It's often said that “everyone in Chicago is Irish” on St. Patrick's Day because virtually every pub and restaurant “goes green” with food and drink specials.
So by all means, wear a green sweater, clip on a “Kiss me; I'm Irish” button and drink a pint of green beer on St. Patrick's Day. But if you really want to experience the best of what Chicago has to offer, you'll savor the four St. Patrick's Day traditions that Chicagoans cherish most:
1. Chicago River Dye
You might have seen it on the news, but nothing compares to witnessing the Chicago River dyed a fluorescent shade of green on the morning of the St. Patrick's Day parade. Be sure to grab a good seat on Saturday, March 12 — preferably at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive — to watch the buckets of yellow liquid be poured into the river. The color transformation is surprisingly quick and sets a festive mood for the rest of the day.
2. Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade
With the green river as a backdrop, the streets of Chicago will be awash with a “touch o’ the Irish,” as the 2016 parade steps off at noon. The parade begins at Columbus and Balbo Drive, and continues north to Monroe Street. The main viewing stand will be set up in front of Buckingham Fountain, where bands and Irish dancers historically stop and wave to the crowd.
It always pays to arrive early for this lively event; Chicagoans are impervious to rain, sleet and snow on St. Patrick's Day and show up in great numbers.
3. St. Patrick's Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center
When the parade ends, the party will just be getting underway at the Irish American Heritage Center. It offers the best “Irish immersion experience” and features the Irish Heritage Singers, Trinity Irish Dancers, traditional Irish food (including corned beef and cabbage), face-painting for children, and more. In between these high-energy events, you can also visit the center’s art gallery, library and museum to see special programs and exhibits.
For an encore performance, return to the center on March 17 for a St. Patrick's Day celebration that will feature many of the same activities from noon to 10 p.m.
4. St. Patrick's Day Lunch Cruise
You'll get an Irish kick out of watching a Shoreline Sightseeing cruise on the green water of the Chicago River. Departing from Navy Pier at 2 p.m., the 10th annual Irish cruise — a 75-minute tour of all three branches of the Chicago River — will feature a traditional Irish buffet and cash bar. Be sure to dress warm or even don an Irish wool sweater for this open-air cruise.
What will you be doing in Chicagoland for St. Patrick’s Day? Share with us in the comments below!