How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in NYC

Erin go bragh! It’s that time of year again, when the doldrums of winter give way to the bright green of spring, and even if there’s still snow on the ground where you live, there will surely be plenty of green in just a couple of weeks, when St. Patrick’s Day arrives. New York City has plenty of residents with Irish blood, but even if you’re not Irish, it’s fun to celebrate the food and culture of the Emerald Isle on this festive holiday. There are plenty of ways to join in the fun, and not all of them involve a pint of Guinness. In fact, the whole family has options to celebrate Irish pride on March 17, and here are a lucky seven of them.

  1. Watch the Parade: This annual spectacle is an hours-long celebration of Irish music and culture, and it steps off every year at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue. The parade route runs uptown on Fifth Avenue and ends at 79th Street. The festivities get under way at 11 a.m., but for the best view, I’d recommend finding a good spot on Fifth Avenue a lot earlier than that. You can also get grandstand tickets, but as you have to request those in advance, it’s probably too late for that at this point (though you might want to keep the option in mind for next year).
  2. Learn Some New Skills: On March 13, round up the kids and head to the Irish Arts Center on West 51st Street for the Annual St. Patrick’s Open Day. This free event features lessons in how to play the tin whistle and how to speak Irish, arts and crafts, an Irish tea, and a chance to work on your football skills with the Manhattan Gaels.
  3. See “Little Ireland”: For something a little more low-key and academic, sign up for a walking tour of the old “Little Ireland” district, which stops at many Irish-American historical sites while looking at the history of St. Patrick’s Day and its popularity in America. Possible stops include the Five Points, the founding site of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and sites associated with Irish historical figures like Thomas Addis Emmet.
  4. Step Into History: Visit the Merchant’s House Museum to learn about the lives of Irish immigrants who worked as servants in New York City. “St. Patrick’s Day: A Tribute to the Tredwells’ Irish Servants With Bridget Murphy” offers an up-close look at where the Irish servants of the Tredwell family lived and worked. During the tour, visitors will meet Bridget Murphy, who will talk about what the servants’ lives were like and how important they were to the functioning of the household.
  5. Dance a Modern Jig: To hear some updated Irish sounds, check out The Narrowbacks and Girsa at Webster Hall. This isn’t exactly “Danny Boy”: While Girsa’s sound is more traditional, The Narrowbacks mix Irish folk music with a punk sensibility. This show is sure to have your toes tapping in no time!
  6. Get Creeped Out: Leprechauns are usually thought of as whimsical, cute, or maybe mischievous. But in 1993, moviegoers discovered that they can be terrifying, too, at least on the big screen. Leave the kids at home and head to Nitehawk Cinema to see Leprechaun. It’s not exactly an authentic Irish experience, but it’s sure to be fun for those who like thrills and chills.
  7. Raise a Pint or Two: Of course, I’d be remiss without noting one of the most common ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in New York City and across the country: drinking. But please, skip the weak American beer laden with green dye. Instead, have some traditional Irish whiskey or beer at one of the city’s many great Irish pubs. Better yet, have a full meal of Irish fare like shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash.