Home » Who has the oldest and best St. Patrick’s Day parade? Visit six East Coast cities to find out. 

Who has the oldest and best St. Patrick’s Day parade? Visit six East Coast cities to find out. 

by Gabby

Who doesn’t love a parade, especially in shades of green? Various cities claim to be the site of the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. No matter who gets the title, all six of the spots below deserve a visit, as the sites of some of the East Coast’s foremost St. Patrick’s Day parades. Before you go, make sure to check for transportation options and street closings, and dress for the weather!

New York City

Let’s start with the world’s largest – and possibly oldest – St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Big Apple’s first parade was held on March 17, 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Although other cities vary the date, New York City’s 2023 parade will be held, as always, on March 17, a Friday this time around. 

In honor of St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York, the parade will begin precisely at 11 a.m., and proceed until about 4:30 p.m. The route goes up Fifth Avenue, beginning at East 44th Street and ending at East 79th. About 150,000 people march in the parade each year and it draws a crowd of about 2 million spectators.

Since the early days, the parade has been run entirely by volunteers, many from generations of families who have organized it. Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, will review the parade from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The “Irish” 69th Regiment has long led the parade, followed by Irish county societies, schools, colleges, Emerald societies, and Irish language and nationalist societies. 

For the best view, spectators should arrive anywhere along Fifth Avenue as early as possible. Food and drink are available from restaurants and pushcart food vendors on side streets along the route and one block west, on Sixth Avenue.

Visit nycstpatricksparade.org for more information.


South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Photography by Maia Kennedy

Boston also claims to have the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade, dating to 1737, when the Charitable Irish Society, a group of mostly Protestant immigrants, honored their Irish homeland. When the celebration moved to South Boston in 1901, the parade doubled as a celebration of Evacuation Day, commemorating the 1776 evacuation of British troops from Boston during the Revolutionary War. The dual tradition has continued since.

Each year, the parade occurs on the Sunday closest to March 17. The 2023 South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on March 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. It begins at Andrew Square and ends at the Broadway T Station, and will feature marching bands, police and army contingents, costume spectacles, and novelty vehicles. 

The best views are from a spot along the route between Broadway Station and L Street, or from a restaurant along the route. To avoid crowds, check out the parade from Medal of Honor Park or Thomas Park, as well as any other street on the route except Broadway.

Visit southbostonparade.org for more information.

Savannah, Georgia

The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade started in 1824 as a military spectacle, with soldiers marching in honor of the day. Now organizers say it is the second largest in the U.S., “right behind New York,” attracting about 1 million spectators.

The parade caps a week of St. Patrick’s festivities, kicking off with a Greening of the Fountain ceremony at noon, March 10, during which the Parade’s Grand Marshal pours green dye into the water at Forsyth Park’s fountain.

In 2023, the parade begins at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, March 17 at Gwinnett and Abercorn streets, just east of Forsyth Park. It proceeds through historic downtown streets until it ends at the reviewing stand on Bull and Liberty streets. About 280 units – commercial floats, marching units, Celtic societies, Irish families, pipe bands, and Irish dancers from all over the East Coast – will be part of the parade.

To get a good spot, get to the parade route early. Bleacher seating – available on Bay Street, at the Colonial Cemetery and the Cathedral, for a $35 to $50 fee – must be booked in advance.

Visit savannahsaintpatricksday.com for more information.


Photo by Rusty Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

The first documented St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia was held in 1771. Every year since, the event takes place on the Sunday before the holiday (unless the holiday actually falls on a Sunday and then it’s held on March 10). 

No confusion this year: The annual Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade is set for March 12, and this year’s theme is “St. Patrick, Let There Be Peace.” 

Visitors should be aware that daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m., March 12 when clocks will be set one hour ahead.

The parade will begin downtown at 11 a.m. at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard, with the route proceeding around the north side of City Hall, down Market Street to Sixth Street. 

The city’s largest annual procession boasts about 20,000 participants and 200 groups including floats, marching bands, dance groups, youth groups, city workers, and Irish associations. About 500,000 spectators are expected. 

Visit phillyparade.com for more information.


Pittsburg St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Photo by Ray Feathers Photography

Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the earliest of the bunch, starting at 10 a.m. on March 11, rain or shine.

The route for the annual parade, which dates to 1869, is 1.4 miles from start to finish. It will begin at the Greyhound Bus Station at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 11th Street, then continue to Grant Street, where it will turn right onto the Boulevard of the Allies, and finally to the Reviewing Stand at Stanwix Street. It will disburse at Commonwealth Place.

The 200 marching units in the parade include 18 marching bands as well Irish step dancers, military bands, Irish heritage groups and even Punxsutawney Phil. The event typically attracts up to 350,000 spectators.

Visit pittsburghstpatricksdayparade.com for more information.

St. Augustine, Florida

Downtown St. Augustine also has an early parade, starting at 10 a.m., March 11.

“Step aside, Boston and New York,” St. Augustinians say: The Florida city claims to be the location of the world’s first recorded St. Patrick’s Day Parade, more than 100 years earlier than the others – in 1601!

About 40 groups will take part in the Celtic parade through the heart of the city’s historic district. The beginning and end are both at Orange and Cordova streets, and the reviewing stand is upstairs above Ann O’Malley’s, an Orange Street pub. The route goes east to the bayfront, right on Avenida Menendez, south to the Plaza where it turns right on Cathedral Place, then west to Cordova where it turns right again. It takes about 45 minutes for the first units to finish. The pipe bands will proceed to St. Francis Field on Castillo Drive where they will do a bagpipe jam until the two-day St. Augustine Celtic Music and Heritage Festival music begins at noon.

Parade directors Chris and Matthew Fulmer expect the parade to draw 3,000 to 5,000 visitors, depending on the weather. They say the best places for viewing are on the Avenida in the Plaza on Cathedral Street and on Cordova Street.

Visit celticstaugustine.com/parade for more information.

By Ellyn Wexler

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