Possibly the city’s most celebrated holiday, St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago draws visitors from all over the US and the world. Chicago has emerged as the second-largest Irish city in America, and with such a great number of residents, there’s certainly a lot to do for St. Paddy’s in Chicago!


Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day 2024 with City Cruises 

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like never before, on a luxury cruise on the vibrant and famously green (only on St. Patrick’s Day) Chicago River! On the Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Premier Plus Bottomless Mimosa Architectural Brunch Cruise on the Chicago River, you’ll step aboard a glass-enclosed vessel, and savor a chef-curated menu of delicious plated brunch options and an atmosphere of fun and unforgettable festivities. Enjoy breathtaking views of iconic landmarks like the Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and the Old Chicago Post Office. This upscale St. Patrick’s Day experience also includes bottomless mimosas and a fully stocked cash bar, just don’t forget to wear something green!




Chicago’s Green River Tradition

The famous dyeing of the Chicago River first occurred in 1962 and is purported to have been inspired by Stephen Bailey of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local 110, who noticed that dye used to detect if pipes were leaking had left a colleague’s overalls bright green. The dye itself is actually orange, surprisingly, but when it mixes with water it turns a beautiful emerald green. This tradition is unique to Chicago with approximately 400,000 spectators crowding the banks of the Chicago River to marvel at this.

The Chicago River dyeing originally used 100 pounds of dye that would keep the river green for days, but now 40 pounds of a very secret (but eco-friendly) recipe is used, and the river only stays green for about five hours.  Chicago lore has it that revealing the details of this would be compared to “telling where the leprechaun hides its gold.”  Get front-row seats to this iconic holiday tradition while taking in incredible views of the city’s architecture. Sit back and relax to traditional Irish tunes while cruising along the St. Patrick’s Day River Dyeing Cruise.


St. Patricks Day


Chicago’s Famous Irish Pubs

Much like its Irish population, Chicago is home to a high concentration of traditional Irish pubs, many of them going back nearly a century or more. Which means there is no shortage of Guinness or Irish Whiskey, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.

Shinnick’s Pub in the South Side Bridgeport neighborhood has been around just as long as the first St. Patrick’s Day parade, dating to the early 1890s. The amazing mahogany back bar dates from the original construction and has seen a lot of celebrations over the years. 

Kelly’s Pub has been a Lincoln Park local favorite since 1933, opening shortly after Prohibition was repealed. Bank robber, John Dillinger, supposedly once had a pint in Kelly’s Pub. With its original back bar and cabinetry, it’s truly a step back in time.

The Kerryman is located in River North, and is one of the most historic Irish bars in Chicago. Once known as McGovern Saloon, a notorious gangster hangout, The Kerryman is one of Chicago’s most authentic Irish pubs, with all 3 of it’s owners hailing from the motherland. It’s no wonder it’s referred to as “a little piece of Ireland.”


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Chicago Actually Has 3 St. Patrick’s Day Parades

The Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest St. Paddy’s Day parades in the U.S. The parade starts on Balbo Drive and Columbus Drive, and runs north on Columbus Drive to Monroe Street. It features colorful floats, lots of Irish flags, Irish dancers, and of course The Shannon Rovers Pipe Band. The downtown parade starts at noon, and is a highlight of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day traditions. 

The South Side Irish Parade runs down Western Avenue between 103rd and 115th Streets and is supposed to have begun when two neighbors decided that their children needed something to do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The first South Side Parade began in 1981 and continues to be very much a neighborhood affair with Irish step dancers, bands, and a parade queen. 

The Northwest Side Irish Parade runs through the Norwood Park neighborhood down Neola Avenue from William J. Onahan School to Northwest Highway, then down Harlem Avenue. Celebrations include local live music, delicious corned beef and cabbage, and green beer, of course. 


The First Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade came to Downtown Chicago on March 17, 1843. Beginning on Clark Street, Grand Marshal, “Smiling John” Davlin led the first attendees down Michigan Avenue and into St. Mary’s Catholic Church for mass. The tradition continued until 1896, after which it suddenly ended for unknown reasons. 

