Best Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in America

If you’re looking for the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in America, you don’t have to travel far. Every U.S. city and most towns join in on the tradition by becoming Irish for a day (or week). From colorful green fountains and riverwalks, parades and pub crawls, there’s great family-friendly and adult-only venues to celebrate everything Irish. But, even if you don’t have Irish blood, you can at least pretend for a day by taking part in St. Paddy’s Day celebrations nationwide!

In Washington Post’s article (2013), they report “the Irish-American population is seven times larger than Ireland. And, there are 34.5 million Americans who list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. That number is, incidentally, seven times larger than the population of Ireland itself (4.68 million). Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans, falling just behind German.” So, it’s no wonder that they get their own holiday to celebrate their heritage.

While St. Patrick’s Day actually originated in Ireland, the holiday became a well-celebrated way before we even became a Nation. It comes as no surprise that the first St. Paddy’s Day celebration was incepted in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. New York City joined in on the fun 20 years later. But then, once the word got out, other cities joined in on the going green debauchery every March 17th.

Today, large cities and even small towns all across the Country have created their own St. Patrick’s Day parades and events.

Who is Saint Patrick?

Saint Patrick (St. Patrick) is most famous for being Ireland’s patron saint and is celebrated around the world, even by non-Irish people, on St. Patrick’s Day. 

St. Patrick was a 5th-century missionary to Ireland and later served as Bishop there. He is credited with bringing Christianity to parts of Ireland.  It’s speculated that he was partly responsible for the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons and Picts. St. Patrick is one of the patron saints of Ireland. Every March 17th, the world commemorates and celebrates Saint Patrick, the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and the heritage and culture of the Irish. Celebrations typically include public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or lots of shamrocks.

More about St. Patrick

So, now that we’ve learned about why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, let’s check out some of the best places to play Irish for a day and participate in this old time-honored, merrymaking revelry.

8 Best Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.

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Boston, Massachusetts

Boston remains as the hub of Irish heritage. The city’s Irish population has continued to multiply throughout the centuries. Today, approximately 23 percent of Boston’s population claims Irish ancestry. The coastal New England city retains its place as a center of Irish-American culture and history.

But, St. Patrick’s Day didn’t happen just because of its’ dominant Irish population. St. Patrick’s Day is indirectly observed as an official holiday in Boston, as it coincides with the official Evacuation Day. The holiday is still being observed annually since 1901 to commemorate the day in 1776 when British troops ended their occupation of Boston.

But more, says, “Boston has long staked claim to the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the American colonies. On March 17, 1737, more than two dozen Presbyterians who emigrated from the north of Ireland gathered to honor St. Patrick and form the Charitable Irish Society to assist distressed Irishmen in the city.”

Hence, why the pagan holiday has become such a big deal in The Hub. Having celebrated St. Paddy’s Day in Boston several times myself as a young adult, Beantown is, in my opinion, the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

There’s no better place to take part in green beer swigs and Irish jigs, reveling and roistering. Regardless if you’re a long-time local or visiting tourist, the celebration reigns because of it’s huge parade in South Boston, Dropkick Murphys concerts, beer festivals, pub crawls and other celebratory events hailing the Irish Saint. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Boston IS closest to celebrating in Dublin, Ireland!

By the way, did you know there’s over 50 Irish Pubs in Beantown? So, if you’re inquiring about where our favorite pubs are in Boston; J.J. Foley’s Cafe (Boston’s oldest Irish Pub), the Black Rose, Mr. Dooley’s, Matt Murphy’s and any of the Irish Irish pubs at Faneuil Hall.

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New York City, New York

Irish Bagpiper Band

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, New York City ranks second in the United States to go green. How the Big Apple celebrates the pagan holiday is their extraordinary annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Which, by the way, is the America’s oldest and largest one in the world; celebrating the origins of the holiday as well as Irish culture.

According to the History Channel, “The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City was held in 1762, and with the dramatic increase of Irish immigrants to the United States in the mid-19th century, the March 17th celebration became widespread.”

In recent years, New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade draws about 150,000 participants and two million spectators. The parade was first held in 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

But of course, New York City doesn’t just roll up the carpet after the parade and call it a day. Because, as you already know, the Big Apple never sleeps. The nightlife is what it’s all about on this fun holiday.

You’ll be hard pressed to cop a squat on a bar stool at any of the New York City’s best Irish bars as it becomes crowded even in the wee hours. But, you’ll hear Irish jigs and chants while downing pints of green beer or your favorite Irish concoctions.

If you’re not into the loud party scene or can’t afford the night on the town, you may just want to sit this one out and watch a good Irish movie while crying in your beer.

