7 Superlative St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
Where to get your Irish on By Jody Halsted on Feb 28, 2014
With St. Patrick’s Day falling during what is spring break for many families, it’s a great opportunity to get your Irish on during a family getaway. While nearly every American town throws a party or a parade, these seven celebrations stand out in superlative fashion.
Best Pre-Parade Event: Chicago, Illinois
One of the Windy City’s most beloved annual events happens a few hours before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins, as spectators line up to watch as 100 pounds of dye is dumped into the Chicago River to turn the water Kelly green. Later, hundreds of thousands of spectators cheer as the parade of floats, dancers, and marching bands follow a route just blocks from Lake Michigan.
Most Interesting Backstory: Boston, Massachusetts
Beantown’s deep connection with St. Patrick’s Day goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1776, the British army evacuated Boston after witnessing 1,200 local militiamen and 55 cannons positioned on Dorchester Heights, the highest location in South Boston. (The password used by revolutionaries on that day was "St. Patrick.") Modern-day Bostonians enjoy an entire week of festivities leading up to the big St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston, whose route ends, fittingly, near Dorchester Heights.
Biggest Parade: New York City, New York
New York City’s legendary St. Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in the world. Nearly two million spectators come out each year to see over 150,000 bagpipers and marching band members pass along a 1.5 mile route that proceeds up Fifth Avenue, from 44th Street to 79th Street. For the best viewing, be sure to get there early and stake out a spot. The crowds are usually thinnest above 64th Street.
Most Notable Start-Up: Hot Springs, Arkansas
An Arkansas tradition only since 2004, this St. Patrick’s Day parade attracts a crowd of nearly 30,000 to 98-foot-long Bridge Street, said to be the shortest street in the world. Every year, tiny Hot Springs and its diminutive parade manages to find a celebrity grand marshal (this year, it’s Jim Belushi) plus an assortment of Elvis impersonators, dancing leprechauns, and other quirky revelers.
Biggest Street Party: New Orleans, Louisiana
To honor St. Patrick, New Orleans doesn’t dedicate a day so much as a season. With nine St. Patrick’s parades, block parties, and celebrations rolling from mid-March through early April, the Big Easy turns into one big street party. Parade routes are lined with picnickers ready to watch bands, dancers, and stunning floats.
Most Genteel: Savannah, Georgia
Sultry Savannah has been holding a St. Patrick's parade since 1813 and draws more than 400,000 spectators for the event. The three-hour parade route goes through the city’s gorgeous Historic Park District, with its many green spaces and fountains where green water flows for the day.
Most Low-Key: Enterprise, Alabama
The puny parade in Enterprise, in southwestern Alabama, includes but a single marcher and takes only a few minutes—just long enough to walk one city block and back. At noon on St. Patrick’s Day the lone marcher leaves the Coffee County Courthouse steps, waving the Irish tri-color and circling the Boll Weevil Monument before returning to the courthouse for a traditional reception.