The city of Chicago is famous for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and while many people drink green beer and partake in a pub crawl, there are plenty of family-friendly activities as well. Whether you are of Irish heritage or you simply want to take part in the beloved tradition and appreciate Irish culture for the weekend, we have a great list of fun things to do for the whole family.
The History of St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and establishing churches and schools around the country. There’s also a legend that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. Ireland has celebrated him on the date of his death–March 17th–with feasts and religious services for centuries. Irish immigrants in the United States made the holiday more secular, and it’s evolved into an annual event marked with good times, parades, Irish dancers, live bagpipe music, adult beverages, four-leaf clovers, and the color green.
St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago
Many Irish immigrants came to Chicago in search of economic opportunities, especially after the Great Famine in the late 1840’s. St. Patty’s Day (or some say St. Paddy’s Day) has been celebrated in Chicago since, with the first downtown parade being held in 1843. The dyeing of the Chicago River began in 1962, and it’s been a favorite way to get into the Irish spirit ever since.
Chicago is now arguably the best place in the country to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, though if it’s your first time, you should know that people go out in full force. There are plenty of fun children’s activities, but there will likely be more than one bar crawl in every corner of the city. People can get sloppy as the day goes on, so if you’re trying to go to an Irish pub for some live music and themed cocktails, I’d go earlier in the day if you have younger kids. I also recommend taking public transportation on March 11th and March 12th, which are the main celebration days this year.
St. Patrick’s Day Activities
March 3 | Firefighter’s Park in New Lenox
Head to New Lenox to hunt for the many clovers the Leprechauns left around Firefighter’s Park. Be sure to dress for the weather and bring a basket or bag to carry the clovers. Some clovers earn the finders special prizes! Hunters should come at their designated times:
Ages 3-5: 6:15pm
Ages 6-11: 6:30pm
March 4 | Central Avenue in Oak Forest
Oak Forest Fleadh is an annual 5K, parade, and festival. The Family Parade begins at 11am on Central Avenue from 151st Avenue heading south. Look for the $1000 golden ticket, sponsored by Kevin Szabo Jr. Plumbing, along the parade route.
Grab some food and beverages at a local restaurant after!
March 4 | Wilson St & Spring Road heading North
The Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the week before the festivities in Chicago, so you can definitely do both if you want to maximize your pseudo Irish experience this season. The parade begins at noon, and there will be Irish step dancers, local team mascots, live Irish music from the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, and more! It’s one of the biggest celebrations in the western suburbs.
March 7 – March 19 | Various Parks around Winnetka
Lucky the Leprechaun will be hiding in various parks around Winnetka in March. Clues will be posted on the Winnetka Facebook page. Send in pictures of Lucky to receive gift cards to local restaurants. Head to the Winnetka Facebook page for additional details.
March 11 | Starts on Mill Street and Ogden Avenue
The Naperville St. Patrick’s Day Parade is presented by West Suburban Irish, a nonprofit organization that promotes Irish culture around. the area through “Friendship, Fun, and Service”. The Parade starts at 10:00 AM from the corner of Mill Street and Ogden Avenue, proceeded south on Mill to Jefferson, crossing over to Main St. and ending at Water Street.
March 11 | Downtown Chicago
The grand event, the downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade occurs at 12:30pm on March 11th, and the The river dyeing occurs at 10:00am. If you don’t want to face the crowds, the river usually stays somewhat green for a few days, but I’d try to get there by March 13th. The event is sponsored by the Plumbers Local Union, and this year’s parade theme is “Recognizing Workers Rights”.
For the best seats to see the emerald green river, try to find a spot on the Michigan Avenue Bridge, the Chicago Riverwalk, or really anywhere along the river in River North. The parade route starts at the intersection of Columbus Drive and Balbo Drive in Grant Park, continuing north on Columbus until concluding at Monroe Street.
This is a super fun event for the entire family and it’s the best part of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, but it tends to get rowdy later in the day. If you’re looking for something fun to do with kids after, check out Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, or head to one of the many museums on Museum Campus or Navy Pier.
March 11 | 4626 N Knox Ave, Chicago, IL 60630
Head to the Irish American Heritage Center after the downtown parade for festivities between 1:00pm-11:00pm. There will be children’s activities, contemporary Irish music, Irish dancing, and lots of live entertainment-including a performance by the Wiggleworms! Tickets for adults are $20, and children 12 and under are free.
March 11 | 700 W Adams St, Chicago, IL 60661
This St. Patrick’s Day Block Party is one of the many great places to celebrate downtown. The party starts at 11:30am and lasts until 5:00pm, and there will be music, food, fun and the “Pot of Gold” raffle has some great prizes, including $20,000!
Looking for some family fun away from the chaos and alcohol? All three WhirlyBall locations are hosting family fun bashes with WhirlyBall, games, activities, food, and fun! Buy your tickets in advance to ensure a spot!
March 11 | Skokie, IL 60077
Kids can learn how to make shamrock-shaped rice krispie treats with the chef at the Maggiano’s in Old Orchard. The event includes a breakfast buffet with scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, fruit, and more!
March 12 | 5157 Main St, Downers Grove, IL 60515
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Ballydoyle Pub in Downer’s Grove. They will have an Irish brunch, Irish dancers, live music, and crafts for the kids. There are two separate seatings, and tickets are $2 per person.
March 12 | 103rd and Western Avenue
The South Side of Chicago has a prominent Irish community and the largest community-based parade on St. Patrick’s Day outside of Ireland. It starts at noon at 103rd Street and Western Avenue, marching south to 115th Street and Western. The parade lasts approximately two hours.
March 12 | 6634 W. Raven St. Chicago, IL 60631
The Norwood Park Neighborhood on the Northwest Side also has its own parade that kicks off at 12:00pm at William J. Onahan school on w. Raven St. and Neola Avenue. It continues up Northwest Highway towards Harlem Avenue. There will be an after-party at one of the best bars on the Northwest Side, Zia’s Social, with kids’ activities, face painting, and delicious Irish buffets.
March 12 | 3635 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613
Gallagher Way is hosting its annual St. Patrick’s Day event that is free and great for kids of all ages! There will be mini Irish dance lessons from the Old Town School of Folk Music, face painting, balloon artists, a wandering magician, lawn games, and crafts.
Of course, they will have green beer, Irish coffee, and specialty cocktails for the adults to purchase.
March 18 | 1001 Main St, Lemont, IL 60439
The Lemont Quarries is having a St. Patrick’s Day Festival from 12:00pm-6:00pm on March 18th. The event is FREE and includes live music, Irish dance performances, bagpipers, workshops, and so much more. Food & beverage, activities, and tastings will also be available for purchase.
March 19 | 2821 Ridge Rd, Highland Park, IL 60035
The Heller Nature Center is hosting a short walk, crafts, and an opportunity to learn about snakes, the reptile St. Patrick supposedly eradicated from Ireland.
Ages 6-Adult, Cost: $12
17. Enjoy Some Irish Food
Ireland is not necessarily known for its cuisine, but there are some delicious, hearty options to try if you want to introduce your kids to the food of the Emerald Isle. Corned beef, shepherd’s pie, Irish boxtys, and Irish soda bread are all traditional.
Some great restaurants to try:
Cook at Home
If you want to bake at home, Sally’s Baking Addiction has some great, easy-to-follow recipes that always turn out well. I made her Irish Soda Bread recipe last year, and it was delicious! Her White Chocolate Lucky Charms Treats would be a hit with kids, and she has some adult-themed recipes as well!