When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, there are a few things that are likely come to mind: the color green, Guinness, and tiny leprechauns. Although St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish tradition, it’s safe to say that it is not reserved exclusively for the Irish, and it certainly isn’t found only in Ireland. You can celebrate it all over the world—from Nebraska to Australia. So if you’re curious to know what US city throws the largest parade or where the best place is in Italy for some green beer….read on to find out 7 of the best and most unique places to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.
Nebraska probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when considering your options for St. Patrick’s Day. However, I bet you didn’t know that it is home to the world’s largest shamrock. With a name like “O’Neill,” it makes sense that the town has been named the Irish Capital of Nebraska.
Each year on St. Patrick’s Day, a parade takes over at the intersection near the giant shamrock, which is freshly painted annually in preparation for the event. The shamrock is made of colored concrete and was installed in the main intersection in 2000. Other activities include a fun run and a dodgeball tournament, as well as performances by local dance troupes and musicians—all in Irish fashion, of course.
Japan is another unexpected destination to celebrate this Irish tradition. In Ise, the Japanese and Irish flags fly side-by-side as hundreds of people gather at the Ise Shrine to participate in the day’s activities. A non-profit organization called Irish Network Japan is in charge of facilitating all events in what is considered to be Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s day parade.
Japanese residents flood the streets, performing jigs and playing bagpipes while dressed like leprechauns. An Irish music dedication concert will take place at the Ise Shrine pond where you can catch live performances by violinists, cellists, and fiddlers. This will be the 21st year the main strip of Omotesando will be shut down in order to facilitate this spectacle.
No, your eyes aren’t fooling you and that is not a typo. There is in fact a city named Dublin in Ohio. So it only seems dutiful for this city to participate in the holiday. A mile-long procession of up to 100 floats fills the streets each year along with leprechauns and bagpipers.
This year’s event will take place on March 14th and will kick off with a pancake breakfast for those who’d like to carb up before the festivities. This is followed by an inflation celebration in honor of the giant shamrock-shaped float that leads the parade. The parade lasts about an hour and a half and travels a mile through the city, with approximately 110 units.
New London, Wisconsin
Local activities for the week of St. Patrick’s Day kickoff when the official “Shamrock Club” replaces each of the city’s signs to read New Dublin instead of New London. This isn’t just a single day celebration, but rather an entire week. This year’s festivities will commence on March 14th and last through the 21st. The theme has been officially named “Hearts of Green” by the Shamrock Club officials.
In addition to a parade that includes everything from marching bands to an Irish wake parody, there is also a music festival with two Celtic bands and plenty of food stalls to get your fill of corned beef and cabbage. There is a different event each day including an evening of Irish caroling.
While Florence may only have one Irish-owned pub—Finnegan’s Irish Pub—they don’t let that stop them from throwing a St. Patrick’s Day bash. The Irlanda in Festa takes place each year over the span of three days. There are various parties and concerts, as well as Irish food and drink. All activities take place at the Obihall, which is a huge tent where there is pub fare, beer, and Celtic musicians and dancers. This year’s events will take place from March 17 to 20.
The Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day, spectators from all over the country gather to watch the annual Chicago River dyeing. After the river turns a bright green, a parade commences that includes colorful floats, Irish step dancers, and marching bands of bagpipers. Typically, over 400,000 people attend, creating a sea of green bodies to match the river.
After the parade, there is a ceremony in which “The Parade Queen” is named as well as a cabbage and corned beef dinner for everyone to enjoy. The Irish American Heritage Center of Chicago also hosts an event providing contemporary Irish music and dancing. All activities will take place on March 14th this year.
At one point, the Irish Australian population outweighed the Australian population in Sydney, so it’s no surprise that Sydney takes St. Patrick’s Day celebrations seriously. Sydney’s St. Patrick’s Day event, which takes place on March 15th this year, is ranked the fourth largest in the world.
Each year a different theme is elected, and this year’s theme has been named “Celebrating Life.” One staple year-to-year is a parade, when a sea of green inhabits the city’s streets. The Sydney Opera house also participates and shines bright green upon nightfall. Pop into any local bar or pub and chances are they will be serving green beer.
San Francisco, California
Believe it or not, San Francisco holds the biggest St. Patrick’s Day event west of the Mississippi. This year will mark its 164th annual parade, which will take place on March 14th. The parade commences at 11:30 in the morning, where it heads down Market Street to the City Center Plaza.
After the parade’s over, the festivities continue with performances by Irish dancers as well as arts and crafts, and of course—lots of beer. This can all be found at the Joe Alioto Performing Arts Plaza. In addition, there are dozens of pubs around the city that serve Irish nachos, bangers, and fish n’ chips in honor of the holiday. After, enjoy the block parties commencing all over town—and there’s even a scavenger hunt.
Now for the real Dublin…because we had to save the biggest celebration for last. Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day boasts almost too many options. What to choose? The city’s St. Patrick’s Day festival lasts for five full days, offering a huge street carnival, a treasure hunt, and a 5k run sponsored by Guinness.
That’s not all though. There is also the tradition of what is referred to as “greening the city,” in which many of the historic buildings are illuminated with green lights to add to the atmosphere of holiday cheer. A few of the other festivals include an Irish whiskey and beer festival, Irish boat races, and a walking tour that follows the footsteps of St. Patrick’s life throughout the city. This year’s festivities will take place from March 14 to 18.
Looking for more spring events and activities? Check out:
- Things You Can Only Do in the Month of March
- Unique Golf Courses Around the World
- Six Places Where You Can See Spring Flowers Bloom
By Candice Fox for PeterGreenberg.com