Best St. Patrick’s Day Events in the Country

March 13, 2019 by Steven M. Peters

Source: Stephanie Keith / Getty Images
Starting in 1845, the year the potato blight hit Ireland, nearly 2 million Irish refugees fled their famine-stricken homeland and found their way to the United States. About 37,000 Irish settled in Boston alone. By 1890 there were 4.8 million Irish (including second-generation), or 13% of the population living in the United States.

Along with their labor and culture, Irish immigrants brought what is now a major tradition in this country. March 17th, historically celebrated as the Feast of St. Patrick, became a day for Irish immigrants to honor not just the Saint, but their homeland.

As early as 1766, Irish soldiers in the British army held the first official St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, and with the influx of immigrants in the next century, small St. Patrick’s Day gatherings held by Irish civic organizations grew into large celebrations of Irish heritage.

Now, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, and definitely a cultural staple across the United States, especially in cities that saw large Irish influxes in the 1800s.

To compile a list of the best St. Patrick’s Day events in the country, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed dozens of events in large cities and small towns across the U.S., rating them on participant numbers, crowd size, and unusual highlights.

Click here to read about the best St. Patrick’s day events in the country.

Source: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism / Flickr

The Irish roots run deep
> Location: Yarmouth, Massachusetts
> Time: 3/9/2019

While just over 20% of Massachusetts residents have Irish ancestry, Cape Cod boasts around 30% . So it’s no surprise that the Yarmouth St. Patrick’s parade, the biggest on Cape Cod, is a spectacular event.

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Source: Kevin Burkett / Flickr

All-aboard the Erin Express
> Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Time: 3/16/2019

Philly’s Erin Express is an extended bar crawl that takes place over two weekends around St. Patrick’s Day. The Erin Express runs free shuttle buses on a continuous loop to over 20 bars in the city.

Source: Dannel Malloy / Wikimedia Commons

Biggest single-day event in Connecticut
> Location: New Haven, Connecticut
> Time: 3/10/2019

Since 1842, New Haven has been hosting a St. Patrick’s parade that is the 6th oldest in the nation and is now the biggest spectator event in Connecticut, drawing a crowd of over 300,000 people.

Source: srobanion / Getty Images

The world-famous green river
> Location: Chicago, Illinois
> Time: 3/11/2019

In a decades-long tradition, the Chicago River runs emerald green once a year as the city hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country. Over 2 million people come out for the festivities, which feature floats, bagpipes, and Irish step dancing.

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Source: Courtesy of Bud Light ShamRock Fest

If you like skiing, you’ll love ShamRock Fest
> Location: Dover, Vermont
> Time: 3/15/2019

Vermont’s Mount Snow hosts a weekend-long festival for skiers that features a pot o’ gold scavenger hunt, live Irish music, discounted lift tickets, and a breakfast of “eggs and kegs” on Saturday morning.

Source: Courtesy of Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau

The only bi-state parade in the country
> Location: Davenport, Iowa
> Time: 3/15/2019

Marching from Rock Island, Illinois, across the Mississippi River into Davenport, Iowa, the Quad Cities Grand parade is the only bi-state St. Patrick’s parade in the country and attracts tens of thousands of spectators every year.

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Source: peeterv / Getty Images

The shortest St. Paddy’s parade in the world
> Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
> Time: 3/15/2019

At 98 feet long, the Hot Springs, Arkansas, St. Patrick’s parade route may be short, but it features the world’s largest inflatable leprechaun. The weekend-long festivities, which bring out 30,000 people yearly, also feature Irish Elvis impersonators and an Arkansas Blarney Stone kissing contest.

Source: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

It’s a Mardi Gras/St. Patrick’s Day event
> Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
> Time: 3/15/2019

New Orleans loves a good parade, so it’s not surprising that the city hosts multiple parades as part of the biggest St. Patrick’s celebration in the country for the last 200 years. In addition to throwing beads in classic Mardi Gras fashion, float riders also throw potatoes and cabbages to the crowd.

Source: rustyl3599 / Getty Images

No open container law = epic tailgating
> Location: Savannah, Georgia
> Time: 3/15/2019

Savannah’s biggest party every year is the St. Patrick’s Celebration on the River, which draws 400,000 people and features dyed-green fountains, live music all day, and hours of tailgating parties before one of the oldest St. Patrick’s parades in the country. Due to the absence of any open container laws, Savannah is a popular party destination.

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Source: Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

The oldest and largest in the country
> Location: New York, New York
> Time: 3/16/2019

New York City’s St. Patrick’s parade is not only the largest in the country, drawing 2 million spectators annually, it’s also the oldest. Established in 1762, the parade now lasts up to five hours and features more than 150,000 marchers and performers.

Source: Courtesy of Discover Newport

The event features reenactments
> Location: Newport, Rhode Island
> Time: 3/16/2019

A city with a rich history of Irish immigration, Newport, Rhode Island, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with traditional Irish elements like fife and drum corps, bagpipe marching bands, and historical reenactments.

