Americans celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every year on and around March 17, whether they’re Irish or not (yes, I’m a little bit Irish). Some cities celebrate Saint Patrick’s day with more or less gravitas than others. For example, a cities, Seattle for example, paint their parade route traffic stripes green. Others, most notably Chicago, dye the river green, or the canal or fountain.
It also happens to be the top day for things like blarney and green beer, wearing green clothing and pinching those who don’t, and many other forms of traditional holiday cheer.
10 Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.
The holiday is celebrated in so many ways I couldn’t possible include them all here, but the following are some of the more spectacular cities that make you want to go Irish, if only for a day.
Here in California
1. San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival
San Francisco, California — The San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival dates back to 1852, and features all things Irish. The parade typically held the Sunday before Saint Patrick’s Day, features traditional music and dance, floats flouting the green, marching bands, festival food and drinks and more. Along with celebrations of Irish history, plenty of cultural clichés, and a full day of fun and festivities with live performances and children’s activities, locals like to add their own brand of San Francisco festival quirk. Post-parade pub crawling is a given.
SAVVY VIEWING: The Parade usually goes from 2nd and Market Streets to Civic Center and the Festival takes place at the same location. Take BART to the San Francisco Civic Center/UN Plaza Station.
Also in the San Francisco Bay Area: the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Festival, at Dublin Civic Center, at two day celebration featuring Irish music and dance, an Irish Tea Cottage, arts & crafts and vendor booths, live entertainment on two stages, carnival rides, food and drinks, Firefighter Pancake Breakfast, Lions Club Parade, Dublin Sister City Green & White Gala and the Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk.
2. SoCal St. Patrick’s Day Parades & Festivals
Southern California celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in a number of free and affordable ways, with plenty of fun planned for the Irish and not so Irish. Many restaurants and pubs are ready to party. But if you’re looking for free parades and festivals, check out the following top picks for Los Angeles and Orange County.
- Hermosa Beach, CA — South Bay St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival: Free to attend parade features Irish-themed floats, bagpipers, and the popular dog participants from the Irish Setters Club of Southern California, sure to draw crowds of around 30,000 people to Pier Avenue. Location: The parade begins at the staging area near City Hall on Valley Drive, makes a left onto Pier Avenue and ends at the corner of Hermosa Avenue and 10th Street, in Hermosa Beach, CA.
- Costa Mesa, CA — St. Patrick’s Day Festival at OC Marketplace: Free admission and free parking. The event features plenty of Irish entertainment, green lemonade, mint ice cream and more. Location: The Orange County Fairgrounds, FWY (55) and Fair Drive in Costa Mesa, CA.
- San Diego, CA — San Diego St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Irish Festival: The annual St. Patricks Day Parade in Balboa Park features floats, bands, drill teams, roller skaters, antique cars, equestrian and law enforcement units, bagpipes, and more. Some 20,000 visitors typically attend. The Irish-themed festival will feature food and craft booths, two beer gardens, a Celtic Village and Kids Zone with Rides. The Festival and all the entertainment are free to attend. The St. Patricks Day Parade starts from Sixth Ave and Juniper St, travels north on Fifth Ave to Upas, then over to Sixth Ave and south on Sixth to conclude at Juniper Street. San Diego transit bus MTS is running extra buses for this event. You can park and take the Trolley free — Old Town Trolley will take you to the Parade and Festival from 9am to 6:30pm.
Around the USA
3. New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade
New York City, New York — The world’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day parade, The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade dates back to 1762, and draws a couple million spectators every year. Military marchers lead an impressive procession that continues for almost six hours. The NY parade is all on foot, with no cars or floats.
SAVVY VIEWING: For the best viewing, head over to the upper steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or get a close-up view of the marchers at 86th Street where the Parade route ends. Other viewing spots — Try 5th Avenue between 44th Street and 79th Street.
4. South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Boston, Massachusetts — The South Boston St. Patrick’s Parade draws crowds of nearly 600,000 to one million people every year, making it the second largest parade in the United States. Not surprising, since around 25 percent of the state’s residents say they’re Irish. The Parade features marching bands, military units, movie characters, clowns, and tons of St. Paddy’s Day fun for the whole family. The parade route is three miles long and will last about 2 1/2 hours. Southie has hosted the event since 1901, always on the Sunday closest to March 17. Plan ahead because Bostonians start celebrating a week early with Gaelic galas, pub parties, and plenty of Irish song. Expect beer and bagpipes.
SAVVY VIEWING: Favorite viewing spots are anywhere along Broadway, but the local Southies take their parade viewing seriously, so stake out a spot early.
5. Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Chicago, Illinois — The annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a fun way to enjoy the city along with plenty of Irish culture, and lots of green beer, bagpipers, horses, and high-stepping colleens leading the way north on Columbus Drive through Grant Park. The parade typically begins at noon, and draws crowds of some 350,000 spectators. The parade is about three hours long and always occurs on a Saturday. When St. Patrick’s Day isn’t on a Saturday, the Parade is held the Saturday before. The Parade Cant make it out? You can watch the Parade on WLS/ABC 7.
