Millions of spectators will line Fifth Avenue this Friday, March 17th as New York City hosts its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade, which travels from East 44th Street to East 79th Street, started in 1762 and is the oldest and largest parade of its kind in the world! The parade is an iconic annual tradition in New York City, but, if you’re looking for festivities that are off the beaten path, we have some suggestions. From sober celebrations to eye-opening tours, check out our alternative ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in NYC!
1. Go on a Candlelight Ghost Tour
The Merchant’s House Museum is famously haunted! This St. Patrick’s Day, you can go on a quest for the “Spirit of the Irish” on a Candlelight Ghost Tour of the house. This guided tour of the historic home includes a stop at the 4th-floor servants’ quarters where the Tredwell family’s Irish servants lived.
The popular nighttime tour will explore true tales of inexplicable occurrences that took place in the 19th-century home where eight of the Tredwells died. Capacity is limited and masks are required. You can purchase tickets here.
2. Drink a Pint at NYC’s Oldest Irish Pubs
New York City has no shortage of Irish pubs both new and old where you can toast to St. Patrick’s Day. The oldest Irish pub you can visit is McSorley’s Old Alde House in the East Village. Order up some corned beef and wash it down with light or dark ale. Founded around 1854, the pub is covered in photographs, news clippings, and other collectibles, much of it hanging on the walls since 1910.
The Ear Inn is another historic bar option. Originally the James Brown House built in 1817, it was turned into a bar for sailors by Irishman Thomas Cloke. Molly’s Pub and Restaurant Sheeben calls itself “the most traditional Irish bar in New York.” Founded in 1895, the establishment cycled through multiple iterations as a bar, grocery, and rooming house under a variety of names over the years before becoming Molly’s in the 1960s when it was purchased by the Purfield family from Dublin and Galway. Other Irish bars with a dash of history include The Landmark Tavern in Hell’s Kitchen, The Dead Rabbit in Lower Manhattan, and Peter McManus Cafe in Chelsea. There are also many authentic Irish pubs in New York’s Little Ireland section of Woodlawn in the Bronx.
3. See Ancient Celtic Artifacts at the Met Museum
On Untapped New York’s Secrets of the Metropolitan Museum Tour, former museum guard Patrick Bringley will unveil the hidden stories behind objects from all over the world, from old master’s paintings to ancient Celtic artifacts. Having spent 10 years on duty in the museum’s galleries, Bringley brings a unique perspective to the Met’s world-famous collection.
Secrets of the Met Museum Tour
On this tour, you’ll hear stories from the backstage areas of the Met, learn of heists and mishaps, and see the priceless objects on display in a whole new light. There are a few tickets left for this tour taking place on the afternoon of Friday, March 17th! Save your spot here.
4. Grab a Free Book on Book Day
The Irish Arts Center celebrates St. Patrick’s Day by giving out thousands of free books! Presented in association with the New York City Council, New York State Assembly, Literature Ireland, and Lambda Literary, this year’s 11th Annual Book Day will celebrate voices from the Irish and Irish American literary heritages alongside those from the LGBTQ+ community.
Books will be handed out at multiple locations across all five boroughs. You can check the exact distribution locations here! Hundreds of different books will be available from authors including V.S. Alexander, John Banville, Colin Barrett, Sara Baume, and many, many more.
5. Visit Gilded Age Mansions Along Fifth Avenue
The St. Patrick’s Day parade will march past stunning Gilded Age homes along Fifth Avenue on Friday. This weekend, after the streets have opened back up and the crowds have cleared, you can uncover the stories of these mansions, and those that have been lost to time, on Untapped New York’s Mansions of Fifth Avenue Walking Tour.
Mansions of Fifth Avenue Tour
This walking tour, led by a licensed, expert New York City tour guide, will explore the mansions both past and present that made up Manhattan’s Millioanire’s Row. You’ll even get to step inside one!
6. Learn About Irish Immigrants at the Tenement Museum
The Tenement Museum will host a virtual talk on Thursday evening that celebrates both Irish American History and Women’s History by exploring the story of Bridget Moore. Bridget and her husband Joseph Moore were Irish immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street in the 1860s with their children.
In hearing the Moores’ story, you’ll discover how Irish immigrants navigated a diverse city, maintained pride, and built a community in Lower Manhattan. The virtual presentation will be hosted on Zoom and is free to attend but a donation is suggested. Register here!
7. Immerse Yourself in Irish Culture at Irish Arts Center Open Day
Keep the celebration going all weekend long at the Irish Arts Center Open Day on Sunday, March 19th. This all-day festival will include traditional music and dance, live piano karaoke sing-alongs of Ireland and Irish-America’s greatest hits, a performance and group lesson by World Irish Dance Champion Tyler Shwartz, spring equinox-inspired arts and crafts, and a sampling of the Center’s multidisciplinary educational offerings.
There will also be a film screening of the U.S. premiere of Tann Ann (an old Gaelic expression for “once upon a time”), a short film series blending storytelling, visual art, puppetry, and original music to transport us to the supernatural world of Irish folklore and mythology. The event is free and you can register here!
8. Explore Little Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day
No need to hop. on an international flight to experience a bit of Ireland, just hop on the subway. At the border of Westchester County and the Bronx, you’ll find New York City’s Little Ireland, the perfect spot to spend St. Patrick’s Day in NYC. All along “The Emerald Mile” you’ll find Irish pubs, gift shops, restaurants, and cultural centers.
A few fun stops include the Irish Coffee Shop, known for its Irish breakfast with black and white pudding and Irish bacon, and Rory Dolan’s, one of the largest restaurants on McLean Avenue, serving up comfort foods like Dublin-style fish and chips. Take home a piece of Ireland from Mary Ann’s Irish gift shop, a store that has been importing handicrafts from Ireland for over 30 years.
9. Celebrate Sober St. Patrick’s Day
If pints of Guinness, green beer, and glasses of whiskey aren’t part of your St. Patrick’s Day in NYC celebrations, join other sober revelers at the 12th Annual Sober St Patrick’s Day Celebration! The event will run all day on Friday, March 17th from 11am to 7pm at the Church of Our Saviour Undercroft 59 Park Avenue.
The festivities will include a free parade followed by a ticketed post-parade celebration featuring performances of Irish dance and song. There will be non-alcoholic refreshments and fun for the whole family. Ticket prices vary and you can register here!
10. Attend a Celtic Cabaret on St. Patrick’s Day
On Friday, March 17th from 3pm to 9pm the New York Irish Center in Long Island City will host the annual 40 Shades of Green event, a Celtic Cabaret featuring 6 continuous hours of performances. More than 50 acts, including local and international performers, will take the stage for this St. Patrick’s Day event in NYC.
Some of the acts include Amy Brett, Fiona Walsh, Maria Deasy, and George C. Heslin. Throughout the year, the New York Irish Center hosts Irish language lessons, fiddle classes, Irish film screenings, and more cultural classes and events.
Next, check out Guide to NYC’s Little Ireland