Read More About Where to Celebrate Chicago's Irish Heritage

Every March, the entire city of Chicago turns Irish for the year's biggest party on St. Patrick's Day — complete with an emerald green Chicago River, one of the most photographed public celebrations of the holiday in the country. Unfortunately, stereotypes would have some people believe that St. Paddy's Day means crazy pub scenes, endless pints of Guinness and less than notable culinary offerings. We're here to talk instead about where and how you can celebrate our city's Irish culture in a more authentic fashion, and with the whole family. After all, shouldn't everyone, no matter their age, get to celebrate the Irish-American presence in Chicago and the many traditions that are rooted here in the Windy City?

Before we dive in and start sharing our favorite Gaelic gathering spots and cultural experiences, let's start with a little backstory about the remarkable community of people that has made Chicago one of the largest US cities with the highest percentage of Irish ancestry, next to Boston and Philly.

During the Great Famine that began in 1845, Ireland and its people struggled to survive, with minimal food and housing options. It was clear that it was time for a change, and many people chose to migrate to the US to find a reliable source for farming. At the time, Chicago was only eight years old, with a modest population of 6,000 people. This provided the Irish with plenty of opportunities to be a part of the city's growth from its inception.

As the years passed, people from more and more countries were immigrating to the US. Between 1870 and 1900, Chicago grew from a city of 299,000 to nearly 1.7 million. Fast forward to 2007 and the Irish-American population in Chicago alone consisted of over 200,000, out of Chicago’s current 2.5 million urban population.

The Irish in Chicago have always exhibited a remarkable sense of community, solidarity and togetherness. Their hard work and dedication to providing Chicago with a better tomorrow has run right through Chicago history. Many Irish-American immigrants were part of Chicago’s big industrial revolution. During the 1900 century, Irish people helped build the railroads, steel mills and the great Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi helping to bring "The Burnham Plan of Chicago” to life.

With over a century and a half of Irish settlement in Chicago, no wonder the city turns green to celebrate the culture every year. So, without further ado, here are our top picks for ways you and the family can celebrate this very rich and robust cultural history without having to fight the party crowds this St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish-American Heritage Center

A Group Of People Standing In Front Of A Building

Photo credit: Irish American Heritage Center Website

This isn’t your typical cultural center. It not only embodies the very best in Irish culture though arts, history, education and dance and social functions — it also happens to be located in the city’s northwest side in a stunning renovated, turn-of-the-20th century building that spans a full city block of the Mayfair Park residential neighborhood. With a 658-seat theatre, library, museum, art gallery, authentic Irish pub, dance practice studios, meeting rooms and banquet rooms for parties, the center is a resource for everything Irish, and one of our favorite summertime activities. It's open year-round and no matter when you go, there is so much to see, do and learn here that you may want to schedule a whole day to explore it all.

Fun Fact: America’s favorite late-night talk show host, Conan O’Brien visited and filmed an entire segment for his show at the center, which made for some hilarious comedic relief from the stand-up comedian about his own Irish roots.

Plan your visit with more info at the Irish-American Heritage Center website.

The Kerryman Restaurant

A Close Up Of A Flower Garden In Front Of A Building

Photo credit: The Kerryman Restaurant Website

We wouldn’t normally mention a pub-style place in a round up like this, however The Kerryman is a true gem and the only true Irish Restaurant & Pub in Chicago. Because of that, it has a great family-friendly environment – kids of all ages can be seen with their parents enjoying a delicious Irish-inspired menu (and, no, that doesn't mean boiled potatoes!). The family behind this business are true Irish-born chefs, restaurateurs and owners dedicated to providing you with an elevated culinary experience in an authentic Irish setting. The Kerryman is often imitated but never duplicated and it's a must-do when in Chicago!

Insider Tip: If visiting in the summer, be sure to check out their stunning outdoor patio.

For more history and information, visit The Kerryman online here.

See, Do & Shop

Chicago has so much Irish pride that we just can’t fit it all in on St. Patrick’s Day alone. And at Loews Chicago Hotel, we’ll be celebrating for the entire month of March. Lucky you!

The Lucky You! Package includes:

  • Valet parking for one vehicle
  • $50 Bloomingdale’s Gift Card – OR – 2 Navy Pier Centennial Wheel Tickets (select your choice at check in)
  • 2 complimentary cocktails at ETA Restaurant + Bar
  • Try your luck at check in to win one of the following perks:
    • 10% off food and beverage charges throughout stay
    • 10% off spa charges throughout stay
    • $25 Starbucks credit per stay

 Click Here to book our 'Lucky You!' package today

We also recommend visiting one of these Irish-import stores throughout the city:

And nibbling on Irish bites and sipping traditional Irish brews and hot toddies at one of the many Gaelic-themed brew pubs throughout the city:

Lastly, for the best viewing spots of that emerald green Chicago River, click here.

A Group Of People On A Bridge Over A River In A City

Photo credit: Choose Chicago Website

Fun Fact Time ...

  • Famous + Notable Irish-American Chicagoans 
  • Michael Flatley (The Lord of the Dance, and a Chicagoan!)
  • John Comiskey (Politician and father of White Sox baseball owner Charles Comiskey)
  • Jane Byrne (the first female to serve as Chicago mayor)
  • Richard J. Daley (former Chicago mayor – one of 12 Irish-American Chicago mayors)
  • Actor Bill Murray
  • Singer Billy Corgan

 But, on March 17th, we're all Irish in Chicago!