Believe it or not, celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with parades didn’t originate in Ireland, but instead started and became popular in North American colonies centuries ago. What began as a Catholic feast day and gained more recognition with these colonial celebrations is today one of America’s biggest cultural holidays. More than 31 million people in the U.S. claim Irish ancestry—that’s more than six times the population of Ireland. As this lucky group of people expanded over the centuries, so too did American St. Paddy’s Day traditions. Chicago, for instance, gained fame for dyeing its river green, while other places are now known for their elaborate pageants, pub crawls or long processions of marching bagpipers. This year, Americans are projected to spend $6.85 billion on the holiday.
But not every city that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day is worth kissing the Irish for. WalletHub compared 200 of the largest cities across 15 key metrics to find the best places to wear green and save some, too. The data set ranges from Irish pubs and restaurants per capita to the lowest price for a three-star hotel on St. Patrick’s Day to the weather forecast.
The Big Apple tied for the most Irish bars and restaurants per capita, helping it land in fifth place overall. NYC, like most of the top cities in these rankings, was where many Irish families originally immigrated to and settled; so it’s no surprise that these cities are some of the best places to celebrate this holiday. Professor Joseph Valente explains more: “St. Patrick’s day is an ethnic celebration of a group, the Irish, who are likely the most numerous and influential of the nationalities to come over during the Great Industrial Immigration of 1851-1900. The Irish came to America in great waves, and they did so early enough to have imprinted their traditions on American culture. The pattern of their immigration and residency contributed as well to the popularity of their national day. The Irish settled densely in the great American metroplexes—New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston—which have historically been the hubs of American culture, the centers of media communication, and the places where popular trends are initiated and arbitrated.
New York is also one of the safer places to celebrate the holiday and tied for the least DUI-related fatalities per capita; the city’s access to public transportation and ride share services likely contributed to this statistic. The city’s parade is held annually on March 17th at precisely 11:00 AM in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York. The parade route goes up Fifth Avenue beginning at East 44th Street and ending at East 79th Street. Approximately 150,000 people march in the parade which draws about 2 million spectators.
One of the two Pennsylvania cities in the top 5, Pittsburgh has the fourth largest Irish population by percentage. It’s good scores in safety and accessibility, along with an eighth place ranking for St. Patrick’s Day traditions—a metric that include number of parades, events, Irish history, and Irish bars and establishments—led it to fourth place overall.
The Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day parade has been a staple for the city of Pittsburgh dating back to the mid-1800s. Over the years, it has evolved in scope and planning until it formed what it is today; the third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country. This year’s parade is scheduled for March 11, 2023.
Chicago and nearby Illinois towns Aurora and Naperville all tied for third place in the rankings for lowest average beer price. Chi-town also has some of the most traditions and celebrations, thanks to their local culture and history and numerous Irish residents. Naperville also has the largest percentage of Irish residents and ranks No. 8 and is the most budget-friendly, thanks to great hotel prices and low travel costs, so adding this nearby town makes the Chicago area an even better pick for St. Paddy’s celebrations.
Be sure to check out the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 11th, and head to the Loop to see the Chicago Plumbers Union Local 130 dye the river green. The dye is vegetable-based, so the river typically reverts to its usual murky shade by the end of the weekend. The Chicago River dyeing takes place between Columbus Drive and State Street, so head to the Michigan Avenue bridge or snag a spot along the Riverwalk for the best views of the action. There’s also the South Side Irish parade, Northwest Side Irish parade, an Irish film festival, and Shamrock Shuffle 8k run.
The Irish in Philadelphia first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 1771, five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed! The first documented St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Parade in Philadelphia was held in 1771, marking over 250 continuous years of celebrations. The current parade, which is hosted by the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association, was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1952. This year’s parade will be held on March 12th. The Commemorative Parade Mass is also held the morning of the parade, in Saint Patrick’s Church at 20th and Locust Streets in Center City. This year prior to the mass, the Procession of the Grand Marshal and the Board Members will be led by the Emerald Society Pipe Band. The National Anthem of Ireland will be sung by Karen Boyce McCollum, and the National Anthem of The United States will be sung by Frank Gallagher.
The city also hosts several different bar crawls, musical events and entertainment, and even a family-friendly leprechaun hunt. While fairly affordable and safe, the city also took second place in the St. Patrick’s Day traditions category thanks to its many Irish residents and rich history.
Boston comes out on top when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Along with the fourth highest number of Irish pubs and bars per capita, Beantown also took top place in the St. Patrick’s Day traditions category due to its large number of festivities and events, Irish population, history, and culture. While there’s no need to venture outside of the city for festivities, tourists can also make a stop at nearby Worcester, MA which comes in at an impressive No. 12. Worcester also ranked third for highest share of Irish population.
Bostonians were the first to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in North America. On March 17, 1737, as a gesture of solidarity among the city’s new Irish immigrants, Boston’s Irish community joined together in festivities of their homeland and to honor the memory of the below Patron Saint of Ireland. Banquets and parades to celebrate the occasion became common, with Boston’s early St. Patrick’s Day Parades occurring downtown by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. In 1901, the parade moved to South Boston, a neighborhood that was not only home to a robust Irish community, but was the site of Dorchester Heights, where the evacuation of British troops from Boston on March 17, 1776 was made possible and is commemorated. Given the significance of both the St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day holidays, the parade came to honor both. This year’s parade in Southie will be on March 19th.
In addition to the parade, Boston’s very own Celtic punk rock group, the Dropkick Murphys will be playing four shows in town the week of Saint Patrick’s Day. Three shows at MGM Music Hall March 16-18, and one show at the House of Blues on March 19. Get your tickets here.