St. Patrick's Day: a guide to the parade, dyeing the river green & where to watch

St. Patrick's Day: a guide to the parade, dyeing the river green & where to watch

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations come early this year with the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Dying of the Chicago River happening this Saturday, March 11th.

Chicago, whose St. Patrick’s Day events rival those of Ireland, has some great traditions tied to its festivities. One is dyeing the Chicago River green.

The tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green took root in 1961 when Stephen Bailey, Business Manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union #110, spotted a plumber wearing coveralls that were stained a brilliant green by the dye used to detect leaks in the Chicago River. When Bailey, who was making plans for that year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, saw the plumber he got the brainstorm to dye the Chicago River green…and the rest is history–with the greening of the river almost bigger than the parade.

Here’s the who, what, when and where for viewing and enjoying the two big events of March 11.

Dyeing of the Chicago River

When you first see the dye, you’ll notice it’s orange color. Then after a moment or two you’ll see the transformation to green magically appear.

When: Saturday, March 11, 9 am. (Note: The Chicago River keeps its brightest green coloring for about five hours).

Location: Chicago River (Columbus Dr. & Wacker Dr.)

Where to watch:

Plan to arrive early, if you want to watch, for free, from the street. The best viewing spots are on the east side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge; the west side of the Columbus Drive Bridge, and upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive; along the Riverwalk on the south side of the river from just west of Michigan Avenue to Columbus.

paradedaygrIf you want some food and spirits to go along with your viewing and don’t mind the hefty price tag ($95 per person–including tax and gratuity and $35 for children ages five to 12 years), make reservations for Top O’ the Morning at the Bridgeview Room at Trump Chicago. The reception takes place from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. with an open bar for the duration of the event and food options beginning at 10 a.m. Tickets can be purchased via phone at 312 588-8131.


Photo: Peter Ranvestel

A less expensive option: Head to the Riverwalk. City Winery Chicago will open its Riverwalk location for food, drinks and live music on Saturday, March 11 for Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and river dyeing celebration. The Irish-centric menu will feature Corned Beef Sandwich, Vegetarian Irish Stew and City Winery’s house taps, Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Cappuccino Stout, Imperial Stout, Pilsner and IPA along with Irish coffee from the West Loop’s Sparrow Coffee. Chicago-based blues legend Rick King’s Royal Hustle will have live sets from 11am-noon and 1-2pm. Other spots scheduled to be open on the Riverwalk for March 11th festivities (most from 8 am. to 5 pm.) are: Lillie’s, Tiny Tapp Riverwalk, O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe & Island Party Hut.

Raised, An Urban Rooftop Bar at 1 W. Wacker Drive is another good choice. Four stories up, with both indoor and outdoor seating, guests have an aerial view for the river dyeing. Raised is offering an Irish Breakfast from 7 am. to 10 am. featuring house made biscuits with bacon and ale gravy, roasted parsnip, & bourbon gravy, tater tot poutine made with Guinness braised corned beef, cheese curds, charred scallion, & cabbage, corned beef sliders & pistachio yogurt parfaits. The tab which includes draft beer, as well as $5 Jameson and Pickle Back shots is $50 per person, here.

An even less expensive option: The Wendella and Chicago Water Taxi will be running on the green river all day Saturday. Chicago Water Taxi will have departures starting at 8 am. going to and from Michigan Avenue, the Riverwalk, and Metra Stations in the Loop.

The Parade


What: The Downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest in the country.

When: March 11 at 12 Noon

Where: The parade route runs on Columbus Drive between Balbo Drive and Monroe Street. The parade steps off at Balbo Drive then goes north on Columbus Drive. The main viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain.

Where to Watch: Visitors can watch the parade anywhere along the parade route.

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Filed under: St. Patrick's Day.

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