Green Scene! St. Patrick’s Day Family Fun

It seems like only yesterday we were marveling at the Kermit-colored river. And now St. Patrick’s Day here again. Lucky us! Get ready for days and days of family fun, from parades to food to parties. Here is our list of must-do’s.

photo: City of Chicago

Chicago River Dyeing
In a feat of colossal luster, every year the city colors the Chicago River bright emerald green. The longstanding tradition has been going on for decades and watching the dyeing is part of the fun. Boats speed through dropping gallons upon gallons of vegetable dye and churn it all up for an effect that lasts a few precious hours. The best spots to watch the show are from the Michigan Avenue Bridge, the Columbus Drive Bridge and along the banks of the Chicago Riverwalk.

Held March 15 at 10:45 a.m.
Chicago River, between Columbus & Wacker drives


photo: South Side Irish Parade Facebook page

Two Major Parades
Immediately following the river dyeing is the downtown parade, the keystone St. Pat’s event for North Siders. It’s filled with colorful floats and flags, bagpipe players, Irish dancers and more. If you want more fun, the South Side Irish Parade happens the very next day. The two-hour shindig features more than 90 acts meandering up Western Avenue for a day of convivial fun.

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
March 15 at noon
Begins in Grant Park, at Columbus and Balbo streets
South Side Irish Parade
March 16 at noon
Held on Western Avenue, between 103rd to 115th streets


photo: South Side Irish Parade Facebook page

St. Patrick’s Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center
The quintessential St. Paddy’s destination for families is the Irish American Heritage Center on the northwest side. Activities, live music, dance and Irish food happen all month long, but the big draw is the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. Dress up in green and head over for an arts and crafts fair, a mini Irish market, dancing, food, music, performances by Irish groups and other kinds of family fun. On St. Patrick’s Day proper (March 17), the heritage center keeps the good times rolling between noon and 10:00 p.m. with a holiday fete filled with even more music, dancing and face-painting for kids.

St. Patrick’s Day Festival
Held March 15, from 1 p.m.-midnight.
Tickets: $15 for adults, free for kids 12 and younger (if purchased by March 13, tickets are $12).
4626 N. Knox Ave.


photo: Trinity Irish Dancers

Trinity Irish Dancers
It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without getting jiggy. There’s no better way to do it than by seeing the Trinity Irish Dancers. Founded by world-renowned Irish dance enthusiast Mark Howard, an England native reared in Chicago, this group has grown to become the largest Irish dance program in the world, with dance centers situated throughout Chicagoland and Wisconsin. The company offers parent-tot classes, pre-beginner programs and accelerated programs. In case you’d rather just watch a performance, don’t worry, you can do that too. Dance troupes host regular performances in and around Chicago. You can see them take the stage this month at the Chicagoland Kids’ Expo on March 8 and outside at Daley Plaza on March 14. Check the website for other show dates.

Call 630-415-3382 or go online to for info.


photo: Shoreline Sightseeing

St. Patrick’s Day Cruise
Nothing personifies the patron saint of Ireland quite like a cruise on Lake Michigan. Hop aboard a Shoreline Sightseeing boat at Navy Pier for the annual St. Patrick’s Day cruise, an aquatic tour that traverses all three branches of the Chicago River. Along the way, you’ll see sights and hear stories about how the Irish helped sculpt Chicago. The boat will be decked out with a buffet of Irish eats, from corned beef and cabbage to bread pudding.

Held March 15 at 10 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Tickets: $49 per person
600 E. Grand Ave.

Little Leprechauns Parent-Child Program
Gather your little leprechauns for a day of stories, crafts and Irish treats courtesy of the Little Leprechauns Parent-Child Program at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. These St. Patrick’s Day festivities are ideal for preschool-aged kids, with fun in the (hopeful) sun for those ages three to five

Held March 14, from 1-2 p.m.
Tickets: $10 per child
1s151 N. Winfield Rd.
Register by calling 630-260-8162 or go to


photo: Manny’s Deli Facebook page

Best Restaurants for Irish Grub
Irish restaurants are often pigeonholed as Guinness-filled watering holes, but Chicago has plenty of kid-friendly spots as well. Here are our favorites.

Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant is worth it for the kids’ menu filled with mini portions of shepherd’s pie and fish ‘n’ chips, plus root beer floats … because those are always appropriate. The pub also features a colossal eat-all-you-want Sunday brunch buffet filled with everything from Irish eggs Benedict to build-your-own ice cream sundaes and chocolate fountains primed for dipping. 3471 N. Elston Ave., 773-583-3066 or

Winston’s Sausage is the spot to pick up corned beef. This longstanding family-run institution on the southwest side originated in 1967 as a place where Irish families could shop for meats reminiscent of their homeland. Nowadays, the shop is as family-focused and Irish-centric as ever, and sells corned beef, Irish sausage, soda bread and other authentic provisions. 4701 W. 63rd St., 773-767-4353 or

Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen has for decades been slinging homey and hulking portions of decadent corned beef to the masses. The nostalgic deli vibe only adds to the family appeal of the space. 1141 S. Jefferson St., 312-939-2855 or

Molly Malone’s in Forest Park serves Irish fare fireside. The kids’ menu contains favorites such as chicken tenders, grilled cheese and even a turkey burger, but the whole brood will wind up hankering for bangers ‘n’ mash, shepherd’s pie and bite-sized Reuben fritters. 7652 Madison St., Forest Park, 708-366-8073 or

McGonigal’s Pub in Barrington has mini fish fries for kids, along with plenty of American favorites, and your little ones are sure to want to try your soft pretzels and Irish nachos as well. On St. Patrick’s Day, the pub will feature live Irish music all day long. 105 S. Cook St., Barrington, 847-277-7400 or

How will you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Matt Kirouac