Go to Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. New York conquered Christmas. But, Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day weekend is unforgettable.
9 AM Chicago River
It starts with the sound of sirens before 9 am. Some can attest to drinking around 6:30 in the morning on the day of the parade. Everyone piles in the bus or on the train to go downtown to the Chicago River, which is dyed green around 9:15 am. While I have never seen the dying process, it is quite magical. For 40 years, the Chicago Rivermen Plumbers have used an orange coloring to turn the entire river bright green. No one knows exactly what is in the formula, but it is said to be environmentally safe. Boats pass by with Irish bands playing and people cheering, people canoe and waive the Irish flag, and then the bridge closes and opens (for foot traffic, that is). You can hear event staff and officers yelling, “No standing on the steps” or “You’re a great photographer, but keep moving.”
As you look around at the green river and people, it feels good. For the first time in the year, people are together outside. The fact that we are all wearing green, whether in costume or not, creates a further bond with strangers on the street. It feels like everyone is at the same party. This becomes more true as you end up at random parties and walk into lively bars and restaurants. After an hour or so of finding your friend in the green shirt, you engage in step 2: coffee.
10:30 AM Coffee
We opted for the Corner Bakery. Efficient, cozy, and close (right behind the Chicago River). People were packed in the warm restaurant for savory breakfasts with friends and family. Downtown is packed and vibrant at 10 am on a Saturday. This is new.
11:00 AM Parade Spot
After a few moments of warmth, it’s time to go to the parade. Don’t skip it. It is one of the largest parade’s in the country according to Choose Chicago. This year is the parade’s 60th anniversary. From Michigan and Wabash, you head southeast towards the Art Institute. Families passed by with their kids in strollers. Everyone takes over the streets as they head towards Columbus Drive. The parade begins at noon at Columbus and Balboa.
At this point, you meet up with more friends and decide the best spot to watch the parade. This year, we were invited to a friend’s condo to watch it through binoculars. As the girl who wore a skirt, I was happy with this warm alternative. The view was incredible. From above, it looked like most people congregated in Millennium Park (if they weren’t watching the parade) between the two water fountains. The bean was untouched. It was sectioned off for the event.
12:00 PM Parade & Day Drinking
This is the point of the day to rest a bit and maybe have a drink or your first bite to eat and perhaps get to know the 15 people that will be your new best friends for the day.
1:00 PM Bar Crawl
After taking part in tradition, it’s time to mingle with the crowds. We opted to go to Tilted Kilt for food and possibly green beer. More friends join. You stake out the covered pool table and create a makeshift dining table. This was a way to regroup. See people start dancing to country music, then hip hop then pop music. The DJ couldn’t agree on a genre.
2:30 PM McDonald’s
Sometime during the day, people enter McDonald’s for a Shamrock Shake or simply fries and/or coffee for those who didn’t eat at the prior location.
3:00 PM Office Party
Somehow. Someone’s friend knows someone’s brother who is having an office party. The 17 of you grab a train buddy and then take it to your next stop. Your friend’s friend greets you and convinces all 17 of us to pile into a box of an elevator to the 4th floor. The doors closes and refuses to open. Minutes later, you made it a half floor down to the ground level. The doors open and you all fall out of the elevator.
The fourth floor welcomes you to kegs, whiskey, half-opened coke cans, rooms designated for flip cup and beer pong, a DJ and dance floor, and a fire escape to tan. It’s going to be an afternoon. You go to the drink table. Find Jameson (the whiskey not the person). There’s only a half empty can of diet coke. Is it drugged? Do you use it? You pour it in the red solo cup.
At this point, your phone is dying, which it convenient because your friend from Tinder is coming to meet you. He has already had a beer with his neighbor so you will be equally buzzed when meeting for the first time. Considerate. Check. You make friends with the business owner and together search for a charger, but there are only iPhone chargers. You find the one guy with an Android phone. He has a charger. You hug him. You hug him hard.
6:00 PM Sustenance
You are now all wearing green hats. The party was festive and you are greener and hungrier than ever. Whoever remains, decides to share a meal. So, the conglomerate of new best friends and old friends finds a bar in River North. You have no idea how you got there, but you are standing in line for the bathroom. You come out and are handed a beer and led downstairs. You take a sip, then give it to your friend. Two new people join. You all sit down for three orders of nachos. Yes, three. Along with two orders of mac and cheese and two burgers. There are nine of us left.
8:00 PM Wrigleyville
After profuse picture taking, chatting and chugging, it’s time for the next phase. Your friend is taking an Uber, which sounds good at the moment. Especially good when you fall asleep in said Uber on your Tinder date’s lap, only to end up at his place drinking Pedialyte talking about cancer.
Our plan this year was to end the night at Wrigleyville. The group split off from there until two people were standing in Wrigleyville. DNAinfo reported 16 arrests in Lakeview and 24 ticketed violations for things such as public drunkenness. Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown blog reported a play-by-play of the day’s drunken mess from fights at IHOP to arrests in front of Sluggers bar in Wrigleyville.
Note: We never ate pie for pie day, but it was mentioned.
Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.