March in Chicago: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

River Dyed Green in Chicago

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March is a great time to visit the Windy City, well ahead of the summer crowds and festival season without being in the depths of a Chicago winter. With winter chills starting to subside, though there will be some chilly days, March is the time when locals stop hibernating and start venturing out again. 

Aside from the weather, the St. Patrick's Day holiday is what motivates most people to pack their social calendars again. While the holiday falls on March 17th, Chicago's strong Irish population means it is celebrated in the City for approximately two weeks, beginning with the famous dyeing of the Chicago River to—what else—emerald green each year.

So, no matter what brings you to Chicago in early spring, here's what you need to know before you go.

Chicago Weather in March

Despite it being the start of spring, weather in the Windy City is still quite chilly this month. If you plan on spending time outside—and you should—be sure to pack accordingly with warm layers, protection from the sun, and sturdy closed-toed walking shoes. Having a hat, scarf, and gloves on hand will be helpful. And keep in mind that strong winds will make the cold feel even colder. If you're taking public transportation or will be out for long periods of time, be sure to dress warmly.

  • Average High Temperature: 47 degrees F (8 degrees C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 31 degrees F (-0.5 degrees C)
  • Average Precipitation: 2.5 inches
  • Average Snowfall: 5.5 inches

What to Pack

While it's milder than January and February, the temperatures in March can still be downright freezing. Packing warm layers of winter clothing is definitely a must, but you should also bring a few short-sleeved shirts in case of warmer weather. A scarf, hat, gloves, and warm winter coat are essential and a few pairs of warm socks will also come in handy. Checking the daily forecast before your visit is a smart idea as the weather changes quite a bit during this month. But, keep in mind that weather is liable to change even if you checked the forecast the night before.

Comfortable walking shoes, or even warm boots, are also required for exploring the city but don't fret if you forget a few essentials as the Chicagoland area shopping malls have everything you need to make your stay pleasant.

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

With three parades (the Downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade, South Side St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and Northwest Side Irish parade held the weekend before St. Patrick's Day), the celebration of the patron saint of Ireland is incredibly popular, so you should be aware that it can result in inflated hotel, airfare, and area prices, as well as major crowding all over the city, and especially downtown.

There are a number of Chicago bars that light up with the luck of the Irish during March in celebration of the holiday. Also, runners will delight in participating in Bank of America's Shamrock Shuffle, held on March 23 in 2023.

If you plan on skipping the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, however, there are several other notable events that occur in Chicago this month, including the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show, the Geneva Film Festival, and the Good Food Festival. It is also national noodle month, and there is no shortage of great bowls of ramen in the city.

March Events in Chicago

Spring in Chicago is popular with locals and tourists alike and the city really comes back to life with more people out and about and plenty of excitement around fun happenings and events.

  • The Brewsology Beer Fest takes attendees on an after hours experience at the Museum of Science and Industry. Dozens of craft breweries and cideries will be represented. Tickets include admission to the museum with the most expensive option including two-extra hours of museum time and a $30 dining credit.
  • Chicago Restaurant Week lasts for over two weeks starting in March and going into April. Hundreds of top-rated restaurants around the city will have special deals on set menus.
  • If you want to see the river get dyed that iconic shade of green, head to the river the morning of the Downtown St. Patrick's Day parade. Or join a river cruise to see the dyeing happen from the water.
  • If you can brave the cold, join over 5,000 fundraisers who wade into the cold waters of Lake Michigan each March to support charity at the Chicago Polar Plunge. Or, you can stay dry and watch from shore.

March Travel Tips

  • If you're planning on traveling any time around St. Patrick's Day, plan ahead as many popular hotels will likely reach capacity.
  • To enjoy great views of the dying of the Chicago River, book a room along the river front.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather, which can still be quite chilly and windy. Plan ahead and plan for the worst.

To learn more about if you want to visit Chicago in March, check out our guide on the best time to visit.