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If you’re looking for the ultimate St Patrick’s Day, you just have to spend St Patricks Day in Chicago! From the green river to amazing parades and family day at the Irish American Heritage Center, there is no better way be Irish for a day, teach your children about another culture and build memories that last a lifetime.
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The Greening of the Chicago River for St Patricks Day
Did you know?
- Chicago is the only city in the US that dyes their river green.
- The greening of the Chicago River isn’t funded by the city, it is done by the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union #110.
- The idea came after the city used green dye to track illegal sewage discharge in the river in the 60s.
- The first time they did it in 1962 they added 100 lbs of dye to keep the river green for a week.
- Today they add 40 lbs of vegetable dye, enough to keep the Chicago River green for four or five hours.
- It’s interesting to note that when the dye is first introduced to the river it appears to be orange – another color of the Irish flag – but after the river is stirred up by motorboats it “magically” turns emerald green.
- Local Irishmen love to point out that the green flows from the Chicago River to the Illinois, which flows to the Mississippi, then the Gulf of Mexico, which will send green dye up the gulf stream and across the North Atlantic into the Irish Sea, marking the way home to the Emerald Isle.
On St Patrick’s Day 2014 the greening of the Chicago River will take place on Saturday, March 15th at 10:45 am.
Here is a map of where you’ll see the green parts of the Chicago River
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Pick your spot early between N Wabash Ave and N Columbus Dr to view the motorboats as they add green dye to the Chicago River.
Best viewing site from the East side of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the West side of the Columbus Drive bridge or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.
Cruising on the Green River
St Patricks Day Parade in Chicago
The 2014 parade begins at 12 noon at Balboa and Columbus. (For more information see their official website.)
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Parade begins at E Balboa Dr, marches past the viewing stand at the Buckingham Fountain, and ends at E Monroe Dr.
How to Get to the Festivities by CTA (Chicago Transit Authority)
From the Green, Orange, Brown, Pink and Purple Line Express elevated lines, exit at Adams/Wabash and walk two blocks east on Adams. From the Red and Blue Line subways, exit at Jackson and walk three or four blocks east on Jackson. Also served by buses 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 14, 126, 129, 145, 146, 147, 151 and 173. If you are coming in on Metra, exit Union Station and walk 7 blocks east to Columbus Drive.
The Chicago River
From the Red Line subway, exit at Lake and walk two blocks north to Wacker then one block east to Wabush. From the Blue Line subway, exit at Clark and walk three blocks east to Wabush and then one block north to Wacker. From the Pink, Green, Brown, Orange and Purple Line Express, exit at State/Lake and walk one block east to Wabush then one block north north to Wacker.
View transit map
Parking for the Festivities
Best parking for both the greening of the Chicago River and the St Patrick’s Day Parade is on Randolph.
There is parking at the Hilton located at Balbo and Michigan, with additional parking along Wells between Lake and Van Buren, or along Wabash between Lake and Congress.
You can also park at Navy Pier, a half a mile from the parade route but close to the Flower and Garden Show if you’re interested in seeing both of those events.
For Handicapped parking needs, use the underground parking below Grant Park. Enter at Columbus and Randolph.
The Irish American Heritage Center
The IAHC celebrates the Irish, Celtic and Irish-American culture, boasting a 650 seat theater, a museum, an Irish shop, a dance studio and The Fifth Province Irish Pub. (See the pub menu here.)
On Saturday, March 15, the Center holds its St. Patrick’s Festival following the downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This large-scale, family-friendly annual event includes traditional and contemporary Irish music, dance, food, children’s activities and an Arts and Craft Fair, with vendors selling Irish gifts. The festivities begin at 1pm and end at midnight with live entertainment by Chicago Irish music groups and performers on tour from Ireland.
Tickets are $15 for adults, or $12 for advance purchase if bought by the end of the day on March 13. Children 12 and under are free.
For full schedule visit their official website.
V.I.P. parking is available in the south lot for $5. Spaces close to the building are limited and will be on a first come-first served basis. Free North Lot spots are available for IAHC members and those with special needs.
Free shuttle buses run to the parking lot and Wilson and Lamon beginning at 2pm until midnight.
How to Get There
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From the parade grounds walk west on Jackson and take the Jackson Blue Line towards O’Hare Airport. Depart at Montrose and walk north to 4626 N Knox Ave (streets shown on above map), about 6 minutes.
View larger map
Siamsa na nGaela
This year’s program, “If It Wasn’t for the Irish and the Jews” showcases the songs of legendary composers and performers whose immigrant families shared stories of survival and hope that resonated through generations. Whether they were running from famine in Ireland or pogroms in Eastern Europe, their passions for the American dream were expressed in the universal language of music with a fascinating soundtrack: the songs of Tin Pan Alley.
Tickets are $55.
More information available here.
House of Blues Chicago (329 N. Dearborn St.) hosts the Celtic rock group Gaelic Storm Thursday, March 13 & Friday, March 14. Tickets are $36-45 per person and can be purchased here.
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Chicago’s own Celtic-punk heroes The Tossers are appearing at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) Saturday, March 15 at 9pm. Tickets are $18-20 and can be purchased here.
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Lightscape on State Street
Lightscape is dozens of LED lights in eighteen planters on State Street between Lake and Van Buren streets. On March 10th to 17th from 10 am to 8 pm the lights change patterns in synchronization with Irish songs.
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How to Get There
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Photo of parade by Fuzzy Gerdes via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Chicago River by Bert Haufmann via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of the Irish American Heritage Center by ExploreChicago.org
*Please note that these are NOT affiliate links. I do not make any money if you purchase tickets using these links.
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Once a week we'll tell you the upcoming daily celebrations & the articles you may have missed.