Put on those dancing shoes (look out River Dance) and grab your lucky green tee—it’s that time of year when everyone is a little bit Irish. From Boston to San Diego, we’ve gathered up the most family-friendly parades to help you get the party started with your little leprechauns. Scroll down to check out our picks for celebrations perfect for the pint-sized set–you’ll spot everything from elaborate floats to traditional step dancers (didn’t we say to grab those dancing shoes?)
Celebrations in the South focus on family, and Atlanta’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is no exception. In addition to the world’s largest walking Irish flag (always a crowd pleaser), this year the mini cars from Tiny Towne are joining in on the fun. Be sure to arrive early for a front row spot on Peachtree St. Get more info here.
photo: courtesy Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade, Inc.
Boston is known for its rich Irish roots, so it comes as no surprise that Beantown puts together a spectacular parade. Stake out a viewing spot in one of the three alcohol-free “Family Zones” and enjoy snacks, arts and crafts, and plenty of other fun activities for the wee ones. Get more info here.
photo: Madeleine Ball via Flickr creative commons
Our nation’s Capital doesn’t disappoint with an Irish spectacle right on the National Mall. Arrive early to secure a spot near the grandstands, and you’ll be in prime location as each group is introduced. Plus, there’s a public restroom close by (key for tiny bladders!) But if the D.C. hoopla is too overwhelming for your crew, the parade in nearby Gaithersburg, MD is the place to be. Get more info here.
photo: Elvert Barnesvia Flickr creative commons
New York City
Manhattan boasts both the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the country. Now in its 253rd year, the event attracts more than a million onlookers. Avoid (some of) the crowds by heading north of 66th Street and Fifth Avenue. Get more info here.
photo: D. Myles Cullen/Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s via Flickr creative commons
New Yorkers looking for a more low key celebration can head across the bridge to Park Slope. The parade loop begins at Prospect Park West and 15th St. with a rededication ceremony to the heroes and victims of 9/11. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum to learn about Irish traditions and create a rainbow mobile. Get more info here.
photo: Diane Greene Lent via Flickr creative commons
San Francisco, CA
The whole family will get into the Irish spirit at San Francisco’s 164th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival. The parade is only the beginning of a full day of live performances, arts and crafts, pony rides, and more taking place at the Civic Center Plaza. Get more info here.
photo: Steven Damron via Flickr creative commons
San Diego, CA
Organized by the Irish Congress of Southern California, San Diego’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is the largest on the west coast. The dazzling parade kicks off early so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the Irish Festival in Balboa Park. Treat the family to traditional Irish fare, live entertainment, and Kid Zones with rides, crafts, and more.
Photo: Henrique Dela Cruz via Irish Congress of Southern California
Hermosa Beach, CA
Proving that bigger isn’t always better, this sweet beachside town hosts a St. Patrick’s Parade with a true family feel. Expect school marching bands, bagpipers, floats, vintage autos, adorable Irish setters, and of course…fantastic weather. Get more info here.
photo: Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce via Flickr creative commons
This is one city that really gets into the Irish spirit. The green-themed shenanigans kick off on Sunday with the annual South Side Irish Parade. You won’t find any green pints at this family-friendly event. Then on Tuesday, take part in a city tradition and watch the Chicago River turn Kermit-green before checking out the downtown parade. Get more info here.
photo: Max Talbot-Minkin via Flickr creative commons
Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day in the Emerald City with a host of great events on tap. Rain or shine, you’ll enjoy marching bands, bagpipers, drill teams, and lots of Irish dancers. Get more info here.
photo: Jal Schrof via Irish Heritage Club of Seattle
Everything is bigger in Texas. And with the Dallas Mavericks as its primary sponsor, the Dallas St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival is quickly becoming one of the biggest in the country. Splurge for bleacher seats in the Meadows Building Family Zone, an alcohol-free area featuring food trucks and entertainment for all ages. You’ll also find plenty for your lads and lassies to do over at Mavs Corner. Get more info here.
photo: Melissa Macatee via Dallas St. Patrick’s Parade & Festival
Kansas City, MO
The Snake Saturday Parade and Family FunFest is a highlight in North Kansas City. In addition to the annual parade, you’ll find a free children’s area filled with family-friendly activities. Get more info here.
photo: via Snake Saturday Parade and Festival
Dublin City, OH
With a name like Dublin City, this is one place that definitely knows how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Be sure to catch the “Inflation Celebration,” where families gather to watch parade floats come to life. Get more info here.
photo: Dublin, Ohio, USA via Flickr creative commons
Looking to check a trip to Ireland off your family’s bucket list? Then there’s no more exciting a St. Patrick’s festival than the one in Dublin, Ireland each year. The traditional four-day celebration is topped off by the city’s signature parade. Get more info here.
photo: via St. Patrick’s Festival, Dublin, Ireland
What other parades should be included on the list? Share with us in the Comments!
— Lauren Hill