Chicago does a lot right: hotdogs, nightlife, and deep-dish pizza, but what they do best is Saint Patrick’s day (celebrated the Saturday before the actual day).
On the shores on Lake Michigan, close to home, I’ve always thought of Chicago as a mini NYC. An already bustling city wakes up early to start drinking and see the river dyed green, all while waiting for the day’s big Downtown Irish parade, which has been going on over 50 years on South Columbus Street.
Going to college at OSU, I was just six hours from Chicago and was lucky enough to go with my Ohio State girlfriends to visit other friends who went to college in Chi-town. Somehow, every time we visited we started drinking at around 9 or 10 am, so of course St. Patty’s was like that on steroids.
11 Tips from Straight from the Locals
Anna and Evelyn, who I went on my Thailand adventures with lived in Chicago for five years. Evelyn even spent some time organizing bar crawls. I handed it over to these party girls to get the best tips for you to take on St Patrick’s day in Chicago like the locals do.
1. Avoid Wrigleyville. It’s going to be young college kids fighting, long lines for the bars, puking, and spilling cheap green beer on you. If that’s what you’re looking for (I actually thought of that as a successful night a few years ago) then by all means, go there! You’ll love it.
2. If you decide Wrigleyville’s bros are not for you, you could head off to Lincoln Avenue and drink with all the DePaul students, or if you want to get ever more “young adult” than that, Dowtown/River North will be older drunk people. Basically, everyone will be drunk. Your best bet is to pick ONE neighborhood and stick to it.
3. The girls also think you should stick to one or the other: day drinking or night drinking. If you try to do too much, they say you might end up doing nothing, or you end up wearing a red leather halter top and bringing home a guy almost a decade older then you and displacing your 7 friends who have come to visit and were staying in your room, or kissing an inappropriate person, or dancing on a bar in a raincoat and tennis outfit. “Moderation is key, and it’s up to the luck of the Irish if things end well”.
4. The big party is on Saturday and it starts early. Very early! The bars open for breakfast. But if you want to stay in and pre-game, why not make your guests some themed Guiness, Whiskey, and Irish Crème cupcakes!
5. Go somewhere that starts with “Mc”. McFaddens… McGees… believe it or not, even McDonalds will be packed, especially in Wrigleyville. Lots of PDA and chaos over there- but at least you can pick up a shamrock shake! Other than the Mc’s, the O’s have a lot to offer as well.
6. Other fun bars serving green beer, specialty cocktails, and sometimes live music are Timothy O’Tooles Pub, Fado, the Gage, and Celtic Crossings.
7. Take public transport. The el train is cheap and easy. Driving and parking would be complete madness, plus you’ll get to see all kinds of crazies sneaking booze on the el- “St. patty’s knows no age or type of Chicagoan. Everyone is in”.
8. Make sure to see the green river. Don’t let watching them dye the river bright green make or break your day though. It’s crowded and you really only need to go down there for about 10 minutes. It will start at 10:45 between Michigan Ave and Columbus Drive while the boat goes back and forth dumping 45 pounds of dye into the river. The parade will start around noon!
*If you want to get fancy, make a booking to watch the dyeing of the river from the Trump Towers
9. Feel free to dress not just in green t-shirts, but in full-on costumes. Think Mardi Gras. Anything goes! It can be a bit chilly, so you could cover up with a jacket… or put on your green beer coat. Some years it’s still snowing in March, but as every midwestern girl learning in college, at least at OSU, it’s better to walk to the bar cold than have to carry a huge coat around a club.
10. Bars will offer specials, wristbands, or groups will offer bar crawls. Last year Evelyn worked on a St Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl and said although it wasn’t “all you can drink” there were specials that made it worth it if you’re going to drink A LOT. There are special bar crawl deals that are all you can drink or include breakfast, so do a little research before you book just one. With just a quick search I found Tap O’ The Morning which includes four bars in Lakeview and Lincoln park with drink specials as well as a full Irish breakfast for 30 bucks.
photo credit 1, photo credit 2
11. Why stick to only green beer? Mix it up with a special cocktail before you go out like this chocolatey whiskey one or this slushy mint whiskey one!
12. There actually are two parades and the Southside Irish parade is “more authentic” with lots of real Irish people in traditional clothing, less drunk 18 year old guys puking green foam before they kiss a girl too pretty for them. You can head this way to meet some colorful but possibly rowdy characters (the show Shameless is set in the Southside). If you’re on the Southside, take a second andd stop in at O’Rourke’s Office for a beer.
13. Try as hard as you can to get on this little wild cards St Patrick’s day level. You got to meet her when we toured through Eastern Europe together. Does she not seem out of control? Maybe I should mention it was 10 am.
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