Top 17 St. Patrick’s Day party towns

St. Patrick famously used the humble shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) to the Pagan Irish.

We have a different use for it on St. Patrick’s Day, floating a leaf of the plant in a glass of whiskey before downing it. Alternatively, you drown the cluster of shamrock you’ve been wearing on your lapel in your final pint of Guinness of the night.

We’ve rounded up our 17 favorite St. Patrick’s Day party towns where you can drown your shamrock and celebrate all things Irish come March 17.

The Dublin St. Patrick's Day Festival

An artist in the Dublin Parade. Photo:

Dublin, Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day marks the start of the tourist season in Ireland. There’ll still (probably) be goose-bumped flesh and (possibly) biting winds, but Dublin is at the beating heart of this near-global day.

St. Patrick’s Day used to be a mass-parade-pub affair, but it’s been a mega four- or five-day festival since the 1990s. This year’s celebration is March 14-17 and the events – ceilis, concerts, walking tours, funfairs, art exhibitions and storytelling sessions – culminate in the parade that winds its way from Parnell Square to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Joining 73 landmarks around the world that’ll go green around St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin’s most impressive buildings – such as Trinity College Dublin, Leinster House, The GPO, the Bank of Ireland on College Green and the Custom House – will go Kelly Green once the sun goes down.

St. Patrick's Day, London

St. Patrick makes an appearance in London. Photo: garryknight

London, England

On Sunday, March 16, the stately Landseer lions that guard Trafalgar Square will be joined by more than 100,000 Hibernophiles. Of course, the fountain that stands in the Square will go green.

Between noon and 6 p.m. the best of Irish song, dance, culture, food and arts will be showcased in the center of London.

A parade leaves the top of Piccadilly by Green Park at noon and features colorful floats, marching bands from across the U.K., sports teams and Irish dancing schools. This year’s parade theme is World of Dance.

Boston, Massachusetts, USA, St. Patrick's Day

A storm trooper takes part in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston. Photo: Bryan Maleszyk

Boston, Mass., United States

About 1 million celebrants flock to South Boston each year and new Mayor Martin J. Walsh may be there too, as talks are ongoing about including gay organizations in the festivities after a two-decade ban. It was in Boston that Saint Patrick’s Day was first observed (by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston if you’re wondering) but New York got in there first, holding a parade in 1762. It’s the second-largest parade in the US though (again, New York is in first place).

Along with the marching bands, colorful floats, Irish dancers, Veterans, St. Patricks, Storm Troopers and Darth Vaders that skip along the sea of green from West Broadway to Dorchester Avenue on March 16, there’s a 5k road race and plenty of Craic Agus Ceol (fun and music) and, of course, a plethora of Irish pubs to have it in.

Note: March 17 is also Evacuation Day, which marks the time following the Siege of Boston in the American Revolutionary War, when the British forces were evacuated from the city of Boston.

New York City, USA, St. Patrick's Day

New York’s “finest” marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo: pbuergler

New York, N.Y., United States

The world’s oldest and largest parade is run entirely by volunteers. Some families have been volunteering, turning a stretch of New York green, for generations.

There has been a St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York since March 17, 1762. Although the day has become synonymous with exuberant, alcohol-fueled shenanigans, there’s no drinking allowed along the parade route: Fifth Avenue between 44th Street and 79th Street.

There’s also a ban on gay rights groups or marchers with gay pride signs so the St Pat’s For All parade in Queens, now in its 15th year, is another option.

Chicago, USA, St. Patrick's Day

The annual miracle in Chicago. Photo: Monika Thorpe

Chicago, Ill., United States

There are several miracles associated with St. Patrick. He converted the Pagan Irish to Christianity, brought people back from the dead (as well as a horse and some mad cows owned by his aunt). The greatest, of course, was driving the snakes out of Ireland. So, it makes sense that a river might miraculously turn green for a few hours on March 17.

Every year, with a little bit of help from the local plumbers union, the Chicago River magically turns green; this year, the river will be dyed March 15 at 10 a.m. The city’s parade route starts at the corner of Columbus Drive and Balbo then meanders North to Monroe.

In another Chicago-inspired miracle, the White House fountains in Washington, D.C. will flow green. The link? Michelle Obama, a Chicagoan.

Birmingham St. Patrick's Day

Spacey tricolor girl. Photo: garryknight

Birmingham, England

There’s New York and Dublin, but the third-biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world is said to be in Birmingham. A mega celebration of Irish culture with the theme of “Irish Myths and Legends” will take place March 16.

