Mar 15, 2022 - Things to Do

Here's how my first St. Patrick's Day in Chicago went

river died green and a boat passing by chicago skyscrapers
Thousands of people watched on Saturday morning as Chicago's river was dyed green. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Let's do some easy math. If you add five green beers, one karaoke rendition of "Mr. Brightside," 20-degree weather and a 40-minute wait for Portillo's together, what does it equal?

  • Answer: A damn good St. Paddy's Saturday.

The big picture: Chicago returned to its St. Patrick's Day festivities in full force over the weekend as thousands of people moved from one tradition (river dyeing) to the next (parade) to the next (drinking too much).

  • It was my first St. Paddy's weekend in Chicago, here visiting friends and my Axios Chicago colleagues.

☘️ Here's how it went ...

8:30am: Good morning, single-digit wind chill. This North Carolina resident is cold. I suit up in five layers on top, three layers on bottom, gloves, earmuffs, a face mask and an emergency supply of hand warmers.

9:30am: Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. I was in a hurry, don't judge.

10am: Arrive at a friend-of-a-friend's apartment in River North, stocked with three-layer Jell-O shots and green fedoras.

three layer jello shot with green, white and orange
These Jell-O shots were expertly divided into three colors to represented Ireland's flag. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

11:15am: Walk to Mom's Place for green beer no. 1.

  • The folks doing karaoke here were either very good or delightfully bad. I fell in the later category with The Killers' "Mr. Brightside."
  • Future Emma's neck is mad at Saturday Emma's neck for all the head-banging.
inside of a bar with lights on the ceiling
The 11:30am scene at Mom's Place. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

12pm: Walk the 10 minutes to the Dearborn Street Bridge and take far too many photos of the green river.

12:30pm: Back to Mom's Place for green beer no. 2 (or is it 3?).

green beer
Mom's green beer. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

12:55pm: Witness the best shoes of the day: sneakers covered in a green shamrock print on the feet of a lady singing "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!"

shamrock shoes
Best shoes of the day. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

12:57pm Another green beer.

2:10pm Irish car bombs. 🥴

3:15pm To Portillo's! It was my first time trying the famous Chicago-based chain, and I probably picked the worst day to do it.

  • But my beef sandwich and milkshake were worth the 40-minute wait.
long line at famous chicago restaurant portillos
Swarms of people gathered at Portillo's in River North. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

4:30pm: We're now fading fast, so we head to Yours Truly on Wells because it says they have espresso martinis and lounge furniture on Google.

6:15pm: I get a second wind just in time for The Swell Season's sold-out concert at Cadillac Palace Theatre.

  • The half-Irish band — made up of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová from the film "Once" — had some laughs over Chicago's festivities, but Hansard added how cool it was to have an "international day of Ireland." (Or week in the case of Chicago.)
inside of theater
A standing ovation as The Swell Season leaves the stage at Cadillac Palace Theatre. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

9:50pm Uber home and sleep.

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