In 1956, Mayor Richard J. Daley officially resurrected the Loop’s St. Patrick’s Day parade with the explicit intention of celebrating Chicago’s Irish heritage. And so, the Downtown parade continues to today, along Columbus Drive between Balbo Drive and Monroe, and is still led by the famed Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, as it was in 1956.  


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More Chicago Irish History

If you want to learn about Chicago’s Irish history and modern Ireland all year round, it’s always worth a visit to the Irish American Heritage Center (IAHC) whose “mission is to cultivate the cultural bonds of the Irish and Irish Americans to Ireland through gatherings and festivals and by promoting cultural programmings such as music and theater, literature, and language.” 

Check out events to see how Chicago remains connected to Ireland. They also host their own St. Patrick’s Day activities with contemporary Irish music, traditional dance, handmade gifts, and performances from the Academy of Irish Music. 


FAQs – Chicago St. Patrick’s Day 2024

Where is the best place to view the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago?

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago typically starts at noon on Balbo Drive and Columbus Drive, proceeding north to Monroe Street. Prime viewing spots include Chicago Riverwalk, along Columbus Drive, and the viewing stands at Buckingham Fountain.

Are there family-friendly events on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago?

Chicago offers plenty of family-friendly events, including the dyeing of the Chicago River and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Additionally, many local establishments will be hosting family-oriented activities and Irish-themed celebrations.

What’s the significance of dyeing the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day?

Dyeing the Chicago River green has been a tradition since 1962. The vibrant green color pays homage to Chicago’s rich Irish roots and culture, and also symbolizes the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. The dye is environmentally friendly and usually fades away after a few hours.

Are there specific dress codes or traditions for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago?

While there’s no specific dress code (depending on where you go), wearing green is a popular tradition to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Many people wear green or Irish attire, accessories, or even costumes. It shows your spirit for the holiday, and adds to the fun and festive atmosphere.

How can I participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago in 2024?

To participate in the parade, groups or individuals typically need to apply in advance through the official parade website. There are specific categories for participation, including marching bands, dance groups, and floats. Check the website for application deadlines and participation fees if applicable.

What are the best Irish pubs to visit in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day?

Chicago boasts numerous Irish pubs that celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with live music, traditional Irish food, and plenty of Guinness. Some of the most popular ones include The Kerryman, Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant, and D4 Irish Pub & Café. Be sure to check their event schedules as many host special activities and live music for the occasion.

Can I bring my pet to the St. Patrick’s Day events in Chicago?

While many outdoor events might be pet-friendly, especially those in public spaces like the parade route, it’s important to check the specific event guidelines. Some indoor events or crowded areas might not be suitable for pets due to safety concerns or venue policies.

What transportation options are recommended for getting to the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Chicago?

Due to the large crowds and limited parking, public transportation is highly recommended. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) usually offers extra service to accommodate the increased demand. Consider using the ‘L’ trains or buses to get downtown. Ride-sharing and biking are also good options. Check the CTA website for schedules and any service adjustments.

Are there any St. Patrick’s Day runs or athletic events in Chicago?

Yes, Chicago hosts several St. Patrick’s Day themed runs and athletic events, including 5Ks and fun runs that often support local charities. These events are great for families and individuals looking to celebrate the holiday with a healthy activity. Check local event listings for details on how to register.

What are some traditional Irish foods to try during St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago?

St. Patrick’s Day is a perfect time to savor Irish cuisine. Look for traditional dishes like corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, Irish soda bread, and stew. Many restaurants and pubs in Chicago offer special menus for the holiday.

What special cruises are available for St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago?

City Cruises offers unique St. Patrick’s Day cruises including a Premier Plus Bottomless Mimosa Architectural Brunch Cruise with a curated menu and iconic landmark views, and a River Dyeing Cruise for up-close views of the river turning green, complete with traditional Irish music.

How can I experience the Chicago River dyeing tradition from the water?

The St. Patrick’s Day River Dyeing Cruise by City Cruises  provides an exclusive opportunity to witness the iconic green dyeing of the Chicago River from a unique vantage point on the water, enhanced by traditional Irish tunes.


Original Post Date: March 16, 2022