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Chicago Seadog cruise, St. Patrick's Day
Photograph: Courtesy Hornblower Cruises

The best places to watch the Chicago River dyeing

Get a great view of the Chicago River dyeing during the city's St. Patrick's Day celebration

Zach Long
Emma Krupp
Written by
Zach Long
&
Emma Krupp
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Chicago got a surprise river dyeing in 2021, but it's been two years since crowds gathered to watch the water turn green. On Saturday, March 12, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 will pour 50 pounds of dye into a quarter-mile stretch of the Chicago River (from Columbus Drive to State Street). After the river changes colors, it's off to Grant Park for the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. Crews begin dumping dye into the river at 9am and it usually takes about 45 minutes to complete the process (here's how the dye the river). Whether you decide to crowd onto the Riverwalk or buy a ticket to a rooftop event, here's where you can watch the St. Patrick's Day Chicago River dyeing.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Where to watch the Chicago River dyeing

  • Things to do
  • Loop

You'll have to arrive early to get a great spot, but you won't have to shell out any cash for a spectacular view of the river dyeing on the Chicago Riverwalk. For the best views of the festivities, head for the portion of the walkway between Columbus Drive and State Street.

Michigan Avenue Bridge
Photograph: Max Herman

Michigan Avenue Bridge

Situated in the middle of Columbus Drive and State Street where the river dyeing action takes place, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is one of the most popular spots to get a view of the festivities. People show up to claim a spot on the bridge extra-early on the morning of the parade, so be prepared to stand on your toes if you roll out of bed late and show up when the dyeing begins.

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State Street Bridge
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

State Street Bridge

Gaze down on the western end of the Chicago River dyeing from atop the State Street bridge, which is typically lined with folks snapping pictures of the boats pouring out dye below. The views are free, but as with any other public, river-adjacent space, you'll have to claim your spot early if you want an unobstructed view.

Columbus Drive Bridge
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Columbus Drive Bridge

Columbus Drive wins points for its (slight) edge on proximity to the parade route compared to the other nearby river walkways. Once you've had your fill of watching the acid-hued dye flowing into the river, you can sneak out early and simply head south on Columbus Drive to grab a parade-side spot along Balbo Drive in Grant Park.

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City Cruises Chicago St. Patrick's Day cruises
Photograph: Courtesy Hornblower Cruises

City Cruises Chicago St. Patrick's Day cruises

City Cruises Chicago offers St. Patrick's Day River Dyeing excursions for every budget, from a relatively affordable spin on the Seadog that departs from Navy Pier ($65) to a brunch curise departing from the Chicago River Esplanade that features a multi-course buffet, unlimited coffee and a cash bar ($105–$125). Board the Seadog to see the river turn green in front of your eyes, or opt for a brunch on the emerald water.

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