There are Irish Heritage Month events all around the state—for instance, Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley is performing in Lowell—but the most sophisticated choice is Gaelic Gourmet Week, in which Irish (and some Irish-Canadian) celebrity chefs visit Boston hotels and restaurants and prove that there's life after corned beef. The big night is Friday the 14th, where you can sample a variety of dishes at the Gaelic Gourmet Gala, held at the Hotel Commonwealth ($100 per person).
They love their green tints here. The Chicago River gets dyed green for the preceding week, and locals know to look for Green River Soda, the kelly-hued hometown pop that is most readily available this time of year. Try one either straight or in an ice cream float at the Mity Nice Grill on the Magnificent Mile. Also, until March 17, you can buy a limited edition green popcorn ball from legendary popper Garrett Popcorn Shops.
If this is too much food dye for you, then go naturally "green" by eating at the all-organic restaurant Green Zebra, shopping for a new wardrobe at the organic-fabrics Pivot boutique, and sleeping at the eco-friendly Hotel Monaco.
San Francisco: Rock Out for (or Just Ponder) Your Irish Ancestors
Even if San Francisco has the biggest parade west of the Mississippi, as the city claims, there are still plenty of alternatives. The San Francisco Irish Festival runs March 14-17, and offers a mix of styles, from traditional folk fare to U2 cover band Zoo Station and rebel band The Bog Savages—whose front man was part of the infamous Belfast prison break by the IRA in 1983. You can also participate in the city's Crossroads Irish festival, which includes poetry readings, an interactive program on Irish-heritage personal histories, and even a therapist-moderated workshop in which you can explore the effects of Irish heritage on your life.
Yes, San Antonio has a knack for connecting anything to its beloved Alamo. At noon on March 17, there's a ceremonial wreath-laying at the Alamo to remember the Irish Texans who died at the legendary battle. On the lighter side, you can stroll through quaint shopping district La Villita for the Alamo Irish Festival (March 14-16), stroll down to the River Walk, check out performances of Irish music and dance at the Arneson River amphitheater, or trace your genealogy to Ireland—and maybe even to one of those fallen heroes.
Seattle is the Pacific Northwest's "Emerald City," so it takes the holiday seriously. There will be an Irish Festival at the Seattle Center, where you can take Gaelic language lessons, enter a soda-bread-making contest, or watch recent works by Irish filmmakers (maybe you'll get a leg up on next year's Oscar pool). Kids can enter contests like Most Smilingest Eyes and (is this really a prize?) Most Irish-Looking Face.
Credit: Courtesy of Victorian Inn Mansion at Forsyth Park
Savannah: Bathe in Irishness
The Mansion on Forsyth Park brings shamrock spirit to the spa, offering a green-kiwi sugar scrub. The St. Paddy weekend's menu at this plush Victorian inn also includes scones, lamb, cod colcannon, Guinness cake, potato farls (which is just bread, but doesn't farl sound so much more interesting?), and corned beef and cabbage. You'll be right across the street from Forsyth Park, where the main fountain bubbles green all week.
Big Onion Walking Tours takes you on a guided stroll through the old Little Ireland on Manhattan's Lower East Side—onetime home of the Five Points neighborhood and Tammany Hall. The tour operator also does regular "Gangs of New York" and "Immigrant New York" tours ($15 for adults). And there's a good reason to stay the night: 45 hotels in the city are offering a 20 to 30 percent discount for Sunday nights, including the Algonquin, both Ritz-Carltons (Central Park and Battery Park), and five W hotels.
Celtic Fest Vancouver, running from March 12 through 16, has a solid assortment of Irish music, including a fiddle festival and a ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lay"—Gaelic for dance party) featuring the Battlefield Band of Scotland. (Wait—Scotland?In the band's defense, they are acclaimed purveyors of progressive Celtic music.) For something different, you can enter the Lucky Charms Poker Tournament on March 12, or watch poets engage in a lyrical smackdown at the Battle of the Bards on March 13, featuring actors playing Dylan Thomas, Robbie Burns, and William Butler Yeats. A kids' area in the Celtic Village, on Granville Street, offers both bagpipe and medieval fencing demonstrations.
Go downtown to Irish pub chain Fado (where, reportedly, a "No Green Beer" sign hangs in the front window), and you can celebrate a truly alternative holiday: St. Baldrick's Day, March 13, a made-up saint who inspires people to shave their heads to raise money for children's cancer research. It was started as an alternative to drinking green beer on St. Paddy's Day, and one could argue that you might end up looking like U2's The Edge.
If you'd rather donate than shave your pate, move on and take a peek at the original manuscript of James Joyce's Ulysses (a few pages of it are even in Joyce's handwriting), on display at The Rosenbach Museum & Library, and then go pay your respects at the Irish Memorial National Monument at Penn's Landing, which honors those who died in the Irish Famine of 1845-1850.
The week before St. Patrick's Day just happens to coincide with South by Southwest (SXSW), the film, music, and interactive festival that is the epitome of Austin hipness. You can catch two Irish band showcases featuring a spectrum of styles, from sweet-sounding Dubliner Paddy Casey to the new-wave-punk-indie rockers, also from Dublin, called Fight Like Apes (with a name like that, you expected penny whistles?). At the Thursday, March 13, event—at 6th Street's BD Riley's—you can even fortify yourself with a fry-up, or full Irish breakfast, which typically contains bacon, eggs, toast, and "white pudding" made with oatmeal.