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Chicago,  Illinois

Places to Celebrate St. Patricks Day - Chicago River Green

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is celebrated similarly to any other large city in the United States. However, the Windy City claims having the largest parade with over 2 million spectators and participants. However, as you’ve read above, the battle rages on between New York City and Chicago claiming bragging rights of having the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade. Either way, Chicago’s parade doesn’t disappoint.

But it isn’t just the parade that takes center state in Chicago on St. Paddy’s Day. The city has been dying the Chicago River green since the very early 1960s but for a whole different reason. Interestingly, the tradition actually started from plumbers using green dye to keep track of the sewage pollution and where it seeped into the river. This only made sense to continue the tradition but in a more celebratory way today.

Chicago’s Patrick’s Day celebrations include shamrock-themed festivities that commit to multiple weekends, bringing about corned beef meals in dining establishments all across the city. And, fancy pubs to dive bars will be pouring massive amounts of beer in green or traditional gold color. You can also take in the St. Patrick Festival at Irish American Heritage Center for family oriented cultural events that include exhibits, live Irish music and dancing, food and drink, and gift vendors.

But if adult nightlife is your game, you’ll find several organized bar crawls and lots of Irish pubs in Chicago for imbibing and mingling.

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Savannah, Georgia

Places to Celebrate St. Patricks Day - Savannah

According to Garden & Gun‘s article, Savannah, Georgia is dubbed St. Patrick’s Day Capitol of the South. In fact, the city of Savannah hosts the largest St. Patrick’s Day party in the South spanning over several days.

It’s because on March 17 in 1824, the Hibernian Society president invited the public to join him on a walk through Savannah’s streets to go hear a speech from Bishop John England, the founder of the diocese of Charleston. And so, the city’s first public St. Patrick’s Day parade went down in the history books.

Every year, the festivities actually begin with dying Savannah’s Historic District Forsyth Park fountain that spits brilliant green.

Then, reigning as the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States, decorated floats, marching bands, bagpipers, Shriners, Irish dancers, military regiments and other organizations gather from all parts of the Country to join in on the festivities. Today, Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade draws in over 400,000 people.

After the parade, you can enjoy live music, food and beverages, and a walk along River Street in the city’s Historic District. But also, there’s much going on at Savannah’s City Market, where you can enjoy dining at cafes and restaurants and shop at art galleries and unique gift shops.

But if you want to skip the daytime festivities and head out into the night, Savannah has some of the best Irish pubs in the Country where you can drink your favorite brew, take a shot of Irish whisky and enjoy some great music. Some even serve traditional Irish foods to start your evening of imbibing.

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San Antonio, Texas

Places to Celebrate St. Patricks Day - San Antonio Riverwalk
Photo by Moab Republic/Shutterstock

If you’re looking to mix a little Texas with St. Patrick’s day, look no further than enjoying the festivities in San Antonio! Across from the Alamo historic site, the River Walk is the best place to be from sun up to sun down!

On March 17th each year, the city dies the river green. Thus, the entire 2 1/2 mile downtown portion of the River Walk instantly intensifies with water’s movement from the boats.

Typically, the Saturday following St. Patrick’s Day, the city plays host to a magnificent and fun river parade to churn up those green bubbles. You might even catch a leprechaun hopping over a rainbow if the sun hits it just right.

Other events encompassing the Riverwalk St. Patrick’s Day celebration include a Tater-Tot eating contest, Lucky Dog Parade, 5K and Wine Run, Artisan Show and more. At sunset, the Riverwalk transforms into sparkles of gold, blinking green as beer mugs clank from the crowd celebrating a night of jollification.

But don’t think you have to just go to the few Irish pubs in San Antonio. There’s plenty of non-Irish bars along the River Walk that will keep you from trekking too far off the beaten path. If you want to keep within the Irish theme, Maddy McMurphy’s Irish Sports Bar is located just steps away from the historic Alamo!

If you’re coming by RV, consider staying at the highly recommended Alsation RV Resort

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Places to Celebrate St. Patricks Day - Philadelphia

The first documented St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Parade in Philadelphia was held in 1771, marking 250 continuous years of celebrations. The current parade, which is hosted by the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association, was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1952.

Should you want to meander about without regret the next morning, you still can pull up a stool, grab a brew or glass of wine while listening to live music. But if you’re more into a night of carousing and swigging down green beers until you see little leprechauns and rainbow mirages, you’ll definitely want to enjoy one of the City of Brotherly Love’s St. Paddy’s Day pub crawls.

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Denver, Colorado

Irish Bar

Denver hosts one of the largest St. Patty’s parades in the country. Their estimated 200,000 spectators pack in along the 15-block route to watch and listen to more than 200 units, 10,000 parade marchers, including floats, bagpipe bands, Irish dancers, clowns, military, horses, cool vehicles and more. The parade is so big that it lasts almost four hours!