The Chicago River is dyed kelly green before the parade, a tradition started in the 1960s, so get there early and head over to The Loop.
SAVVY VIEWING: Thousands of people watch the dyeing of the river from the river banks. The best place to see the river dyeing is the intersection of Michigan Ave, Wacker Drive and the river.
6. Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — The Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, founded in 1771, is the second oldest parade in the USA. With 20,000 participants in 150 groups of marching bands, dance troups, floats, Irish associations, there is something for everyone. The parade starts at JFK Blvd and 16th St, and proceeds along Ben Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Art Museum. This parade is always on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, unless St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday.
SAVVY VIEWING: The main Performance Area for the parade is at Eakin’s Oval, just east of the Philadelphia Art Museum along Ben Franklin Pkwy. The Dancer and Band groups stop to put on a one minute performance before preceeding on to the parade’s conclusion.
7. Washington D.C. St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Washington DC — The Washington D.C. St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been held annually in Washington D.C. since 1971. You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy the fun in our nation’s capitol. The mile long two-hour celebration of Irish culture proceeds along Constitution Avenue, featuring bands, floats, and marching brigades by the police and fire departments and the military.
Across the Potomac, nearby Alexandria, Virginia, also hosts a parade for St. Patrick’s Day, featuring bands of bagpipes and a classic car show. The two parades, DC and Alexandria, parades don’t occur on the same day. Both typically take place earlier in the month before the actual holiday.
Also notable: the National Shamrock Fest, a large festival and concert held in RFK Stadium.
SAVVY VIEWING: Catch the action in DC from anywhere along the parade route — Constitution Ave from 7th Street to 17th Street, NW, with easy access from the Federal Triangle, Archives-Navy Memorial and Smithsonian metro stations.
8. Seattle St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival
Seattle, Washington — The Seattle St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Irish Festival draws thousands of people to the green streets of downtown Seattle. A family favorite, the parade and festival offers plenty of Irish culture, including Celtic song, dance, food, vendor booths, films, workshops, and just plain fun. The event takes place in the Seattle Center Armory (formerly known as Center House) – 305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA. The PARADE starts at 4th Ave at Jefferson in downtown Seattle.
SAVVY VIEWING: The Parade goes north on 4th Ave starting at Jefferson and going towards the Reviewing Stand at Westlake Park, ending at the Seattle Center with Closing Ceremonies at 2pm. The Monorail provides free transportation from 1:30 – 2:30pm from Westlake Park to the 2015 Irish Festival at the Seattle Center.
9. Savannah & Atlanta GA St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
Atlanta, Georgia — In Georgia, the annual Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade always promises plenty of Irish pride and playfulness, featuring a five story St. Patrick balloon, floats, more than 4,000 dancers, 16 community bands and musicians, and the world’s largest walking Irish flag. Immediately after the parade, the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Festival begins, with festive Irish music, dancers and children’s activities.
SAVVY VIEWING: The Atlanta parade begins at the intersection of Peachtree Street and 15th St NE in Midtown Atlanta at 12noon, and proceed south on Peachtree to 5th St NE. Check in advance, but the following parking decks may be open: Colony Square on 14th, Campanile on Juniper, Proscenium on Crescent, and Promenade II on 15th. Or take MARTA to either the Midtown stop (parade start) or the Arts Center stop (mid-parade).
Savannah, Georgia — The annual Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a three-hour rolling street party, dates back to around since 1813. The parade rolls on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, or the Saturday before if the holiday falls on a Sunday. More than a million people attend this event. Savannah’s early attempt to dye their river green was a bust, but the fountains dance delightfully green every year starting several days before the parade.
SAVVY VIEWING: The parade rolls through Savannah’s Historic District. The event is so huge that people from out of the area book hotel rooms in the Historic District facing the parade route months in advance.
10. Houston St. Patrick’s Day Parades
If you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Houston and looking for a parade, you have a couple of good choices.
- Houston, Texas — The annual Houston St. Patrick’s Day Parade The annual Houston St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S., featuring more than 100 Irish-themed floats and parade entries. The two-hour parade also has the dubious distinction of being longest parade in Houston. So pull out the old green “kiss me I’m Irish” t-shit and celebrate in the streets. The event takes place rain or shine in Downtown Houston, TX, starting at the Clock Tower at Minute Maid Park, proceeding west along Texas Ave, north up San Jacinto St, and east along Preston St.
- Houston Texas — The annual FM 1960 St. Patrick’s Day Parade The annual draws crowds of 80,000 to 150,000 or more along the three mile parade route. This make’s the FM 1960 parade one of the largest community events in the North Houston area, and it’s the 1960 area’s only community-wide celebration all year long. Parade Route: East starting at Champion Forest Drive and ending at Kuykendahl (North Houston area).