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, even offer modern interpretations of classic Irish dishes.

Annual Events

Chicago’s Irish culture is perhaps most visible in its annual Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. The city hosts one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day parades in the country, and the Chicago River is dyed green in a unique tradition that attracts visitors from around the world.

Other events include the South Side Irish Parade, the Northwest Side Irish Parade, and numerous neighborhood festivals and concerts.

Other Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations Around the World

Saint Patrick’s Day, originally a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland, has evolved into a global celebration of Irish culture, marked by parades, music, dancing, and a sea of green.

While Chicago hosts one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States, cities around the world have their unique ways of celebrating this festive day. Let’s take a journey around the globe to explore how other cities celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Dublin, Ireland

In the homeland of Saint Patrick, the holiday is a multi-day festival filled with music, street performances, and, of course, the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

The parade in Dublin is a grand spectacle featuring bands, dancers, and performers from around the world.

The city also hosts the Festival Village, where visitors can enjoy Irish food, craft markets, live music, and family-friendly activities.

New York City, USA

New York City is home to the world’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, with more than 150,000 participants and nearly 2 million spectators each year.

The parade, which predates the Declaration of Independence, marches up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The city also hosts numerous Saint Patrick’s Day-themed events, including the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Cruise and the annual Irish Arts Center Book Day.

Boston, USA

Boston has a rich Irish heritage, and its Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations are among the largest in the U.S.

The city’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade marches through South Boston, a neighborhood known for its strong Irish-American community.

The city also hosts numerous concerts, pub crawls, and cultural events to celebrate Irish heritage.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires hosts the largest Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in South America, reflecting the city’s significant Irish community. The city’s main event is a massive street party in the city center, featuring live music, Irish dance performances, and plenty of Guinness.

Sydney, Australia

In Sydney, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated with a parade, music festival, and a family day in the park. The city’s Hyde Park is transformed into a sea of green, with live entertainment, food stalls, and activities for kids.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo hosts Japan’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, with participants marching down the fashionable Omotesando Street.

The parade features marching bands, cheerleaders, and performers dressed in green. The city also hosts “I Love Ireland” Festival, a two-day event featuring Irish music, dance, and food.

Montreal, Canada

Montreal’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the oldest in North America, dating back to 1824. The parade features floats, bands, and community groups marching along Saint Catherine Street.

The city also hosts a week-long “Irish Season” leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day, with concerts, exhibitions, and cultural events.


What should I wear?

Green is the color of the day! Dress warmly as March can still be quite chilly in Chicago.

Is the parade free to attend?

Yes, the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is free and open to the public.

How can I get around the city?

Public transportation is your best bet. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) provides extensive bus and train services throughout the city.

Where can I find the best Irish whiskey?

Many bars and pubs in Chicago serve a wide selection of Irish whiskeys. Do some research and find a place that suits your taste.

Any tips for first-time visitors?

Plan your day in advance, arrive early for events, and don’t forget to wear green!