Birmingham’s Irish community can trace its routes back to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s and it has the only Irish Quarter in the U.K., centered around Digbeth. St. Patrick’s Day really is a three-week affair in this part of the U.K.

There are diverse events such as storytelling and music sessions, a Gaelic Camogie tournament, a race night, an ale festival, a film night and a flower festival.

Montreal, Canada, St. Patrick's Day

Queens of St. Patrick’s Day in Montreal. Photo: Zanastardust

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

As one of the founding groups of Montreal, the Irish have always had their place in the Francophone city. This year, the parade is March 16 (the 191st consecutive parade starts from the corner of du Fort Street at noon and marches east as far as Phillips Square), but the United Irish Societies of Montreal start to celebrate in February by raising the Irish community flag outside Place Ville Marie. There’s a Mass of Anticipation in early March, and an Awards Banquet at the end of the month puts a seal on the season.

Partner pubs are a roll call of pure Irish-ness: Hurley’s Irish Pub, McKibbin’s Pub, Kelly’s Pub, Old Dublin Pub and Duffy’s Pub all serve coffee and breakfast before the parade and thousands of pints of the black stuff afterwards.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, St. Patrick's Day

The Canadian native animal gets an Irish makeover. Photo: Mihnea Stanciu

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Half a million spectators wearing some little shred of green line the parade route between Bloor Street and Queen Street at Nathan Philips Square. The Toronto St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a festival of St. Patrick, Ireland, Canada and multiculturalism.

There are colorful, spectacular floats from a variety of cultural groups. 2013’s parade featured 70 marching sections and 28 bands. This year, at the 27th annual parade, there will be an Olympic gold medalist Grand Marshal (Katie Taylor, a boxer – the current Irish, European, World and Olympic Champion), dancers from the Native Canadian Centre and marchers from Scouts Canada.

The Toronto festivities have some heavyweight sponsors including Aer Lingus, Jump into Ireland and McDonald’s, which might be a popular place to wind up (Shamrock Shake, anyone?) after the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl March 15.

St. Patrick's Day, Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Tourism Ireland

Cape Town, South Africa

In its new-ish tradition of greening the world, Tourism Ireland illuminates Table Mountain — that iconic landmark that overlooks the city of Cape Town.

Cape Town doesn’t have a huge Irish community (although there is an Irish South African Association) and the city doesn’t feature a parade (yet) but there are plenty of Irish pubs where you can find music, Guinness-infused foods, face painting and green beer.

The V&A Waterfront looks set to celebrate with free, festive events such as concerts and dancing.

Moscow, Russia

It’s 1,740 miles east of Ireland, but Moscow will be channeling its inner Irish for more than a few hours March 16.

In Gorky Park (March 16) there will be a two-hour (from noon to 2 p.m.) parade in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. But the parade is just part of the festivities, which run March 13-24.

The “Ticket to Dublin” Music Festival is March 22–23 and features The Walls, Mundy, Delorentos and We Cut Corners. Meanwhile, the MIC (Moscow Irish Comedy) Festival – a mixed-arts festival with a “seanchai” (a storyteller) telling stories all night long – and the Moscow Irish Film Festival will screen more than 40 films.

Dancers in the Tokyo St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Dancers in the Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo:

Tokyo, Japan

The 22nd Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held March 16 in the Harajuku area. It’s Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade and, thanks to time zones, will be the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade to get underway in the Northern Hemisphere this year.

It’s also a riot of color and ceremony, as you’d expect from Harajuku (the theatrical and wild fashion district) with marching red setters, bagpipers, giant inflatable pints of Guinness and a plethora of participants, some of whom are dressed as samurai warriors, complete with swords.

The parade starts at 1 p.m. and is organized by the Irish Network Japan.

South Korea on St. Patrick's Day

Dancing in the streets of South Korea. Photo: facebook/irishassociationofkorea

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul may be more synonymous with Psy and “Gangnam Style” than St. Patrick, but the Irish Association of Korea has been throwing a St. Patrick’s Day party since the start of the millennium. The 14th annual St Patrick’s Day Festival will take place in D Cube Plaza, Sindorim, Saturday, March 15 (12-6 p.m.).

