In the 17th century, a group of Irish men and women were sent to Saint Kitts as indentured servants to work the sugar plantations. Later, Protestants drove them off the island to nearby Montserrat. They came to think of it as "the other Emerald Isle," though, and today, the culture is a fascinating blend of Irish and African influences. Here, St. Patrick's Festival lasts a week and incorporates Caribbean entertainment into the festivities. The only country in the world other than Ireland to celebrate the day as a national holiday, Montserrat is worth checking out if you can make it.
(image via Facebook)
9. Buenos Aires
Argentina actually has one of the largest populations of Irish people in the world, estimated today to be between half a million and a full million people who are descendants of a massive wave of immigration that came through between 1830 and 1930. Buenos Aires actually has five Irish dance schools and no end of Irish pubs. The sense of culture is strong here, but it's blended wonderfully with the local one. The St. Patrick's celebrations last for a full week here, featuring dinners, music, dancing, drinking, and of course, a parade.
Savannah, Georgia, knows how to throw a party. The city is quickly becoming a top-tier NYE destination, and their St. Patrick's Day is garnering a similar reputation. The parade here started back in 1926, and it's grown massively popular, if a bit crowded at this point. There is bleacher seating in three different locations along the route. In addition, the Tara Feis Family Irish Festival celebrates Irish culture, music, dance, and food. Of course, if you're looking for a party that doesn't have the word "family" in the name, that won't be a problem either.
7. San Francisco
The Northeast may be best-known for Irish-Americans, but that doesn't mean the West Coast can't get in on the fun. This year, around 100,000 people are expected to turn out for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival in San Francisco. The festival promises Irish music, dancing, and plentiful beer. Of course, San Fran's food culture is a big deal, so it may not be surprising that there are enough pubs to support two separate pub crawls in the Marina District.
6. St. Louis
St. Louis' St. Patrick's Day Parade is a big one, with over 5,000 marchers and a quarter of a million onlookers. Dog Town, the Irish neighborhood of St. Louis, is the site of not only the parade, but also a day-long celebration of food, beer, giant balloons, and more. There's also a 5-mile run, a dinner the night before, and other celebrations around town, like Tigin's tent, where a $5 cover gets you breakfast in the morning and a full day of live music.
5. Hot Springs
Hot Springs, Arkansas, is home to an amazing St. Patrick's Day celebration that somehow manages to be a parody of the very idea and a legitimate festival, all at the same time. Dubbed "The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade," the parade "route" is just one street—Bridge Street, dubbed by Ripley's Believe It or Not! to be America's shortest street in daily use. The party is as big as the parade is short, though, as the festivities promise a cadre of Irish Elvis impersonators, Irish belly dancers, and a whole host of other mind-bogglingly surreal attractions.
(image via visithotsprings)
4. New York City
New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade lays claim to being the world's largest and oldest. It certainly has some history behind it, beginning in 1762 before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Sponsors pour nearly half a million dollars into the event every year. Headline events include a celebrations at the Irish Arts Center, and a screening of the campy cult classic Leprechaun in Williamsburg, on the night of St. Patrick's Day.
We'd be remiss not to mention Chicago. The most famous celebration here is the dying of the Chicago River with 45 pounds of vegetable dye, but, of course, that's not all you get. The parade is a big enough deal that it has grandstand VIP seating, and there's no shortage of Irish pubs from which to celebrate. There are Celtic performances throughout the city, and if you look up from the river, you'll see the skyline illuminated in green, as well.
Some people actually trace the modern celebration of St. Paddy's as we know it to Boston, which has always had a strong sense of Irish heritage, especially in South Boston. Sure enough, the city's famous parade runs through Southie. Local boys Dropkick Murphys will be playing their unique blend of Celtic punk across the city. Other events include Harpoon Brewer's St. Patrick's festival and the Irish Film Festival. If you just want to load up with Sam Adams at the packie and stay home to avoid "the T," that's fair, too.
St. Patrick's Day is associated most closely with Ireland, but the celebration looks a little different there than it does in the U.S. Sure, there's revelry, and plenty of cultural celebration, though the parade is an import of American tradition. You might grab a pint or two of Guinness from a local pub—proper Guinness, with nitrogen instead of carbonation.