The Chicago River in downtown Chicago dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

By Anne McCarthy

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is the place to be, and it is fast approaching: Sunday, March 17. (It’s celebrated on March 17, as it was the date St. Patrick died in 461 AD.)

History of the Irish in Chicago

The history of the Irish in Chicago goes back centuries, with the earliest influx of the Irish coming to the Windy City in the 1840s, following the deadly and crippling Irish potato famine (commonly called the Great Famine). During the Great Depression in the U.S. in the 1930s, immigration laws became increasingly restrictive, and thus, for a time, slowed the immigration of the Irish to the U.S. After the economy stabilized, and post World War II, the Irish influx returned in the 1950s. Difficulty obtaining work permits led to Irish people taking lower-paying, blue-collar jobs in places like Chicago and beyond.

Today, Irish roots stand proud throughout the U.S., including Chicago and New York and Boston, where there are large Irish communities. The Irish have had critically impactful marks throughout the U.S., especially in Chicago, where two of the city’s most prominent universities – Loyola University of Chicago and DePaul University – were founded by the Irish.

Well-known Chicagoans of Irish heritage include the likes of George Wendt from TV show “Cheers,” TV star Jenny McCarthy, and the legendary comic personality Bob Newhart.

 

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Best Irish Pubs & Restaurants

With such strong ties to Ireland, it’s no wonder that Irish pubs can be found far and wide throughout Chicago. Corned beef and Guinness are served aplenty, and sometimes, from an Irishman or Irish woman. Often, you’ll also find green beer served at many of the Irish pubs in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day.

Corcoran’s in Old Town (across the street from Chicago’s famous comedy theater, The Second City), is a surefire bet. Over St. Patrick’s weekend, they’ll have Irish dancers, Irish music, bagpipers, and of course, plenty of Guinness to go around! Corcoran’s also offers a special breakfast happy hour on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

The Grafton Pub & Grill on North Lincoln Avenue is primarily known for its extensive whiskey menu, which offers a wide selection, beyond Ireland’s famous Jameson. Stop in for a tipple (and be sure to hydrate in between tastings! With water, that is).

The Galway Arms (a personal favorite) on North Clark Street is always a festive affair on this auspicious day. Its slogan: “Soul of Ireland, Heart of Chicago,” is an apt one. The pub’s beloved Irish music adds to the ambiance too. Enjoy some Guinness beef stew, fish and chips, and more.

Emmit’s Irish Pub on North Milwaukee Avenue has been around since the 1920s (although it has moved locations throughout the years). It boasts an exciting and cinematic-like history of secret tunnels traveled by gangsters, or so the lore goes.

The Kerryman on North Clark Street is a favorite River North spot with some more high-class and gourmet tasting options too. So if you’re in the mood for more than traditional pub grub, hit up The Kerryman for some delicious fare.

These are just a few of many traditional Irish pubs in Chicago in which to ring in Patty’s Day. Enjoy just one, or hop around to several; either way, it’s bound to be a memorable and fun experience (and one which may necessitate a quiet and relaxed day afterwards).

The Downtown Parade

There are two St. Patrick’s Day Parades – the Downtown Parade and the South Side Irish Parade. Each is festive and exciting, so take your pick. (Or, attend both!) This three-hour downtown affair is awash in green, Irish music, bagpipes, dancing, and more. Check out the parade route here.

The parade begins at noon on Saturday, March 16. It starts at Balbo and Columbus Drive and runs northbound on Columbus.

 

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The South Side Irish Parade

Chicago’s infamous South Side Irish Parade on – as the name implies – the South Side of Chicago, began in 1979 as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in serious celebratory style. It has blossomed into a behemoth, festive party, and is one of the largest celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day outside of Dublin.

The South Side Irish Parade begins at noon on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. So, wiggle your way to the front for a feast for the eyes of traditional Irish music, Irish dancers dancing, and more. The parade route commences from 103rd and Western and heads southbound from Western.

The (Green!) Chicago River

The dyeing of the Chicago River – a brilliant shade of emerald green – has marked Chicago’s St. Patty’s Day celebrations for over 50 years, and it never fails to delight (no matter how chilly it might get on the day). The river is dyed green, and it enhances the mood of the city all around. The color green has long been associated with Ireland. Apart from it being one-third of the Irish flag’s colors, it is also associated with Ireland’s lush, green landscape, which tends to be rich and green from all that rain!

This year, the river dyeing will take place on Saturday, March 16. Get there early – 9 am is prime green-ing time!

St. Patrick’s Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center

Though not a pub, parade, or otherwise, the well-respected and well-attended Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago is truly a choice place to be for St. Patrick’s Day. The center’s annual St. Patrick’s Festival is a fan favorite. Tickets range $12 – $15 per person.

With traditional Irish food and drink, Irish dancing, Irish music, and members of the Irish community, you’re bound to have a good time here at this feast day festival, and maybe even walk away with a bit of an Irish lilt to your accent, after having chatted with some of Ireland’s most dazzling personalities.

Tour around Town

Whether you’re local or just visiting, a fun way to explore the Windy City is by taking a tour. There are countless exciting things to see – and places to visit – in Chi-town. Fat Tire Tours’ dynamic and welcoming tour guides will impart you with a wealth of knowledge, and in a fun and memorable way. Fat Tire Tours Chicago looks forward to welcoming you on tour!

 

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