Sláinte! The Best St. Patrick’s Day Family Events

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Editor’s note: We’re making every effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information. However, sometimes closures occur at the last minute due to circumstances beyond our control, such as the spread of Covid-19. We highly recommend that you call ahead before you pack your kids (and all those snacks, and diapers…) and haul them across town. Stay safe! 

Now that you have kids, you may think that celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is a distant (and perhaps foggy) memory. Well think again! From the northern ‘burbs to the far south side, there’s something for everyone who’ll surely be donning the green this month. Check out these family-friendly festivities and Erin Go Bragh!

Charm’d Pop-Up
This magical Irish pop-up is an enchanting, over-the-top, multi-room, multi-level magical Irish experience. Featuring wall-to-wall Irish decor, lucky charms, multiple bars, social photo-ops and a whole lot of leprechaun mischief. And the best news for parents? Kids are more than welcome to experience the magic.

Open thru Mar. 17; 3505 N. Clark St., Lakeview. More info.

photo: kosheahan via flickr

Chicago River Dyeing
The first Mayor Daley kicked off this tradition in 1962, and every year since the Chicago River has turned a bright green to kick off the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Boats speed through dropping 40 pounds of a special eco-safe dye that starts out orange and miraculously turns green for a spectacle that lasts for a few magical hours. This annual miracle can be best viewed from the east side of Michigan Ave., the west side of Columbus Dr. or Upper and Lower Wacker Dr. between Michigan Ave. and Columbus Dr.


Chicago Fireboat Cruise
Chicago Fireboat Tours is kicking off their first full season on St. Patrick’s Day. The 1937 Chicago Fireboat has been fully restored and now serves as a 127-person tour boat. Enjoy a morning and afternoon cruise along the green river with a special breakfast, lunch and festive libations.


photo: courtesy of Max Talbot-Minkin via Flickr

Downtown Parade
Rain, shine, snow or sleet, since 1843 our fair city has been hosting the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade starts at Balbo and Columbus and heads north in a procession chock-full of colorful floats, bagpipes, Irish dancers, marching bands and more. Public transportation is highly recommended as the parade always attracts thousands!


photo: courtesy of Marta Sand via Flickr

St. Patrick’s Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center
Immediately following the downtown parade, head over to the Irish American Heritage Center on the northwest side for the after-party. This family-oriented annual event will include traditional and contemporary Irish music, Irish step dance performances, food and drink, children’s activities and an arts-and-crafts fair with an Irish flair.


St. Patrick’s Day Party at Harry O’Caray’s
Every year, Harry Caray’s River North embraces its inner Irish and morphs into Harry O’Caray’s for parade day. Doors open at 9 a.m., so stop in for a breakfast of poached eggs with Guinness Hollandaise or bangers and mash and, of course, a green beer! Throughout the day there will be live music, a DJ spinning Irish tunes, and more food specials like fish ’n’ chips, Irish cheddar soup and Irish Bread “Pudding.” It’s a great place to stop in before or after the downtown parade.


chicago-st-pat-battaglia photo: courtesy of Dean Battaglia

Shamrock’n the Block
Old St. Pat’s welcomes families to celebrate in style by hosting Shamrock’n The Block. This family-friendly pop-up pub will include beverages, tasty pub fare, live entertainment, a wee one’s zone with a balloon artist, face painter, magician, crafts, Irish dance lessons and more!


Old St. Patrick’s Church: St. Patrick’s Day Civic Celebration
With all of the fanfare surrounding St. Patrick’s Day, it’s easy to forget the reason why we’re celebrating: St. Patrick himself. What better way to remember (or teach your kids) than to attend mass at Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Chicago’s West Loop. The Old St. Patrick’s concert choir will be accompanied by The Sheila Tully Irish Stepdancers, and the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, keeping the festive spirit going throughout the day.


photo: courtesy of southie3 via Flickr

South Side Irish Parade 
Always held on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, the South Side Irish Parade began in 1979 as a small neighborhood affair that eventually grew into one of the largest St. Patricks’ Day celebrations outside of Dublin. In 2012, community organizers re-wired the parade to include a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol in the public way along the parade route, bringing it back to its family-oriented roots. The two-hour shindig features more than 90 acts meandering up Western Avenue for a day of festive flair.

