Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Activities in Chicago

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Get ready, Chicagoans! St. Patrick’s Day activities are just around the corner and we’re excited because the Windy City knows how to throw one heck of a party for this beloved Irish celebration.

When the festive spirit takes over, check out this guide for my inside scoop on can’t-miss events, fun activities, and the perfect spots to soak up all the fun.

Historical Significance

St. Patrick’s Day is not just about drinking beer and wearing green.

The significance of St Patrick’s Day is a feast day that was founded to celebrate Christianity and to honor Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

The origins of this day can be traced back to the 5th century, when St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is believed to have introduced Christianity to the Emerald Isle.

As a missionary, St. Patrick is credited with using the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, making it a symbol of the holiday.

How are you celebrating?  Here are some ideas to get your Irish on and celebrate!

Ways to Celebrate in Chicago

We go all out for St. Paddy’s, from turning the river an eye-catching shade of Emerald green to lively parades winding through the city’s neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs.

Here are more ways to celebrate and soak up the Irish spirit in Chicago festivities.

Attend an Irish Parade

people viewing a irish band in a parade

For many Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is a beloved tradition that honors their Irish ancestry – and there’s no better way to embrace this American heritage than by joining the crowds cheering on the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band as they march through the streets.

Also note that traditionally, Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade almost never falls on St. Patrick’s Day. It may seem like we have the date all wrong, but the city always celebrate on the Saturday before the official day, March 17th. 

The parade will kick off time is around Noon PM CT and you can view it at Balbo and Columbus Drive proceeding north to Monroe Street.

Old St. Patrick’s Church

Join the Chicago community to Shamrock’n the Block at Old St. Patrick’s Church.

Known as Old St. Pat’s, the church has been described as the “cornerstone of Irish culture” in Chicago.

You’ll be tapping your toes to the tunes of live musicians. If you don’t already have tickets, it may be sold out. But add it to your bucket list for next year.

The main church building is one of a handful of structures remaining in the city that predate the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and is the city’s oldest standing church building.

Enjoy a River Cruise

marina towers

Looking for more Chicago River activities? Picture yourself cruising down the iconic Chicago River and taking in the city’s breathtaking skyline on vibrant green water.

As you drift along the Riverwalk and out onto Lake Michigan, you’ll be surrounded by the sounds of live DJs spinning the hottest hits while sipping your favorite, green-tinted beverages with family or friends.

It’s the ultimate St. Patrick’s Day bash on the water – an experience you won’t find anywhere else in the city!

Crawl the Irish Pubs

Look for a bit of green beer or guinness in your day? Stop at Open Gate Brewery for their annual St. Patrick’s Day Block Party.

The Windy City is home to several traditional Irish pubs, which are popular spots for celebrating.

An all access pass can be found from Noon to 6PM while the “Kiss Me” bar crawl gives 3 day access.

Find tickets now before they are sold out. Admission includes a T-shirt while supplies last, beads, swag, complimentary drinks, and an after-party experience while you crawl the bars in these great neighborhoods.

You can also find bars like Tiny Tapp, Chicago Winery, and the Northman Beer & Cider Gardens along the Chicago Riverwalk. However, the neighborhoods of Chicago are some of the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Witness the Chicago River Dyeing

boat pouring dye in the chicago river

Celebrate the day with a trip to the Chicago River, which has been dyed green every year since 1962.

Every year, the event begins at 10 AM and can be seen from Upper Wacker Drive along the riverfront.

The tradition involves using algae and a little natural dye from the pines along the shoreline of Lake Michigan to turn the water into a shamrock-colored green.

The dye used for the river is certified environmentally safe by the EPA and does not harm wildlife.

If you are attending the parade or the dyeing of the river, take the CTA to get around Chicago because traffic will be ridiculous.  

Try Traditional Irish Food and Drinks

Celebrate with Irish American foods at some of the finest places around town. View my video now for some of the best Irish pubs in Chicago!

I added one in the video just for the ambiance and Shepherd’s pie alone (Elephant and Castle) and Emmit’s is permanently closed.

However, from the North Side to the Gold Coast, there are nice menu options for both tourists and locals alike.

The Kerryman | $$ | 661 N. Clark St.

What to order: Fish & Chips, Bison Burger

Mrs. Murphys and Sons Irish Bistro | $$ | 3905 N. Lincoln Ave

What to order: Guinness Mac ‘n Cheese, Brioche Bread Pudding

Chief O’Neill’s Pub | $$ | 3471 N Elston Ave

What to order: Shepherd’s Pie, Fish & Chips, Corned Beef

Fado Irish Pub | $$ | 100 W Grand Ave

What to order: Irish Breakfast

Run the 5K Shamrock Shuffle

What better way to celebrate the day than by running a 5K, nibbling authentic Irish fare, and cheering on the runners with the wind at your back? 

Every year, the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle will be held in Grant Park on Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day from 8 AM to 2 PM.

This family-friendly fundraising event encourages everyone to cross the finish line in style with a costume contest and a DJ before heading over to the beer garden to celebrate!

Best Places to Stay for St. Patrick’s Day Weekend

aerial view of chicago river

Staying in a downtown hotel is convenient and helps make a memorable experience. With the sounds of Irish music emanating from the parade, people proudly wearing green and sipping their beer, it is a festive atmosphere.

There are several reasonably priced hotels near the Riverwalk and we selected a few for that very reason. These are our recommendations.

The crowd in the downtown area gets quite rowdy with friendly banter and singing throughout the day and night.

Staying in a hotel close by also means easy access to many of the famous sights and attractions, from the Chicago River to Millennium Park and The Magnificent Mile.

These hotels are more budget friendly. The locations are just a few blocks, or less, away but are a short walk to the river.

Final Thoughts on Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

Whether you’re a local or visiting from out of town, joining in on the fun will make the most of your visit to Chicago while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

These are just a few examples of the many events and activities that you can plan in Chicago.

Use our guide to mix and match experiences that appeal to you most. In these articles, you’ll find more useful information to help plan your visit to Chicago.

Safe travels.

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  1. Diane Molzan says:

    Sounds like a great time of year to visit Chicago. Thanks for sharing so many great tips.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I am looking forward to it this year. Chicagoans will brave any weather forecast to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day ☘️