Ah, Saint Patrick’s Day.
Known as one of the greatest days of the year for the Irish (okay and the non-Irish) to gather together and er… drink?
Well, not quite. Sure, having a pint of Guinness is part of the fun, but celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the right way goes so much deeper, and once you partake in the nation’s best Irish celebration, you’re bound to be changed forever.
So, where exactly is the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the country?
No, it’s not Boston, Chicago, or even Georgia.
If you’re looking for the best St. Patrick’s Day celebration, look no further than Cleveland, Ohio.
To understand what makes Cleveland the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, it’s important to know the backstory.
Cleveland’s Irish roots run deep – with a heart and soul for tradition you just can’t manufacture.
The deadly potato famine that swept through Ireland brought an influx of Irish immigrants to Cleveland in the 1840s.
These poor Irish immigrants, straight from the shores of Ireland, began to make Cleveland their home. They set up communities all throughout Cleveland and into the suburbs.
Proud of their Irish heritage, they passed down many customs and traditions to their children and grandchildren who continue to keep the spirit of the Irish alive in Cleveland.
Local communities founded the West Side and East Side Irish American Club – composed of thousands of members committed to preserving their Irish heritage.
And each St. Patrick’s Day, in honor of Saint Patrick the patron Saint of Ireland, Clevelanders have paid tribute and celebrated their Irish roots ever since.
In fact, 2019 will be the 177th year St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Cleveland!
And let’s just say after 177 years of epic celebrations, Clevelanders have perfected the art of rocking it out on St. Patrick’s Day by honoring their Irish heritage and traditions.
Year Long Celebration
With nearly 13 percent of the Cleveland area claiming Irish ancestry, Clevelanders don’t just celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th.
St. Patrick’s Day is such a huge deal to them, many Cleveland Irish gather with family and friends at the local pub on September 17th to celebrate the exact halfway date to St. Patrick’s Day!
And once March hits, Clevelanders celebrate St. Patrick’s every single day of the month.
The East Side and West Side Irish American Clubs host an array of events from Friday fish-fries to corned beef dinners.
The East Side Irish American Club hosts their annual “Irish Coffee Night” the day before St. Patrick’s Day as a massive pre-day celebration. Patrons can sip the famous “Irish Coffee” complete with Bailey’s, or stick to classics like Guinness or Irish whiskey from the in-house bar.
And of course, the Irish love to be entertained, so you’ll find Irish dancers, bagpipers, fife and drum bands, and live Irish music all over the city.
That Parade Though
Once the big day hits, Clevelanders take their yearlong celebration to the streets of downtown for the ultimate celebration.
More than half a million people gather in downtown Cleveland to watch the astonishing 10,000-person parade stroll down Superior Avenue.
From Irish dancers to massive Irish wolfhounds, the St. Patrick’s Day parade is composed of nearly 200 units marching through Cleveland.
This year’s parade is the 177th parade to be hosted in Cleveland and units include the Cleveland Indians, U.S. military, firefighters, and even the Ghostbusters!
But the Cleveland Irish take their parade seriously, it’s not just for fun.
At the end of the parade route is a “reviewing stand” where appointed judges actually rank the units in the parade.
Competitions and awards include best unit of the parade, best float, best women’s drill team, and much more.
So if you’re looking for the best place to sit and watch the parade – make sure to sit towards the end of the parade route near the reviewing stand so you can actually see each unit perform their best routine!
Protip: The parade kicks off at 2:04PM and parade watchers line up early, so if you are serious about viewing the parade, arrive in downtown Cleveland by noon at the absolute latest!
Best Places For Food And Drink
You can’t leave Cleveland without feasting on the best the city has to offer.
And in typical Cleveland fashion, they’ve added their own unique twist to the Irish holiday, starting with the infamous corned beef sandwich.
So sink your teeth into the biggest and best corned beef sandwich you’ve ever had at Slyman’s Deli located on East 31st and Saint Clair Avenue.
We wrote up our take on this monstrous sandwich here, so you can read all about it.
And Mo Slyman, co-owner of the deli, welcomes you with open arms to take part in the tradition and celebration of the Irish.
“Before 6 a.m., we’ll already have 40 people lined up outside waiting to get in,” says Slyman. “There are hundreds of people starting their day here, because we’ve become such a part of this Irish and Cleveland tradition.”
If you’re looking to feast on the traditional Sheppard’s pie or sip a cold pint, be sure to check out P.J. McIntyre’s Irish Pub on Lorain Avenue which was voted one of the best Irish pubs in Cleveland.
Or, check out Parnell’s Irish Pub which opened up in Cleveland’s Theatre District a few years ago and has an impressive selection of over 90 whiskeys and bourbons.
Join In The Celebration
If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime celebration, consider rockin’ it out in Cleveland this St. Patrick’s Day.
The people are laid back and friendly, and they’ll party with you whether you’re Irish or not.
But just know, once you step foot in Cleveland, you’re entering into a city that reveres its Irish ancestors and is proud of their deep Irish roots.
And did you know that before the Irish take it to the streets of downtown, the Irish Catholics start their day off in a Catholic church for mass – regardless of what day St. Patrick’s Day falls on?
Both the east and west side areas actually have bagpipers and Irish bands play and walk down the aisles of the church before the priest enters.
With the Cleveland Irish, one thing you’ll learn is they are all about faith and family first.
But don’t be fooled, the Irish can show the rest of the world how to have a grand ol’ time like no other.
So sip a pint of Guinness at P.J. McIntyre’s Irish Pub and watch the parade on TV. Or head out to the streets and join the more than half a million people celebrating Irish history.
Whichever you decide, know you are participating in the ultimate celebration, one that goes beyond cheap green costumes and dyed beer.
Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!
How do you typically celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!