Now that you have kids, you may think that celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is a distant (and perhaps foggy) memory. Well think again! From the northern ‘burbs to the far south side, there’s something for everyone who’ll surely be donning the green this month. Check out these family-friendly festivities and Erin Go Bragh!
IN THE CITY
Chicago River Dyeing
The first Mayor Daley kicked off this tradition in 1962, and every year since the Chicago River has turned a bright green to kick off the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Boats speed through dropping 40 pounds of a special eco-safe dye that starts out orange and miraculously turns green for a spectacle that lasts for a few magical hours. This annual miracle can be best viewed from the East side of the bridge at Columbus Drive or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive. INSIDER TIP: This is a new location due to construction taking place this year.
Sat., Mar. 12, 9 a.m.
Chicago River, between Columbus & Wacker Drives
photo: Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade via Dean Battaglia
Rain, shine, snow or sleet, since 1843 our fair city has been hosting the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade starts at Balbo and Columbus and heads north in a procession chock-full of colorful floats, bagpipes, Irish dancers, marching bands and more. Public transportation is highly recommended as the parade always attracts thousands!
Sat., Mar. 12, noon.
Begins in Grant Park, at Columbus and Balbo Streets
photo: Trinity Irish Dancers
St. Patrick’s Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center
Immediately following the downtown parade, head over to the Irish American Heritage Center on the Northwest side for the after-party. The family-oriented annual event will include traditional and contemporary Irish music, Irish step dance performances, food and drink, children’s activities and an arts-and-crafts fair with an Irish flair. Confirmed performers include Trinity Irish Dancers, O’Hare School of Irish Dance, Mullane Healy Godley Irish Dance Academy, Mulhern School of Irish Dance and the Irish Heritage Singers. You and your family will have so much fun you’ll want to come back on March 17th for a day-long celebration with more Irish music, dancing and face painting for the kiddies.
Sat., Mar. 12, 1 p.m.-midnight
Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., Chicago
Tickets are $15/adults, or $12 for advance purchase if bought by the end of the day on Mar. 10; free for ages 11 & under
St. Patrick’s Day Party at Harry O’Caray’s
Every year, each of Harry Caray’s locations embraces its inner Irish and morphs into Harry O’Caray’s for parade day. Doors open at 9 a.m. at their River North location (33 W. Kinzie), so stop in for a breakfast of poached eggs with Guinness Hollandaise or bangers and mash and, of course, a green beer! Throughout the day there will be live music, a DJ spinning Irish tunes, and more food specials like fish ’n’ chips, Irish cheddar soup and Irish Bread “Pudding.” It’s a great place to stop in before or after the downtown parade.
For a wee bit o’ craic (Gaelic for “fun”) a bit further from the crowds, Harry O’Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier and Harry O’Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch at Water Tower Place will be decked out for St. Patrick’s Day while maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere. The celebrations will feature St. Patrick’s Day inspired giveaways and traditional Irish food and drink specials available all day. BONUS: Guests of Harry Caray’s 7th Inning will receive complimentary free admission to the Chicago Sports Museum.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, 33 W. Kinzie St., River North
Harry Caray’s Tavern, Navy Pier
Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch, Water Tower Place
photo: Dean Battaglia
Old St. Patrick’s Church: St. Patrick’s Day Civic Celebration
With all of the fanfare surrounding St. Patrick’s Day, it’s easy to forget the reason why we’re celebrating: St. Patrick himself. What better way to remember (or teach your kids) than to attend mass at Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Chicago’s West Loop. This beautiful and historic church hosts its Civic Celebration on March 12, starting with a mass at 9 a.m. and followed by a traditional Irish breakfast in the church hall. The Old St. Patrick’s concert choir will be accompanied by the Irish Rovers and step dancers, keeping the festive spirit going throughout the day.
Sat., Mar. 12, 9 .m.
Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, 700 W. Adams St., Chicago
Reservations are required and can be made by emailing Bridget Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 312-831-9355.
South Side Irish Parade
Always held on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, the South Side Irish Parade began in 1979 as a small neighborhood affair that eventually grew into one of the largest St. Patricks’ Day celebrations outside of Dublin. In 2012, community organizers re-wired the parade to include a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol in the public way along the parade route, bringing it back to its family-oriented roots. The two-hour shindig features more than 90 acts meandering up Western Avenue for a day of festive flair. Locals might want to offset all of that corned beef and cabbage by participating in the Emerald Isle Mile, a one-mile fun run that starts at 11:30 a.m. immediately preceding the parade.
