The international community sees St Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to throw an unforgettably good party, says Ciara McDonnell.
There may be nothing quite like celebrating our national holiday on home turf, but as the one national holiday that is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other, the week around St Patrick’s Day is a fantastic time for the Irish to travel.
It may have started out as an homage to our religious roots, but these days the international community sees St Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to throw an unforgettably good party.
1. NEW YORK
New York has been celebrating St Patrick’s Day since 1792, so at this stage, they know how to put on a big show.
These days, the parade marches up 5th Avenue, stopping outside St Patrick’s Cathedral to be ‘reviewed’ by His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.
This year marks the 256th St Patrick’s Day parade in New York, and will have around 200,000 people marching on the parade route.
Insider Info: The parade starts at 11am, and leave that teacup Chihuahua at home — there are no pets aside from service dogs allowed on the parade route.
Arrive early and head for the Metropolitan Museum of Art — its upper steps provide a brilliant view without jostling for space. Drinking alcohol in public is illegal in New York so no matter how ‘Irish’ it seems, ignore the urge to salute the day.
Stay: For a taste of Irish luxury in the middle of Manhattan, stay at Fitzpatrick’s.
Luxury abounds, but it’s the Irish staff that greet return visitors like old pals that makes this hotel a favourite amongst Irish guests. www.fitzpatrickhotels.com
Get There: Aer Lingus fly to New York from Dublin on a daily basis. www.aerlingus.com
2. BUENOS AIRES
There are over 500,000 Irish people and their descendants living in Argentina, and in Buenos Aires, that means an excuse to party.
Their St Patrick’s Day festival takes over the city in an event co-hosted by the Argentina-Ireland Association, the Buenos Aires city government, and the Irish Embassy in Buenos Aires.
The festival culminates in Plaza St Martin, where over a hundred food and beer stalls welcome Irish dancers, live music and a huge procession of bagpipes.
Insider Info: St Patrick’s Day is known as Dia de San Patricio and while the events during the daytime may seem tame and family orientated, the Irish pubs throughout the city come together to organise beer-fuelled parties that carry on way into the wee hours.
Stay: Bo Bo hotel and restaurant is housed in a beautiful colonial-style building in Palermo Viejo, a hugely trendy part of Buenos Aires.
Chi-chi and bohemian with a luxurious edge, think four poster beds and morning coffee at a double door balcony strewn with ivy. www.bobohotel.com
Get There: Trailfinders offer excellent flight and accommodation packages departing Dublin for Buenos Aires. www.trailfinders.ie
The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, Montserrat is the only country other than Ireland which counts St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday.
The Irish connection on this idyllic island dates all the way back to the 17th century, when it became a haven for Irish Catholics who had been persecuted on neighbouring islands.
Today, Montserrat celebrates St Patrick with a week-long celebration, showcasing its unique African-Irish heritage.
Insider Info: The Irish connection is so strong in Montserrat that when visitors fly to the island, they receive a shamrock-shaped stamp on their passport.
Local bars offer Guinness alongside traditional rum cocktails as a nod to their Celtic heritage.
Stay: The southern part of Montserrat is off limits for travellers because it is home to an active volcano (it last erupted in the 1990s). Check into Gingerbread Hill, a small family run hotel on three acres of lush tropical hillside.
The rooms overlook the ocean and guests are welcome to pluck their breakfast from the papaya and mango trees, which flank the property. www.gingerbreadhill.com
Get There: Fly from Dublin or Cork to London Gatwick and then take a connecting flight from London to Antigua with British Airways. From Antigua, book a short hop to Montserrat with Fly Montserrat. www.flymontserrat.com
The Green Gathering in Sydney makes a triumphant return this year after it was cancelled in 2016.
The parade, Australia’s largest single Irish event, had to be cancelled last year after a heavy storm in 2014 dealt a blow to revenue at the family day concert in Hyde Park and the event ran up a debt of $150,000 (€107,000).
The local Irish community banded together and the debt was paid off allowing the event to go ahead again this year.
The event will be held on March 19 at Prince Alfred Park and will feature music from Aoife Scott, daughter of Frances Black.
Insider Info: This year’s event is centred around family. It will feature two music stages with over twenty acts, food and craft stalls and a dedicated children’s area aptly named Tír na nÓg. Kids will be able to enjoy free activities including bouncing castles, face painting, storytelling and Irish dance lessons.
Stay: Following an extensive restoration by one of Australia’s top architect firms, the old Water Board Headquarters building on Pitt St is now a super luxurious art deco hotel called Primus.
Featuring an epic lobby and a roof terrace complete with swimming pool, start your St Patrick’s Day quite literally taking in the city. www.primushotelsydney.com
Get There: Etihad Airways operate direct flights from Dublin to Sydney. www.etihad.com
The St Patrick’s Festival of Montreal has run every year since 1824 and is one of the longest running St Patrick’s celebrations in North America.
The 2017 parade will include more then 100 entries including floats, marching bands from around Quebec and Ontario and thousands of participants.
Montreal sees the festival as an opportunity to celebrate all of its communities, so includes floats from Greece, Ukraine, Scotland and the Caribbean to name a few.
The festival is the official start of spring in Montreal, regardless of the weather.
Over the last seven years, they have seen snowstorms, torrential rain and sunburn weather, but pride themselves on forging ahead nonetheless!
Insider Info: The United Irish Society of Montreal has been organising the festival for over 90 years. For the last 10 years, its members have helped to resurrect St Patrick’s Day festivals in the cities of Toronto, Quebec, Ottawa, Hudson and Chateauguay.
Stay: Housed in a 19th century building in Montreal’s city centre, Hotel Gault’s super modern interior belies its historic façade. Rooms are spacious with all mod cons and feature pieces from local artists throughout.
Get There: Air Canada operates regular flights from Dublin to Montreal.
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