As the melting pot of cultures from around the world, the United States has a deep-rooted Irish history spread across nearly every corner of the country. From the streets of New York City to the Irish Channel of New Orleans, here are the best cities in the U.S. to honor Irish history and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
New York City
Credit: @spoiled NYC
As you may have gathered from the Golden Globe-winning and Academy-nominated movie Gangs of New York, the Big Apple is full of Irish history. And with more than two million people of Irish ancestry residing in the New York-Newark-Jersey city area, it’s no wonder why New York City is home to the largest and oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world.
Dating back to 1762, NYC’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade is run entirely by volunteers and draws in around two million spectators who come to watch as more than 150,000 people march down the streets of New York. This isn’t the only St. Patrick’s Day parade to grace the streets of New York, either – other parades include the Annual Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Rockaway Beach, and the Brooklyn St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Brooklyn Heights where the Battle of Brooklyn took place.
New York also hosts a number of other St. Patrick’s Day events, including the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Open Day at the Irish Arts Center, the lower-Manhattan walking tour of the city’s former “Little Ireland” district, and the 3-day St. Paddy’s Day Pub Crawl.
To get an even closer look at the Irish history of New York, you can take a tour of the city’s only preserved 19th-century home with the St. Patrick’s Day tour of Merchant’s House Museum. And if you’re a fan of Gangs of New York, then you can learn all about the real history behind it with the Irish Mob of Hell’s Kitchen walking tour, which explores the streets and establishments that served as home to the original Irish gang members of New York.
Credit: @Tommy Galante
Second to New York for the most Irish cities of the U.S. is Philadelphia, which serves as home to more than a million Irish-Americans. Philadelphia’s St. Patrick’s Day parade dates back to 1771, when the city’s Irish first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. The parade features approximately 20,000 participants, including marching bands, dance groups, youth groups, and Irish associations, such as The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick – the oldest incorporated Irish association in the U.S.
Other St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Philadelphia include St. Patrick’s Day at McGillin’s – the oldest Irish pub in Center City, and a few different pub crawls, including Erin Express – an all-day crawl to 15 different pubs in the city.
For a journey through Irish history, you can take the St. Patrick’s Day tour of Laurel Hill Cemetery to learn all about the history of and pay tribute to the Irish souls buried on the historic grounds.
Credit: @Insta Chicago
Home to more than a million people of Irish ancestry, Chicago is known for putting on a fantastic St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The festivities begin with a parade in the streets of downtown Chicago and the dyeing of the Chicago River to an emerald green color, a tradition that has been celebrated for over 50 years.
After the parade, the festivities continue with the Irish American Heritage Center’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival, a family-oriented 11-hour party featuring Irish food and drink, vendors selling unique Irish gifts, children’s activities, and both contemporary and traditional Irish music and dancing, including the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, the O’Hara School of Irish Dance, and the Irish Heritage Singers.
Other St. Patrick’s Day festivities include neighborhood parades, including the South Side Irish Parade and the Northwest Side Irish Parade, along with river tours and breakfast, lunch, and dinner cruises along the green river, Including Wendella’s St. Patrick’s Day Cruise, Shoreline Architecture River Tours, Spirit of Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Afternoon Lunch Cruise, and Mystic Blue St. Patrick’s Day Dinner Cruise.
Credit: @Shannon Rovers
Home to the Boston Celtics basketball team, about 1.5 million Irish-Americans, and more Irish pubs than any city in the U.S., Boston is no stranger to Irish tradition. Dating back to 1737, Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade brings in an estimated 600,000 to a million spectators each year.
Since Boston has more Irish pubs than any other U.S. city, there will also be plenty of pub crawls to choose from, including the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl and the Boston “Luck of the Irish” St. Paddy’s Weekend Pub Crawl.
If you’d like to take a walk through Irish-American history, take a self-guided tour of Irish Heritage Trail, which features 20 downtown Boston sites and more than 50 landmarks in Boston neighborhoods and surrounding cities and towns.
Not quite a St. Patrick’s Day event, the Irish Culture Centre’s Boston Irish Festival is a must for experiencing the Irish culture of Boston. The festival takes place the first weekend in June and features a range of activities, from live music performances by Irish bands, including Gaelic Storm, Jig Jam, and Black West, to gaelic games and Irish vikings shows to tours and role-playing events at The Irish Cottage. This family-friendly event also features a range of activities for kids, including arts and crafts, a petting zoo, kiddie rides, an Irish dance workshop, and more.
Boston is also home to one of Movie Maker Magazine’s Top Twenty Coolest Film Festivals in the World, the Irish Film Festival, which usually takes place the weekend after St. Patrick’s Day but happens to be taking a break this year to fundraise and plan for its 20th anniversary in March 2020.
Credit: @Irish Channel St. Pat’s Parade
From the French Quarter to the Irish Channel, New Orleans is its own little melting pot of cultures from around the world. Serving as one of the major ports of entry for immigrants in the 17-1800s, New Orleans quickly became the city with the largest Irish population in the South.
New Orleans hosted its first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in 1809, and the tradition has continued into the week-long celebration that it is today. Several parades take place during the celebration, including the Downtown Irish Club Parade, during which marchers and riders toss more than just beads into the crowd – from onions and carrots to potatoes and heads of cabbage, parade spectators should be prepared to see all of the makings of Irish stew flying through the air.
You’ll also find plenty of block parties during the New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day celebration, including the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club Block Party featuring free admission and entertainment with Irish music and dancers, along with traditional Irish food and drink available for purchase.
No matter where you end up this year, here’s to a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day, sláinte!