PDATE: The Chicago St. Patrick's Day parades and river-dyeing ceremony have been cancelled due to coronavirus.
It's not St. Patrick's Day in Chicago without a parade, and you can't have a procession in Grant Park without dyeing the Chicago River bright green. Kick off the Irish holiday by finding a spot on the Michigan Avenue bridge, where you can watch gallons of (eco-friendly) dye being poured into the river. Then, make your way over to Grant Park, where bagpipers, dancers and politicians make their way north on Columbus Avenue starting at noon. After the festivities are finished, stick around to enjoy everything that the Loop has to offer or make your way to one of the best Irish pubs in Chicago. We've gathered everything you need to know about the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade to make the greenest day of the year a little less hectic.
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When is the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade?
The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade begins at noon, but the festivities start with the dyeing of the Chicago River at 9am on Saturday, March 14. For optimal views of the fluorescent green water, head to the east side of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the west side of the Columbus Drive bridge, or find a spot on the Riverwalk between State Street and Columbus Drive.
Where is the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade?
This year's parade steps off from the intersection of Columbus and Balbo Drives at noon, continuing north on Columbus until concluding at Monroe Street. Barricades are set up along Columbus, and attendees typically arrive early to set up seats. The main viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain, where dancers and bands pause to wave to the crowd.
How do I get to the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade?
Take the Blue or Red Line and get off in the Loop. Then, walk to Columbus Avenue in Grant Park. You can also access the area via Orange, Pink, Green and Brown lines. Simply get off at Wabash and walk to Columbus Avenue from there.
Attractions to see after the St. Patrick's Day Parade
You could spend the next four years getting to know this encyclopedic institution, which owns more than 300,000 artworks and artifacts from all over the world and every era from antiquity to the present. Our favorite pieces include the Japanese prints, fragments of local buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Thorne Miniature Rooms. We’re also in love with Renzo Piano’s light-filled Modern Wing.
On any given day at the Chicago Cultural Center, you might find a free classical concert being performed, an art exhibition on display in one of the building’s many galleries or tourists marveling at the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome. Don’t worry about paying for admission—nearly everything that happens in this building is free and open to the public. Housed in a structure that’s as wide as an entire city block and dates back to 1897 (when it originally housed the Chicago Public Library), the Chicago Cultural Center provides a place for citizens and visitors alike to experience amazing art and beautiful architecture without spending a cent.
Visitors can take a spin on the park's quarter-mile skating ribbon, which wraps around a 40-foot climbing wall on the northern end of the 20-acre plot. The Play Garden, featuring enormous slides and whimsical climbing structures, is also open. The play structure is like none other with a giant pirate ship play structure, kaleidoscope and mirrored maze. In the summer, enjoy the climbing wall or revisit the skating ribbon as it's converted into a path for walkers, joggers and roller-skaters.
This 24.5-acre park features Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and serpentine bridge, sculptor Anish Kapoor's 110-ton Cloud Gate (a.k.a. “The Bean”), and Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain, with its ever-changing array of locals' faces spewing water every five minutes in the summer months. The Lurie Garden wows with year-round flower displays and monthly garden walks.
It doesn’t spew water in winter, but with its four Art Deco–style seahorses, Georgia pink marble and holiday light and music show, this fountain built in 1927 is still a sight to behold. From May through Labor Day, 20-minute shows every hour on the hour feature 14,000 gallons of water spouting from 133 jets. In summer, see the nighttime colored light shows, capped off with a center jet shooting 150 feet of water in the air.
Restaurants near the St. Patrick's Day Parade
The menu at this all-day French cafe skews toward classics, like escargot and mussels and it's a lively post-work spot for drinks, like a daily shaved ice cocktail, while the excellent burger, a towering stack with two patties, thick bacon, confit onions, American cheese and Dijonnaise, is big enough for two.
Dumpling fiends know that Qing Xiang Yuan in Chinatown serves some of the tastiest dumplings in town. The family-owned restaurant, which traces its humble roots to a basement food court, now has a second, quick-service location in the Loop. At JIAO, guests can expect shorter wait times and a grab-and-go experience that's built for lunchtime noshing. Choose from pillow pockets filled with everything from truffle and beef to pork and cabbage.
Tucked behind the Game Room in the Chicago Athletic Association, Cherry Circle Room used to be where club members refueled. Now that it’s open to everyone, the talented kitchen turns out gorgeous dishes like shrimp cocktail with a delightful Bloody Mary-spiced cocktail sauce and a generous pâté board. A roving cocktail cart serves drinks tableside and ice cream drinks, like a grasshopper served in a milk jar, cap off the meal.
With a handful of locations situated throughout downtown Chicago, you don't have to go far to cure barbecue cravings at lunchtime. Simply pick your protein—brisket, jackfruit, pulled pork, etc.—and decide on a vehicle with which to funnel it into your mouth. Aside from stacking your meat on a buttered brioche bun, you can also get it tucked into tacos or served atop a loaded chopped salad. The tough part is picking your sauce, though we're quite fond of the vinegar-based North Carolina style as well as the local Chicago style, which is simmered with Old Style lager.
Straight from the ’burbs and into the corporate confines of Prudential Plaza comes this cheery pancake house, where Millennium Park tourists mingle with Edelman execs having breakfast meetings. Aside from the assiduously refilled coffee, these folks are starting their day with unnaturally large omelettes, giant breakfast sandwiches overwrought with cheese, and dense, custard-filled pancake stacks drizzled in berry puree. How do places like this manage to make pancakes that fill you up in only two bites? Ask the servers here—if our experience was any indication, they’ll answer with speed and a smile.
Owner Billy Lawless nailed the gastropub with this Mag Mile hit. The whiskey list is lengthy, beer options reach beyond the basics, and wines are accompanied by clever, straightforward descriptions. The food is rich and aggressively flavorful, from the perfect-for-snacking Scotch egg to the Gage venison burger, served a juicy medium-rare and dripping with pickled onions and gouda.
Meet The Gage's little sister, Acanto, offering a casual but quality dining experience on Michigan Avenue. Start with a cheese plate, which comes with an array of accompaniments, before moving onto well-executed pastas, fried artichokes and tender octopus. End with the smoothest, creamiest gelato in town.
Whether you're looking for a pre-theater snack at the bar or a new weekend brunch option, The Dearborn has you covered with its versatile menus and sprawling dining room. Go casual with a burger and fries or turn things up with rich options like braised veal cheeks, a 28-ounce dry-aged porterhouse or house-made Parmesan gnocchi. Just be sure to save room for dessert—the caramel apple churros are divine.
Chicago's second Shake Shack location serves burgers in pillowy-soft buns, crispy crinkle-cut fries and some of the richest frozen custard we've ever had.
Bars near the St. Patrick's Day Parade
Whenever we want to impress our out-of-towner visitors, we book a table at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel’s rooftop bar, from which vistas of Millennium Park, Lake Michigan and the city skyline are on full display. The drink lineup compliments the main attraction, with easy-sipping selections best enjoyed in the sun. As an added bonus, the spirit-free menu rocks, offering bold, never watered-down selections.
For more than 30 years, this cavernous Loop tavern has cornered the market on medieval dives. Beyond the heavy doors that seem to hide a monastery, you’ll find an after-work crowd of mostly suits and occasional skirts downing beer and adding to the piles of peanut shells littering the floor.
Located on the 26th floor of Virgin Hotels' downtown location, Cerise is surrounded by glistening skyscrapers that become illuminated after the sun goes down. Pair cocktails, wine and beer with a curated selection of bites, like the octopus ceviche with pita chips. A lineup of rotating DJs and super comfy furniture are huge bonus points that make lounging around all night way too easy.
True to form, Brando’s Speakeasy is anything but what it seems. It’s a lounge, but conversation flows more like a neighborhood haunt. Its website promises a martini bar, but the list is mysteriously MIA (most people seem to down beer anyway). The decor and vintage posters throw it back eras, but the karaoke and late-night dance music add modern flair. While it’s not Don Vito Corleone meets Al Capone as the name might imply, Brando’s is definitely a mash-up.
A rooftop bar on the third floor of a Renaissance hotel? It doesn't sound very exciting, but you shouldn't underestimate Raised, a stunning oasis perched above Wacker Drive in the Loop. The garden-themed bar offers unique views of the Chicago River and the surrounding skyline, with clear shots of the Wrigley Building, Marina City and the Michigan Avenue Bridge. If you can, grab a seat at the curved railing along the perimeter of the building and order a round of botanical-themed cocktails, like the Thyme After Thyme with housemade chamomile arancello.
Follow up an afternoon of bagpipes and drums with some blues music at this popular South Loop club, named for one of the city's most legendary performers. And if you like Louisiana cuisine, the kitchen has just what you need.
Located in the Chicago Athletic Association, the sprawling bar has pool tables, a poker table, chess boards and a full bocce court, so there’s plenty to entertain you between rounds of affordable, well-made drinks from Paul McGee (Lost Lake), like a spritely sherry cobbler and a bracing rum-amaro highball. Snacks from Peter Coenen are fair-inspired, and include a warm pretzel with gooey beer cheese and a root beer float spiked with Fernet.