Guide to St. Patrick's Day in Boston: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Boston Hosts Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade
Scott Eisen / Getty Images

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.

01 of 09

The Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Group of spectators deckout in green at the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade
Paul Marotta / Getty Images

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 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!

02 of 09

Harpoon Brewery’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival

steel barrels on top of Harpoon Brewery in Boston

 Courtesy of Harpoon Brewery

Breweries have been popping up all over Boston and beyond, but Harpoon Brewery has been around for quite some time. 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 of all sorts of beers, including the latest seasonal offerings.

Entry is typically 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.

03 of 09

Dropkick Murphys Shows

Dropkick Murphys

 

Michael Hurcomb / Contributor / Getty Images

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. In 2021, the concert was held virtually but streamed live on March 17. Past venues for performances have included the House of Blues and TD Garden.

04 of 09

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 the day with the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in South Boston the day of the parade. 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.

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05 of 09

Walk the Irish Heritage Trail

Boston MA Summer on the waterfront
Gary D'Ercole / Getty Images

For a full taste of Boston’s Irish history, you can participate in a guided walk along the Irish Heritage Trail during 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 walking along the Irish Heritage Trail, you’ll hit many of the city’s top tourist attractions.

06 of 09

The Irish Film Festival

Since 2003, the annual Irish Film Festival has been highlighting a variety of Irish-made independent 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 at the Somerville Theatre. For 2021, the festival shifted to an online format.

07 of 09

Have a Guinness or Traditional Irish Meal at an Irish Pub

Roisin Dubh, Black Rose, Irish pub and restaurant, State Street, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Mel Longhurst / Getty Images

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 and corn beef, plus offering all sorts of entertainment. Options include 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.

08 of 09

The Celtic Bells Event at the JFK Library

JFK Library, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Andrew Gunners / Getty Images

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 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.

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09 of 09

Experience Irish Music at WGBH’s Celtic Sojourn

irish dancer jumping in front of five seated musicians

WGBH

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. Tickets can typically be purchased at the WGBH Celtic Sojourn website

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