St. Patrick’s Day may be an Irish holiday, but marking the occasion with elaborate celebrations is not lost on the United States. Every year on March 17, green dye saturates the Chicago River in the Windy City, and around 2 million spectators turn out to watch an exuberant parade overtake the streets of Manhattan.
While grandiose events often steal the spotlight, some of the best revelry takes place outside the country’s metropolises. These eight St. Patrick’s Day events may not be as well-known, but their festive spirits and attractions—like the world’s largest shamrock in O’Neill, Nebraska—are as boisterous and fun as those of their big-city rivals.
1. Dublin, Ohio
Saturday, March 18, is touted as the “greenest and grandest day of the year” in Dublin, Ohio, a city with the tagline “Irish is an attitude.” The party starts early with a 7 a.m., all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast topped with green syrup at Sells Middle School. Before the parade, stop by the “inflation celebration” at Graeter’s Ice Cream shop to watch the giant balloons and floats come to life. At 11 a.m., head to the parade route to see the Grand Leprechaun—a different member of the community is chosen each year—lead the procession.
Finish the day by visiting the town’s many Irish pubs and participating businesses for themed events and entertainment. One of them, Fadó Pub & Kitchen, is hosting a block party (featuring live music, Irish dancers, and Irish cuisine) over the weekend.
2. O’Neill, Nebraska
Founded by Irish-born Civil War General John O’Neill, this small Nebraska town might be one of the most proudly Irish places in the country. In 1969, then-governor Norbert Tiemann proclaimed O’Neill the “Irish Capital of Nebraska” to honor its citizens’ efforts to preserve the town’s Irish heritage.
O’Neill is also home to the world’s largest shamrock. Painted in the middle of an intersection, the image is so large it appears on Google Maps. The shamrock gets a fresh coat of paint every year before the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which is slated for Saturday, March 18, this year. Bring the kids to a magician show or join the Shamrock Fun Run before the afternoon parade. Afterward, catch live music or partake in a Irish whiskey tasting at venues around town.
3. Wilmington, North Carolina
For a lively St. Patrick’s Day celebration near the beach, head to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival & Parade in Wilmington, North Carolina. This year’s celebration started early, March 11, with a parade looping through downtown and ending right beside the festival grounds. The free and family-friendly event featured live Irish music and traditional dance performances by members of the local Walsh Kelley School of Irish Dancing. Several local pubs and restaurants offered traditional Irish meals and “kegs & eggs” themed–brunch events on parade day. Mark your calendar for next year’s festivities on March 16.
4. Montauk, New York
One of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York State is only 119 miles from New York City, on the east end of Long Island in Montauk. The 61st-annual Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on March 26, two Sundays after St. Patrick’s Day, to avoid conflict with the event in Manhattan.
The parade starts at noon, but arrive early for a local tradition: a mug of soup from the Montauk Chamber of Commerce. The event can draw a crowd of up to 40,000 people, so plan ahead if you’re traveling from New York City via public transit. After the parade, stop by one of the local pubs for an Irish-themed meal to allow time for the train queues to shrink.
5. New London, Wisconsin
In the late 1800s, a group of Irish immigrants settled in the New London area because the landscape reminded them of Ireland. Many others followed, and today the city hosts Wisconsin’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade.
But the holiday is more than an excuse for a parade here—it’s a week-long celebration. The festivities start when members of the Shamrock Club—a group of Irish descendants and locals who “wish they were Irish”—dress as leprechauns and change the name of the town to “New Dublin” on road signs.
Other weekday events include Irish caroling and dinners of corned beef and cabbage at local pubs. The extravaganza culminates in the Grand Parade, complete with both bagpipe and marching bands, on Saturday, March 18. Irish Fest, an annual music festival, kicks off on the same day and features Celtic band performances under a heated tent.
6. Savannah, Georgia
While weekends in Savannah can immerse travelers in slow Southern living, spending St. Patrick’s Day in the Georgia city brings a jolt of celebratory energy. On March 17, 2023, Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade will feature more than 350 units as it makes its way through the historic district starting at 10:15 a.m. The event has been a staple for the city since 1824, and brings in dancers, musicians, and other acts from all over the East Coast to the celebration.
But the festivities in Savannah aren’t limited to the parade. The city’s Plant Riverside District hosts live music and other activities from March 11-19 in its “Shamrocks and Shenanigans Celebration”. Forsyth Park’s famous fountain also turns green a few days before, and an 8 a.m. mass celebrating the Feast Day of St. Patrick kicks off the holiday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. And if you can’t get enough of the festivities, nearby Tybee Island has its own Irish Heritage Celebration Parade.
7. Jackson, Mississippi
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Jackson has a particularly quirky origin story. In 1983, local restaurant owner Malcolm White gathered a few hundred friends and marched through downtown dressed as characters from the plays of Mississippi-native Tennessee Williams. (As White says, there will always be a few Tennessee Williams characters at any costume occasion in the South.)
The inspiration behind the original march is lost to time, but the day-long event now draws a crowd of roughly 70,000 people, and raises money for Children’s of Mississippi and other charitable efforts. In addition to the big parade, there is a 5K race, a pet parade, live music, and a children’s festival with a costume contest and amusement rides. The 2023 celebration will be held on Saturday, March 25, the weekend after St. Patrick’s Day.
8. Dublin, California
Not only are there multiple Dublins in the world, but several U.S. states (including Georgia and Texas) have a city bearing the name of Ireland’s capital city. Over on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, the Dublin Historical Society hosts a “Shamrock Gala” to begins the city’s St. Patrick’s Day events on March 17, followed by a two-day festival. Dublin, California, also hosts a parade on March 18 complete with Irish bagpipes, marching bands, and equestrians.
This article originally appeared online in February 2019; it was updated on March 15, 2023, to include current information. Chloe Arrojado contributed reporting.
Anna Mazurek Anna Mazurek is a travel photographer and writer based in Austin, Texas. Follow her adventures and travel advice at travellikeanna.com.