Sun., Mar. 13, noon
Held on Western Ave., between 103rd and 115th Streets
Northwest Irish Parade
Also on Sunday the 13th, the Northwest Irish Organization (NWSI) kicks off its 13th annual parade to celebrate all things Irish. This year’s celebration will include a tribute to community-based efforts on behalf of local veterans and military families. With over 100 parade group participants and 2,500 people marching, it’s sure to be a fun-filled hour and a half for the whole family. If you’re up for more fun post-parade, the Official NWSI After Party will take place at Immaculate Conception Elementary School Recreation Center. Tickets for the after party include dinner and drinks for kids and adults. Come for the corned beef, and stay for the entertainment, face painting, balloon magic and raffles!
Sun., Mar. 13, noon
Begins at 6634 W. Raven (Onahan School), up Neola Ave. to Northwest Highway and continues north to Harlem Ave.
IN THE ‘BURBS
Barrington Celtic Fest
Come out to McGonigal’s Pub in Barrington for the 6th annual Celtic Fest! The three-day festival will take place on the 200 block Park Avenue, just East of South Cook Street. A huge heated festival tent will be erected over the majority of Park Avenue so you can enjoy the celebration outdoors without worries about the weather. The agenda for the weekend includes live music, a mix of local retail restaurants and merchants, various entertainment including Irish dancers, bagpipers, special guest appearances, and of course plentiful availability of food and beverages both in the outdoor festival area and the pub. Families are welcome and encouraged to attend during the daytime hours – especially on Sunday when the “family day” takes place in the Festival tent!
Thurs., Mar. 17-Sat. Mar. 19
Admission is free, but donations requested for the American Cancer Society
McGonigal’s Pub & The Annex, 105 S. Cook St., Barrington
photo: jpmpinmontreal via flickr
Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day Parade
If you call the suburbs home or just want to start your parade-going early this March, check out Elmhurst’s parade. Now ranked as the second largest St. Patricks’ day parade in the Chicago area, this year’s bash will include 80 floats, Irish Dancers, the Shannon Rovers, and local team mascots including Benny the Bull, Southpaw and Tommy Hawk. And don’t miss your chance to see the world’s largest drum along with the impressive York High School Marching Band! With ample parking and lots of participating restaurants and vendors, this year’s celebration will be one for the books!
Sat., Mar. 5, noon
Begins at the intersection of Wilson St. & Spring Rd. & continues north on Spring Rd.
West Suburban Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and 5K
If you’re in or near Naperville on March 12th, be sure to check out the festivities hosted by the Rotary Club and the West Suburban Irish. A 5K chip-timed Race, Run or Walk will kick things off at a perky 8 a.m., followed by the parade at 10 a.m through historic downtown Naperville. Come to participate or to spectate – people arrive early to cheer on the runners and claim their territory for parade-watching!
Sat., Mar. 12; race at 8 a.m., parade at 10 a.m.
5K Registration fees: $40/adults; $30/ages 9 & under
The parade is free, but residents are encouraged to donate a non-perishable food item to benefit the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Pantry.
Chicago Gaelic Park
While Chicago Gaelic Park celebrates the Irish culture all year round on its 62-acre Oak Forest campus, things really ramp up in March! From a theatrically staged show that journeys through the songs, speeches and images that honor and celebrate the Irish road to freedom to a family fun night, you’ll find something that’ll excite the Irish lover in you.
Cantigny Park’s Little Leprechauns Parent-Child Program
If you’re in the mood for just a bit of shenanigans this year, gather your wee ones for a day of stories, crafts and Irish treats courtesy of the Cantigny Park in Wheaton. These St. Patrick’s Day festivities add up to just the right amount of fun.
Thurs., Mar. 17, 1 p.m.-2 p.m.
