Symbols of St. Patrick's Day

Where Can You See the Best St. Patrick’s Day Parade?

By February, the lingering cold winter chill has many people dreaming about warmer temperatures and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. New York City and Chicago each hold a legendary St. Patrick’s Day parade. But bigger is not always better. 

Where can travelers go for a festive experience without the massive crowds? You must have the luck of the Irish, for you have come to the right place. We will outline where you can find the best St. Patrick’s Day parade with smaller crowds. 

Going Green

St. Patrick's Day parade attendees
Show your Irish spirit. Photo credit: stu99 via Deposit Photos

The United States (U.S.) is going green, and not just for its support of environmental issues. Over 31.5 million U.S. residents declare Irish ancestry, second only to German heritage at 43.0 million. According to WalletHub, the U.S. comprises 176 cities where at least 10% of the residents have Irish ancestry. The country has ten cities named Dublin, honoring Ireland’s capital.

Several cities are renowned for their legendary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, including New York with its extensive holiday parade and Chicago for its emerald river. Although their celebrations may not garner as much attention, other states boast a higher population percentage with Irish heritage. Accordingly, travelers can avoid crowds while enjoying the full extent of the spirited holiday in smaller communities.

U.S. Census Bureau data reveals the top five states with the highest population percentage of Irish ancestry. While various towns within these states hold noteworthy festivals, we will highlight those with unique traditions and a mythical St. Patrick’s Day parade.

New Hampshire

Skyline in Manchester, New Hampshire
Manchester skyline. Photo credit: sepavone via Deposit Photos

The state with the highest percentage of Irish ancestry is New Hampshire, at 20.2%. Manchester, the state’s most populous city, openly acknowledges the challenges of competing with cities like New York and Boston. Accordingly, they typically hold their St. Patrick’s Parade one week later to attract quality bands and floats.

In early March, excitement builds in town when Elm Street gets painted with shamrocks. The parade features unicyclists, clowns, bagpipers, and marching bands. Before the parade, runners fill the streets clad in green shirts, some in kilts, for the traditional Shamrock Shuffle. After the scheduled festivities, you can join the locals at the town’s Irish pubs and restaurants for tasty fare and a pint.

Massachusetts

St. Patrick's day parade drummers
Irish drum line. Photo credit: motionshooter via Deposit Photos

Ranking second, 19.8% of Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry. Boston, the state’s capital, boasts a St. Patrick’s Day parade that dates back to 1737. The city draws massive crowds to observe the festive mix of brass marching bands, entertainers, dancers, extravagant floats, traditional bagpipes, military units, and historic Minutemen companies.

Travelers who want to skip the crowds can celebrate eight days before the holiday at the Cape Cod St. Patrick’s Parade. The Yarmouth procession showcases marching bands, bagpipers, drum corps, horses, and floats. After the celebration, explore the quaint towns and picturesque national seashore. You will find plenty of Irish cuisine, pageantry, music, and dancing throughout the charming Cape Cod communities.

Rhode Island

Coast of Newport, RI
Cliff Walk and rocky coast in Newport. Photo credit: jiawangkun via Deposit Photos

With 17.6% Irish ancestry among its residents, Rhode Island ranks third. The Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade dates back to 1956. Travelers can enjoy the festive spectacle of bagpipers, marching bands, clowns, fife and drum corps, and local organizations. The area comprises nine charming coastal towns where guests can explore bustling harbors, beautiful beaches, stately mansions, wineries, and breweries.

Newport hosts various events during the entire month of March to celebrate the region’s Irish heritage. Beyond the events, visitors will discover several pubs and diners where they can savor traditional Irish cuisine.

Vermont

Church Street in Burlington, VT
Burlington, Vermont. Photo credit: sepavone via Deposit Photos

A state with “green” in its nickname must be Irish. The Green Mountain State ranks fourth for Irish ancestry at 17.0%. Burlington, one of the state’s most popular cities for travelers, is renowned for its eclectic shops on Church Street and breathtaking scenery along Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains.

The charming New England town holds its annual Burlington Irish Heritage Festival from the beginning of the month through St. Patrick’s Day. You can participate in or observe unique events, including Irish dancing, ukulele sessions, fiddle playing, Irish baking, and Irish pub singalongs. The festivities culminate with the holiday parade, featuring trucks and cement mixers adorned with shamrocks.

Maine

Boats at the pier in Portland, Maine
Boats along a pier in Portland, Maine. Photo credit: Alpegor6 via Deposit Photos

If you close your eyes and think about Maine, you will likely envision rugged coastlines, lighthouses, moose, Acadia National Park, red lobsters, white pines, and blueberries. Beyond the patriotic colors, Maine has plenty of green, with 16.6% Irish ancestry. Portland, Maine’s St. Patrick’s parade features Irish music and dancing from locals along the town’s iconic fish pier and ferry terminal.

A popular tradition is the Portland Plunge, where brave souls take an early morning cold dip in the ocean, then savor a tasty Irish breakfast and a pint. Guests will discover many green decorations, attire, beverages, and more as the celebration continues all day and night. There will be lots of Irish music, dancing, and singing.

Get Your Irish On

Bagpipers in a St. Patrick's Day parade
Bagpipers play at a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo credit: stu99 via Deposit Photos

Whether you want to connect with your Irish heritage or wear a green shirt, the U.S. offers many fantastic St. Patrick’s Day parades. Go to New York or Chicago if you want to experience a big parade. Try one of these under-the-radar towns for those who seek an experience steeped in Irish lore with people proud of their heritage. Between the shamrocks, bagpipes, and Irish dancing, you will feel the Irish spirit.

Featured image credit: IgorVetushko via Deposit Photos

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Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
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