On St. Patrick’s Day in the US everyone is Irish for a day, and the colour green is everywhere!
One of the most popular holidays in America for daytime drinking, St. Patrick’s Day is an all day party.
Pubs and bars across the country are covered in green bunting, serve green beer and Baileys, restaurants suddenly have corned beef and cabbage on the menu and party-goers can be found sporting green mardi gras beads and “Kiss me, I’m Irish” flashing badges.
But Paddy’s day is not just for over 21s, there is plenty of family fun on offer too.
Although St Patrick’s Day is popular across the country, nowhere loves this Irish holiday quite like New York and Chicago. Historically both cities were home to massive Irish-American communities so it’s no surprise that the celebrations here are extra special.
Despite being an Irish celebration, the first parade to honour St. Patrick’s Day actually took place in America in 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. It sparked a love for St. Patrick’s Day which continues to grow yearly. New York is now home to the largest Paddy’s day parade in America with over 150,000 participants and an impressive 3 million people lining the one and a half mile route.
Chicago is home to not one but two major parades. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is held downtown and the South Side Irish Parade. The South Side parade is an alcohol free affair which starts with a special parade Mass at the home parish, followed by the parade and post-parade party. Although not the city’s official parade the South Side Irish Parade is seen by many as the one to beat and has welcomed mayors, presidents and other famous fans.
However, Chicago’s most famous St. Patrick’s Day event happened almost by chance, when Dan Lydon and Stephen Bailey met a plumber investigating water pollution in the Chicago River, whose overalls were dyed bright green, sparking an idea that boasts a legacy of over 50 years.
Each year thousands of people line up along the banks of the Chicago River to watch the waterway be transformed into a sparkling emerald green (interesting side note: the environmentally friendly dye is actually orange but turns a Paddy’s day friendly green when it comes in contact with the algae in the river).
But the love for St. Patrick and all things Irish doesn’t stop there, other top US cities to visit on St Patrick’s Day include Boston, Philadelphia and Savannah.
Held in the predominately Irish-American community of South Boston, the parade is run by the Allied War Veteran’s Council and is listed as the second largest parade in the country. You can also explore Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail and discover over 300 years of Irish-American history, on a guided tour from the Boston Irish Tourism Association.
Philadelphia’s Irish community first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day back in 1771, making it the second oldest in the country. Today the parade runs on the Sunday before St Patrick’s Day, starting at JFK Plaza and making its way along Kelley Drive, with thousands of marchers and spectators, decked in green, joining the celebration. Fantastic bands, floats, flags, dancers and music come together on the streets of Philadelphia in a common theme (2014’s theme is “Bless the contributions of Irish Americans to our nation”) making this one of the grandest parades in Philadelphia’s calendar.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of Savannah’s favourite celebrations and has become one of the largest festivals in the southeast with more than 300,000 people expected to visit Savannah and enjoy the city wide festivities. The celebration starts on 2 March and continues through to 17 March. Key highlights include the St. Patrick’s On The River Festival, a free event open to the public which runs from Friday 14 March through to Monday 17 March, the Tara Feis at Emmet Park on Sunday 15 March and of course, the parade on St. Patrick’s Day itself.
So if you are in the USA for the 17th March, get involved. Throw on something green, hit the streets and join the party!
If you want to go all out for St. Patrick’s Day, why not combine Savannah and New York. With Savannah’s celebrations starting so early you can cram in more Paddy’s fun than a host of jigging leprechauns!
For more exciting destination ideas, browse these Boston pages and start planning your next adventure.
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