It’s unlikely that you’ll spot any actual leprechauns, or even stumble across a four-leaved clover, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in our state. In fact, it was once a single day commemorating the arrival of St Patrick and Christianity to Ireland on March 17. However, now it has more or less become a season each March. Don some green and head to one, or a number, of the best places in Michigan for St. Patrick’s celebrations.
Nestled in an area known as the Irish Hills let’s start out with Brooklyn. The area got its name from the Irish immigrants who settled in the green, rolling hills after escaping the Potato Famine of 1846. It was predominately farms and orchards then, but became a popular tourist destination by the 1920s. Pay your respects to the Irish who first arrived at An Gorta Mor, Michigan’s Potato Famine Memorial. It can be found on the grounds of the Saint Joseph Church and Shrine.
After learning a wee bit of history, its time for some revelry. On March 11-12 the local chamber is hosting a Taste of the Irish Hills. Your $25 ticket gives you access to a self-guided foodie tour of over 20 local restaurants, sampling some of the area’s best cuisine over the two days. Alternatively, Shady’s Taproom is always ready to greet folks. It honors the old Irish proverb Laughter is brightest where food is best. This public house is a focal point of the town, where locals and visitors alike can gather for a chat and a toast. The place will be hopping all day, with live music on March 17.
As the name suggests, this hamlet was settled by the Dutch. Yet, they know how to have a good time honoring the Irish as well. The celebration centers around a big, annual parade that kicks off at noon on March 11. It travels east down 8th Street from the 8th Street Marketplace (150 W. 8th St.) to College Avenue. You’ll get to hear talented bagpipers and watch Irish dancers, along with plenty of men donning kilts. Get in on the fun by wearing green and carrying an Irish flag in the parade yourself.
Naturally you’ll work up a thirst along the walk. No worries, there are great spots waiting to quench it. Try New Holland Brewing Company, Hops at 84 East, and of course the Curragh. The latter, is a traditional Irish pub where you can get bangers & mash, corned beef & cabbage, fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, and Irish stew, among a wide range of other, more American items. While in the area, be sure to stop by Holland State Park for a glimpse of Big Red and the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline.
If you really love parades, then you may even be able to rush out of Holland on the 11th and go about an hour east to Grand Ledge for its St Patrick’s parade, which starts out at 2pm. It travels down Bridge Street and over the Grand River. The local community goes all out for its Irish celebration on this day as well. The fun actually begins at the Grand Ledge Opera House at 11am and runs until 6pm. This is a particularly fun event for families, featuring the Hubbardston Dancers, the McCartney Dancers, the Glen Erin Pipe Band, and the Hayes Intermediate School Choir.
Before the parade, the local library will be helping kids make shamrocks to wear, and after, you’ll find a Stew Cookoff happening at the American Legion.
It probably comes as no surprise to see Michigan’s largest city make the list, but not because of its size, but rather its roots. The oldest neighborhood in the city is Corktown, which was settled by Irish and named after County Cork. It’s always an excellent stop for honoring Irish roots, and definitely an area where St Patrick’s is a season and not just a day. However, if you want to join in on the big official party, come down on March 12. The day starts with registration for the Corktown Races at 9am. There’s a mass at Most Holy Trinity at 10:30am, and the 5k begins at 11am. The big event is the parade, which marches down Michigan Avenue at 1pm. Afterwards, soak up some suds at local favorites like the Gaelic League of Detroit, McShane’s, and Nemo’s. The streets will fill with green-clad revelers.
If you want to avoid the parade and just have some good old fashioned fun, and perhaps a pint or a whiskey elsewhere in town, there are several great options. Head over to Greektown, yes Greektown, where you’ll find the infamous Old Shillelagh. On Woodrward, closer to Hart Plaza is Grand Trunk Pub, and north of I-75 you’ll find one of the city’s hidden gems, Nancy Whiskey’s.
Lying 30 miles off the Charlevoix coast in Lake Michigan, Beaver island is northern Michigan’s very own Emerald Isle. What an ideal place to celebrate St. Patrick. Just hop aboard a puddle jumper or ferry and you can step into what was once a Gaelic speaking community.
There’s never a bad time to visit and explore the island’s rich Irish history, but it will truly come to life on March 18-19. Come experience the classic cart race on Main Street, the fish toss, and the tug-o-war between the fish chokers and the hay seeders. See whether Paradise Bay turns green. In addition to games during the day, check out Brother Crowe playing in town, movies at the BIC Center and enjoy some island shopping. If you’ve got too many other places to explore in March, then make a plan for September 8-9 when they’ll celebrate Ireland again at the Emerald Isle Irish Feile.
March has officially been proclaimed Irish American Heritage Month by the mayor in Grand Rapids, so there are lots of ways to celebrate. Families will love the parade on March 11, which begins at 11am at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Select a spot along the parade route, which ends with remarks honoring the spirit of Ireland at Calder Plaza. If you’re not much for parades, then just drop by one of the many local pubs about town that honor the Emerald Isle all year like Flanagan’s, Quinn & Tuite’s, or O’Toole’s Public House.
One of the biggest street parties in Grand Rapids happens on March 18 when Irish on Ionia returns. This highly anticipated St. Patrick’s Day street party stretches from Fulton to Oakes on Ionia and on Weston from Ionia to Commerce. You’ll find two live entertainment stages, Irish bands and dance troops, DJs, bag pipes, food trucks, and a heated tent. Irish, and of course local beers, (it is Beer City USA after all) will be on tap, as well as some seasonal cocktails. Tickets range from $15-$65.
Named for County Clare in Ireland, this town turns green for it’s fantastic Irish fest, which has been going on for the better part of five decades. Popular features include the parade, bed races, a craft show, leprechaun contest, and an Irish recipe competition. You’ll also find Irish-themed food at restaurants throughout town like Guinness stew, Irish tacos, and plenty of corned beef. The festivities run March 15-19.
March 19 is also the ideal day to make it to Bay City for its SPD party. This town’s parade got its start in 1958, and quickly became an annual tradition. The parade kicks off at 2pm at the intersection of Center and Park avenues and disbands on Center at Water Street. It features well over one hundred entries of floats and marchers. If you want to keep the party going after the parade, or get your Irish on at any other time, try these local destinations: Washington Street Irish Pub, Coonan’s Irish Hub, or Paddy’s Green Hut.
Put on some green this month and visit one of these towns, or at least a locally-owned Irish pub near you. Sláinte!
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