If you’re a runner, the Mile High City hosts one of the largest 7k road races in the Country; the Green Lucky 7K and the untimed Leprechaun Leap 2 Mile Walk. After which, attendees can enjoy live music, a beer garden, Irish dancers, and the thrill of being among other outdoor enthusiasts. But, if you’re not into running and walking, consider taking part in one of the city’s pub crawls where you can party until the cows come home.

Camping and Lodging Options:

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San Francisco, California

Places to Celebrate St. Patricks Day - San Francisco
Photo by David Yu

Though the east coast has a much larger Irish influence, San Francisco leaves nothing out when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. With over 15 Irish pubs that pepper San Fran, there’s lots to do besides sipping Irish coffee in the morning and gulping a Guinness at night.

The Golden Gate City claims to have the oldest and biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade west of the Mississippi River. Organized by the United Irish Societies of San Francisco, the parade features over 100 floats, numerous marching bands, bagpipers, Irish dance companies as well as local schools, public officials, first responders and even military organizations. Starting before the noon hour, the parade typically lasts about 2 hours. Marchers make their way to the Civic Center Plaza where the annual Irish Festival takes place.

The Irish Festival is a family-friendly event that draws in hundreds of thousands of attendees. Festival goers enjoy listening to live Irish bands, eating and drinking while mingling with old friends and new. You can find almost every kind of fair food as well as good ole Irish food and beer at area pubs.

And, speaking of brews, the beer vendors offer the official Guinness as well as lighter beers and Irish coffee. While the lines are long the wait is worth it. But remember, this is a family-friendly event. The Irish Festival also has a separate kids area where children can play games, enjoy sweets and take part in kid-friendly fun.

But, San Francisco also celebrates with a couple fun block parties. However, those require cover charges and are for legal-drinking adults only (over 21). And, they don’t celebrate just one day of the year. There’s concerts throughout the week at different designated locations.

But if you’re not into the huge celebration vibe but want to just hang out for St. Paddy’s Day, there’s plenty of Irish pubs and restaurants in San Francisco to get your green on.

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St. Patricks Day Celebration

Why you should wear GREEN on St. Patrick’s Day? 🍀

According to Better Homes and Gardens“The St. Patrick’s Day tradition was popularized by Irish immigrants in the United States, who believed that WEARING GREEN made them invisible to leprechauns—the classic fairy creatures who pinch anyone they can see.”

8 Fun Ways to Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day 🍀

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10 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Attendance Tips 🇮🇪

      1. Make lodging or campsite reservations early. Accommodations on the parade route go the quickest. Call hotels and campgrounds directly to find out what’s available.
      2. A day or two before, do a dry run to find the best viewing of the parade. If allowed, bring your blanket or cheap camp chairs to stake your position.
      3. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing. You may have to walk a long distance from parking to the parade or events.
      4. Bring camp chairs, blanket or sheet, and cooler. A portable wagon will make transporting all of your belongings easier.
      5. Pack bottled water; vendors will charge up to $3-$5 a bottle on the street.
      6. Don’t forget to bring your sightseeing bag that has important necessities you may need while you’re out.
      7. Bring your credit card for parking. Also, you may want to bring small bills for private parking lots.
      8. Arrive early the day of the parade. That may mean setting your alarm as early as 6:00 am.
      9. Take a photo and pin your vehicle’s location on your smartphone GPS.
      10. Use shuttle service if available on the day of parade or large events where parking is not permitted or congested.

RELATED:  Travel Essentials to Pack in your Sightseeing Bag

Places to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in America

8 St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl Tips 🍻🍺

      1. Set a budget of how much you’ll spend.
      2. Purchase your Pub Crawl tickets early; most have limited participation.
      3. Wear sensible shoes and clothing. Dress for the weather and comfort.
      4. If you intent is to drink alcohol, get a designated driver or use Uber or Lyft to get to and from home and between bars.
      5. If you’re driving (or someone else), pin your parking location on your smartphone GPS so you aren’t hunting aimlessly for your vehicle.
      6. Hydrate well the day before, day of and day after celebrating.
      7. Eat healthy before drinking any alcohol.
      8. Know when to stop!

Final Thoughts on these awesome places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Places to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day - Map

So, are you ready to plan your next St. Paddy’s Day adventure? It’s apparent that these U.S. cities really lay out the green carpet and welcome everyone to celebrate Irish heritage and culture. But don’t for a minute think you have to be Irish yourself to take in the festivities and fun!

We strongly recommended that you check with the organizers before making any travel arrangements. Also, check city event organizers for information, dates and times of parades, festivals and events. Some may not take place on March 17th.

Check out Trips to Discover video Best Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in America

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