1. New York City
The granddaddy of all St. Patrick’s Day parades (the first was staged in 1762 by homesick Irishmen serving in the British Army) is also the world’s largest, attracting more than two million spectators annually. Led by a military unit, the foot-powered procession (no cars or floats allowed) begins at 44th Street and marches on up Fifth Avenue for nearly six hours.
In the nation’s most Irish state (nearly a quarter of Massachusetts’ residents claim Irish ancestry), South Boston is St. Patrick’s Day central. Since 1901, “Southie” has hosted the city’s colossal parade (held on the Sunday closest to March 17) as thousands of marchers and revelers celebrate all things Emerald. Listen for the mournful wail of bagpipes calling marchers to the Broadway T station starting point.
Parade day (always a Saturday) begins with a wee bit of Irish magic (and 40 lb/18 kg of EPA-approved dye) to color the downtown Chicago River the perfect kelly green. The St. Patrick’s procession begins at noon, with bagpipers, horses, and high-stepping colleens leading the way north on Columbus Drive through Grant Park.
Georgia’s first city has been hosting a St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1813. It’s a three-hour rolling street party held on March 17 (a day earlier if the 17th falls on a Sunday). Book several months in advance to score a Historic District hotel room facing the parade route.