Want to be a part of the biggest party in Ireland? You’d better make sure you’re in Dublin for the St. Patrick’s Festival. It’s second only to Munich’s Oktoberfest in terms of beer-based revelry and mass touristic appeal. The festival’s five days of aggressively Irish merrymaking are crammed with all sorts of fun: live concerts, rollicking street performances, huge parades, and even a few funfair rides. Oh, and beer, too. While it may not be as authentically Irish as some of the local celebrations that take place during other times of the year, the St. Patrick’s Festival is still much more faithful to Ireland’s heritage than the cheap green-colored Budweiser and shamrock-laden clothes that are proudly flaunted by any American with an Irish great-great-grandmother. Plus, you can discover the true wonder of historical Dublin while you’re in town. Every year, thousands of people flood into Ireland’s capital to enjoy themselves and take in the sights and sounds of the festival—why shouldn’t you be one of them?
The St. Patrick’s Festival is a great way to bask in some of the most essential parts of Irish culture. Live music is one of the festival’s main draws, and you can hear both traditional Irish tunes and the artistry of contemporary musicians (no, not just U2) that are contributing to the country’s colorful scene. Of course you can’t have that much music without people getting up and dancing. Get a ticket for a show at one of the city’s concert halls, or watch talented Dubliners perform centuries-old Irish dances in the streets. Got dance fever? You can get jiggy with it at one of the festival’s many interactive seminars.
Take a break from the frenetic action with a laid-back look at Irish history. Listen to a local historian as you follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick—learn about what’s fact and what’s fiction in the popular canon of Irish lore (spoiler: there haven’t been any snakes in Ireland since the glaciers receded thousands of years ago). Dublin is a dynamic city that is strikingly modern, yet retains a great deal of its historic charm. Sit in on one of the festival’s intriguing lectures that explain the deep roots of Irish culture—you’ll surely fall in love with the city all over again.
As strange as this may sound, some people don’t come to the festival for an education in Ireland’s vibrant history. If you are just looking for some fun, there are events for every type of person, from those that want to embrace the child within, to those that like to enjoy more, um, sophisticated activities. Every year a carnival is set up that includes roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, and other rides that speed, flip, spin and always entertain. Beer-lovers (and you might be in the wrong country if you’re not one) will relish the Irish Craft Beer Village, where you can partake in the best small-batch brews that Ireland has to offer. Leave your Guinness obsession at the door. The best thing about the St. Patrick’s Festival is that you don’t have to choose between these things—you can do all of it. One piece of advice though: be sure to ride the rollercoasters before you drink your beer, not after.
The highlight of the festival is the massive Festival Parade, where locals and visitors march through the streets wearing flamboyant outfits as they sing and dance. The parade cuts through the center of the city, and nearly a million people enjoy the sights and sounds along the route. This is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind experience that needs be seen and enjoyed if you are lucky enough to be here on St. Patrick’s Day.
Even for those who aren’t Irish, the St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin is a great way to enjoy Irish culture while having a spectacular time. So before you leave for the Emerald Isle, prepare yourself for five fantastic days of jigging, singing, sightseeing, drinking, and maybe even some hurling (it’s the Irish national sport, after all).
By Griffin Smith
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