How non-Irish Chicago families can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Not being Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is kind of lost on me. Every year it happens, and every year I just gloss over it with the occasional, “yeah, we should go see the river dyed green,” without ever seeing it.

But this year, I thought I’d do a little investigation so my kids don’t grow up totally devoid of a little Irish cheer. Luckily, Chicago has lots to offer for families who want to sport their shamrocks.

  • Northwest Side Irish Parade,

Parade starts at 10 a.m. at William J. Onahan School, 6634 W. Raven St. After party starts at 1 p.m., at 7211 W. Talcott Ave.

The south side is typically known more for its Irish population, but the north side represents, in family-friendly style, what St. Patrick’s Day means. Liz Belcaster and her father created the Northwest Side Irish Parade 11 years ago. The parade and party, held March 16, is all about kids, with face painting and balloon art and featuring dancers from the Dillon-Gavin School of Dance. Tickets for kids 12 and under start at .

  • Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave.,

The center is a bevy of St. Pat’s festivities. For three days, it follows the city’s big parade with family activities. March 15 is the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, featuring Irish music, dance, food and children’s activities. On St. Patrick’s Day itself, there will be an all-day celebration including music, dance and face painting for kids. Kids under 12 are free; otherwise, tickets are at the door.

  • Shoreline Sightseeing River Cruise,

Looking at a green-dyed river from a cold bridge doesn’t sound terribly appealing, so I investigated some indoor options. Best bet to view the colorful treat is via the Shoreline Sightseeing Cruise. Departures are before and after the noon parade and the 90-minute cruise includes a traditional Irish buffet with corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings. March 15. Tickets are .

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