MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Toasting St. Pat

Celebrate the holiday with parades, parties, Irish dance or a stay in an Irish inn.

The Chicago River dyed green.


In Chicago, the river is dyed green.

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. And if you miss the parties, four Irish inns are green year-round.

In 2019, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday.

Big parades and parties

At least two towns get an early start on the holiday. In the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, the St. Pat's parade starts at 2 p.m. March 9.

In Milwaukee, the big St. Pat's parade starts at noon March 9, starting at Third and Wisconsin downtown and followed by music, dancing and pipes and drums at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center

In Chicago, they really do dye the river green. Watch the dye job at 9 a.m. March 16 from the east side of the bridge at Columbus Drive or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.

Then watch the St. Pat's Day parade at noon along Columbus Drive past Grant Park.

And there's more: parades March 17 on the South Side and Northwest Side. In nearby Palatine, there's an 11 a.m. parade March 16, followed by an Irish market and entertainment.

In northeast Illinois, McHenry dyes the Fox River at 9 a.m. March 16, and there's a parade at 11 a.m. The McHenry ShamRocks the Fox festival continues through March 17, ending with fireworks at 7 p.m. 

In traditionally Irish St. Paul, the annual noon parade runs along Fourth Street to Rice Park on March 16. The Landmark Center on Rice Park is holding Irish Celebrations March 16-17.

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.

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 is holding Irish Heritage Weekend March 16-17; reservations are recommended.

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

In Madison, the parade is at 1:30 p.m. March 17 and runs from Capitol Square. On March 16, there's a Shamrock Shuffle run from State Street.

More parades

In the Lake Michigan port town of Manitowoc, Wis., the parade starts at 6:30 p.m. March 15, includes St. Patrick himself and ends with fireworks.

Three other towns on Lake Michigan hold parades on March 16: Holland at noon, Muskegon at 11 a.m. and Ludington at noon.

In Galena, Ill., the St. Patrick's Day parade starts at 4 p.m. March 16.

In Minneapolis, the parade starts at 6:30 p.m. March 16 on Nicollet Mall, near Orchestra Hall. 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 16.

In eastern Iowa, Cedar Rapids holds its parade at 1 p.m. March 17.

In the Quad Cities, the St. Patrick's Day parade starts at 11:30 a.m. March 16 in Rock Island, Ill., and crosses the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa.

Trinity Irish Dancers perform.

© Paula Hare

The Trinity Irish Dancers are parade favorites.

In the Brainerd area of Minnesota, Crosslake holds a parade at 2 p.m. March 16, with tethered hot-air balloon rides beforehand.

Around Wisconsin, there are 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  March 17. Nearby, St. Peter pays tribute to St. Patrick with a parade at 3 p.m. March 17.

Near Appleton, Wis., the festivities in New London ó that is, New Dublin ó start with Leprechaun Day on March 18 and wind up with Irish Fest and the Grand Parade at 1 p.m. March 23.

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. 

St. Brendan's Inn in Green Bay.

© Beth Gauper

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

They also perform in pubs and nearly every parade, plus the Kids in the Rotunda program in Madison's Overture Center on March 16.

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 on March 17 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.

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.

Finland celebrates St. Urho's Day.

© Beth Gauper

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

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. 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, celebrates St. Urho Days March 15-16. On Saturday, a 12:20 p.m. parade will be followed by barstool races at Spirit Lake Beach.

There's also a mojakka feed, a St. Urho look-alike contest and human foosball.

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 16 with a beauty contest, craft fair, tug of war across the Baptism River and parade.

In the northern Wisconsin town of Brantwood, St. Urho is guest of honor, with St. Patrick, at a corned beef-and-cabbage dinner and program March 16 at the community center.

Last updated on March 5, 2019