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Your Guide to St. Patrick's Day 2018

Posted on March 14, 2018

If there’s one thing Chicago knows how to do, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. From witnessing its river turning green to running for a cause, there are no shortages of activities you can enjoy during this Irish celebration. We’ve compiled a list of some of the must-do’s so you’re not overwhelmed by everything the city has to offer. All you have to worry about is digging through your closet to find your green attire and set your alarm clock. All the festivities below happen on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, 2018.

The St. Patrick's Day parade started downtown in 1956 and the dyeing of  the river started a few years later. The magnitude of today’s celebration can be attributed to Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130, which have sponsored the festivities since its inception.

Dyeing of the Chicago River

Chicago is known for making a splash on St. Patrick’s Day (pun intended). The dyeing of the Chicago River has become one of the most well-known rituals and brings travelers from all corners of the world to join locals in seeing the river turn green. This tradition has been around for over 50 years and draws a crowd of about 400,000 spectators, so make sure you get there early to get an optimal viewing spot. The river also stays green for about 5 hours, so you have some time to see the spectacle if you’re not a morning person or if crowds aren’t your thing.

Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Chicago River (Columbus Dr. & Wacker Dr.)
Pricing: Free

Downtown Parade

Not to be outdone by its maritime celebration, Chicago also throws one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country (this one is on land). This year will be the parade’s 63rd anniversary and is scheduled to begin at Balbo Drive and end at Monroe Drive, so be sure to bring your most comfortable green walking shoes. Expect to hear bagpipes and drum corps, see colorful floats and of course, Irish step dancers making it look way too easy.

Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location: Columbus Drive (between Balbo Dr. & Monroe Dr.)
Pricing: Free

Green Beer

So you’ve seen the river turn green and you’ve seen everyone wearing green during the parade. It’s only logical that the next step is indulging in the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) green beer, available only during this particular holiday. Most Irish bars will likely offer this feature, but Fado Irish Pub and Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub will be within walking distance once the parade comes to an end. Harry Caray’s, which will rebrand itself as “Harry O’Caray’s” just for this day, will be hosting the ultimate St. Patrick’s Day party, including live music from Recycle The Day.

Time: Most bars will open at 7:00 a.m.
Location: Varies
Pricing: Some bars will be charging a cover

Burn Calories

Before partaking in all the traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, you can showcase your athleticism, or lack thereof, at either one of the two races across the city. The Leprechaun Leap is a 5K and 8K run benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository which will wind through Lincoln Park. This race also rewards its participants with a free Sam Adams, so you can count that as a pregame. If you live closer to south, the Get Lucky Half Marathon and 7K takes place along the South Side lakefront trail, ending at Soldier Field.

Time: Leprechaun Leap: 9:30 a.m.
Get Lucky Half Marathon and 7K: 11:00 a.m.

Location: Leprechaun Leap: Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Ave.
Get Lucky Half Marathon and 7K: 1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.

Pricing: Leprechaun Leap: $21-$55
Get Lucky Half Marathon and 7K: $55-$70

St. Patrick’s Day Festival

If you’d like a more family-oriented event that encapsulates Irish culture, the Irish American Heritage Center will be hosting the St. Patrick’s Day Festival this year. Much like the downtown parade, you will experience Irish food and drink, step dancing, cultural exhibits and a number of children’s activities. Visit the library, art gallery and museum for programming and exhibits, such as Irish language lessons, a genealogy workshop and a book sale.

Time: 1:00 p.m. - midnight
Location: Irish American Heritage Center (4626 N. Knox Ave.)
Pricing: $12; free for children under 12