Boston is a city with deep Irish roots, so it's no surprise that St. Patrick's Day brings quite a bit of celebration among both locals and tourists. From the big St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston—a big Irish neighborhood—to beer festivals, Dropkick Murphys concerts, and other cultural events and attractions, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
The biggest event you’ll find to take part in is South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day, which is put on by the South Boston Allied War Veterans council and falls on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick's Day. This year’s parade will take place on Sunday, March 15, 2020, with a 1 p.m. start time. This parade has been a city tradition since 1901 and brings in millions of spectators each year. The South Boston neighborhood holds much of the city’s Irish history and is the perfect place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Visit the official parade site for details on the parade route, along with the best ways to get there. While the route is usually the same—starting at the MBTA’s Broadway Station and ending toward Andrew Square—there have been years where it has been changed, particularly in those that have seen tons of snow. Be sure to get there early to reserve your spot as the streets get crowded!
Participate in Harpoon Brewery’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival
Breweries have been popping up all over Boston and beyond, but Harpoon Brewery is one that has been around for quite some time, as this Boston-based company first launched in 1986. Harpoon Brewery’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival is one of their big events (HarpoonFest and OctoberFest are two of the others), complete with live Irish music and samples all sorts of beers, including the latest seasonal offerings.
The 2020 dates are set for March 6 and 7 and entry is free. But keep in mind that their festivals are popular and do get crowded, so plan to get there early to avoid waiting in line. And while you’re in the city’s Seaport neighborhood, check out our top picks for things to do.
Catch One of the Dropkick Murphys Shows
Each St. Patrick’s Day, the Dropkick Murphys, the Irish punk band behind the song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” roll into town for a series of performances in Boston. Their “Boston Blowout 2020” will include six shows at four different venues, two of which are new to their annual Boston visit. Here’s a rundown of this year’s lineup:
- Friday, March 13: Encore Boston Harbor Casino, Everett, MA
- Saturday, March 14: House of Blues Boston (matinee and evening shows)
- Sunday, March 15: House of Blues Boston
- Monday, March 16: Big Night Live at the TD Garden following the Boston Bruins game
- Tuesday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day): House of Blues Boston
Give Back by Running the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race
If you’re into running or are up for the challenge of running a 5K before an afternoon of drinking Guinness, start off the day with the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in South Boston the day of the parade, Sunday, March 15, 2020. The race is a local tradition that dates back to 1940 and today benefits the Edgerley Family South Boston Club’s Keystone Teen Leadership Program. No matter what level runner you are, this is a fun event to get dressed up in festive green attire and get some exercise a couple of hours before the parade kicks off.
Walk the Irish Heritage Trail
For a full taste of Boston’s Irish history, you can participate in a guided walk along the Irish Heritage Trail during the month of March, put on by the Boston Irish Tourism Association. Since 2000, this group has been celebrating the city’s Irish-American culture among both locals and tourists.
The Irish Heritage Trail goes through Downtown Boston and the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, with a focus on 20 different sites. These range from Fenway Park, where the Boston Red Sox Play, to Boston City Hall, the Rose Kennedy Garden and memorials like the Boston Irish Famine Memorial and the John Boyle O’Reilly Memorial. By waking along the Irish Heritage Trail, you’ll hit many of the city’s top tourist attractions.
Celebrate on the Big Screen at the Irish Film Festival
The 20th annual Irish Film Festival will take place from March 19 to 22, 2020 at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square, highlighting a variety of Irish productions. This festival, which features over 50 films each year, aims to “celebrate the very best of Ireland and Irish on screen.” It’s a great way for movie lovers to dive into Irish culture on the big screen right outside of Boston.
Have a Guinness or Traditional Irish Meal at an Irish Pub
With Boston’s extensive Irish population comes many Irish pubs scattered throughout the city. You can count on all of these coming alive for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, serving up Guinness, corn beef, and cabbage and offering all sorts of entertainment. Options include McGreevy’s, Solas Irish Pub, M.J. O’Connor’s Irish Pub, The Black Rose, and more.
Even restaurants that don’t have any ties to Irish heritage commemorate the holiday with festive specials. Be sure to check out Boston's top restaurants to see what they’re cooking up. In years past you could order up food and drinks like Guinness pancakes at City Tap House and whiskey flights and green beer at Back Bay Social Club.
Participate in the Celtic Bells Event at the JFK Library
One of Boston’s lesser-known, but still excellent, museums is the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The JFK Library celebrates St. Patrick’s Day on March 14, 2020 with their annual “Celtic Bells – the Irish in Boston” day. Here you can listen to traditional Irish music featuring the fiddle, bagpipes, Irish drum, and more, along with stories from Boston’s Irish immigrants told via song and poems. This event is free but does require registration which can be done at the event's webpage.
Experience Irish Music at WGBH’s Celtic Sojourn
A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn is an event put on each year by local radio station WGBH, bringing together both new and established Irish musicians. Here you’ll listen to traditional folk music and fiddling while also witnessing authentic Irish step dancing performances, all held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater. There are two shows—one at 3 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, which range from $26 to $46, visit the WGBH Celtic Sojourn website.