MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Toasting St. Pat

Parties will be low-key, but the day's festive spirit remains.

A reveler at Milwaukee's St. Pat's Day parade.

© Donald S. Abrams

Milwaukee's big St. Patrick's Day parade draws revelers from around the region.

Why do we love St. Patrick? Because when the landscape still is icy and white, he makes everything else turn green ó clothes, beer, even rivers.

For that, the legendary Irish priest deserves sainthood.

Here are some good ways to celebrate his day. Even though the big parades are canceled this year, many towns are holding lower-key events. And if you want to celebrate later, four Irish inns are green year-round.

Before you go, check websites.

Pub crawls and parties

In the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, the St. Pat's Celebration will include a treasure hunt and roaming bagpipers on March 13 in 2021.

In the northwest Illinois town of Oregon, there will be fireworks at 8 p.m. March 13 and a Shamrockin' Pub Crawl with games and leprechaun costume, manly beard and best-dressed contests.

There will also be a St. Patty Pub Crawl in Racine, Wis., 1-7 p.m. March 13.

In northeast Illinois, there's a McHenry ShamRocks the Fox festival March 13 in 2021. There's a 5K Shamrock Shuffle and food and drink specials, and the Fox River will be dyed green at 10 a.m. 

In Milwaukee, the big St. Pat's parade is postponed in 2021. Normally, it starts at Third and Wisconsin downtown and is followed by music, dancing and pipes and drums at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center

In Chicago, the event has been canceled. The river dying was scheduled for 9 a.m.  from the east side of the bridge at Columbus Drive or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive. The water stays green for about five hours.

Normally, the St. Pat's Day parade is at noon along Columbus Drive past Grant Park.

The Chicago River dyed green.

©

In Chicago, the river is dyed green.

Normally, there's a parade at noon on the South Side and one on the Northwest Side parade on the same day. In nearby Palatine, normally there's an 11 a.m. parade, followed by an Irish market and entertainment.

In traditionally Irish St. Paul, the annual March 17 parade is drive-through in 2021 but fully reserved. The Landmark Center on Rice Park is holding a virtual Day of Irish Dance March 14, as well as a real, free outdoor concert at 2 p.m. On March 17, there's a virtual St. Patrick's Day Irish Celebration.

Normally, Metro Transit offers free rides home on buses and trains (print or download the pass).

The city's early power brokers were Irish. Up on the hill, the James J. Hill House normally holds an Irish Heritage Weekend.

Across the street, tour the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Paul, commissioned by Archbishop John Ireland.

In Madison, the parade normally is at 1:30 p.m. and runs from Capitol Square. It's canceled in 2021. The Shamrock Shuffle is virtual and can be run from anywhere on March 20. 

More parades

In the Lake Michigan port town of Manitowoc, Wis., normally there are fireworks at dusk and a 1:30 p.m. parade the next day.

Across Lake Michigan,  Ludington offers a scavenger hunt, 5K-10K run and take-out pub crawl March 13 in 2021. Normally, it and two other towns on Lake Michigan hold Saturday parades: Holland at noon and Muskegon at 11 a.m.

In Galena, Ill., there's normally a St. Patrick's Day parade at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In Minneapolis, the parade normally starts at 6:30 p.m. March 17 on Nicollet Mall, near Orchestra Hall. In 2021, it's a drive-through parade in the northern suburb of Columbia Heights on March 20, and time slots to see it need to be reserved.

Trinity Irish Dancers perform.

© Paula Hare

The Trinity Irish Dancers are parade favorites.

Normally, Metro Transit offers free rides home on buses and trains (print or download a pass).

In northwest Iowa, Emmetsburg is the state Irish capital, and it celebrates with a long weekend of festivities, including a parade at 1:30 p.m. March 20 in 2021.

In eastern Iowa, the Cedar Rapids parade will be March 13 in 2021. It will be a drive-by parade at Hawkeye Downs between 2 and 4 p.m.

In the Quad Cities, the St. Patrick's Day parade is postponed until Aug. 28. It starts in Rock Island, Ill., and crosses the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa.

In the Brainerd area of Minnesota, Crosslake's parade has been canceled.

Around Wisconsin, there are normally parades in Prairie du Chien, Racine, Sturgeon Bay, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Plymouth, River Falls and the usually Swiss capital of Monroe

In the usually German capital of New Ulm in Minnesota, there's a downtown parade  at 5 p.m. March 17. Nearby, St. Peter pays tribute to St. Patrick with a parade at 5:30 p.m. March 17.

St. Brendan's Inn in Green Bay.

© Beth Gauper

In Green Bay, St. Brendan's Inn includes an Irish pub and restaurant.

Near Appleton, Wis., the festivities in New London ó that is, New Dublin ó start with Leprechaun Day on and wind up with Irish Fest and the Grand Parade. In 2021, events are smaller and local, without a parade.

Irish dance

The Trinity Irish Dancers, from the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance branches in southeast Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, always have a very busy performance schedule around St. Patrick's Day. 

They perform in pubs, libraries, museums and nearly every St. Pat's parade.

Music, beer and a bed

If you really like beer, you may want to stay put on the big day. Each of the Irish inns below has handsome rooms and a pub that serves up Irish specialties and live music. Check for on-line specials.

In the eastern Wisconsin town of Plymouth, the Irishman's Walk parade normally begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 52 Stafford, an 1892 hotel renovated into a Irish inn with a beautiful restaurant and pub that features cherry millwork and Celtic-themed stained and etched glass.

Finland celebrates St. Urho's Day.

© Beth Gauper

In Finland, Minn., there's a St. Urho's Day parade.

The Stafford has two sister inns, St. Brendanís in Green Bay and County Clare in Milwaukee. The St. Brendanís Inn is on the Fox River in downtown Green Bay.

On the edge of downtown Milwaukee, which has one of the region's biggest parades, the County Clare has comfortable rooms above the pub.

In Galena, the Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel includes Frank O'Dowd's Irish Pub & Grill. Normally, it celebrates St. Pat's Day with Irish dancers and music.

In Finn country, two saints

The northern Minnesota town of Menahga, home of a fiberglass St. Urho, normally celebrates St. Urho Days with a parade and a St. Urho look-alike contest with prizes.

A pitchfork-wielding St. Urho is said to have banished the grasshoppers from Finland, thereby saving the grape harvest in the vineyards.

Just off Minnesota's North Shore, the village of Finland celebrates St. Urho's Day March 20 in 2021 with a craft fair, tug of war across the Baptism River and parade.


Last updated on March 17, 2021