Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: March 12-17, 2010
It’s easy being green in mid-March when Dublin hosts Ireland’s biggest annual bash in honor of St. Patrick: that pious fellow who brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle some 1500 years ago and (if legend holds true) still found time to rid it of pesky snakes. Not content with a single day of remembrance, Dubliners stage a six-day celebration, complete with traditional music, dance, street theater, Irish language workshops and sundry other cultural offerings – many of them free.
If you’re in the mood for Ferris wheel rides and arcade games, there is also a daily funfair in Merrion Square aimed primarily at families. The main event, however, is the noontime parade that winds through the heart of the city on the 17th. You won’t see Macy-esque balloons or mammoth flat-bed floats. But the entries are undeniably eye-popping because what they lack in scale they make up for with imagination.
Stilt walkers, puppeteers and local groups of every strip compete for attention by donning outrageous, other-worldly costumes. The only caveat is that as many as 675,000 people come to see them strut along the 1.5-mile route, which means standing room is at a premium. Spectators who don’t feel like arriving a couple of hours in advance to snag a spot can purchase a grandstand seat for €60 ($82.50).
Who Should Go
Although there are numerous family-oriented events scheduled, the party-hearty hordes (especially those that descend on the Temple Bar area following the parade) can be intimidating for younger kids. So, overall, the festival is best suited to adults who understand that imbibing sometimes qualifies as a cultural pursuit.
Experience it Like a Local
Doing St. Paddy’s Day right means dressing for the occasion. With nine Dublin locations, O’Carroll’s gift shops have all the kitschy paraphernalia you’ll require from “Kiss Me I’m Irish” pins and faux leprechaun beards to springy shamrock-topped headbands that look like they were designed by Dr. Seuss.
Other Things to Do While You’re There
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Pay your respects to Ireland’s patron saint at the glorious Gothic church that bears his name.
- Trinity College. Highlights of this storied campus include the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illuminated manuscript.
- Guinness Brewery. Guinness stout is a national obsession. So see what the brewhaha is about by visiting its birthplace.
- Kilmainham Gaol. Linked to several failed uprisings, the jail offers a sobering look at the so-called “Irish Problem.”