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Shamrock Salute: The Best Places to Celebrate a Southern St. Paddy’s Day

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Shamrock Salute: The Best Places to Celebrate a Southern St. Paddy’s Day
Throwing cabbages in New Orleans on St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick’s Day may bring to mind visions of Irish folk sporting green, clutching shamrocks, and commemorating saints for generations back in the old country. However, many historians actually credit America for establishing the beer-sloshed holiday as we know it. Traditionally, the people of Ireland held feasts and attended Catholic mass on March 17 to honor the death of Saint Patrick, a Christian missionary responsible for converting the Irish to Christianity. At the age of sixteen, Saint Patrick was snatched from his home in England and kept as a prisoner in Ireland for six years. After escaping captivity, Saint Patrick became a priest who believed that he was destined to Christianize Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day in 18th century Ireland was actually quite a sober affair—on par with other religious celebrations like Easter. During the 1700s, a growing population of Irish immigrants in America wanted to preserve the custom of a feast and pay homage to their religious ancestry. In an attempt to alienate the stigma against Irish immigrants, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762.

As more people of Irish descent moved to America, cities with large Irish populations, like Boston and Savannah, adopted the holiday. Today, people of all ethnicities in the U.S. and throughout the world don green and drink Guinness to honor Irish culture. St. Patrick’s Day has developed into a celebration of acceptance and cultural diversity, because whether you live in the South or South Asia, everyone gets to give the Irish accent on go on St. Patrick’s Day. With the universal growth of this holiday, each region of the world has incorporated their own cultural twist, from soda bread and potato stew in the motherland to green grits in Savannah.

Tubbys Veranda of Savannah GA
Tubby's Tank House on River Street offers classic seafood dishes while watching the tankers cruise by. Photo courtesy of Visit Savannah.

Savannah, Georgia

Attracting over 300,000 people each year, Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration is second in size only to New York City. Kick off your day on scenic River Street where the notorious parade strolls through from 10 am-2 pm. Get there early to claim your spot and pack a lunch of corned beef sandwiches from nearby Kevin Barry’s to savor during the montage of floats, bands, and horses. After the parade, wander over to Forsyth Park to admire the fountain dyed bright green each year after many failed attempts to dye the river. If you’re looking for a dinner of Irish fare, 17hundred90 Inn & Restaurant on the East Side will be offering Guinness-infused beef stew and all-you-can-eat corned beef and cabbage.

Dallas, Texas

Ring in St. Patrick’s Day in the Big D with a two-mile parade, a big-name concert, and a glimpse of the infamous Texas Tortilla Queens. Each year, this group of proud, Irish ladies slip on their beehive wings, gem-encrusted tiaras, and glossy sashes to grace parade goers with their presence and their presents—floppy green tortillas. Legend has it that if you’re lucky enough to catch one of their tortillas, a leprechaun will appear and grant you the luck ‘o the Irish. Following the parade is a concert in Energy Square and a festival on Greenville Ave. In the last few years, Ludacris and Snoop Dogg have made the list of celebrity appearances, but this year Dallas welcomes Third Eye Blind to the Dallas Observer’s St. Patrick’s Day Concert. Located on the same block as the concert is the St. Patrick’s day festival complete with a family-friendly area of bounce houses, face painting, and local food trucks. If you’re looking for a rowdier crowd, head to the BrewFest section of the festival with more food trucks, a tall list of booze including the notoriously-dyed green beer, and a bumpin’ DJ booth.

New Orleans, Louisiana

There’s no party like a NOLA party where the streets are teeming with festivities, the beer is flowing all night long, and the St. Patrick’s Day debauchery continues for ten days. Each day welcomes a new parade from downtown to the Irish Channel, and visitors and locals alike are dressed from head to toe in green donning as many beads as their neck can carry. When the crowd starts chanting, “Hey, Mister, throw me something!” be sure to watch out because parade marchers are known to throw everything from potatoes and carrots to toilet paper. Once the parades are finished, after parties pop up all over town—but Parasol’s Annual Block Party Bash is praised by locals as the finest affair for Paddy’s Day celebrations.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville’s annual Green Eggs and Kegs 5/10K kicks off the holiday productively. We know, who wants to spend St. Patrick’s Day exercising, but did we mention the beer? Bring your greenest and most outrageous outfit for the race and celebrate afterwards at the Tin Roof with brews, green egg burritos, and musical entertainment. As for the rest of the day, Nashville has no shortage of green-themed events. For beer selection, grab a growler and head to the Main Street Brew Fest that boasts over fifty unique craft beers. Maple syrup porter, anyone? The Music City Irish Fest on Music Row boasts an entire day of Irish musicians and entertainers including Nosey Flynn, Nashville Pipes and Drums, and the Nashville Irish Step Dancers. Plus, get a chance to get out the notorious musica statue clad in plaid—each year the city decks the statue out in festive kilts. If you’re looking for a whiskey-sloshin’ good time, sign up for the downtown bar crawl and drink your way through Nashville with gift cards and drink specials. Participating bars from past years include Dick’s Last Resort, Silver Dollar Saloon, Coyote Ugly, and Bootleggers Inn. If you’ve got a way to make it out to the Greenhouse in Green Hills, and you’re a basketball fan, get there for the annual Lucky Stache Bash. Go dapper and curly with a Dali-style stache or big and bold à la Ron Burgundy and enjoy the big screen March Madness viewing area, ten different bar areas, and big name DJs and performers like past guests Chingy and Bubba Sparxx.