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The city of green: St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

Boats on the green river in Chicago for St. Patricks Day 2024.
Annika Trost
Boats on the green river in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day 2024.

The windy city is known for many things: the Bean, the famous Art Institute of Chicago, Willis Tower, impeccable architecture boat tours, endless shopping, lakeshore views and so much more. It is a buzzing city with lots to do, full of big restaurants, concerts and many opportunities year-round. However, annually, on the third weekend in March, the city takes on a brand new persona for St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Along with the large Irish population in Chicago, many tourists from around the world gather together in the city center to celebrate the holiday in all of its glory. The thousands of people, many intoxicated, stir up a vibrant atmosphere in the city that is unmatched by any other event I’ve experienced. 

You name it: glasses, hats, green banana suits, fluffy green boas, T-shirts and pants. You will not find one person who is not wearing at least one green accessory to commemorate the occasion. Everywhere you look, there is something green to catch your eye and a jolly face of someone enjoying the day with friends and family.

Chicago is home to the gorgeous Chicago River, which runs through the city’s center, between the downtown loop area and out to Lake Michigan. The day before St. Patrick’s Day marked the annual green dyeing of the river this year. On this holiday, people of all ages gather around the bridges, banks and river walks to see the magic happen. The plumber’s union comes riding down the river in boats, dumping about 40 pounds of green dye straight into the water for everyone to see. The environmentally friendly dye, made with a vegetable base, turns the river into a bright green shade unmissable to anyone in the surrounding area.

If you are considering crossing the river during this extravagant morning, don’t. The river is closed to all drivers and walkers during the dyeing ceremony, which I learned the hard way. In my attempt to cross the river for an important meeting, I was thrown into a whirlwind of a transportation adventure with the Australian wedding designer, Jack, whom I met along the way. 

From the bridge where the police informed us of the closure we ventured to the nearest train stop through the masses of green people and barely made it. After riding it too far in the opposite direction, we got in a taxi that took us back to the correct building and finally made it to our destination after a long, adventurous morning.

Cities are not for the faint of heart. If you are willing to tackle the beast of public transportation, you never know what stories or new friends you will come out with on the other side. Venturing your nearest big city will give you the cultural immersion you need to understand city life and the diversity that dwells within. 

If you’re looking for a fun activity for St. Patrick’s Day next year or your next city vacation, head to Chicago, Illinois, and you will not be disappointed.

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  • L

    Lora | Mar 22, 2024 at 2:18 pm

    So cool! I want to go in 2025!!

    Reply
  • F

    Fritz Trost | Mar 22, 2024 at 1:46 pm

    Very cool observation piece of an iconic part of experiencing the Windy City!

    Reply