Chicago at St. Patrick's Day

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but surprisingly, I had never been to the city of Chicago for the actual St. Pat's Day celebration.  I suppose it was because it has become more of a drinking celebration than anything else, and I left for the Air Force before I turned 21, the legal drinking age.  This weekend, I was finally able to celebrate with all the Irish and the Irish wannabes, because a good friend of mine was in Chicago for a conference.

I might warn you that if you decide to ever go to Chicago for this event, book a hotel room well ahead of time.  We did this last minute and the only rooms available were either way outside the downtown area, or at a high price.  We ended up paying $300+ for one night at the Residence Inn, but it was super convenient to be right in the middle of everything and so close to the River Walk.  And an added bonus- parking was included as well as breakfast.  Parking will kill your wallet in Chicago.  If you can find it, it's very expensive.

On the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day, the city of Chicago has a HUGE parade which includes floats, Irish dancers, bands, and all things green.  You won't even find such a celebration in Ireland.  This is one of the top 10 cities to celebrate this particular holiday.  Before the parade, the river is DYED GREEN!  How cool is that?!  It's a tradition started in the 1960s using a vegetable dye.  You can read the whole story here about how a plumber used it to find leaks in the sewer and it ended up on his coveralls, which spurred a thought about starting the greening of the river tradition.  It's all privately funded.  It starts out almost as a neon green, and turns to a cool kelly green later in the day.

Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day

Do you wonder what the birds think?

Very few people eat more than one slice

So besides the parade and river being green, the city is chock full of celebrating green clad young people.  Any bar advertising green beer (and there are plenty!) will have a line out the door, even before noon.  You will hear and see the strangest things.  It's a great day for people watching.  I have never seen such a variety of green headwear- everything from afros to boa clad cowboys.  And if you're in Chicago and trying to show an outsider a good time, there are a few MUSTS that should be included:  Giordano's Chicago pizza pie, a shot of yourself in the cloud gate sculpture (better known as 'the bean'), a walk on the Magnificent Mile for window shopping, and a visit to the Art Institute where they are currently celebrating 100 years of Picasso's influence on Chicago.  We did all of those and my friend said she enjoyed herself.  In spite of the cold, it was good to have a holiday in Chicago!

The Bean at Millennium park

I had seen this painting in books but it was quite exciting to see it close up.  I never noticed the couple walking a monkey!  Do you see it?


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