Locals might want to offset all of that corned beef and cabbage by participating in the Emerald Isle Mile, a one-mile fun run that starts at 11:30 a.m., immediately preceding the parade.


photo: Gallagher Way

St. Patrick’s Day at Gallagher Way
Gallagher Way will offer authentic and fun Irish traditions this St. Patrick’s Day for families wanting to celebrate the day’s festivities. There will be live Irish performances such as Irish dancing by the Trinity Irish Dancers, Irish dance lessons and a 12-piece band by Old Town School of Folk Music. Other festivities include lawn games, face painting, balloons and crafts for children.


Northwest Irish Parade
The Northwest Irish Organization (NWSI) kicks off its 17th annual parade to celebrate all things Irish. With over 100 parade group participants and 2,500 people marching, it’s sure to be a fun-filled hour and a half for the whole family. If you’re up for more fun post-parade, the Official NWSI After Party will take place at St. Thecla Falcon Hall (6725 W. Devon) from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Tickets for the after-party include dinner and drinks for kids and adults. Come for the corned beef, and stay for the entertainment, face painting, balloon magic and raffles!


photo: Pinstripes

St. Patrick’s Day Cookie Decorating at Pinstripes
To kick off the celebrations, Pinstripes’ Kids Club is offering cookie decorating in Oak BrookStreetervilleNorthbrook & South Barrington. Kids will get the chance to decorate their shamrock-shaped sugar cookie with frosting and sprinkles for a sugary treat. Tickets include a complimentary kids meal from the kid’s menu. Don’t forget to stick around for some bowling afterward!


photo: Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

St. Patrick’s Day Donuts at Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee is offering its most devoted fans a chance to march with them in Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sat., Mar. 14. Entrants need only indulge in one of Stan’s limited-edition St. Patrick’s Day donuts (which are available Mar. 6-17) and post a selfie on social media, tagging @stansdonutschicago. One lucky winner will get to bring up to four friends or family members and join the Stan’s team in the downtown parade, greeting parade-goers, shooting a Stan’s t-shirt gun and checking a major item off their Chicago bucket list. The deadline to enter the social media contest is noon on Tues., Mar. 10.

Mar. 6-17; All Chicagoland locations. More info.

Barrington Celtic Fest
Make your way to McGonigal’s Pub in Barrington for the 11th annual Celtic Fest! The 5-day festival agenda includes live music, a mix of local retail restaurants and merchants selling Irish goods, various entertainment including Irish dancers, bagpipers, special guest appearances, and of course plentiful availability of food and beverages. Families are welcome and encouraged to attend during the daytime hours.

Mar. 13-Mar. 17; McGonigal’s Pub, 105 S. Cook St., Barrington. More info.

photo: jpmpinmontreal via flickr

Elmhurst St. Patrick’s Day Parade
If you call the suburbs home or just want to start your parade-going early this March, check out Elmhurst’s parade. Now ranked as the second largest St. Patricks’ day parade in the Chicago area, this year’s bash will include 80 floats, Irish Dancers, the Shannon Rovers, and local team mascots including Benny the Bull, Southpaw and Tommy Hawk. And don’t miss your chance to see the world’s largest drum along with the impressive York High School Marching Band! With ample parking and lots of participating restaurants and vendors, this year’s celebration will be one for the books!

Mar. 7; Begins at the intersection of Wilson St. & Spring Rd. & continues north on Spring Rd. More info.

West Suburban Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and 5K
If you’re in or near Naperville on March 14, be sure to check out the festivities hosted by the Rotary Club and the West Suburban Irish. A 5K chip-timed Race, Run or Walk will kick things off at a perky 8 a.m., followed by the parade at 10 a.m through historic downtown Naperville. Come to participate or to spectate – people arrive early to cheer on the runners and claim their territory for parade-watching!


photo: Wilmot Mountain

Be Green at Wilmot Mountain
Go green at Wilmot Mountain’s Be Green event! Snap a photo with Greenie the Wilmot Leprechaun and snag some of his gold candy coins from his pot of gold, listen to music on the patio and hit the slopes with the family. If you bring a bag of plastic grocery bags, you’ll receive a Wilmot logo reusable grocery bag (while supplies last). ​

Mar. 15; Wilmot Mountain, 11931 Fox River Rd., Wilmot. More info.

Chicago Gaelic Park
While Chicago Gaelic Park celebrates the Irish culture all year round on its 62-acre Oak Forest campus, things really ramp up March 6-17! From theatrically staged shows to a South Side Irish family Sunday you’ll find something that’ll excite the Irish lover in you.

