Cabbages, carrots and potatoes are the big catch at the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Parade. (©Shawn Fink)
It's no surprise that a party-loving city like New Orleans would have all sorts of fun on St. Patrick's Day. The Irish have been a significant part of Crescent City culture since the early 19th century, and were instrumental in building much of New Orleans’ infrastructure. Although most Irish immigrants arrived following the Great Famine of 1845, the city’s first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was in 1806.
From Pat O'Brien's in the French Quarter to the Irish House in the Lower Garden District, you'll find festivities taking place in pretty much every bar citywide on March 17. Head to the Irish Channel neighborhood early in the day for the giant block parties at Tracey’s and Parasol’s. Then work your way back to the Quarter to catch the Downtown Irish Club Parade, which kicks off at 6 pm in the Bywater neighborhood. Similar to a second line, the parade stops at several different bars along the way before hitting Bourbon Street.
Not here for St. Patrick’s Day? Not to worry. There are still lots of parades and parties before—and after—to enjoy.
Tracey’s and Parasol’s draw big crowds the Saturday before the big day (March 11), when the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Parade rolls on Magazine Street, between Napoleon and Jackson streets. It’s a raucous time with float riders tossing produce (cabbage, potatoes, carrots) to the crowds, while members of Irish-American walking clubs, like the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club and the Emerald Society of New Orleans, parade in kilts, trading paper flowers for kisses.
That clamor in the Quarter on March 3? That’s the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Club's practice march. Starting at 11 am at Jackson Square, the spirited group stops in at traditional Irish bars in the neighborhood, including Fahy’s Irish Pub, Finnegan’s Easy Irish Pub and Ryan’s Irish Pub. Jim Monaghan's St. Patrick's Parade rolls March 17 at 6 pm from Molly’s at the Market. The annual procession begins and ends at the bar, and features marching groups and riders in mule-drawn carriages.
St. Patrick’s Day and the Italian celebration of St. Joseph’s Day overlap, which is why tuxedo-attired gentlemen engage French Quarter crowds March 18 during the Italian-American St. Joseph's Parade. The two nationalities meet in nearby Metairie, March 19 for the Louisiana Irish-Italian Parade, while the St. Bernard Irish Italian Islenos Parade in neighboring Chalmette triples the fun April 1 with 43 floats, 1,500 riders and 300,000 pounds of produce.
Missing St. Patrick’s season altogether? There are plenty of ways to get your Irish on year-round. Traditional-yet-elevated is found at the Irish House; the Erin Rose is all about frozen Irish coffee; and Finn McCool's is the place to catch a football or rugby game over a pint of Guinness. The Irish Cultural Museum provides weekly live entertainment, along with educational exhibits. And be sure to check out stunning St. Alphonsus Church, which has served as a community gathering ground and an important part of Irish history in New Orleans since the 1840s.
Big Easy Breweries
What’s St. Patrick’s Day without beer? You’ll find plenty brewed right here in New Orleans.
Enjoy an Irish Channel Stout, named for the neighborhood NOLA Brewing calls home, and grab some great barbecue at the same time. Just up the road, Urban South Brewing offers a family-friendly tasting room with a wide variety of beer, while Courtyard Brewery, a few blocks from the National WWII Museum, brews beer that can’t be found anywhere else in the city. The beer garden at Second Line Brewing has inspired many fun beer styles, and the IPA and Kristalweizen beers at Wayward Owl are perfect after a long day on the town.
In the French Quarter, German-focused brewpub Crescent City Brewhouse now has a regular IPA on draft, alongside pilsner and schwarzbier. In the Warehouse District, Gordon Biersch is a great place for a freshly brewed glass of suds near Harrah’s Casino.
Keep an eye out for nanobrewery Brieux Carré, which is scheduled to open in the Marigny this month on Decatur Street, right off of Frenchmen. Parleaux Beer Lab, a Bywater neighborhood brewery with small batches of experimental beers and a huge beer garden, is also slated to bow in March. Check social media to ensure these two breweries are open before heading out, though.