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The 10 Best Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 04, 2014

Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s day. Festivities can be found in all the corners of the globe: each year, all over the world, dozens of famous landmarks “go green” to celebrate the indomitable spirit and joy of the Irish people. No matter where you are, you’re sure to find a special spot to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, but we’ve rounded up ten of the most wonderful places to raise a pint glass on March 17th.

10. Montserrat

Celebrate St. Patrick’s day with a Caribbean flavor. This tiny island is called “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”, and it’s one of the few places in the world where St. Patrick’s day is an official public holiday. In the 17th century, many desperate Irish refugees fled hardship at home and found a strange refuge in Montserrat. A census carried out in 1678 showed that the Irish made up 70% of the island population. But in Montserrat, the date has a double meaning, also commemorating a slave uprising in 1768. To this day, residents make a big deal out of honoring their unique Afro-Irish heritage, and it’s an amazing opportunity to enjoy the holiday with a unique twist. A ten day festival boasts a full calendar of concerts, events, lectures, and celebrations, culminating in a parade through the city. Try a bowl of Montserrat’s national dish: Goat Water. (It’s not so different from an Irish stew.) Garry Moore’s Wide Awake Bar in Salem is often the first stop on an island-wide pub crawl.

9. Montreal, Canada

Surprised? Don’t be. The beautiful city of Montreal is host to the oldest St. Patrick’s day parade in Canada. It has been running every year since 1824, come rain, shine, wind, snow, or hail. While specific attendance records are hard to come by, hundreds of thousands of spectators gather each year to watch the parade make its way through the historic streets of the city. Hurley’s Irish pub is a wonderful way to unwind after the day’s festivities, with a great whiskey selection, a real fireplace, and live music.

8. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Home to the 5th largest Irish expat population in the world, Buenos Aires is an unlikely but deserving candidate for this list. During the great Irish exodus of centuries past, many Irish people turned away from the more usual choices of North America to choose a life of freedom and adventure in this wild and beautiful South American country. (Fact: The famous revolutionary Che Guevara was of Irish descent!) Today that heritage is celebrated in true Irish-Argentinian style, with street parties and a fabulous parade which doesn’t get started until the evening is well under way. Drop into the Kilkenny Pub in the city centre for a true taste of Ireland right in the middle of Buenos Aires, and expect to stay until the wee small hours.

7. Sydney, Australia

Australia is home to many thousands of Irish and Irish Australians. To this day it remains a popular destination for young Irish immigrants in search of work. The annual St. Patrick’s day parade in Sydney is the largest festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, with more than 80,000 people gathering to celebrate every March 17th. Even the Irish government gets in on the party, supporting the parade and sending official delegates to preside. PJ O’Brien’s is one pub you might want to hit up before the parade. They host a huge Irish breakfast first thing in the morning, so get in early.

6. Birmingham, England

Ireland’s nearest neighbour is home to a massive Irish population, and St. Patrick’s day celebrations are observed with passion in all of England’s major cities. However, Birmingham boast the largest and oldest parade in England. It got its start in 1952, and began as a way for the immigrant Irish community to come together and celebrate their roots, which is something every Irish American can understand. Birmingham also hosts a St. Patricks day festival beginning on the first day of March, with warm-up events each weekend before the big day. More than 85,000 people line the streets for the parade each year, before heading off in search of the traditional Paddy’s day pint. O’Neill’s Irish Pub is the place to be, with live music and a friendly holiday crowd.

5. Chicago, IL

Every year, Chicago is home to a St. Patrick’s day “miracle”: the great river is dyed a radiant green. The secret of how it’s done is closely guarded. (Don’t worry, it’s been independently tested to make sure it’s safe for the environment. It’s doubly green!) Their first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1843, and the river tradition began in 1962. The city actually hosts two famous parades, one downtown and one in the historically Irish “South Side” of the city. If you’re looking for a drink downtown, Celtic Crossings has USA Today’s endorsement at the most authentic Irish pub in the city. On the South Side, Jeremy Lanigan’s Irish Pub hosts traditional Irish music sessions and is highly regarded by its locals. It doesn’t have a website, but it does have a Facebook page.

Courtesy of Tripp

4. Philadelphia, PA

About half a million people show up each year to enjoy the spectacular Philly St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which 20,000 marchers and performers representing more than 150 groups. According to the Philadelphia parade’s website, the celebration pre-dates the signing of the Declaration of Independence by seven years! Philly, New York, and Boston all claim that their parade was the first, and the argument will likely rage on for another two hundred years. For a real taste of history, visit McGillin’s Olde Alehouse, a 154 year old institution with a surprisingly sophisticated beer list which features homebrews, local microbrews, and genuine Irish stout

Courtesy of Irish Philadelphia Photo Essays

3. New York, NY

We’ll put aside the question of whether NYC’s parade is the oldest, but it is certainly the largest in terms of attendance, with more than two million spectators lining up to watch the 6 hour Irish extravaganza. It seems as if the entire Big Apple goes green for a day: you can even start your Paddy’s day adventure with a toasted green bagel. There must be hundreds of Irish pubs scattered throughout the city, and they will all be heaving after the parade. Slip away from the crowds to the East Village and pay a visit to the almost-secret speakeasy William Barnacle’s Tavern. Absinthe may not be a traditional St. Patrick’s day drink, but it is green, and if that’s not your style you have your choice of Irish beer on tap or several excellent whiskeys.

Courtesy of tsaiproject

2. Boston, MA

Boston has the honor of being the nearest port to Ireland, and it retains strong cultural, historical, and genetic ties to St. Patrick’s adopted island. Almost a quarter of Boston’s population can lay claim to Irish ancestry, something you could guess by the scale of their St. Patrick’s day celebrations. The spectacular South Boston St. Patrick’s day parade is the third to claim the title the of “oldest” . Advocates say it was first hosted in 1737 by the Irish Society of Boston. More than 850,000 are expected to attend the parade each and every year, so you’ll want to stake out a viewing spot early in the day. Boston being Boston, there’s an Irish pub on every corner, and they’ll all be mobbed on the 17th. The Black Rose on State Street is a stand out for many reasons. It’s right in the thick of things, and it’s beloved for its pints of the black stuff, authentic corned beef, and Irish-passport-holding bar staff. If you want to cross the river for a (relatively) quieter drink, The Druid in Somerville is a tiny pub that’s Irish all the way down to its floorboards.

Courtesy of Adam Pieniazek

1. Dublin, Ireland

Of course, the very best place to experience the magic of St. Patrick’s day is in the home of the saint himself. One day won’t do to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland: the capital city puts on a week-long festival in his honor, with cultural and family events running in historic sites all around town. You might say they are making up for lost time, as Dublin was actually a couple of centuries behind the USA in terms of St. Patrick’s day parades. The first parade wasn’t held until 1931. It’s grown in size and popularity every year since. Not even the worst of the wet Irish weather will keep partiers inside on St. Patrick’s day, and more than half a million people attend the Dublin parade each year, rain or shine. With the city bursting at the seams, and over 1000 pubs to choose from, you might do best by letting serendipity decide where to get your post-parade pint. To prepare yourself, head out on the official Dublin City Pub Crawl a day or two ahead of the parade. They’ll show you all the most historic places to wet your whistle and give you an intimate introduction to the fascinating world of Irish pub life.

Courtesy of William Murphy

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