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The 8 Biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parades In The USA

The 8 Biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parades In The USA

There are some huge St. Patrick’s Day parades in the USA.

Many American’s have deep Irish roots and March 17th is as notable a day in some American families as it is for many here in Ireland.

And, although it’s the likes of the parades in NYC and Chicago that tend to grab a lot of the attention, some of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the USA might surprise you!

The biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the USA

St Patrick's Day parade Ireland

Photos via Shutterstock

Although many associate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish drinks, parties and St. Patrick’s Day jokes, it’s the parades that take centre stage.

Attention a celebration is one of the more popular St. Patrick’s Day traditions and you’ll find the biggest in the USA below.

1. New York City

new york st patrick's day parade

Photos via Shutterstock

There’s a strong Irish-American heritage in New York City and the Irish community has been celebrating with an annual parade over the last 260 years.

In fact, aside from being one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the US, the NYC parade is the oldest and largest parade on earth!

Led by a specially appointed Grand Marshall, the parade kicks off at 11am and it heads up Fifth Avenue from East 44th to East 79th Street.

It includes Irish societies, pipes and drums bands, the mayor and city councillors, Police and Fire Departments and the 69th New York Infantry Regiment.

This mega parade has an estimated 150,000 participants and 2 million spectators all wearing green! 

2. Chicago

chicago green river

Photos via Shutterstock

The biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States takes place in Chicago, Illinois and it’s said to attract a whopping 2 million excited spectators and participants.

It’s one of the longer-running St. Patrick’s Day parades in the US, with the first event tking place in 1858.

On that occasion, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to observe the floats as they paraded through Chicago. 

Fast forward 100+ years and the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade begins with the colouring of the Chicago River with an illuminous green.

3. Savannah

Go green in Savannah, Georgia which celebrates St Patrick’s Day with a Celtic Cross ceremony and a grand parade that winds its way through the city’s historic streets.

Ahead of the parade, the Forsyth Park fountain is dyed green in a special “Greening of the Fountain Ceremony” led by the Grand Marshall.

Marching bands, Budweiser Clydesdale horses, service members and local organizations put on a grand display of music, costumes and colour in a parade that goes on for hours.

It starts with a Mass at 8am in the Cathedral Basilica of St John the Baptist. The parade kicks off at 10.15am and winds through the Historic District. 

4. Philadelphia

Philadelphia st patrick's day

Photos via Shutterstock

Another of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the United States is the celebration in Philadelphia – it’s also America’s second oldest parade!

Held on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade was first celebrated in 1771, marking over 250 years of celebrations.

Hosted by the S.t Patrick’s Day Observance Association, the parade attracts over 20,000 participants in marching bands, dance groups, youth organizations, Irish societies and local groups.

The parade usually has a theme and flag-waving spectators are bedecked in their greenest finery. It starts on South Broad Street (historically an area of Irish settlement) and heads north around City Hall to Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

5. San Antonio

San Antonio has one of the best St. Patrick’s Day parades in the USA and it’s a lot warmer in Texas than the northern states for this mainly outdoor event.

Like several other US parades, it sees eco-friendly green dye poured into the San Antonio River that lasts for three days.

The parade and green river can be viewed from the 2.5 mile River Walk which is lined with shops, restaurants and hotels.

The Festival takes place over two days. It includes Irish-themed floats carrying bands of Irish bagpipers, Irish themed food and games. 

6. New Orleans

Never one to miss the chance to party, New Orleans, Louisiana puts on a good show every year for St Patrick’s Day.

It’s a family-friendly event and you’ll find the streets lined with spectators (hit play on the video above to see it in action).

Visitors to this parade can expect everything from floats and trailers to dancers, music and representatives from many New Orleans’ organizations, societies and clubs.

7. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts has a strong Irish-American community and their heritage shines bright every March 17th with a bumper parade.

It runs on the Sunday closest to March 17th and is said to attract over a million spectators. Crowds dressed in green line the parade route around the Broadway T station in South Boston.

The parade also celebrates Evacuation Day which marks the the ousting of British troops from the city on March 17, 1776 .

The parade honours many veterans and military service groups and includes bagpipes, marching brass bands, colourful floats, dancers, historic Minutemen, politicians, societies and local organizations.  

8. Atlanta

And last but by no means least in our guide to the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the United States is the Atlanta Parade.

It celebrates all things Irish with a parade made up of musicians, dancers, celebrities, local dignitaries, decorated floats and community bands.

The parade starts at noon on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and follows a route from Peachtree St. from 15th to 5th Ave. One of the highlights is a five-storey-high St. Patrick balloon!

Walking Irish flags, clowns, bagpipes and drums make this a fun family-friendly event which is followed by a 5K race and a festival or food and entertainment at Colony Square in Midtown. 

FAQs about the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations

what was the original color associated with St. Patrick's Day

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Which parade is longest running?’ to ‘Which is the most impressive?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below. Here are some related reads you should find interesting:

Where are the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the US?

The New York City parade (150,000 participants and 2 million spectators) and the Chicago parade (est. 2 million spectators) are two of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US.

What is the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the US? 

No running for over 260 years, the NYC parade is the oldest parade in both the US and the world.

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