Update: The City of Chicago is postponing the St. Patrick’s Day 2020 parades and river dyeing as a precautionary measure to prevent further spread of the COVID-19. Check back for updates on 2021 festivities.
From raucous pub crawls to lively parades, there nothing quite like St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. In March, Irish taverns are packed with revelers, jovial crowds fill the city streets, and the Chicago River sparkles brilliant shades of emerald green.
Explore St. Patrick’s Day events in Chicago.
Downtown St. Patrick’s Day events
Chicago River dyeing
One of the world’s most famous St. Patrick’s Day traditions, the Chicago River is dyed emerald green each year. The river dyeing is a beloved tradition for many generations of Chicagoans that dates back over half a century.
Each year, thousands of spectators will line the bridges and scenic riverwalk to catch a glimpse of the bright green waters. Get there early to grab a spot between State and Columbus; the water starts turning green at 9 a.m. and only keeps its color for about five hours, so don’t miss it!
Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade
Experience one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country. The 65th annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the centerpiece of the city’s unforgettable St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
The procession travels north on Columbus Drive, beginning at Balbo Drive and ending at Monroe Drive. Don your best green outfit or kilt and grab a good spot before the parade starts at noon. Plan on seeing plenty of colorful floats waving their Irish flags high, troops of Irish step dancers, marching bands, bagpipers, and more during the three-hour celebration.
St. Patrick Festival at Irish American Heritage Center
After the downtown parade, head north to the Irish American Heritage Center for one of the city’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The family-oriented St. Patrick Festival features traditional and contemporary Irish music and dance, food and drink for purchase, children’s activities, and vendors selling Irish gifts. Visit the center’s library, art gallery and museum for programming and exhibits, such as Irish language lessons, a genealogy workshop, and a book sale. Entertainment includes the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, The Chancey Brothers, Trinity Irish Dancers, and more.
South Side Irish Parade
A long-time tradition, the South Side Irish Parade is a family-friendly celebration of Irish heritage. The Beverly neighborhood parade steps off at noon from 103rd Street and proceeds south down Western Avenue to 115th Street.
Line the route with 150,000 fellow revelers to watch the bands, dance troupes and parade queen, or stop inside the neighborhood bars to raise a pint with the locals. Earn those pints during the Emerald Isle Mile, a one-mile race that kicks off just before the parade at 11:30 a.m.
Northwest Side Irish Parade
Enjoy this fun community event that celebrates faith, family and Irish heritage. The Northwest Side Irish Parade kicks off at noon and winds through the Norwood Park neighborhood, beginning at William J. Onahan School running south on Neola Avenue to Northwest Highway, then heading north on Northwest Highway up to Harlem Avenue.
Stay for an after-party at St. Thecla Falcon Hall (6725 W. Devon Ave.) from 1 – 5 p.m. that includes a corned beef and cabbage dinner, cheesecake, beer, wine, soda, and live entertainment. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 kids age 3 to 10, plus $5 for a drink wristband for guests 21 and older.
Shamrock’n The Block
From the folks that brought you the World’s Largest Block Party, this new neighborhood celebration will take over the space in front of Old St. Pat’s near the West Loop. The outdoor “pub” will offer beer, corned beef sandwiches, live entertainment, and a family-friendly kids zone.
Check out out guide to more St. Patrick’s Day neighborhood celebrations.
Special events & performances
After nearly two decades and more than 2,000 live shows, Gaelic Storm — the chart-topping, multi-national Celtic band — performs at House of Blues Chicago for two high-energy nights of traditional Irish music with modern influences
Wendella’s St. Patrick’s Day cruise
Experience a Chicago tradition up close on Wendella Sightseeing Boats. View the annual dyeing of the Chicago River while listening to festive Irish music. The 21+ cruise, which goes from 9 – 11 a.m., includes a full-service bar (with green beer, of course).
Wendella is also offering a kids cruise from 9 – 10:15 a.m. Family-friendly activities and a full cash bar will be offered while on board, and festive attire is encouraged.
Shoreline Sightseeing architecture river cruise
Shoreline Sightseeing will kick off their pre-season tours on St. Patrick’s Day weekend with their classic architecture river cruises. Sail above the emerald green waters while learning about the city’s most iconic buildings and skyscrapers. The 60-minute tours depart from 10:45 a.m. – 4 p.m. all weekend long.
Spirit of Chicago St. Patrick’s Day lunch cruise
Expect a sea of green aboard the Spirit of Chicago lunch cruise. Take to the waters of Lake Michigan on a scenic 2-hour boat ride from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Enjoy a full lunch menu with classic options corned beef and cabbage, plus green beer available for purchase. Celebrate with music, dancing and St. Patrick’s Day decorations with the city skyline as your backdrop.
Chicago’s First Lady Clover Cruises
Witness the dyeing of the Chicago River for St. Patrick’s Day like never before – from the inaugural St. Patrick’s Day Clover Cruise from Chicago’s First Lady Cruises! Board their luxurious vessels and experience live bagpipers, specialty Irish drinks and eats, a festive photo booth, and more. Cruises depart at at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12 p.m., and 12:30 p.m.
Siamsa Na Ngael: Celtic Celebration
The annual Siamsa na nGael celebration features Celtic song, dance and story-telling. This year’s celebration will tell the story of a brave Irish woman who devoted herself to community organizing and advancing the rights of workers.