The Green Guide to Chicago’s Big Bash

Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.

Chicago practically owns St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland or Boston might contest). But on the weekend before that magically charmed day, approximately one million people cavort through the city costumed and painted, imbibed, corn-beefed, and ready to revel. “It’s a lot like Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” says city guide Sue Murphy.

“Ever since the great fire in 1871 started in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, the Irish have been a part of the fabric of Chicago.” Murphy is a resident that participates in the city’s greeter program. She shows tourists around neighborhoods, public transit, and the food scene.

AA_StPattys2014_choosechicago21Photo: Adam Alexander Photography

For anyone not comfortable with massive crowds, though, forget getting near anything even “slightly Irish,” Murphy says—although the crowds lessen away from the river.

For those ready to be part of the mob, welcome to Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Pub hoppers

At Fadó Irish Pub, the bartenders all hail from the Emerald Isle. It feels like Ireland, says Murphy, who used to live in Cork. The party starts early morning, with music and bagpipes throughout St. Patrick’s Day proper. Murphy says the food (shepherd’s pies and fish and chips) is outstanding. Other Irish watering holes include Celtic Crossing for fantastic music sessions. Green Door Tavern is full of character. Built in 1872, it one of the few city structures made of wood. That 1871 fire resulted in stricter ordinances, thus preventing wood buildings.

celtic-crossing-stpatsday-2011Photo courtesy of Celtic Crossing

fado-shepherd'spiePhoto courtesy of Fadó

Parade goers

Hold off on the pub-hopping scene ’til the afternoon, and you can catch the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union pouring 45 tons of green vegetable dye into the river. Voila, an emerald river! It happens on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day in the morning. See the water turn green near Columbus and Wacker drives. At noon, the floats and processions start.

AA_green-river_choosechicagoPhoto: Adam Alexander Photography

Everything Irish under one roof

For a one-stop shop of Irish shenanigans, The Irish American Heritage Center is your ticket. Within the center are music, dancing, Irish crafts, and drinking (at the center’s Fifth Province pub). The pub hosts another party on St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish-American-center-dancersPhoto courtesy of The Irish American Heritage Center

A local affair: The real-deal neighborhood

The South Side Irish Parade rolls on Sunday. The nearby neighborhood of Mount Greenwood claims the fourth largest concentration of Irish in the United States. It is a local, family-friendly event.

Irish-American-center-joycefinalPhoto courtesy of The Irish American Heritage Center

The liberal arts majors

On St. Patrick’s Day, a new exhibit opens at Art Institute Chicago, Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840. Three hundred objects from 24 Irish counties will be on display. This is for those who know the Irish do more than knock back a pint. Special Irish events are ongoing until June 6 here, one that features well-known fiddler Liz Knowles (Riverdance).

Art Institute-Downshire-Pottery_Stag-Plate

Irish-American-dancerfb-1Photos courtesy of Art Institute Chicago

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