St. Patrick’s Day, the annual festival that has become a global celebration of Irish culture, is just around the corner. For those seeking to immerse themselves in the festivities, or simply looking for an excuse to don that lucky green attire, there’s no place like the United States to experience the vibrant spirit of this holiday.

This travel guide is your passport to the top destinations and events across the US, offering a blend of traditional activities, culinary delights, and family-friendly fun – all in the name of the Emerald Isle.

A Tradition Born Anew: St. Patrick’s Day in the US

While St. Patrick’s Day is an official Christian feast day in the Republic of Ireland, and a public holiday in Northern Ireland, it has evolved into a celebration of Irish heritage more broadly.

In the United States, it’s a joyous occasion that often sees buildings and streets adorned with green, as people of all backgrounds partake in the revelry. The holiday is a testament to the country’s rich, multicultural tapestry, with Irish Americans at the forefront of shaping public festivities.

Historical Background: From Pageantry to Public Parade

At its core, St. Patrick’s Day honors the patron saint of Ireland and the arrival of Christianity there. Traditionally, the day was observed through solemn church services and family meals.

Parades, a hallmark of American celebrations, have their roots in 18th century New York, where Irish ex-patriots transformed solemn Christian feast days into raucous public festivals.

Today, they remain pivotal in the US, bringing together communities to celebrate shared values, diversity, and, of course, Irishness.

Popular US Destinations: Cities That Paint the Town Green

New York City, New York

New York City boasts the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, dating back to 1762. What started as a modest procession of aid for Irish soliders, has ballooned into a city-wide celebration drawing millions of spectators from across the globe.

The parade, which marches up Fifth Avenue, is a grand affair, filled with marching bands, bagpipers, and a sea of green.

Chicago, Illinois

In the Windy City, the Chicago River turns a shade of Irish green, a spectacle that’s nearly as famous as the city’s skyline. Chicago’s parade, established in 1843, is renowned for the dying of the river and the tradition of dyeing beer green.

The city also hosts various cultural events, including the dyeing of the river, a 5K run, and marquee events at the iconic Grant Park.

Boston, Massachusetts

With its significant Irish population, Boston hosts one of the most spirited St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US. The South Boston parade is a local favorite, and the city is home to many Irish pubs, attracting renowned Celtic bands, offering a tribute that’s as much about music as it is about historical reverence.

Traditional Activities and Events: More than Just a Parade

While parades are the marquee events, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations offer a gamut of activities that cater to all tastes.


Parades are the quintessential St. Patrick’s Day experience, featuring elaborate floats, costumed participants, and a festive atmosphere. While the larger cities’ parades are famous, smaller towns across the nation host parades that offer a more intimate and community-driven festivity.

Festivals and Fairs

Beyond parades, you’ll find fairs and festivals with cultural performances, live music, dancing, and history. These events provide a more interactive and multi-sensory experience, where you can learn about traditional Irish crafts, listen to storytelling, and maybe even try a jig.

Pub Crawls

For the adults, pub crawls are a rite of St. Patrick’s Day. Many cities organize organized crawls with drink specials, themed bars, and the chance to encounter the more lively part of the celebrations.

Best Places to Enjoy Irish Cuisine: Sustenance for the Heart and Belly

The US is home to a vibrant culinary scene, and St. Patrick’s Day provides an excellent opportunity to indulge in Irish fare.

Traditional Irish Pubs

From Chicago to San Francisco, you can find a host of authentic Irish pubs that serve up classic dishes like shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and bangers and mash. These establishments also often feature live music acts that play traditional Irish tunes.

Street Food and Bites

At parades and festivals, you’ll find a smorgasbord of Irish street food offerings, from Irish soda bread to colcannon, offering a taste of tradition you can enjoy on the go.

Fusion Cuisine

Many chefs and establishments use St. Patrick’s Day as a launching point for inventive fusion dishes, such as Irish-Mexican hybrids or updated takes on traditional recipes.

Family-Friendly Activities: Celebrating with the Little Ones

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday for the family, with ample activities for children and parents to enjoy together.

Local Community Events

Check for events hosted by local libraries, community centers, and schools. Often, these will be tailored to a family-friendly environment with arts and crafts, storytelling sessions, and sometimes, even miniature parades.

Kid-Focused Parades and Festivities

Some towns host separate parades for children or dedicate areas of their city’s main parades as "family zones," where children can watch the events in a more controlled setting.

Craft Workshops

These workshops offer the opportunity for children to make St. Patrick’s Day themed arts and crafts, which can further involve them in the celebratory build-up.

Safety Tips for Celebrating: Enjoying the Day Responsibly

As with any large public gathering, it’s important to keep safety in mind as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Plan Your Day

Have a rough itinerary of where you want to go and what you want to do. This can help you stay organized and ensure you don’t miss any of the highlights you’re most excited about.

Travel with a Group

Especially for nighttime activities, it’s best to travel with a group. Not only is it more fun, but it’s also safer to stick together and look out for one another.


If you’re imbibing, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated can help you feel better and ensure a fun, full day of festivities.

Use Public Transportation

With the influx of visitors, parking and driving during St. Patrick’s Day festivals can be a headache. Opt for public transport or ridesharing services for a stress-free day.

Respect Local Regulations

Every city has its own set of rules and regulations concerning public events. Be mindful of these and respect the authorities who are there to keep everyone safe.

Conclusion: Paint the Town Green

St. Patrick’s Day in the US is a celebration that captures the very essence of community and joyful revelry. Whether you choose to witness the grandeur of the New York City parade, catch the sea of green in the Chicago River, or keep it low-key with a visit to your favorite local Irish pub, the experience is sure to leave you with a sense of camaraderie and warmth.

We hope this guide has provided you with the inspiration to partake in the delightful festivities that St. Patrick’s Day offers across the United States. Get ready to break out your best green-themed gear, sample some Irish delights, and enjoy the jovial, convivial ambiance that this day has to offer.

With proper planning and a spirit of adventure, your St. Patrick’s Day celebration is bound to be a memorable one.

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