Looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago? Here’s our breakdown of this year’s traditional Chicago celebrations as well as some nearby attraction suggestions to fill your day:
The Parade & The River
This year’s parade begins at noon sharp in Downtown Chicago, making its way north on Columbus Drive from Balbo to Monroe with a viewing stand located in front of Buckingham Fountain. Expect large crowds, bagpipes, traditional Irish dance, and even a few local celebrities. Make sure to secure your spot early for the best viewing experience, and wear your brightest greens to show your spirit.
Just before the parade, at 10 AM, Chicago will celebrate another St. Patrick’s Day tradition: dyeing the Chicago River Green. This year, organizers suggest settling on a spot between Columbus and Wabash to secure the best view of the action.
This 40+ year old tradition of dyeing the river even has its own origin story, as told by the official website for the Green Chicago River:
In 1961 Stephen Bailey was approached by a plumber who was wearing some white coveralls, they knew this only because they could see some of the original color. These coveralls had been mostly stained or dyed a perfect shade of green, an Irish green to better describe it. It was when Stephen Bailey asked how the coveralls got this way, that they discovered that the dye used to detect leaks into the river turned green, not just any color green, but the perfect color green. “A tradition is born”
Ironically, the dye first turns the river orange (a controversial color on St. Patrick’s Day) before transforming into a traditional Irish green.
For the best view of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, make your way over to the top of the Willis Tower for the 360 degree views of SkyDeck Chicago. From this vantage point 1,353 feet above the city, you’ll be able to see celebrating crowds, marching bagpipers, and a green river with an easy bird’s eye view.
You can also make the most of a Hop-On Hop-Off trolley tour of Chicago by using your time off the bus to explore local Irish pubs for your own St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl. In between the Willis Tower and Wrigley Field, stop off for a green beer and some corn beef & cabbage. Just remember to drink responsibly – you want to be able to return to the trolley, after all.