Eight cities and towns to visit for St Patrick’s Day.
When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, places like Boston and Chicago take top billing for their population of pubs and green-dyed rivers, but plenty of other cities throw their own emerald-hued festivities worth traveling for. Conveniently, many of said destinations fall within an easy road trip range from Oklahoma City, from larger cities like Phoenix and Kansas City to small towns like Shamrock and the “Irish capital of Nebraska.” While Oklahoma City may be 4,000-plus miles from Ireland, take solace in knowing you’re mere hours from a makeshift Emerald Isle in America’s heartland.
Austin may be a mecca of breakfast tacos and barbecue, but come St. Patrick’s Day, the Texas capital offers its fair share of Irish comforts. It doesn’t get any more authentic than B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, one of the oldest of its kind in town, which offers a medley of corned beef, shepherd’s pie, fish & chips and tall pours of Guinness in a rustic, wood-clad motif that looks fresh out of Dublin. Since the original’s debut, a slew of other Irish pubs have joined the local scene all over the city, from Jack & Ginger’s in the Domain Northside and cozy Nosh and Bevvy to newcomer Foxy’s Proper Pub, a downtown haunt lined with exposed brick and a veritable library of Irish whiskey. As for events, there are festivals and activities aplenty, such as the St. Patrick’s Day bagpipe concert at Katherine Fleischer Park.
Just over the Texas-Oklahoma state line, en route to Amarillo, Shamrock is a tiny town on Route 66 that’s best known for its Art Deco-style Conoco Tower Station. But with a name like Shamrock, it’s also an oasis for Irish culture in the Texas panhandle. This year’s festivities, which feature a bevy of activities all over downtown, run from March 15 to 18 and kick off with the Irish Walk of Fame induction ceremony, followed by the Painting of the World’s Largest Shamrock. On March 18, the celebration culminates with a fun run in the morning, Irish dancers at noon and the grand parade at 1 p.m.
San Antonio, Texas
Chicago isn’t the only city dyeing its river green for St. Patrick’s Day. In San Antonio, the famed River Walk morphs into a makeshift River Shannon, as the San Antonio River gets dyed green for the holiday weekend. Along with the “25 gallons of eco-friendly green dye,” the river plays host to the annual St. Patrick’s River Parade and Festival, which features literal parade floats, bagpipers, Irish music, games and food. This year’s parade takes place March 18 at 2 p.m.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
As evidenced by Mardi Gras, Louisiana is a state that knows how to throw a holiday party — and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception. In the state capital of Baton Rouge, the local Irish Club has been a cultural cornerstone since 1906, and the Wearin’ of the Green parade has been an annual requisite since 1986 marked by antique cars, Irish dancers, Clydesdale horses, marching bands and floats called krewes. This year’s event kicks off March 18 at 10 a.m.
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City may be known for barbecue, but the city’s early Irish immigrants helped mold the metropolis into the cultural melting pot it is today — and that heritage is on full display for St. Patrick’s Day, when the city rolls out its float-filled parade (held this year on March 17 at 11 a.m.), along with the kid-friendly Snake Saturday Parade the weekend before, with a cook-off, carnival-style games and Irish comfort food. Beyond the festivities, Kansas City boasts a robust Irish pub scene, including classic haunts like Kelly’s Westport Inn, McFadden’s Sports Saloon, and old-timey O’Malley’s 1842 Pub.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
A singular sensation for offbeat Irish culture, Hot Springs gets quirky for the holiday with its annual “World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” Held this year on March 17, spanning a whopping 98 feet on Bridge Street, the parade features dancers, colorful floats, kitschy cars and appearances from the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the Village People and actor Christopher McDonald. After, pop into Superior Bathhouse in Hot Springs National Park for Irish red ale brewed with hot spring water and Irish-style pub grub such as steak fries and beer cheese dip.
Find a little slice of Ireland in north-central Nebraska in the small town of O’Neill. As the “Irish capital of Nebraska,” and home to the world’s largest shamrock (a huge painting at the intersection of highways 20 and 281), the community comes alive for its annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, which includes a parade, dancers, music, the Mr. Irish Pageant and whimsical activities like the Greening of the Pond at Gil Poese Recreation Area and the dyeing of the green horse (don’t worry, it’s harmless temporary food coloring).
It doesn’t get any more original than celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in a desert, which is what makes Phoenix’s 40th annual parade and festival an affair to remember. Slated for March 11 at 10 a.m., the downtown spectacle kicks off with a bagpipe-filled parade, followed by a faire at Margaret T. Hance Park, teeming with dancing, music and numerous food and drink vendors slinging green beer, corned beef and more.