$10/child (free parking)
1s151 N. Winfield Rd., Wheaton
Register by calling 630-260-8162 or go to cantigny.org
BEST SPOTS FOR IRISH GRUB
If you’re going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you’ve got to do it right. Wear some green, learn the lyrics to The Unicorn and feast on traditional Irish fare! Chicago and its suburbs has no shortage of spots to sample the best of what Ireland has to offer. Here are our favorites:
Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant
Named one of the “Top Ten Irish Pubs in the World” by Irish of the Welcomes magazine, Chief O’Neill’s could not feel more authentic if it were in the heart of county Cork itself. Home to the Irish Music School of Chicago, Chief O’Neill’s serves up traditional dishes such as lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, and Guinness-infused meatloaf. With live traditional Irish music and a “little leprechauns” menu featuring more American than Irish fare, you can’t go wrong!
3471 N. Elston Ave., Chicago, 773-583-3066 or chiefoneillspub.com
Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro
The Chicago Tribune called Mrs. Murphy’s “one of Chicago’s most authentic Irish restaurants” last year, and for good reason. The menu is vast, with everything from a traditional Irish breakfast to Guinness mac n’ cheese to award-winning barbecue – not to mention its intriguing collection of craft beers and vast whiskey selection. Starting March 1st, this place really gets into the spirit with their “17 days of St. Patrick” countdown, hosting live music daily, beer samplings, a whiskey dinner, Guinness pour contest, traditional Irish music lessons, and more. Mrs. Murphy’s is a must-do this March!
3905 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, irishbistro.com, Chicago Reservations: 773-248-3905
Quigley’s Irish Pub
Talk about authentic … Quigley’s was designed and built in Ireland and then shipped to its current location in the Jefferson Hill shops of downtown Naperville. The interior includes an authentic antique fireplace and bookcases from Dublin and custom glass and Irish prints fill the walls. The pub hosts live bands on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Of course, the menu is filled with traditional Irish favorites, such as corned beef, lamb stew and beef braised with Guinness. The littles can feast from their own menu, and even for free on Mondays!
43 E. Jefferson St., Naperville, quigleysirishpub.com
Irish Times Pub
The Irish Times is a unique combination of old-school tradition and new-school thinking. Inside this “cozy cottage” you’ll find genuine Irish whiskeys, ales and beers (and faces) behind the bar. If you could see the back office, you’d find a progressive recycling program, a commitment to efficient gas and electric usage and a dedication to sourcing as much local produce as possible, including beers from local craft breweries. These ingredients are used in classic, homemade favorites such as corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and fish & chips, all from family recipes.
8869 Burlington Ave., Brookfield, irishtimespub.com
Enjoy a special St. Pat’s Family Day at Ballydoyle! Bring the kids into the pub for from noon to 5 p.m. for face painting, live music, jewelry making, the McNulty Irish dancers and more! Enjoy a traditional pub menu with Irish classics including boxty (a potato pancake folded over and filled with different meats and vegetables) and treat yourself to Irish bread pudding for dessert. As they like to say, “Come for the food, stay for the music!” Family day is March 12th at the Aurora location; March 13th in Downers Grove.
28 W. New York St., Aurora and 5157 Main St., Downers Grove ballydoylepub.com
BRING IT HOME
Throwing a St. Paddy’s bash at your place? Get all the goods for your guests at these Irish import shops and markets:
Since 1957, Gaelic Imports has carried the largest selection of Irish groceries in the Midwest, including freshly made sausage rolls, bridies, steak & kidney pies and soda bread to name a few. Oh, and if you’re looking for something to wear to the party or something to serve the punch in, they sell clothes and Galway crystal too!
6346 W. Gunnison, Portage Park, gaelicimportschicago.com
Jack and Pat’s Old Fashioned Butcher Shop
This is the epitome of a family-run business. Started by brothers Jack Powers and Kenneth Patrick Powers in 1972, the quaint and aptly named old-fashioned butcher shop is now run by three of Jack’s children (though Jack still stops in every day to help out!). If you’re in the southwest suburbs, be sure to stop at Jack and Pat’s for every kind of meat you can imagine, or have them cater your corned beef and cabbage dinner!
10717 S. Ridgeland Ave, Chicago Ridge, jackandpats.com
Winston’s Sausage originated in Chicago in 1967 as a place where Irish families could shop for meats reminiscent of their homeland. Nowadays, Winston’s has become a USDA processing plant that makes homemade Irish sausage, corned beef, and puddings and ships to many states across the country. The store has branched out to serve the south suburbs with Winston’s Market and the Ashford House in Tinley Park, and the north side of Chicago with Winston’s Everyday Market on Southport. winstonsmarket.net
How will you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the Comments!
— MaryKate Hickey