We’re currently based in Indiana, staying with family while we explore the US and plan for the next stage of our trip, with Chicago only a few hours away. Between Lauren’s birthday on March 14th and St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, we knew we had to go to one of the biggest Paddy’s Day celebrations outside of Ireland!
We hopped on the South Shore rail line which took us from South Bend Airport, Indiana to Millenium Park in the centre of Chicago all for the princely sum of $30 return. The train took about 3 hours and we had to remember you go back an hour in time as Chicago is on Central time, rather than the Eastern Time we had come from.So, what are the best things to do in Chicago for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend?
1. Check out the greening of the river
This is definitely unique to Chicago and attracts a lot of crowds! The recipe to turn the river green is a closely guarded secret but we were assured it’s environmentally friendly. The dying starts at 9am and if it’s raining, it’ll usually disappear by lunchtime but if the weather is nice, you’ll be able to enjoy it all afternoon! The river runs right through the middle of the city so you can appreciate the beautiful architecture too.
2. Explore Chicago’s amazing restaurant scene
This one was a great surprise for us. Chicago has a wealth of amazing restaurants, a lot of which offer tasting menus. We wanted something casual but cool and chose The Publican in Fulton Market. The curried sweet potato and charred brussels sprouts were delicious but the meat and fish courses were lacking and uninventive. The Chicago Tribune has a list of the 50 best eateries to check out. Most of these are in the same Fulton area, which is definitely worth a visit for foodies or the craft alcohol scene.
3. Go to a rooftop bar
Coming from Ireland and Britain, we associate St Patrick’s with the pub scene. This is a little lacking in the US as a whole, which instead has a vibrant bar scene. These get incredibly crowded for the holiday, with cover charges and long queues at any of the Irish-associated ones. An alternative is to reserve a spot with a view in advance at one of Chicago’s rooftop views. It’s a beautiful city to see from up high, with a sweeping skyline and the vastness of Lake Michigan in the background.
4. Attend the parade
If you’re in Chicago and you haven’t seen a St. Patrick’s Day parade before, then we’d recommend you check it out. But, if you’re like us and you’ve either a) grown up with Paddy’s Day parades or b) just come from Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you might be disappointed. There were only a couple of bands and the rest was mainly advertising for local businesses.
5. Do some shopping in the St. Patrick’s weekend sales
You’ll be spoiled for choice on Michigan Avenue with a huge range of shops ranging from Topshop, Zara and Sephora to Nordstrom, Coach and Gucci. The great thing about shopping on St. Patrick’s weekend? Everyone has a sale on! Definitely head to some of the department stores like Macy’s and you’ll leave with some bargains.