The Coolest St. Patrick’s Day Parades You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

The Coolest St. Patrick’s Day Parades You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

BY Matt Meltzer | March 12, 2024

St. Patrick’s Day has morphed from a religious feast honoring the death of Ireland’s patron saint to a delightfully sinful day of green beer and good times. In the United States, those good times often mean cheering on a St. Patrick’s Day parade as bagpipe bands and colorful floats turn our Main Streets into big, green parties. The ones in Chicago, New York and Savannah, Ga. have become destinations unto themselves, but other cities around the country throw down for St. Paddy’s just as well. From the world’s shortest parade in Arkansas to a one-man procession in Alabama, here’s a look at some of the country’s wildest, most underrated, and altogether unusual St. Patrick’s Day parades.

Delray Beach, Fla.

St. Patrick’s day parade via Shutterstock.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

If you’re looking to combine spring break with St. Patrick’s Day, nowhere does double duty better than Delray Beach, Fla. This laid-back beach town between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach hosts the biggest parade in South Florida, where police, bagpipers and classic cars roll down Atlantic Avenue, the town’s main drag. Sidewalk restaurants and bars serve as viewing areas with fantastic food and cold beer, and the route ends right near the beach, so you can continue the party with some well-deserved time on the sand basking in the Florida sunshine.

Denver, Colo.

Photo courtesy of The Denver St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Denver’s St. Patrick’s Day parade dates back over fifty years, the first official parade a blustery affair in 1963 plagued by winds that blew out a few store windows along the route. The parade persevered, and today is unofficially the largest annual gathering of Colorado residents in the state with roughly 500,000 attendees. Blake Street is renamed Tooley Street for the occasion, a tip of the hat to locally beloved District Attorney and Irishman Dale Tooley, and the route runs through downtown to 27th Avenue with revelers pouring out of pubs along the way. It’s but one part of the weekend-long Mile High celebration, which also includes a pub crawl, 5k run, Irish bus tour and several musical performances.

Enterprise, Ala.

Saturday, March 16, 2024 

Picture this: a lone parader, adorned as an esteemed Grand Marshal, strutting down the street, proudly waving an oversized Irish flag with contagious enthusiasm. It may be the World’s Smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but this quirky Alabama tradition has enshrined itself as an irreplaceable part of St. Patrick’s Day americana. The fun doesn’t stop there, either: The one-person march is followed by the Half Pint 0.5k, a 546-yard tour de force complete with motivational donuts at the halfway point. Those who complete this hero’s journey are rewarded at the post-race block party, where beer flows freely until the end of the night.

Holyoke, Mass.

Photo courtesy of Simtropolitan | CC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday, March 17, 2024

What started as a little Irish-American celebration in the 1950s has grown to one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation, swelling this little town of just over 40,000 to over ten times its size. Over its 70-plus years, the parade has drawn dignitaries like President John F. Kennedy and celebrities like David Kelly as it winds through Holyoke’s red brick downtown. The celebration lasts the entire weekend, too, with a road race Saturday afternoon, an awards dinner, and a pre-parade breakfast. In one of the country’s great Irish enclaves, this is as much a cultural immersion as an outdoor jamboree.

Hot Springs, Ark.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

A wee bit of St. Paddy’s trivia for you: The world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade runs a whopping 98 feet down Bridge Street in Arkansas’s Hot Springs National Park. Though it’s the world’s shortest street in everyday use, Bridge Street hosts, foot for foot, one of the craziest parades in the country, welcoming everyone from the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders to celebrity grand marshals like Cheech Marin, Joey Fatone and Jim Belushi. The parade lasts nearly an hour, forcing many “marchers” to walk in place, or occasionally go backward. This weekend-long party also includes an Arkansas Blarney Stone kissing contest, official measuring of the parade route, a Zero-K race along said route and several live concerts.

New Orleans, La.

Photo courtesy of Infrogmation of New Orleans | CC BY-SA 2.5

Sunday, March 10, 2024; Saturday, March 16; Sunday, March 17th; Sunday, March 24th; Saturday, April 6th

When it comes to partying and parading, nobody does it quite like New Orleans. And the St. Patrick’s Day parades are quintessential New Orleans fetes filled with music, laughter, and plenty of color — in this case, green. The whole city spills onto the streets with picnic baskets, umbrellas, beads, and an impressive array of floats, basically extending the Mardi Gras spirit into March and April. But the real stars of the show are the unexpected items thrown from the floats: cabbages, potatoes and Moon Pies. Because who doesn’t need some vegetables after a long weekend in New Orleans? 

O’Neill, Neb.

Photo courtesy of Micheal Peterson

Sunday, March 10th to Sunday, March 17th 

It only reasons that a city bearing an Irish name would throw one of the biggest St. Paddy’s parties in the prairies. The week of March 10-17 is like an Irish-American Carnaval, kicking off with the crowning of Mr. Irish on Monday and culminating with a massive Saturday afternoon parade. Other festivities include a Spud Fest where guests can indulge in all varieties of potato-based gluttony, a beard measuring contest and a Wednesday night pork feed. The Pond at Carney Park gets a healthy shade of green for the weekend, and Wednesday brings a “chug run” at the Golden Hotel where “runners” begin by chugging a beer at the hotel bar, then sprint from bar to bar throughout O’Neill playing drinking games and chugging more until the first person staggers across the finish line. The World’s largest shamrock (unofficially) adorns the city’s main intersection, a compliment to St. Paddy’s-inspired sidewalk art that makes for some impressive drone footage.  

San Francisco, Calif.

Photo courtesy of Tim Bartel | CC BY-SA 2.0

Saturday, March 16th

The Irish community has painted the City of Fog green for over a century as part of one of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on the West Coast. With more twists and turns than Lombard Street, this procession is packed with the kinds of outrageous outfits and unbridled spectacles one expects out of San Francisco. Its ranks also include lively Irish dance troupes, city officials and bagpipe bands, ending with a daylong post-parade party at the Civic Center. It’ll be smaller in 2024 than in years past, but hey, good things come in leprechaun-sized packages, right?