St. Patrick's Day in Chicago
St. Patrick's Day in Chicago is usually associated with green beer, leprechauns and everything Irish. Kick off the day with the dyeing of the Chicago River, when buckets of mysterious yellow liquid are poured into the waterway, turning it a murky-yet-festive shade of green. The festivities continue in Grant Park, where the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade kicks off at noon with bagpipes aplenty. Before you head home, stop by one of the authentic best Irish pubs in Chicago or pick up a pound of corned beef to go with your cabbage. Take a look at our guide to locate the parade route and find great bars, restaurants and attractions for post-procession fun.
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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 17. 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 Upper and Lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue 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 of Columbus until concluding at Monroe Street. Barricades are set up all 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. We don't suggest driving—Grant Park is within walking distance of several trains and buses.
How to get to the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade
Blue and Red lines: Get off in the Loop and walk to Columbus Ave in Grant Park.
Orange, Pink, Green and Brown lines: Get off at Wabash and walk to Grant Park.
For bus routes, use the CTA's Bus System Guide.
Attractions to see after the Chicago 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.
Since being converted to the Cultural Center in 1991 (it used to be the Chicago Public Library), this city-block-wide institution now offers free classical concerts Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Most of the center’s classical offerings take place in Preston Bradley Hall on the second floor near the Washington Street entrance, but the Claudia Cassidy Theater (named for the Tribune’s venom-penned theater and music critic from the ’40s) on the Randolph Street side is used for experimental concerts, too.
Named for infamous Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, this large plaza is directly adjacent to a building (also named for the mayor) which houses several city offices. The courtyard contains an untitled Picasso sculpture that was given to the city by the artist in 1967. Throughout the year, Daley Plaza plays host to food truck meet-ups, cultural events, a farmers' market and the annual Christkindlmarket.
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, kaleidescope 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 rollerskaters.
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 very 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.
Anchoring the aquatic offerings at this 75-year-old institution are enduring favorites such as piranhas, frogs and snakes of the Amazon; rays, turtles and moray eel of the Caribbean; frightening predator sharks and, the most storied of them all, a 100-plus-year-old Australian lungfish believed to be the longest-living fish in any aquarium in the world.
Though it’s staffed by world-class researchers at the forefront of their field, the museum’s real draw will always be the virtual-reality trips through time and space in the Sky Theater, which features the "highest resolution and quality possible." Themes usually center around the known and unknown universe and how humans have engaged with it throughout history. The recently rennovated "Mission Moon" exhibit allows visitors to see the Gemini 12 capsule and learn more about the early days of the space race.
The main branch of the Chicago Public Library boasts nine floors of books, computer labs, meeting rooms and more. Head up to the ninth floor to see art displayed in the library's exhibit space or view the small Harold Washington museum, where memorabilia related to the building's namesake is collected. The library also includes one of the city's first Maker Labs, where 3D printers can be used during open lab hours.
Restaurants near the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade route
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.
Small-batch artisan cheeses are cut to order at this friendly, well-stocked wine-and-cheese shop. Menu items, like the London Calling sandwich of smoked Scottish salmon, cucumber and quark spread, are perfect for a quick lunch in one of the handful of seats on the outdoor patio, and the to-go picnic baskets (choose from cheese-, meat- and Bavarian-focused packages, among many other styles) are perfect for a Millennium Park concert.
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.
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.
Bars near the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade route
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.
If you want to see Guy perform at his own club, stop by in January when he takes over the schedules. If you show up the other 11 months of the year, you may well see him sitting at the bar, overseeing the whole operation: he’s more than just a name on the sign outside. 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.
The rooftop restaurant and bar at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel offers some of the best views of the city, with an expansive look at Millennium Park and the Lake. The drinks, from Nandini Khaund, are mostly balanced, and very pretty, while the American food is also mostly well-executed and comes in massive portions and is designed for sharing.