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Where to see the best St Patrick's Day Parades

Updated on December 27, 2011

Best St Patrick Day Parades

If you want to go see a great St Patrick's Day parade - or even just watch on television - there are a lot of options. Irish people have emigrated from the Emerald Isle to live all over the world, bringing with them the tradition of celebrating Saint Patrick on March 17th each year. Some of the best St Patrick's Day parades take place in the United States where Irish Americans have been honoring Saint Patrick for over two centuries. And of course, Ireland also has its own parades and celebrations, as wel las those in many other countries around the world.

No one can definitely say which parades are 'best' - it is personal opinion. However, read on for my personal pick of the biggest, brightest and most unusual St Patrick's Day parades in...

  • The United States
  • Ireland
  • The rest of the world

Chicago's river dyed green for St Patrick's Day
Chicago's river dyed green for St Patrick's Day

Best St Patrick's Day Parades in the United States

The United States is where St Patrick's Day is celebrated in the grandest style. Hundreds of thousands of people line the streets in some cities for the parades, which can take hours to pass. Here are my personal favorites...

1. New York has the oldest, largest and probably the most famous St Patrick's Day parade. Irish Americans in New York have been celebrating St Patrick's Day since 1764. There are usually about 150,000 participants in the New York St Patrick's Day parade, including Irish dancers, firefighters, police groups and, of course, a few leprechauns as well! The parade takes around five hours to complete its route along fifth avenue in Manhattan. The New York parade is extremely popular with Americans and Irish alike, so make sure you make your travel plans well in advance, and get down to 5th avenue early to get a good viewing spot.

2. New Orleans is not famous as a center of Irish American culture, but in fact the city has been historically the major entry port for Irish immigrants to the Southern states and continues to be home to a substantial population of Irish Americans. New Orleans is host to a variety of small scale parades and bloc parties, with St Patrick's Day being celebrated as a community event. The parades in New Orleans have the unusual tradition of throwing vegetables such as potatoes and cabbages from the floats into the crowds of onlookers. If you are quick with your hands, you can grab enough ingredients for an Irish stew! Some of the best mini-parades in New Orleans are found in the French Quarter, the Irish Channel and along the Metairie Road.

3. Chicago is home to a large population of Irish descent, sometimes known as the 'Chirish' - short for Chicago Irish. The St Patrick's Day parade in Chicago is well known for the tradition of dying the river green. The Chicago parade also features the Queen of the Parade - a local Irish beauty who is chosen in February, and who heads up the parade with her entourage known as the 'Queen's court'. Many Irish-themed events surround the parade during the week of St Patrick's Day (17th March). You can get details from the Chicago Reader online.

4. Savannah has been organizing St Patrick's Day parades since 1824, through the Hibernian Society. In this Georgia city, the fountains are dyed green in the days leading up to St Patrick's Day. The parade travels through Savannah's historic district, and there also events to be found at the waterfront area. The Savannah parade claims to the be the second largest in the United States, with 400,000 people expected in 2011.

5. Seattle has generally been recognized as the best place to see a St Patrick's Day parade in the Northwestern United States. The city is home to an Irish Week Festival in mid-march with events including an Irish Soda Bread baking competition and a mass for peace which brings together Catholics and Protestants. The St Patrick's Day Parade takes a one mile route through the center of Seattle's financial and retail districts.

Traditionally St Patrick's Day parades in Ireland were simple religious events.
Traditionally St Patrick's Day parades in Ireland were simple religious events.
St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin.
St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin.

St Patrick's Day and Irish Protestants

St Patrick is a saint recognized by the Catholic Church as one of three patron saints of Ireland and also by the Anglican Church of Ireland. However, Ireland is also home to notable numbers of other Protestant denominations, especially Presbyterians in Northern Ireland. How do they feel about St Patrick's Day?

You can read up on the history of Irish Protestants and St Patrick's Day by clicking on the link to take you to my article: Can Orange mix with Green?

St Patrick's Day Parades in Ireland

Ireland is of course, home to St Patrick's Day but in fact parades traditionally have been low-key until recent years. With the growth in popularity of St Patrick's Day in the US, Irish cities have started to organize bigger and brighter parades. And of course the pub scene in Ireland on St Patrick's Day is second to none. Here's where to find the best St Patrick's Day parades in Ireland...

Dublin is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, and hosts the largest St Patrick's Day parade. The parade takes place as part of Dublin's St Patrick's festival in mid March, alongside a host of family friendly musical and cultural events. The Dublin parade is made up of marching bands, dancers and multicultural performers - reflecting the new, more cosmopolitan Irish identity. Each year (check for dates) the parade starts at 11am at the Metro Centre and makes its way through the historic center of Dublin. Grandstand tickets are available for 60 euros (about 75 dollars) if you prefer to avoid the crowds and get a guaranteed good view of the bands.

For more information on the festival, travel to and within Ireland and accomodation in Dublin, check out the Bord Failte website:

Cork, Galway and Limerick are other smaller cities in the Republic of ireland which also host public celebrations on St Patrick's Day.

Derry/ Londonderry is probably the best place to enjoy St Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland. The historic walled city hosts a series of events in the Guildhall Square all day, with a parade through the city center usually starting at 2.30pm. The people of Derry like to dress up for the event, so expect to see shamrocks and green leprechaun hats aplenty!

Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, also hosts notable festivities in the Custom Square area, while some smaller towns in Northern Ireland will hold public events but others prefer to let people celebrate privately at community level.

A note of caution, while the celebration of St Patrick's Day is growing in Northern Ireland and is coming to be more accepted by the Protestant population of Northern Ireland, it can still be viewed as contentious. If celebrating St Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland, make sure to attend well organized city center events such as those in Belfast and Derry - they will be safest and most suitable for families.

Sydney Opera House lit up green for St Patrick's Day. Shared under Creative Commons 3.0.
Sydney Opera House lit up green for St Patrick's Day. Shared under Creative Commons 3.0.

St Patrick's Day in the rest of the world

Canada is home to many Irish emigrants, and there are significant St Patrick's Day parades in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec.

Britain, being Ireland's neighbor has received many Irish immigrants over the years. Birmingham hosts the largest St Patrick's Day parade, while Manchester has a two week Irish festival in March. Glasgow and Liverpool are also known for hosting lively St Patrick's Day celebrations including parades.

Australia and New Zealand also see St Patrick's Day celebrations each year. Many cities in both countries will be filled with green-wearing revelers on March 17th, with parties starting early and lasting well into the night.

For something completely different why not try Buenos Aires? The city is home to the largest population of Irish descent in Latin America. The downtown area of the Argentinian capital hosts an annual parade, as well as stages for dancing and cultural displays in San Martin's Square.

Or for a tropical St Patrick's Day, go to Monserrat. The tiny Caribbean island is home to descendants of Irish who escaped from plantations in nearby islands. Monserrat, known as 'the other Emerald Isle' is the only country outside of Ireland where St Patrick's Day is an offical public holiday.

Whatever way you chose to spend the day, I wish you... Lá Fhéile Phadriag Shona... Happy St Patrick's Day!


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