The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade 2011 takes place on Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 12 noon. (time subject to change)
The Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade is just part of a huge holiday in Chicago, which has a long Irish cultural background. The parade is the largest in the city (you may have seen Harrison Ford utilize the large crowds to escape in "The Fugitive"). Led by our Irish king, "Hizzoner" Mayor Richard M. Daley, thousands line up along Columbus Drive the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. No matter your heritage, everyone at the parade is full of Irish blood, blarney, and green beer.
Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade is certainly the biggest and liveliest in town, filled with thousands of marchers, colorful floats, marching bands, bagpipers, and glad-handing politicians.
Festivities start with the dyeing of the Chicago River green at 10:45 am, a tradition that started in 1962. Dubbed the "Irish miracle", the dye used actually goes in the river orange, and as some say, gets a leprechaun's help to then turn into its true shade of kelly green. Any of the bridges that cross the river on the north side of the Loop offer a good view -- those at LaSalle, State, or Dearborn are a good bet, with Michigan and Columbus being the best.
The parade kicks off from Balbo Ave. and Columbus Dr. in Grant Park at 12:00 noon. It heads north on Columbus to Monroe. The viewing stand is located in front of Buckingham Fountain, at Congress Dr.
It's certainly possible to drive, as there is parking in the underground Grant Park garage, the Hilton at Balbo and Michigan, or other nearby lots. But they fill up fast, are expensive, and any native knows your best bet if not already downtown is to take public transportation. Exit at any of the Blue or Red Line stops in the loop and walk east a few blocks to Columbus.