As St. Patrick's Day approaches, play it safe and head south by southwest for a parade under a warm sun, because drinking green beer with your shorts on beats drinking green beer dressed in your woolies in the subzero arctic temperatures.
These cities have just as much history, and their revelers party just as hard. But they do it wearing tank tops.
Remember: Winter is a choice you make.
Hotlanta's St. Patrick's Day parade was started in 1858 by the Hibernian Benevolent Society, a Catholic and Protestant fraternal organization, which is pretty significant if you know anything at all about Irish history and "The Troubles." One of the oldest St. Patrick's Day parades in the country, it features representatives from Atlanta's Irish culture and heritage groups and aims to educate the public on the contributions made by the Irish to the city, the South and the country as a whole. This family-friendly event has your usual floats, dance and drill teams, drum lines, bagpipes, clowns and bands. This year's parade will be held Saturday, March 14,at noon.
The Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Parade, formed in 1979 with a couple of flatbeds and 10 pickup trucks, has grown into the largest St. Patrick's parade in the Southwest with one hundred floats and attendance close to 100,000. Previous parades have included a green longhorn steer and three elephants with green toenails. The parade is always held the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day at 11 a.m.
3. Hot Springs, Arkansas
If you've never been to Hot Springs, you know going in that the city has a bit of an oddball sensibility. Hence, 30,000 people will be attending the "First Ever 12th Annual Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade"over the world-famous, 98-feet-long Bridge Street, named by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the world’s shortest street in everyday use. But size isn't everything, and Hot Springs more than makes up for the parade’s lack of length with its celebrity guests and overall wackiness. Previous grand marshals have included Jim Belushi, Bo Derek, John Corbett, Tim Matheson, George Wendt, Mario Lopez and Mike Rowe, and parade participants have included the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the (in)Famous Texas Tortilla Queens, Duck Dynasty’s Mountain Man and the San Diego Chicken.
This year's parade will feature The World’s Largest Leprechaun, a troupe of marching Irish Elvis impersonators, Irish belly dancers, dozens of floats and marching units, green marching Irish wolfhounds, loud music, dancing in the street and some Irish bagpipers. Plus there's the "Romancing the Stone" competition to see who can lay the best kiss on the Arkansas Blarney Stone, with a cash prize for the best romancer. The parade is held every year on March 17, and the festivities kick off at 4:30 p.m. NASCAR driver Mark Martin will be this year’s grand marshal.
4. Hermosa Beach, Calif.
There are many festivities throughout the city leading up to and on St. Patrick’s Day. But if you can only go to one, make it the 21st Annual Hermosa Beach St. Patrick's Day Parade. It’s a beach town St. Patrick's parade: part classic car cruise, part surfer party, all L.A. There also are bagpipers, floats, fur babies from the Irish Settlers Club of Southern California, all the usual parade participants and the best springtime weather in the continental United States.
5. New Orleans
You never want to miss a parade in New Orleans, and the St. Patrick's Day parade is no exception. As you’d expect, this is the Big Easy’s take on Irish cultural festivities, complete with floats, brass bands, beads and various "throws" that include cabbages, carrots, onions and moonpies.
The city also celebrates St. Joseph's Day on March 19, two days after St. Patrick's Day, because of its strong Catholic heritage and also because it's another reason to celebrate something. In the days leading up to St. Patrick's Day there are the Molly's at the Market Irish parade (Friday), the Irish Channel Parade (Saturday), the Italian-American St. Joseph's Parade in the French Quarter (Saturday) and the Metairie Road St. Patrick's Day Parade (Sunday). The Downtown Irish Club Parade will be held on the actual St. Patrick’s Day (Tuesday, March 17), and there will be parties in the Irish Channel all weekend long.
6. Sacramento, Calif.
Held in historic Old Sacramento with spectators lining the Gold Rush-era boardwalks, the O'Sacramento St. Patrick's Parade (Saturday, March 14, 1 p.m.) will feature historic re-enactors, Irish and Highland dancers in elaborate Celtic costumes, bagpipers, drum bands, military regiments, fire and police departments and possibly some mermaids. There will be 1,000 marchers and about 15,000 attendees in the 28-acre historic state park. The parade is old-timey in a way only Old Sacramento can do.
7. San Diego
Another St. Patrick’s Day parade that claims to be the "largest west of the Mississippi," the Annual San Diego St. Patrick's Day Parade (Saturday, March 14, 10:30 a.m.) has more than120 entries, including bagpipers, high school marching bands, police and fire department units, floats, dancing groups, marching and equestrian units, clowns, dignitaries and honorees, representatives from Ireland, antique cars and more. The parade will be followed by the Irish Festival in Balboa Park, with two stages of live entertainment, including Irish step dancers and Irish folk singers and bands as well as craft booths, food vendors, a beer garden and a kids' zone with rides.
8. San Francisco
Yet another parade said to be the biggest west of the Mississippi, the San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade dates back to 1852, making it the fifth oldest in the U.S. and certainly the oldest in the West. It's also one of the biggest parades in California, which is a BIG state with a lot of parades. It draws over 100,000 people annually and will be held Saturday, March 14, at 11:30 a.m.
9. Savannah, Ga.
Savannah once tried to dye her river green for St. Patrick's Day, but it didn't go so well. Chicago stands alone in that, though Savannah does dye all its fountains, starting with the ceremonial "Greening of the Fountain" in Forsyth Park on the Friday before the day itself. (It's also one of the only cities that serve green grits along with green beer.) The Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade, held in historic downtown Savannah, is the largest in the country per capita, drawing about 750,000 visitors to a city of only 136,000. Established in 1824, it's also one of the oldest. The 191st parade will be held Tuesday, March 17, at 10:15 a.m.