About 10,000 spectators will attend, drinking in the Irish music, folk-dancing, storytelling and Gaelic football displays. The Irish Village will showcase Irish cuisine and traditional music, too. After the festival, the Official IAK Hooley will take place in the Rocky Mountain Tavern in Itaewon from 6 p.m. until 12 a.m.

Montserrat, Caribbean, St. Patrick's Day

Dancers in the St. Patrick’s Festival, Montserrat. Photo:

Montserrat, Caribbean

Montserrat, a lush little island in the Caribbean is also nicknamed the Emerald Isle. That’s where the similarity to the other Emerald Isle ends. Looking at temperature and rainfall, Montserrat enjoys a balmy 63-degree average temperature with about 16 inches of rain each year. In Ireland, the average temperature is 50 degrees and average annual rainfall can be in the region of 55 inches.

Montserrat has a strong Irish heritage, however: In the 17th century Irish Catholics, persecuted on other Caribbean islands, found a welcome home on Montserrat. The same Irish Catholics had originally been banished from Ireland by Oliver Cromwell. This is also the only country outside Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday.

A week-long St. Patrick’s Festival (March 9-18) is held; it’s a fun fusion of Irish, African and Caribbean culture, and one of Montserrat’s most popular annual events. The festivities feature a Freedom Run and the Masqueraders (masked street dancers) will dance and prance to the sound of fifes and drums.

Munich, Germany, St. Patrick's Day

Dancers in the Munich parade. Photo: Μanu

Munich, Germany

It’s fitting that the home of Oktoberfest should have a rocking St. Patrick’s Day party too. There’s been a parade in Munich since the mid-1990s. A joyous, peaceful parade with an electric atmosphere will take place March 16 this year — preceded by an Irish Mass at St. Michael’s Church and a big night out. The parade from Münchner Freiheit to Odeonsplatz might be a great way of walking off the previous night’s revelries. The After Parade Party at Odeonsplatz will have music and dance displays on two stages.

Sponsors of the Munich events are a Who’s Who of Irish industry, such as Guinness, Jameson and Tayto. Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, has a hand in it too.

Bologna, Italy, St. Patrick's Day

Bologna’s Irish Festival, looking suspiciously like Oktoberfest. Photo: facebook/

Bologna, Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is another landmark that will go green on St. Patrick’s Day, but 124 miles away, in Bologna, an Irish festival – Irlanda in Festa – will run for several days, attracting about 30,000 Hibernophiles and culminating March 17 in an extravaganza of good cheer and green beer.

The Italians and the Irish have much in common. There’s the shared Catholic faith and a deep and abiding love of the good life. Irish chefs will prepare some classic Irish dishes, and to wash them down, the Palanord (a brewery) will serve Guinness from St. James’s Gate, Harp and Kilkenny red. There will also be an international boxing match and a darts tournament.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, St. Patrick's Day

And dinner too. A cabbage is thrown to participants in the New Orleans Parade. Photo: Allen Gathman

New Orleans, La., United States

The St. Patrick’s Day festivities in New Orleans run March 13-23. The city’s Irish heritage stretches back to the 1840s, and in the home of Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day is done a little differently.

It’s the only parade where you can leave with the ingredients for a traditional Irish meal. During the Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Day Parade – the largest of the parades – float riders chuck green beads and trinkets for the spectators to catch. They also pass down potatoes, carrots, cabbages, onions and seasonings for an Irish stew. But we don’t know if meat is distributed!

The annual Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place from 11 a.m. until around 3 p.m. March 16. There are six parades in total and festivities are spread throughout the Greater New Orleans Area, including Jefferson Parish, the French Quarter and the Irish Channel.

Sydney, Australia, St. Patrick's Day Parade

A marching band parades through Sydney’s CBD. Photo: Newtown grafitti

Sydney, Australia

St. Patrick’s Day in Australia has somber origins. Somber, but probably not sober. It was first marked March 17, 1810 when Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, provided entertainment for the Irish convict workers.

With up to 30 percent of Australians claiming Irish ancestry, St. Patrick’s Day is a family-friendly and (after dark) a raucous affair.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade, which starts (at noon) on Bathurst Street and ends at James Street, is the largest Irish event in the Southern Hemisphere. There’ll be pre-parade entertainment opposite the Town Hall from 10:30 a.m. and the Family Day in Hyde Park North will start at 1 p.m.

For after-dark fun, when the Opera House will turn green (as part of the global greening), pubs such as The Mercantile, Paddy Maguires and P.J. O’Brien’s will cater to the masses.

(Main image: jmcarthy99)

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