Big or small, almost every city in America that holds a St. Patrick's Day parade boasts that its parade is the largest in the nation, if not the world.
Chalk it up to Irish inventiveness. Or, as they proudly say in Ireland, "We're excellent liars."
But it’s no lie that the Irish love to celebrate. So put on a funny green hat and a T-shirt that says “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” and join the crowd in these top 10 party spots for a parade down Main Street USA, a pub crawl, some Celtic dancing, or at the very least, a foamy mug of Guinness or a shot of Irish whiskey.
Remember, everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day.
In some cities people celebrate special occasions by painting the town red; in Chicago they paint it green, including the Chicago River, which turns a lovely shade of Irish green each year when the town celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. It's an over-the-top tradition that gives Chicago a definite edge in the Best-Places-to-Party-on-St.-Pat's-Day competition.
For the past half century, a hardy band of celebrants has colored the river with vegetable dye, turning it from its usual murky green to emerald green, making it a fitting background for lots of other holiday activities.
This year the ritual will take place at 10:45 a.m. on March 16 (the day before St. Pat’s Day), just before the noon start of the downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade.
In addition, Chicagoland residents will celebrate by engaging in rowdy pub crawls, family-friendly festivals, a Spirit of Chicago cruise, Celtic celebrations and a host of other colorful activities.
Listen up when the Big Apple says its parade is the world’s largest, because in this case, it actually is. The March 16 parade will draw more than 200,000 participants and 2 million onlookers. The big event will march up Fifth Avenue, starting at 44th Street, at 11 a.m.
And that’s not all. There’s plenty of celebrating going on in the boroughs, with all five planning their own celebrations.
Borough parades are spread out through the month of March, so diehards have an excuse to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, every weekend. Among the parades:
• Rockaway, March 2
• Sunnyside/Woodside, Queens, March 3
• Staten Island, March 17
• Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, March 24
Beantown considers its holiday celebration the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because its South Boston parade is viewed by an estimated 600,000 to 1 million people, in addition to being aired live on TV.
Boston has an inside track when it comes to all things Irish: Almost a quarter of its residents are of Irish descent. And they really know how to party.
They also know how to throw a parade. They’ve been doing it longer than anyone else in the nation, since 1737, when the Irish Society of Boston held the first parade honoring St. Patrick. They beat Dublin, Ireland, by nearly 200 years.
This year’s parade will be on March. 17 at 1 p.m.
If you haven't heard the word "begorrah" pronounced with a southern drawl, hop on down to Savannah to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. The city doesn't have a green river like Chicago, but it manages to make sure that its park fountains and beer taps flow green.
Savannah's claim to fame is that it has "the second-largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the world." At least they don't try to pretend it’s the largest. Last year's parade drew about 250,000 people to the Savannah Historic District for the parade and River Street fracas that followed.
This year promises to be much the same, with the parade kicking off the festivities on March 16 and a weeklong celebration following with music, food and lots of drinking and cavorting on River Street and in City Market.
Blessed with the nickname Emerald City, Seattle revels in the annual opportunity to celebrate Ireland, the Emerald Isle.
They do it in a big way, with an entire week of events that kicks off March 16 with the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. The event, in its 42nd year, is a mile-long procession of about 2,000 marchers that moves along Fourth Avenue through downtown Seattle to Westlake Park.
The parade is one of 12 official Irish Week events, including a genealogy workshop, the Irish Soda Bread Cooking Contest, the St. Patrick's Day Dash and the Mayor's Proclamation Luncheon.
Unofficial events can be found taking place at pubs throughout the city.
It's always greener in Dublin, Ohio, no matter what time of year it is. At least, that's what they say in this small town near Columbus.
Named for the Irish birthplace of one of its founders, Dublin has only 41,000 residents, but it calls its parade "the greenest and grandest in the land."
What they lack in size, they make up for in attitude, say residents. “To be chosen to be part of the Grand Leprechaun tradition is a great honor for me,” says Cap Clegg, who will lead this year’s parade.
Dublin’s Greenest, Grandest St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at 11 a.m. March 16 at Metro Center.
Philadelphia prides itself on its links to America’s history. It also enjoys pointing out that its St. Patrick’s Day parade dates back to 1771—five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed—making it one of the oldest in the nation.
This year’s event kicks off at noon on March 10, at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard, then turns on the Ben Franklin Parkway and ends at 23rd and the Parkway. The theme is The Philadelphia Irish Memorial: A Decade of Remembrance.
Organized by the St. Patrick’s Observance Association, the parade draws more than a half-million viewers annually.
(Photo: Irish Herald)
With 4 million residents of Irish descent in the Bay Area, San Francisco has staked a claim to the title of "Biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade West of the Mississippi." And the Irish pubs in the City by the Bay have staked a claim to the title of "Rowdiest Celebrations West of the Mississippi."
The 162nd annual San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade & Festival kicks off at 11:30 a.m. March 16, marching from Second and Market streets to the Civic Center. Meanwhile, the festival will take place in front of City Hall from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Looking for happening pubs? Try O'Reilly's in North Beach and Johnny Foley's near Union Square.
A St. Patrick's Day Parade with stage coaches and wagon trains? Only in Denver, where the Old West reigns, even when the celebration centers on Ireland and the Irish.
Denver's parade, which it claims is "one of the biggest in the nation," kicks off at 10 a.m. on March 16 and will run until about 1:30.
(Photo: Steve Hull)
They'll be flying high in St. Louis when the annual "Rite of Spring" St. Patrick's Day Parade begins its march down Market Street to Broadway at 12:30 p.m., March 16.
The parade, which organizers call "one of the largest in the country," features huge helium-filled cartoon-character balloons, much to the delight of children along the parade route.
The event usually draws more than 350,000 spectators to watch floats, marching bands, dance groups, animal and motorized units.
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