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World’s 10 Biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parties

Put on your greenest garb, paint an Irish flag on your cheek, and dye the drinks. St. Patrick’s Day is here again and you don’t need to be Irish to celebrate. But where to parade and party this March 17th? Here are the 10 best cities to get your shamrock on.

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Boston is ground zero for St. Patrick’s Day parties. The holiday was first celebrated here back in 1737-the first time it was observed in the New World. Nearly a fifth of the city’s population claims some Irish ancestry, and the crowds of travellers coming specifically for the week-long celebration bring the total number of revelers to more than 800,000. The parade takes place on the Sunday closest to the 17th and follows a route through South Boston. While you’re in town, check out the Irish Heritage Trail, and head to any Irish bar-there are plenty to choose from!-for live music and dancing. If you can, catch a show by Boston’s own Celtic punk band, the Dropkick Murphys.

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Line up along Columbus Drive to enjoy the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Chicago. Floats, bagpipe bands, dancers, and more. Or join one of a few other parades around town, such as the one in South Side, an area known for its Irish heritage. Afterwards, be sure to head out to the Irish bars which are bountiful in this city. But by far, the most eye-catching participant in this event is the Chicago River. Normally the water might look a little funky, but on this day the river glows like emeralds thanks to one heck of a dye job from the city.

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Where better to celebrate than the place where it all started? In honour of Ireland’s patron saint, it’s by far the largest holiday in the nation and while the rest of us talk about St. Patrick’s “Day,” the Irish know this as St. Patrick’s Festival: a multi-day celebration that includes parades, street performances, and plenty of food, drink, and merriment. To see the Emerald Isle’s largest parade, you’ll have to visit Dublin. There, you can enjoy an Irish craft beer festival, carnival rides, and walking tours. Dublin University hosts boat races on the River Liffey. It’s such a serious showcase for Irish culture that the festival organizers start planning 18 months in advance.

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New York City

The Big Green Apple got a late start compared to Boston, celebrating its first St. Patrick’s Day in 1762, but it’s now home to the longest continuously-running parade in North America. Crowd estimates for the parade range from one- to two-million, with more than 150,000 people participating in the parade itself-which lasts five hours and is led by New York‘s 69th Infantry Regiment, the original “Fighting Irish.” While you’re here, make sure to visit the impressive St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

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Like many Canadian cities, Toronto has a rich Irish heritage. Toronto’s St. Patrick’s Day parade starts at noon on a Sunday and features a variety of local and visiting acts-dancers, musicians, and even the Toronto Police Pipe Band. Line up early if you want to get a pint of Guinness and some lamb’s stew at The Irish Embassy-an Irish-themed pub, but one that’s staffed with actual Irish people.

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You know a city is serious about St. Patrick’s Day when they have a special organization to plan it out. The Saint Patrick’s Observance Association organizes Philadelphia’s St. Patrick’s Day parade each year-an event that has taken place since 1771. More than half a million people take to the streets for the parade, which doesn’t always take place on March 17, but is part of a series of events that roll out over a week. There are dinners and breakfasts, as well as wreath-laying ceremonies honouring the Irish of previous generations. Go early if you want a seat for mass at St. Patrick’s Church the morning of the parade.

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San Francisco

A great city to visit any time of the year, San Francisco is also host to an unmissable St. Patrick’s Day celebration-one that’s arguably the best in the western United States. Held the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, the parade rolls out along San Francisco’s famed trolley tracks and concludes with a massive street party. Head out to O’Reilly’s for brunch on the 17th itself. Expect plenty of live Irish music and céili dancing.

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Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade got its start in 1824, making it the oldest in Canada, but evidence suggests the celebration goes back even earlier, possibly as far back as the mid-18th century. The event usually takes place on the Sunday closest to the 17th. The parade is led by a grand marshal and an even grander Giant St. Patrick and lasts two to three hours. Get some Irish coffee and breakfast at one of the many local pubs before the march begins.

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Since 1825, Savannah, Georgia, has brought its unique southern charm to St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the city’s largest annual event with as many as 350 floats and marching groups. Parade-goers total more than 400,000, following the dancers and pipe bands on a route that leads through Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District. The picturesque city fountains get a green dye treatment a few days before the event, and you can catch live music and other performances at the city market.

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How about a parade through the medieval streets of Ireland? That’s what you’ll get in Galway where bands, artists and marchers come from near and far to take part. Unlike the giant numbers of attendees at some festivals, Galway offers something more intimate-if you can think of 50,000 spectators as intimate! The parade follows the cobblestone streets 1.5 miles through Galway’s downtown and offers the visitor a relaxed family-friendly experience with all the charm of Ireland. Do your trip in style and stay just outside of Galway at the 13th-century Ashford Castle, which is now a luxe hotel.

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