8 Surprising U.S. Cities and Towns That Go Big for St. Patrick’s Day

Skip the well-known extravaganzas this year and raise your pint of Guinness at one of these rollicking events instead.

Rear view of two people in black parading while playing bagpipes

In Dublin, Ohio, St. Patrick’s Day is a weeklong celebration.

Courtesy of Dublin Ohio Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

St. Patrick’s Day may be an Irish holiday, but marking the occasion with elaborate celebrations is not lost on the United States. Every year on March 17, green dye saturates the Chicago River in the Windy City, and around 2 million spectators turn out to watch an exuberant parade overtake the streets of Manhattan.

While grandiose events often steal the spotlight, some of the best revelry takes place outside the country’s metropolises. These eight St. Patrick’s Day events may not be as well-known, but their festive spirits and attractions—like the world’s largest shamrock in O’Neill, Nebraska—are as boisterous and fun as those of big cities.

1. Dublin, Ohio

Touted as the “greenest and grandest day of the year” in Dublin, Ohio, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated about a week before March 17, with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast topped with green syrup at Sells Middle School. Festivities continue with a parade at 11 a.m., where a Grand Leprechaun—a different member or couple from the community that’s chosen each year—leads the procession.

Finish the day by visiting the town’s many Irish pubs and participating businesses for themed events and entertainment, like Fadó Pub & Kitchen.

2. Montauk, New York

One of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York State is only 119 miles from New York City, on the east end of Long Island in Montauk. The 62nd annual Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on March 24, a week after St. Patrick’s Day, to avoid conflict with the event in Manhattan.

The event can draw a crowd of up to 40,000 people, so plan ahead if you’re traveling from New York City via public transit. After the parade, stop by one of the local pubs for an Irish-themed meal to allow time for the train queues to shrink.

O’Neill’s famous painted shamrock on street with dancers in green dresses

O’Neill’s famous painted shamrock is so large, it appears on Google Maps.

Courtesy of City of O’Neill Nebraska

3. O’Neill, Nebraska

Founded by Irish-born Civil War General John O’Neill, this small Nebraska town might be one of the most proudly Irish places in the country. In 1969, then-governor Norbert Tiemann proclaimed O’Neill the “Irish Capital of Nebraska” to honor its citizens’ efforts to preserve the town’s Irish heritage.

O’Neill is also home to the world’s largest shamrock. Measuring 65 feet in diameter, the shamrock is so large it appears on Google Maps. The shamrock gets a fresh coat of paint every year before its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, which are March 10–17 this year. Events include a magician show, Shamrock Fun Run, and afternoon parade.

4. Wilmington, North Carolina

For a lively St. Patrick’s Day celebration near the beach, head to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival & Parade in Wilmington, North Carolina. This year’s celebration is on Saturday, March 16, with a parade looping through downtown and ending right beside the festival grounds. Previous performers at the free and family-friendly event include members of the local Walsh Kelley School of Irish Dancing. Come about a month before St. Patrick’s Day, and you can enjoy Irish traditions at its annual Hooley fundraising event.

A local “leprechaun” riding between two large red wheels on street in New London

New London’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration starts when local “leprechauns” change the name of the city to “New Dublin” on signs around town.

Courtesy of Shamrock Club of New Dublin

5. New London, Wisconsin

In the late 1800s, a group of Irish immigrants settled in the New London area because the landscape reminded them of Ireland. Many others followed, and today the city hosts Wisconsin’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade.

But the holiday is more than an excuse for a parade here—it’s a weeklong celebration. The festivities start when members of the Shamrock Club—a group of Irish descendants and locals—dress as leprechauns and change the name of the town to “New Dublin” on road signs.

Other weekday events include Irish caroling and dinners of corned beef and cabbage at local pubs. The extravaganza culminates in the Grand Parade, complete with both bagpipe and marching bands, on Saturday, March 16. Irish Fest, an annual music festival, kicks off on the same day and features Celtic band performances under a heated tent.

6. Savannah, Georgia

While weekends in Savannah can immerse travelers in slow Southern living, spending St. Patrick’s Day in the Georgia city brings a jolt of celebratory energy. On March 16, 2024, Savannah will host its 200th St. Patrick’s Day parade, which will feature more than 350 units as it makes its way through the historic district starting at 10:15 a.m. The event, a staple for the city since 1824, brings in dancers, musicians, and other acts from all over the East Coast to the celebration.

But the festivities in Savannah aren’t limited to the parade. The city’s Plant Riverside District hosts live music and other activities during March 1–17 in its “Shamrocks and Shenanigans Celebration”. Forsyth Park’s famous fountain also turns green a few days before, and a mass celebrating the Feast Day of St. Patrick is held at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist on March 16.

The Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade in Jackson, Mississippi, with people filling sidewalks on both sides

The Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade in Jackson, Mississippi, draws roughly 70,000 people.

Courtesy of Hal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade

7. Jackson, Mississippi

The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Jackson has a particularly quirky origin story. In 1983, local restaurant owner Malcolm White gathered a few hundred friends and marched through downtown dressed as characters from the plays of Mississippi-native Tennessee Williams. (As White says, there will always be a few Tennessee Williams characters at any costume occasion in the South.)

The inspiration behind the original march is lost to time, but the daylong event now draws a crowd of roughly 70,000 people and raises money for Children’s of Mississippi hospital and other charitable efforts. In addition to the big parade, there is a 5K race, a pet parade, live music, and a children’s festival with a costume contest and amusement rides. The 2024 celebration will be held on Saturday, March 23, the weekend after St. Patrick’s Day.

8. Dublin, California

Not only are there multiple Dublins in the world, but several U.S. states (including Georgia and Texas) also have a city bearing the name of Ireland’s capital city. Over on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, the Dublin Historical Society hosts its “Shamrock Gala” on Friday, March 15, to begin the city’s St. Patrick’s Day events, followed by a two-day festival March 16–17. Dublin is also hosting its 40th St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 16—expect Irish bagpipes, marching bands, and equestrians.

This article originally appeared online in February 2019; it was updated on March 14, 2024, to include current information. Chloe Arrojado contributed reporting.

Anna Mazurek is a travel photographer and writer based in Austin, Texas. Follow her adventures and travel advice at travellikeanna.com.
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