While St. Patrick’s Day used to mean green beer and of course, the nasty March 18 hangover, these days St. Paddy’s (or, Patty, depending on which camp you’re in — head on over to our Facebook page for a lively debate) is all about donning green gear for some kid-friendly fun. We can’t think of a better way to usher in this festive holiday than with San Francisco’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, a 160 year old tradition that boasts 100,000 people of all backgrounds who come out to enjoy Irish culture and heritage. Give the kids a taste of Irish soda bread or come dance to the tune of an Irish fiddle. Oh, did we mention that it’s totally free?

When to go:
The St. Patrick’s Day Festival & Parade is a one-day event, spreading Irish cheer on Saturday, March 17, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The parade kicks off at 11:30 am, but the festival goes on before, during, and after the last float docks, so the family can enjoy the festival built around your lunch plans or nap schedules. But make sure to arrive by 11:30 a.m. to see the marching bands and leprechauns make their way down Market Street. Entertainment consists of contemporary and traditional performers, and from 2:15 to 3 p.m., Irish dancing is the highlight on stage.

Getting there:
The parade travels down Market Street, from the corner of Second and Market to the Civic Center Plaza, where Irish dancing, pony rides, and concession stands serving corned beef and cabbage await.

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Exit the Montgomery BART Station if you wish to catch the beginning of the parade, Civic Center Station to avoid a crowded trek and be closer to the festival area, and Powell Station if you want to start somewhere in the middle.

What to see:
More than 100 animated floats will participate in the parade and anticipating all the families that come out to celebrate Irish culture and community, the Civic Center Plaza will be fully loaded with entertainment for the kids. Arts and crafts, face painting, rides and inflatables, and a petting zoo are always a hit. But factor in live Gaelic music in the backdrop, Irish cultural and exhibitor booths, shamrock and clovers, Celtic baby costumes for sale, and, somewhere in the crowd, the patron saint of Ireland, the event becomes a crowded but jubilant opportunity for cultural enrichment. Just don’t expect any green beer – the event is alcohol-free. 

What to bring:
Your comfy walking shoes and green attire to get into the spirit.

Extra:
Check out our complete list of St. Patrick’s Day festivities going on around the Bay.

Online: uissf.org

Do you have any tips on bringing the kiddos to the St. Patrick’s Day parade?

–Renee Macalino Rutledge

Photo credit: “St. Patrick’s Kid” by mrrainby via Flickr