According to the 2013 census, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population claims Irish-American ancestry. It’s no wonder that in cities across the country crowds gather to commemorate this heritage each March. This week’s Bucket List brings you seven of the best U.S. destinations to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. While it’s a day rooted in history and religion, today it’s all about Irish pride and for many an annual excuse to drink dyed beer, wear emerald green and partake in what’s typically a raucous celebration. This year, March 17 falls on a Friday so there’s no excuse not to partake in the festivities.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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Irish pride is alive and well in Chicago and it's never more apparent than the week surrounding St. Patrick's Day when the city quite literally goes green from the skyline to the river. Festivities officially begin the Saturday before with the famous dying of the Chicago River. For more than 50 years, Chicago has been turning its river emerald green with the help of a hefty dose of vegetable dye. You can catch the spectacle on March 11 at 9:00 a.m. along the river near Columbus and Wacker drives. The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade, one of the biggest in the country, follows at noon. Grab a spot along Columbus Drive between Balbo and Monroe for a glimpse of floats and performers. In case one just isn't enough, the South Side Irish Parade offers you another shot on Sunday, March 12 at noon. With many of the official events happening the weekend before, it frees up actual St. Patrick's Day to celebrate in one (or many) of Chicago's Irish pubs. Noteworthy, but sure to be packed options include Galway Arms, Chief O'Neill's Pub and The Kerryman.
Photo by Max Talbot-Minkin, CC BY 2.0
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Savannah goes all out for St. Patrick's Day. For 190 years the city has been putting on a parade that at present is officially the second largest of its kind in the world. More than 300,000 spectators turn out to watch it as it winds through the Historic Park District for more than three hours. This year's parade will be held on St. Patrick's Day starting at 10:15 a.m. Savannah doesn't just have a parade and call it a day. A three-day St. Patrick's Day festival takes place between March 16 and 18 along the Savannah River on River Street and in City Market. From 10 a.m. until midnight there will be live entertainment, dance parties, food, drinks and more. Just in case you were still doubting Savannah's commitment to St. Patrick's Day, they also dye the fountains green for good measure.
Photo by Bruce Tuten, CC BY 2.0
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Philadelphia is packed with Irish pubs and pride year round, making it an obvious choice to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year. Like the other destinations on this list, Philly hosts a spectacular St. Patrick's Day Parade. It kicks off on Sunday, March 19 at noon this year, giving you plenty of time to recover from Friday's festivities. The parade features all the Irish dancers, elaborate floats and marching bands you'd expect. If you're planning on having a parade of your own from pub to pub, be sure to check out Erin Express. This free bar crawl takes place the two weekends leading up to St. Patrick's Day, March 4 and 1, and will take you to 15 Philly pubs. Plenty of the city's other drinking establishments will be hosting events to help patrons celebrate, including Fadó Irish Pub, McGillin's Olde Ale House and O'Neal's Pub.
Photo by Melody Joy Kramer, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Home to one of the country's largest Irish American populations, Boston has been reportedly celebrating St. Patrick's Day in an official capacity nearly 300 years. The festivities are considered the biggest outside of Ireland, with around a million people turning out to partake. Things kick off with the St. Patrick's Day Parade, held on March 19 at1:00 p.m., which features thousands of marchers performing Irish music and dance, representing various groups, riding floats and more. The parade winds for miles through South Boston, the city's predominately Irish neighborhood and home to its earliest Irish immigrants, and has occurred nearly every year since 1901.
Photo by greenmelinda, CC BY 2.0
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Irish history and heritage run deep in Washington, D.C. For example, the White House was designed by an Irish architect. In honor of its Irish heritage, Washington, D.C. hosts the annual Shamrock Festival, a full day of St. Patrick's Day shenanigans that also happens to be the largest St. Patrick's Day festival in the county. The event is held on March 11 from 2:00 to 10:00 p.m. at RFK Stadium and includes live Irish bands, carnival rides, dancers, food and more. On the following day, don't miss the annual St. Patrick's Parade. Floats and performers, including Irish step dancers and musicians, make their way down Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets. If you're looking for a little Guinness to fuel your festivities, the city has no shortage of Irish pubs to satisfy your thirst. The Dubliner in Capitol Hill, James Hoban's Irish Restaurant and Bar (named after the architect who designed the White House) in Dupont Circle and Fado in Chinatown are three well-known jaunts.
Photo by Victoria Pickering, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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New York City has been hosting its St. Patrick's Day Parade since the 1760s, making it the world's oldest parade of the day. It's also one of the biggest. An estimated three million people turn out to watch more than 300,000 people march for hours in the name of Irish heritage. As the parade makes its way down Fifth Avenue, it fittingly passes St. Patrick's Cathedral among other New York City sites. It kicks off at 11:00 a.m. at 44th Street.
Photo by Matthew Stroup, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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O'Neill, Nebraska might seem like an odd addition to this list, but this small city (population 3,700) is a bucket list-worthy St. Patrick's Day destination and for good reason. O'Neill was incorporated by Irish settles in the late 1880s and was subsequently dubbed the official Irish capital of Nebraska. Today it is home to the world's largest shamrock, which is touched up with a fresh coat of paint the week leading up to the day. The city's many other St. Patrick's Day festivities include a ceremony for inducting new honorees into the Irish Walk of Fame, a shamrock duck hunt, a shamrock fun run, parade and more.
Photo by Katie Morrow, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0