While March 17 actually commemorates the death of Ireland’s patron saint, most Chicagoans just want the road to rise and meet them at the city’s lively 62nd St. Patrick’s Day parade (and subsequent pub crawl for a pint, bit of sustenance and a round or two of “Danny Boy”). Here’s a quick, helpful guide to getting the most bang for your blarney on parade day which marches on despite rain, snow, sleet or polar vortex.
Columbus Drive between Balbo Drive and Monroe Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
Date: Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 12 p.m.
Of course you know to take public transportation just for the street closings, crowds, exorbitant parking fees and possibility of sipping one too many green beers. Take a look at the Chicago Transit Authority’s website for your specific needs but generally, those taking the Blue or Red line can exit at any Loop stop and walk east to Columbus Drive; Brown, Green or Orange line riders get off at any stop along Wabash Avenue and stroll east to Columbus. Metra riders exit at Ogilvie Transportation Center and hike east toward Columbus, about seven blocks. If you just have to drive, parking nearest to the parade route is along Wabash between Lake and Congress. Other possibilities include: Wells St. between Lake and Van Buren; underground spots below Grant Park that you can enter on Columbus at Randolph; Hilton at Balbo and Michigan; and Navy Pier (but the Flower and Garden Show is taking place there, so parking will be tight).
The Chicago River transforms from a muddy olive to a fluorescent lime green every parade day and don’t fret about the possible fish in the river – the dye is vegetable-based and as environmentally sound as the neon green relish on a Chicago style hot dog. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers begin the process at 9 a.m. sharp so begin to ring Wacker Drive, Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River early to get the best view. Good spots to park your car are the west side of Columbus Drive; east side of Michigan Avenue; and upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.
You can stand and watch the parade anywhere along Columbus Drive, between Balbo and Monroe or consider purchasing a grandstand seat for $40 in advance or $50 day of the event (if there are any spots remaining) here. Wendella Sightseeing Boats offer a St. Paddy’s Day cruise for $60 for a closer look at the greening of the river along with Irish music and a full bar. Shoreline Sighseeing and Spirit of Chicago also offer lunch cruises that day.
Related: Neighborhood Guide: River North
Look for Chicago’s Maura Elizabeth Connors, the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Parade Queen (besting over 50 young women of Irish ancestry who wanted the gig). “The Gentleman’s Lawyer,” Martin J. Healy, Jr., is the 2017 Grand Marshall. A founding partner of the Healy Scanlon Law Firm, Healy’s mother and father are both natives of County Mayo, Ireland which perfectly aligns with this year’s theme – Irish Immigration: A New World of Opportunity. The 2017 Guest of Honor is Rev. Monsignor Michael M. Boland, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a genuine member of the south side Irish. Expect to see countless Irish dancers with their bouncy curls and tapping feet as well as bagpipers, marching bands and colorful floats carrying local celebs.
Just a hop, step and a jig from the best spot to eyeball the dyeing of the river, Howell’s and Hood at 435 N. Michigan Ave. does it up with its annual St. Patrick’s Day party on parade day in partnership with Guinness. Beginning at 9 a.m., fuel with traditional Irish food such as corned beef and revel in bag-pipers, a photo booth and specialty drinks.
Fado Irish Pub might be the greenest watering hole opening early in the morn for televised rugby and soccer, brunch menu, special parade day menu and live music from morning ’til midnight.
Resident Irish industry leaders Amy Lawless and Clodagh Lawless welcome parade goers in Chicago’s Loop to The Dearborn Tavern Friday and Saturday, March 10-11 (and March 17) to sup on essential Irish eats like Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Fish ‘n Chips and Seafood Chowder with Brown Bread.
For an unbeatable view of the annual river dyeing ceremony as well as festive eats consider River Roast and the aptly named GreenRiver promises tons of Irish mirth. You needn’t stumble far from the parade route when you duck into Filini Bar & Restaurant at 221 N. Columbus Dr. or Columbus Tap in the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park – an always satisfying gastropub with views of Columbus Drive.
Related: Best Irish Pubs In Chicago