In my part of the world, St. Paddy’s Day is a holiday that’s enjoyed with great fanfare. But in my travels around the globe, other people don’t seem to know all that much about it. It’s technically a cultural and religious celebration occurring every year on March 17th, the death date of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Apparently he drove all the snakes out of Ireland and did a bunch of other cool stuff, and so we all really like him a lot.
But most people know St. Paddy’s Day as a Guinness-drinking, green-wearing, giant party fest. It’s the only acceptable day to dye your beer green. And there’s nothing wrong with that either, really. And while Ireland is an obvious choice for celebrating this special occasion, it’s not the only one.
If you WOULD rather celebrate in Ireland, why not plan a little trip to Dublin? Hire a local guide and see the streets on a walking tour before they’re teeming with merry-makers! You’ll be amazed by the transformation at Temple Bar. A Dublin heritage-history tour is also recommended. But if Dublin isn’t an option for you, here are the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day outside of Ireland!
#1 – St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the only other place besides Ireland and Montserrat that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday. This is due to Newfoundland and Labrador’s large founding Irish population that’s been around for a few hundred years now. Some people say it’s “more Irish than Ireland,” with many prominent old Irish dialects and accents that have long been lost from their native home.
So it only makes sense that there’s a big party to celebrate, and it happens to be on one of the booziest streets in the world: George Street, with more pubs and clubs per square foot than any other street in North America. The celebrations at individual pubs usually start at lunchtime (Irish food!) and then last well into the evening. If you want good Irish/Newfoundland traditional music, try O’Reilly’s. There’s also Shamrock City, located just off George Street, and Erin’s Pub, on Water Street. Erin’s Pub is the oldest Irish pub in the city, and the entertainment on St. Paddy’s Day is always spot on. Just look for an Irish flag or a Republic of Newfoundland flag – you won’t go wrong!
#2 – Montserrat
Who’d suspect that this itty-bitty super-isolated island in the British West Indies would be so dedicated to St. Patrick? In case you didn’t know, Montserrat has a very active volcano, known as Soufriere Hills, which has been keeping people on their toes for years. You can’t get a more exciting St. Patrick’s Day than partying under an active volcano! Although to be sure, with its measly 4000 residents, you’ll have to make some friends first. It shouldn’t be too hard.
This is the kind of Caribbean island where everybody knows everybody, and isolation just makes the island all that more beautiful. It’s been referred to as “the Emerald Island” in memory of the Irish who settled there in the 17th century, after they were driven off St. Kitts by the Protestants. When you get your passport stamped at the airport, you’ll receive an official green shamrock! The national flag even boasts an Irish harp.
There’s actually a week-long St. Patrick’s Day festival, and you won’t go astray if you get to know the friendly locals. Surely they’ll aid you in your endeavors to pay homage to St. Patrick.
#3 – Chicago
Chicago is well known for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations because every year the city turns the entire river a bright emerald GREEN! Yes, you heard that right. Chicago literally dyes its river to celebrate this special occasion. What’s not to love?
It’s still cold in Chicago during March, of course, but that doesn’t seem to stop anybody. People come out to watch the parade, where you’ll see bagpipes, Clydesdale horses, marching bands, Irish dancing, and more. It basically turns into a massive street party, and the celebration carries on well into the evening. There’s an unlimited amount of Irish pubs in Chicago, so you won’t have to go far to find some good ol’ Irish hospitality. Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant is a good option, as well as Fado’s Irish Pub.
If you’d like to see Chicago before all the chaos, hire a guide to take you on a Chicago walking tour or car tour. That way you’ll be well oriented, and a local guide is more than adept at recommending places to see. Perhaps he or she even knows of a secret Irish pub? After all, Chicago might be the “great American city.”
#4 – Savannah, Georgia
Surprisingly, Savannah reputably has the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world (next to Dublin, naturally). All the streets come alive on St. Patrick’s Day, and you’ll even see people coming out for some tailgating parties. The whole city is adorned in green, the fountains spew green water, and the partying does not stop until WELL into the evening. Personally, I’d be most excited about the tailgating parties. If you’re gonna celebrate Ireland in the south, it’s just the perfect combination.
There are no shortages of Irish pubs in Savannah, so head over to Kevin Barry’s for some food and music and start your evening off there.
#5 – Sydney, Australia
As if the Aussies needed to bolster their reputation for being party animals. Their parade is epic, and anyone marching in it can choose from seven categories demonstrating the country’s Irish history, from “Convicts and Rebels” to “Present Day Ireland.” We’re not kidding. You can literally dress up like a convict and have fun in the streets of Sydney.
The whole parade gets crazy theatrical, with music, floats, dancers, and more. It also takes place on the same day as Family Day at Hyde Park, where you can continue the spirited fun by watching Irish step dance performances, live baking demonstrations, and more. St. Patrick himself might even show up.
But, well, if you’re looking for more fun beyond the family oriented stuff, there’s plenty of debauchery to be had. Try P.J. Gallagher’s Irish Pub, The Wild Rover, or The Porterhouse Irish Pub. Have a green beer. Drink some Guinness.
#6 – Boston
Boston is the United States’ most Irish state, with nearly a quarter of residents claiming Irish descent. They even have their own Irish heritage trail, with 20 sites along the way. To be sure, you can hear the Irish accent in the Bostonian accent! All the fun happens in South Boston, where “Southie” hosts one of the most epic parades you’ll ever see: bagpipes, dancers, party-goers, and more. And it all lasts for HOURS.
After the parade, the fun begins. Head to Durgin Park for some traditional Irish fare, and then go in search of Guinness. You won’t have to wander far.
#7 – Cabo Roig, Spain
For something really unexpected and offbeat, head to Cabo Roig, Spain. This holiday hotspot is home to Spain’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade, and if you’re going to celebrate the occasion, perhaps it’s a good idea to do it somewhere warm… right? You can spend the morning at a beach, and then take in the parade! There is usually a large number of marching bands, motorcyclists, and even Irish government officials.
Once the parade is over, things get crazy. It’s like Spanish culture fused with Irish, so you’ll start drinking Guinness at an outdoor fiesta that includes karaoke, contests, fireworks, and even flamenco dancers. Seriously.
#8 – New York City
It would appear that the United States REALLY loves their St. Patrick’s Day festivities, because our final recommendation is New York City. The country IS founded on immigration, after all… and we’re pretty sure there ISN’T a single holiday that isn’t celebrated somewhere in NYC.
NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is apparently the world’s largest, although Dublin may have something to say about that. It attracts more than 2 million spectators every year, and lasts for nearly six whole hours. It’s also led by an impressive military unit, making it a bit more unique compared to the others. AND there are no cars or floats — everything is done on foot.