Mar. 6-17; Chicago Gaelic Park, 6119 W. 147th St., Oak Forest. More info.

photo: courtesy of Guiseppe Milo via Flickr

Little Leprechauns Parent/Child Program at Cantigny Park
If you’re in the mood for just a bit of shenanigans this year, gather your wee ones for a day of stories, crafts and Irish treats courtesy of the Cantigny Park in Wheaton. These St. Patrick’s Day festivities add up to just the right amount of fun.

Mar. 16; 1s151 N. Winfield Rd., Wheaton. More info.

photo: Picography via Pexels

If you’re going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you’ve got to do it right. Wear some green, learn the lyrics to The Unicorn and feast on traditional Irish fare! Chicago and its suburbs has no shortage of spots to sample the best of what Ireland has to offer. Here are our favorites:

Chief O’Neill’s Pub & Restaurant
Named one of the “Top Ten Irish Pubs in the World” by Irish of the Welcomes magazine, Chief O’Neill’s could not feel more authentic if it were in the heart of county Cork itself. Home to the Irish Music School of Chicago, Chief O’Neill’s serves up traditional dishes such as lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, and Guinness-infused meatloaf. With live traditional Irish music and a “little leprechauns” menu featuring more American than Irish fare, you can’t go wrong!

3471 N. Elston Ave., Avondale;

Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro
The Chicago Tribune called Mrs. Murphy’s “one of Chicago’s most authentic Irish restaurants,” and for good reason. The menu is vast, with everything from a traditional Irish breakfast to Guinness mac n’ cheese to award-winning barbecue – not to mention its intriguing collection of craft beers and vast whiskey selection. In March, this place really gets into the spirit hosting Irish-themed events. Mrs. Murphy’s is a must-do this March!

3905 N. Lincoln Ave., North Center;

Quigley’s Irish Pub
Talk about authentic… Quigley’s was designed and built in Ireland and then shipped to its current location in the Jefferson Hill shops of downtown Naperville. The interior includes an authentic antique fireplace and bookcases from Dublin and custom glass and Irish prints fill the walls. The pub hosts live bands on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Of course, the menu is filled with traditional Irish favorites, such as corned beef, lamb stew and beef braised with Guinness. The littles can feast from their own menu, and even for free on Mondays!

43 E. Jefferson St., Naperville;

Irish Times Pub
The Irish Times is a unique combination of old-school tradition and new-school thinking. Inside this “cozy cottage” you’ll find genuine Irish whiskeys, ales and beers (and faces) behind the bar. If you could see the back office, you’d find a progressive recycling program, a commitment to efficient gas and electric usage and a dedication to sourcing as much local produce as possible, including beers from local craft breweries. These ingredients are used in classic, homemade favorites such as corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and fish & chips, all from family recipes.

8869 Burlington Ave., Brookfield;

Ballydoyle Pub
Enjoy a special St. Pat’s Family Day at Ballydoyle! Bring the kids into the pub for from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for face painting, live music, jewelry making, the McNulty Irish dancers and more! Enjoy a traditional pub menu with Irish classics including boxty (a potato pancake folded over and filled with different meats and vegetables) and treat yourself to Irish bread pudding for dessert. As they like to say, “Come for the food, stay for the music!” Family day is Mar. 7 at the Aurora location; Mar. 8 in Downers Grove.

28 W. New York St., Aurora &  5157 Main St., Downers Grove;

Throwing a St. Paddy’s bash at your place? Get all the goods for your guests at these Irish import shops and markets:

Gaelic Imports
Since 1957, Gaelic Imports has carried the largest selection of Irish groceries in the Midwest, including freshly made sausage rolls, bridies, steak & kidney pies and soda bread to name a few. Oh, and if you’re looking for something to wear to the party or something to serve the punch in, they sell clothes and Galway crystal too!

6346 W. Gunnison, Portage Park;

Jack and Pat’s Old Fashioned Butcher Shop
This is the epitome of a family-run business. Started by brothers Jack Powers and Kenneth Patrick Powers in 1972, the quaint and aptly named old-fashioned butcher shop is now run by three of Jack’s children (though Jack still stops in every day to help out!). If you’re in the southwest suburbs, be sure to stop at Jack and Pat’s for every kind of meat you can imagine, or have them cater your corned beef and cabbage dinner!

10717 S. Ridgeland Ave, Chicago Ridge;

— Maria Chambers & MaryKate Hickey


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