This post provides details about fun things to see and do on St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, including information about the parades, the green river, the food, and more.
Chicago loves any reason (or excuse) to celebrate but St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) is one of the most festive opportunities to clink glasses.
Although Chicago already had many Irish residents, the great famine in Ireland really boosted the size of the Irish community.
Even in the last five years, Irish was still estimated as the top ancestry in Chicago, followed by German and Polish.
So, if you are in Chicago during March and want to have a wee bit ‘o’ fun, check out the St. Patrick’s Day traditions below!
Check out our Chicago Visitors Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Chicago attractions.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parades
Guess what? Chicago actually has TWO St. Patrick’s Day parades! TWICE the celebrating! Both of these parades are fun, festive, and FULL of Irish things.
Look out for bagpipers, Irish dancers, and shamrocks. Plus, they are on different days so you really could go to both. So, time to dig out your kilt or don your green!
The downtown parade is always the Saturday BEFORE St. Patty’s Day (unless March 17th falls on a Saturday, of course). The parade is at noon- Rain or Shine! The parade starts at Balbo and Columbus and continues north to Monroe.
The south side parade is typically the Sunday BEFORE St. Patty’s Day. It starts at noon- Rain or Shine! The parade route starts at Western and 103rd Street and continues south on Western.
Tip: Parking will be challenging and pricey. If you must drive try bestparking.com or the app “Spot Hero” for finding the best value. Otherwise, I recommend using public transportation.
Chicago Dyes the River GREEN
Yup, you read that right. Chicago actually DYES the Chicago River a bright, festive green in celebration! Although the river tends to have a green tint to it on most days, St. Patrick’s Day is especially green.
This dates back 50 years. The emerald green only lasts about 5 hours so be sure to catch it! It will be dyed at 9:30am. And don’t worry- it is eco-friendly or shall we say GREEN?
Best viewing spots: Along the banks of the Chicago Riverwalk between Michigan and Columbus.
TIP: Chicago is still pretty chilly in March so wear LAYERS!
Food and Beer
There are a lot of delicious pubs in Chicago and of course, plenty of beer. (Watch for green beer- A Kitschy but fun). These pubs will most certainly be crowded. Big time.
But as we mentioned before they will also have delicious food and beer. You decide. Some downtown favorites include:
- Fado’s Irish Pub 100 W. Grand
- Tim O’Toole’s 622 N. Fairbanks Ct.
- Emerald Loop (216 N Wabash)
- O’Callaghans (29 W Hubbard)
- D4 Irish Pub (345 E. Ohio)
- The Kerryman 661 N. Clark St.
- The Gage 24 S. Michigan Ave
- Irish Oak 3511 N. Clark S
If you want to avoid the crowds and still feel festive, you can always pop into McDonald’s for a Shamrock Shake! It is not actually an Irish restaurant as the name suggests.
However, McDonald’s was originally opened in California by two Irish brothers before being bought by Ray Kroc. Plus, the original Shamrock Shake has a pretty touching story.
Fun Fact: Chicagoland is where the FIRST McDonald’s (as we know it today) was built and McDonald’s corporate headquarters are still here.