St. Patrick’s Day – How to Celebrate the Perfect Chicago Holiday

St. patrick’s day

how to celebrate the perfect chicago holiday



Bethany Rae, March 12, 2019

St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect Chicago holiday, as it gives the city an excuse to do the two things it loves best: carrying on tradition and throwing a great party. And while Northern Fork is pleased to be your 2019 guide to all things green, we’d like to first take a little stroll down the cobblestone streets of yesteryear…and explore just how this unique jubilee came to be.

Throughout history, many countries have celebrated March 17th as a feast holiday, one that honors St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. But did you know the honoree wasn’t even Irish? Born in the mid 300s, Patrick was kidnapped from his homeland (Roman Britain) by pirates and taken to live as a slave on the Isle, where he was made to herd and tend sheep. A devout Catholic, Patrick held tight to his faith, even amidst the druids and pagans of 4th century Ireland. A few years later, he escaped to the coast where he managed a spot on a boat which brought him home. His homecoming was short-lived, however, as it is said Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 to “bring Christianity to its people.” Before his death (March 17th, 461), he had established countless monasteries, churches, and schools throughout the island. Many legends and symbols surround the man (for one, that he used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity)…but it was mainly the emigrants of the United States who turned this religious feastday into a week of Irish revelry. In fact, St. Patrick’s Day was a dry holiday for over a thousand years. If you’d believe it, bars in Ireland were closed! It wasn’t until the 1970s that March 17th became a day of drinking, and Chicago is certainly making up for lost time. Whether or not you’re a fan of the famed green beer, there are plenty of ways to celebrate in and around the windy city.

The South Side Parade. With more than 15,000 marchers and 250,000 onlookers, this spectacle is credited as The largest Irish parade outside of Dublin and it certainly tops the list. The Southtown parade began in 1953 but was later combined with what is now known as the South Side Parade (which history claims started in a neighborhood driveway in 1979). Typically held the Sunday prior to St. Pat’s, the SSP will take place on Sunday 3-17 this year. The parade will step off at noon, at 103rd, and proceed south down Western to 115th. Enjoy bands, dancers, and the crowned parade queen. Decidedly neighborhood-oriented, this parade is the more family-friendly of the two famous Chitown shindigs; And it should be mentioned that there is a zero tolerance policy for alcohol along the parade route.

The North Side (Downtown) Parade. Also very well attended, the North Side Parade occurs the Saturday before SPD and will be in full swing 3-16 this year. Loaded with floats, dancers, bagpipers and bands, this three hour parade will step off at noon, at Balbo, and travel north- down Columbus Drive to Monroe. {Tickets for VIP Grandstand Seating can be purchased here.} This parade offers the perfect opportunity to catch a glimpse of the renowned Dyeing of the Chicago River– a tradition started in 1962 when union worker Stephen Bailey dumped 100 pounds of dye into the river as a method of detecting pollution. The river remained green for an entire week. These days, the city takes a more environmentally-friendly approach, using a natural vegetable compound that keeps the water looking emerald green for five hours.

Fun fact: the dye is actually orange.

What To Do ArounD The Area

The House of Blues will be hosting Gaelic Storm for a weekend-long celebration of Gaelic music, performed by this world-recognized band.

3-15-19 and 3-16-19  329 N Dearborn Street

$36 (single day) or $60 for a two-day ticket

What about Wendella’s St. Patrick’s Day cruise? Offered by Wendella Sight Seeing Boats, this 9-11am cruise promises a unique up-close-and-personal view of the green river, and includes a full service bar (with, yes, green beer).

3-16-19  400 N Michigan Ave



{Please note: this cruise is ages 21+…however, they do have a family-friendly Kid Cruise (8:45am-10:15) with on-board activities and a cash bar.}

Or enjoy an authentic experience: St. Patrick Festival at the American Heritage Center. With something for everyone, the center is lining up all sorts of traditional entertainment- from bands to dancers. Expect family activities as well as vendors selling food, drinks, and gifts.

3-16-19 (1pm) or 3-17-19 (noon) 4626 N Knox Ave

$12- $15 Adults (children 12 and under are free)

The Shamrock Shuffle may be the healthiest way to celebrate the holiday, with their annual St. Patrick’s Day themed races. Enjoy an 8k run that weaves its way through the Loop, beginning and ending in Grant Park, or a 2mi walk which is a scenic course along the lakefront.

{For registration and fee information, go here.}


Looking for something festive without the commitment of a full-on bash? We got you. Here are some places to eat and drink in Chicago.

Wilde Bar and Restaurant (3130 N Broadway)- A weekend-long celebration; Come for the traditional music and Irish dancers, stay for the shepherd’s pie and Reuben sandwiches (made with with molasses-glazed corned beef, of course).

Kerryman (661 N Clark Street)- With St. Pat’s offerings like corned beef hash and black angus ribeye and chips, this upscale Irish pub is the place to enjoy the weekend with a less rowdy crowd.

Lady Gregory’s (5260 N Clark Street)- Named after the Irish folklore author, this cozy venue serves comfort classics like fish and chips and pot pie, with over 300 whiskeys with which to wash them down.

{TripSavvy lists their 2019 picks for top ten Chicago whiskey bars here.}


We also know that not everyone wants to brave the city bustle to celebrate ol’ Pat. So here is a look at suburban happenings that are sure to appeal to your Irish spirit.

3-15-19 New Lenox Flashlight Clover Hunt

2366 Nelson Road

7:15pm ages 3-5; 7:30 ages 6-11


Dress weather-appropriately for this outdoor event located at Nelson Prairie Park. Be sure to bring a container to carry home all your clovers and shamrocks. A few prizes will be hidden as well! (No registration required)

3-16-19 Naperville St. Patrick’s Parade/ St. Paddy’s 5k

899 N Mill Street

8am 5k; 10am parade

Enjoy a low-key neighborhood parade starting at the Naperville North High School or partake in the 5k, which begins at Jackson and West (near Centennial Beach). The parade is free but there is a cost to run: $40 for adults or $25 ages 14 and younger. Register for the race here.

Can’t wait for St Patrick’s Day? Northern Fork’s March Special just happens to be Corned Beef and Cabbage (served with roasted potatoes and carrots, accompanied by creamy horseradish sauce and a rye roll) as well as Shamrock Whoopie Pies (soft cakes filled with mint frosting, Nutella, and a graham cracker cookie); And it’s available now. Isn’t that lucky.

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