It’s a month away, but like us, you know you’re already thinking about it. You’ve already looked at the calendar, saw St. Patrick’s Day (on March 17th every year, for those of you who aren’t in the know) is on a Saturday, and felt your own inner leprechaun tickle your soul. St. Patrick’s on a Saturday? Start early. Go late. Yeah, you know you’re making plans.
Americans, and I guess really anyone, loves a good excuse to drink. Hey, it doesn’t even have to be our holiday (sorry about that, Ireland)! We’ve all but stolen Cinco de Mayo and made it into a tequila-infused day where everyone will readily tell you they don’t have a clue what they’re celebrating. Did you really think St. Patrick’s would be any different? Oh no, my friend. Oh no.
So, with flights to be booked and plans to be made, where are the hottest spots in the U.S. to have a bit of the green goodness and let your inner clover blossom?
#10 Seattle, WA
Despite the most geographically-distant location from where it all started, Seattle does St. Patrick’s Day right. The city leads up to the day with great events on a daily schedule, including a St. Patrick’s Day Dash that continues to grow in size yearly. The race paints the streets of the Emerald City green, as it has done for more than 30 years and is as much of an “Irish Halloween” in the Spring as one could imagine – complete with costumed participants such as the nearly 7-foot-tall leprechaun.
Seattle is a great drinking city as well, and one with enough craft beer joints to help you truly immerse yourself the event – wherever that might take you. If you’re looking for traditional Irish Pub flare, try the Old Pequliar or Mulleady’s Irish Pub, often considered the best of it’s kind in the city.
#9 Roanoke, VA
Roanoke? Yeah. Roanoke.
Downtown Roanoke fills up with more than 30,000 revelers each year during what they call their “Shamrock Festival,” a family-friendly affair that still features plenty of pints of the good stuff and a raucous enough environment to make you think you’re back in the Old Country. There are block parties littered everywhere throughout the city, that will grade from as docile and “nice” as you would like to the upper echelons of drunken hooliganism.
#8 Atlanta, GA
St. Patrick’s Day is a huge deal in Atlanta, featuring a city-wide parade that the city has hosted for 135 years, making it one of the oldest traditions in the city. There are several groups that feature in the event as active members and participants, including Clan Na NGael, Fire Emerald Society of Metro Atlanta (FESMA), the Irish Information Center and the Metro Atlanta Police Emerald Society (MAPES). The family-friendly event also includes a 5k race with a hosts of runners of all classes, from walker to professional athlete.
Additionally, Atlanta is a thriving drinking city with a high Irish ancestral population. Our personal favorite is Ri Ra Irish Pub in Midtown, where you can enjoy excellent hand-crafted burgers such as the Dubliner – a rosemary-infused lamb burger with curry aioli and goat cheese on brioche. Goes great with a Guinness!
#7 San Diego, CA
The year-round gorgeous weather of San Diego makes a great backdrop for any parade, but the St. Patrick’s Day parade hosted by the city is one of the liveliest and most well-attended put on by the city’s “Irish Congress” each year.
Each year, San Diego lines up an extensive list of performers of Irish theme, including traditional Irish dance troupes and pipe bands to further authentify the occasion. More than 40,000 people are present each year for the event, which begins at Balboa Park and stretches throughout the city.
#6 Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia is a food and drink mainstay in the U.S., which makes it an ideal location to be on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish in Philadelphia first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 1771, five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, making this parade the 2nd largest in the entire United States (behind the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held in 1762). This is massive event with more than 100 events and over 2,000 participants!
Philadelphia, as mentioned, is one hell of a place to get a drink – especially a Guinness. Skip the chain locations and go straight to Moriarty’s on Walnut Street if you want to do it right. Here, you can get all the Irish classics to sop of a few pints of the black stuff – including Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and the best Bangers and Mash in the city.
#5 San Francisco, CA
You may not think Irish when you think of San Francisco, but you definitely think of partying. The LGBT capital of the U.S. is a haven for any group of people looking to mix it up, and the diverse setting results in unique pockets of celebrations that explode throughout the city.
San Francisco has its own parade, massive in its own right and dating back to the mid-1800s. The roster is one of the earliest to begin in the country, and one of the last to end, leaving revelers covered in glitter, filled with green beer and partying late into the night. If you’re really looking for a big crowd and a great time, check out the Financial District’s block party – one of the largest of its kind in the country!
#4 Savannah, GA
Savannah probably isn’t where your mind starts when you think of the best cities to drink green beer and douse oneself in lucky-charm-colored glitter, but have you been there? These people know how to party, and don’t need much of an excuse to do it. Home to one of the largest organized St. Patrick’s parades in the U.S., Savannah literally turns green the week leading up to the holiday with landmarks such as the fountain at Forsyth Park being dyed for the affair.
With proximity to bars being paramount on St. Paddy’s, the parade route smartly runs alongside the more popular areas where followers can watch while piling on the pints.
#3 Chicago, IL
Admittedly, the top three could be argued about their order by Chicago unquestionably deserved a spot. The Windy City dyes the Chicago River green, sparking the city with Irish spirit and the patrons with Irish spirits!
Chicago’s downtown parade occurs on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, beginning with the dyeing of the river at 9am and continuing in Grant Park with a parade at noon. The South Side Irish Parade occurs the following day, stepping off from 103rd and Western at noon, further invigorating the city into full-on celebration.
Skip the deep dish pizza on St. Patrick’s, however, because Chicago features some of the best Irish Pubs in the mid-west. Our favorite is The Grafton, located on North Lincoln and named after the famous Grafton Street area in Dublin, Ireland. The menu includes all of the Irish classics, including a mammoth legend that’s difficult to find done correctly in the U.S. – the full Irish breakfast.
#2 New York, NY
What doesn’t New York do well? The United States’ largest city and cultural wellspring, New York was an early spot for Irish settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries, and has kept in keen sight it’s European roots.
Hosting the oldest St. Patrick’s parade in the United States, which begins in Midtown and ends at the American Irish Historical Society at East 80th Street in the Upper East Side. Any festival in New York is a site to behold, but St. Patrick’s Day brings entertainment of a different sort. Bartenders are common to pass out free shots along the parade route, ill-advised clover tattoos are visible as far as the eye can see and drunken revelers belt out pitchy renditions of “Danny Boy”. Never a lack of entertainment in the Big Apple, is there?
New York is it’s own animal, and the beast gets let loose on St. Patrick’s Day.
#1 Boston, MA
Did you really think another city was going to be first?
Boston is America’s Dublin. The Irish have been in Boston since colonial times, when they arrived as indentured servants, merchants, sailors, or tradesmen in the mid-1600s. Even today, the Irish still represent Boston’s largest ancestral ethnic group.
Bostonian last names are distinctly Irish, from O’Connor and O’Brien to McCormick and Kennedy, the Irish have positively impacted America from the country’s earliest roots – much of which stemmed in Boston.
If there is one parade in America you must attend on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s in Boston. The passion of the ancestral spirit is alive, palpable and proud on this day, as the parade routes from Broadway Station to Southhampton St, making it one of the longest in the country.
Bars? Food? Beer? Boston’s got that too. You can stumble across a myriad of pubs throughout the downtown area, along the financial district and parade routes. One of the most popular in the city is J.J. Foley’s, the more than 120 year-old establishment in “Southie”. Foley’s is a place where you can get all of the traditional Irish pub grub with a flair of class – including dishes such as a magnificent Duck Confit and a Pork Osso Bucco that absolutely melts on contact.
If you can’t make it to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, the U.S. offers many great options. However, you simply have to put Boston at the top of the list.