Make The Most Of Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade
Every year on March 17 Boston celebrates St. Patrick's Day with a fun-filled parade. These sorts of parades take place in cities across the U.S., but Boston's is especially well-known for its history and size. The first took place in 1724, held by the Boston Charitable Irish Society. Today the parade, put on by the Allied War Veterans of South Boston, moves across a similar route and involves floats and marching bands as thousands of spectators watch and celebrate the annual Irish holiday. If you and your family are planning to be among those thousands of St. Patrick's Day revelers, keep a few navigating tips in mind so you can have a smooth, enjoyable parade experience.
Follow the Rules
The Allied War Veterans of South Boston have a list of rules and regulations for all participants to follow every year. They ask that there be no political protesting, no vulgar or improper language and no nudity or revealing clothing. These rules help make the parade safe and comfortable for children of all ages and ensure there's a family atmosphere at all times. All attendees are asked to follow the Code of Conduct, which is available on the parade's official website.
Know the Route
Each year the parade organizers release the parade route on their website. A map shows exactly where it's set to begin and end, with the route typically following several streets in South Boston. Decide which part of the route you want to stake out with your family, bearing in mind that areas along the end of the route won't see the parade and marchers until after the official start time, which is usually 1 p.m. It's recommended that you arrive at your selected viewing spot early—about an hour or two before the parade begins—to ensure you have the best spot with a clear view.
Take Public Transportation
Parking in downtown Boston can be challenging, especially during special events. The parade causes an increase in traffic and numerous street closures, so skip the car and utilize Boston's great public transportation system. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) offers many options for getting to the parade. Use the "Trip Planner"on the MBTA website to determine which is best for you and your family, whether it's subway, bus, train or ferryboat. If you're visiting the city from out of town, check with your hotel to see if the parade is within walking distance, since that may be the best way to avoid crowded buses or subway cars.
Check the Weather
March in Boston can be quite chilly. The average temperature is 43 degrees F, but it can be colder. It's also possible for snowfall to impact the parade or cause the organizers to shorten the parade route. Be sure to check the forecast ahead of time and prepare accordingly. Since you'll be standing outside for several hours, bundle up and take extra layers. Don't forget gloves, hats and scarves for all the kids. It's better to be over-prepared than cold. Consider also bringing an umbrella in case it snows or is wet.
Bring along water and snacks, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged. You'll be standing for a few hours and kids can get cranky if they're not fed. The parade typically lasts for two and a half hours, which is a long time to stay in one place with young children. Chairs are allowed, so bring a camping chair or folding chair if you'll need a place to sit. You should also identify where the nearest public restrooms are located in case one is needed before the parade ends.
Prep the Kids
The St. Patrick's Day parade is full of amazing floats, marching groups and musicians. Not all of them will be of interest to kids, but you can get your young ones excited for some of the best attractions in the parade. This way they'll know what to look for and won't get bored while you stand on the sidelines. Among the most fun attractions are the bagpipe and marching bands, who perform traditional Irish music as they march along. Many also include traditional Irish dancers, which are always a hit with the kids. If you need additional entertainment, look for one of the street vendors selling spirited green St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia.
Find Your Exit
When the parade finishes, thousands of people crowd the streets of South Boston. Have a post-parade plan for you and your family. You can either head home (hopefully using public transportation) or head to one of the local restaurants to continue the celebration. Bear in mind that restaurants may be crowded, so plan ahead or make a reservation. Many locals flock to bars and pubs, which may not be the right vibe for your family, so check out the options and pick a family-friendly eatery.
The most important thing? Have a great time at the parade. It's a memorable, festive event, even with the crowds. Be sure to snap a ton of photos, and don't forget to wear green.