How to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

No parade, no problem.

Courtesy of Lotties Pub
Courtesy of Lotties Pub
Courtesy of Lotties Pub

There may not be any street parades or dyeing of the Chicago River festivities this year, but don’t let that stop you from celebrating St. Patrick’s Day like you always have… with overconsumption and bad decisions. If you want to keep tradition alive, there’s plenty of bar crawls, booze cruises, and green beer-soaked brunches to keep you well pickled until the Fourth of July. But if you’re looking to keep things a little more low-key this year, you can always order Irish takeout or run a 5K in your green underwear. Here’s a choose-your-own-adventure guide to everything fun you can do in Chicago this St. Patrick’s Day. Godspeed. 

Make your house a winner at the Shamrock the Block Home Decoration Contest

Now through Saturday, March 13
The South Side Irish Parade may be cancelled, but the neighborhood is still getting into the spirit with this home decorating contest that encourages locals to deck out their homes in festive St. Patrick’s Day colors. The winners of the contest will be announced Saturday, March 13 on social media.
Cost: $20

Dive into the local booze cruise scene at the St. Patrick’s Day Yacht Party

Friday, March 12 through Saturday, March 20
Burnham Harbor
You’ll have not one, not two-but seven chances to set sail on a St. Patty’s Day booze cruise on Lake Michigan over St. Pat’s weekend aboard the 140-foot Anita Dee II yacht with multiple bars and a photo contest. If that’s not enough, there’s also two additional cruises on St. Patrick’s Day itself.
Cost: $20 – $75

Pair mimosas with green beer at D.S. Tequila’s St. Paddy’s Day Boozy Brunch Bash

Saturday, March 13 @ 8 am
D.S. Tequila Company
The boozy brunch is a time-honored St. Pat’s tradition, and this event covers all your essentials with bottomless mimosas, green beer, and one brunch entrée per person. Two-hour reservations are available per table, with private tent reservations available as well.
Cost: $128-$436 per table 

Hit a bar crawl, obviously

Saturday, March 13 @ 9 am
Various locations
While the sheer volume of bar crawls is on the decline this year, you can still hitch your ride aboard a couple of raucous crawls rambling their way through the city. The 2021 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl covers River North, Lincoln Park, and Wicker Park, while Chicago’s Best St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl sets up shop in Wrigleyville.
Cost: Free – $20

Courtesy of PB&J: Pizza Beer & Jukebox
Courtesy of PB&J: Pizza Beer & Jukebox
Courtesy of PB&J: Pizza Beer & Jukebox

Drink Guinness (and eat pizza) at PB&J’s outdoor pop-up bar Pot of Gold

Saturday, March 13 @ 8 am
West Loop pizza slingers PB&J celebrate their first St. Patrick’s Day in the city with an outdoor pop-up bar Pot of Gold, with additional packages including bunch kits and a “Leprechaun Package” featuring two pizzas, green beer, a bottle of booze, and party swag.
Cost: Free – $75

Take part in an esteemed local tradition at You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Mornin’

Saturday, March 13 @ 9 am
Various locations
This long-running St. Patrick’s Day celebration starts the party at eight locations across the city, with mostly outdoor events at bars like Rizzo’s, The Lodge, and Joe’s staggered across various start times throughout the day. (“Staggered” being the operative word.) If you can handle more, there’s a smaller encore event on St. Patrick’s Day itself as well.
Cost: $25 – $50 per bar

Do some, like, actual exercise at the St. Paddy’s Day 5K & 8K Run/Walk

Saturday, March 13 @ 10 am
Diversey Harbor
It’s the 20-year anniversary of this festive Lincoln Park lakefront run, in which green-clad runners will make their way through the Diversey Harbor and Belmont Harbor areas before finishing the race with a post-race beer at the afterparty.
Cost: $25 – $44

Hit a St. Patrick’s Day bingo (yes, bingo) party at Pot ‘o Gold Bingo at Whiskey Business

Saturday, March 13 @ 2:30 pm
Whiskey Business
For a little something different this year, skip the interchangeable Wrigleyville bar package deals and head to Wicker Park’s most infamous rooftop for this afternoon bingo bash with green beer, whiskey, corned beer, and raffles for prizes.
Cost: $20

Keep the party (somehow) going at St. Pat’s Sunday at Lottie’s

Sunday, March 14 @ 11 am
Not all heroes wear capes. And if you can make it to this Sunday happy hour from 11 am – 3 pm the day after St. Pat’s Saturday in Chicago with Bushmills shot specials, Bloody Marys, and breakfast sandwiches, we salute you. And we’re also a little concerned.
Cost: No cover

Order “St. Patrick’s Day for Takeaway” from Mrs. Murphy & Sons

Wednesday, March 17
Mrs. Murphy & Sons
For those not yet ready to tangle with the great unwashed green masses, one of Chicago’s top Irish bars hosts this takeaway special that includes everything but the parade with a corned beef dinner for two, a four-pack of Guinness, a dram of Irish whiskey, two Guinness glasses, a bag of Taytos, and St. Paddy’s swag.
Cost: $60 (serves two)

Jay Gentile is an award-winning freelance journalist specializing in travel, food & drink, culture, events and entertainment stories. In addition to Thrillist, you can find his work in The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN Travel, Chicago Tribune, Lonely Planet, VICE, Outside Magazine and more. Follow @thejaygentile


Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.


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