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Source: Vicki Moore / Wikimedia Commons

The largest St. Patrick’s Day parade west of the Mississippi
> Location: San Francisco, California
> Time: 3/16/2019

Another hotspot of Irish immigration, mostly around the mid 1800s goldrush, San Francisco hosts the largest St. Patrick’s parade west of the Mississippi. Going on 168 years and drawing over 100,000 celebrants, the parade features floats, Irish dance troupes, marching bands, and Irish poetry.

Source: AndreyKrav / Getty Images

Tater-tot eating contest? Yes, please
> Location: San Antonio, Texas
> Time: 3/16/2019

San Antonio’s River Walk festival is not your average St. Patrick’s event. Instead of hosting a street parade, this city dyes its river green and hosts a floating procession of decorated boats carrying live bands and Irish dancers. There’s also a tater-tot eating contest.

Source: White House / David Lienemann / Wikimedia Commons

Second largest St. Patrick’s parade in the country
> Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
> Time: 3/16/2019

Pittsburgh’s parade, established in 1869, is expected to be the second largest St. Patrick’s parade in the country this year, with 23,000 participants on the roster. With Pittsburgh’s population being about 14% Irish, that towering representation is not surprising.

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Source: Steve Voght / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s like the World Expo of Irish culture
> Location: Seattle, Washington
> Time: 3/16/2019

Though it kicks off with a parade, Seattle’s weekend-long St. Patrick’s Day Festival is so much more than just a spectacle. It’s a complete cultural immersion, featuring Irish music, step dancing, jigs, visual arts, games, and even a marketplace selling Irish products. There are also Irish genealogy and language workshops.

Source: Courtesy of Hannah K. via Yelp

Two parades!
> Location: Buffalo, New York
> Time: 3/16/2019

That’s right, Buffalo, New York, holds two parades for St. Patrick’s Day, one on Saturday and a big one on Sunday. The first goes through the Old First Ward, a historic Irish immigrant neighborhood. The next day after Sunday mass, the big parade features Irish dancers, marching bands, and numerous local civic organizations.

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Source: Scott Eisen / Getty Images

The most Irish descendants in the country
> Location: Boston, Massachusetts
> Time: 3/17/2019

Boston has the most Irish descendants–and Irish pubs–in the country. Attracting up to 1 million spectators annually, the city’s St. Patrick’s parade is the third largest in the country. Boston also hosts an Irish film festival and a days-long concert series in celebration of Irish heritage.

Source: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

St. Patrick’s Road Race
> Location: Holyoke, Massachusetts
> Time: 3/17/2019

Called a “miniature Boston marathon,” — the course is only 6.2 miles — Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Road Race turns into a block party once everyone has crossed the finish line. Around 7,000 runners and tens of thousands of spectators attend the event, after which the city holds a pageant, a JFK memorial Award dinner and, of course, a parade.

Source: Patrick Hoesly / Flickr

Irish Parade & Snake Saturday
> Location: Kansas City, Missouri
> Time: 3/17/2019

Kansas City, Missouri’s Snake Saturday celebration is named after the Irish myth of St. Patrick driving the snakes (actually the pagans) out of Ireland. Though there are no snakes, there is a charity cook-off, a weekend-long carnival, and a parade that draws 200,000 spectators.

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Source: Usaf 1832 / Wikimedia Commons

The parade is the largest in the state
> Location: Cleveland, Ohio
> Time: 3/17/2019

The oldest and largest St. Patrick’s parade in Ohio, Cleveland’s parade attracts up to 500,000 people and always takes place on March 17, no matter what day of the week that is. Around 13,000 residents march in the parade, which features kilted bagpipe bands, Irish dancers, and even Irish wolfhounds.

Source: Brad Tutterow / Flickr

It’s where runners go
> Location: St Louis, Missouri
> Time: 3/17/2019

St. Louis kicks off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities with a 5-mile run through downtown, with over 8,000 runners. Then there’s a huge parade that draws 250,000 spectators, and to top it all off, a formal “Meet the Irish” dinner at the Hilton.

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Source: Kris Connor / Getty Images for ShamrockFest

Coachella of St. Patrick’s Day
> Location: Washington, D.C.
> Time: 3/23/2019

Washington, D.C.’s Shamrock Fest, the largest St. Patrick’s Day festival in the country, is a five-stage event that features over 50 Irish bands along with Irish dancers, performers, and DJs. In addition to the live entertainment, there’s an Irish village, a carnival, and a parade down Constitution Avenue.

Source: DenisTagneyJr / Getty Images

The Shamrock Shuffle
> Location: Manchester, New Hampshire
> Time: 3/31/2019

Starting with a half-marathon, then offering a shorter 2-mile “Shamrock Shuffle,” the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, celebrates St. Patrick’s season after most other cities have finished their festivities. Around 70,000 participants come out for one last parade, complete with bagpipe marching bands and fife and drum corps.