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

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

 Max Talbot-Minkin / Flickr /  CC BY 2.0

No doubt about it, St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is awesome. When March 17 rolls around in the Windy City, it's an opportunity for Irish and Irish Americans to showcase their rich heritage. 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. Both are typically well attended.

The most famous icon of St. Patrick's Day in Chicago is the river, which has been dyed green to celebrate the occasion for over 50 years. The tradition carries on just as strongly as the city's dueling parades. And when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick's Day, the Windy City can rival New Orleans during Mardi Gras season with all its pub crawls, parties, and more.

Before you book your trip, make sure you familiarize yourself with Chicago's March weather. Although things are starting to warm up, winter hasn't totally loosened its grip on the city, so you'll want to make sure you come prepared and pack properly, especially if you'll be spending a lot of time outside watching the parades.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Parades

A member of the Irish Fellowship Club walks with an 'Irish' cow from Chicago's 'Cows on Parade' in the St. Patrick's Day parade March 11, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. This is Chicago's 51st annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

Tim Boyle / Getty Images

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. Getting a good spot to watch the spectacle means arriving early, but there is no cost to watch.

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 proceeds 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

A view of Chicago's spectacular skyline from BIG Bar, in the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
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 with more than 1,400 beverage choices.

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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. Throughout the space, the interior 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

Drinking beer in a pub from personal perspective

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

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 many of his 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 a 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 usually St. Patrick's Day-themed pub crawls, booze cruises, and parties going on as well throughout the holiday week and weekend.

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