St. Patrick's Day in Chicago: The Complete Guide

The river turned green in Chicago during St. Patrick's Day

 Max Talbot-Minkin (CC BY 2.0) / Flickr

No doubt about it, St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) in Chicago is awesome. It's an opportunity for Irish and Irish Americans to showcase their rich heritage, and many people that live in the Windy City celebrate the holiday in style.

Chicago not only boasts one of the largest and most significant St. Patrick's Day parades in the world, but it hosts two: one on the North Side and another on the far South Side. The downtown parade attracts more visitors, while the South Side edition is more neighborhood-oriented, but both are well attended.

Additionally, the Chicago River has been dyed green for more than 50 years in honor of this holiday, and the tradition is still just as strong as the dueling parades. Ultimately, when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, the Windy City shows out like New Orleans during Mardi Gras season with pub crawls, parties, and more.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Parades

The dyeing of the Chicago River occurs the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. The dyeing is scheduled in the morning and is best viewed from the east side of Michigan Avenue, the west side of Columbus Drive, or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.

The downtown Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade also takes place the Saturday before the holiday. The parade units usually proceed north on Columbus Drive and the viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain.

The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade usually occurs on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick's Day. The South Side parade steps off at noon from 103rd Street and proceed down Western Avenue to 115th Street. The family-friendly event has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol along the parade route.

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Where to Stay

Hyatt Regency Chicago

Perched directly over the Chicago River, Hyatt Regency Chicago is also located right off the famed Magnificent Mile shopping district. As the city's largest hotel—and one of the world’s largest Hyatt properties—it includes 2,032 guest rooms, meeting spaces, and restaurants.

The hotel is very family friendly, yet one of its most popular attractions is BIG Bar, which claims to have the longest freestanding bar in North America, plus more than 1,400 beverage choices. BIG Bar also pays homage to two of Chicago’s most notorious events (The Chicago Fire and Blizzard of 1967).

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Where to Dine

Wilde Bar & Restaurant

Wilde Bar's grand library emits a luxurious, old-world vibe that's perfect for an Irish-themed pub. The space throughout is done up in rich leather and hardwood accents, and while the library is filled with a variety of books, it might be best to bring your own.

Of course, the classic shepherd's pie is on the menu, as well as country chicken pot pie, grilled cheese, and a host of gluten-free and vegetarian dishes.

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Where to Drink

GreenRiver Chicago

If you're on the hunt for an authentic Irish pub in Chicago, check out the upscale Kerryman Irish Bar and Restaurant. Its Irish-born owners and executive chef updated a number of favorite Irish dishes such as a corned beef hash Reuben sandwich and fish & chips. Plus, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are always lively, but never rowdy.

For those who prefer whiskey bars, Lady Gregory's doesn't disappoint. Named after the famed Irish author, this cocktail lounge pays homage to its Irish heritage in subdued fashion. The real draw is the impressive Irish whiskey selection, which is said to be the largest in the Midwest. LG’s bar staff traveled all over the globe to assemble the more than 300-plus, international whiskey list, but the Irish choices are most prominent.

There are also a number of St. Patrick's Day-themed pub crawls, booze cruises, and parties happening in Chicago.

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