Monday, March 19, 2012

Raleigh's St. Patrick's Day Parade & Festival

Wow.  I had no idea Raleigh had such a love affair with St. Patrick's Day.  Usually DH and I are, unfortunately, out of town for St. Patrick's Day.  But this year I was around and tagged along with some friends to the Raleigh St. Patrick's Day celebration.  It was amazingly large and Irish-tastic.  I am so glad I went, especially since this Scottish gal really loves this holiday.

Raleigh gets packed at this annual event.  For 30 years now it has been going strong and each time it gets bigger.  Pile on gorgeous weather this particular year and you have a downtown festivus miracle (wait, wrong holiday).

The parade itself was big (no Chapel Hill/Carrboro Christmas Parade, but still..).  It lasted over 2 hours and the floats and paraders kept coming.  There were Irish dancers, marching bands, and lots of bagpipes.  The Shriners had mini-Mac trucks and there were, of course, martial arts demonstrations.  It was really fun!  Although they didn't throw stuff at the crowd as much as I like (we want beads and tshirts!) it was really cool to see a bunch of local "celebrities."

This is a very family-friendly affair.  There were so many kids and strollers around it warmed my soul (and would have made Maclaren and Graco proud).  The biggest issue is just dealing with the crowds.  My crew and I got downtown 1 hour early.  The parade started at noon and we found free public parking in one of the garages downtown 1 hour beforehand.  It was a prime location but was filling up fast at this hour.  I would guess that 15 minutes after we arrived the garage was full.  NOTE that even though parking in this area is free and really close to action if you want a quick getaway you may want to consider parking further away and enjoying the walk.  I left the parade a little early (ah, babies) but it still took me over 30 minutes to exit the garage.  My friends left when the parade was over and it took them over an hour to get out.  So be prepared either way.

The center of everything is Moore Square.  The parade ends here and the huge "Wearing O' The Green" Festival happens in Moore Square from 10 am - 9 pm.  The Festival includes fair rides and other fantastic games and activities for kids (these are all ticket-based and to be honest aren't cheapest in town - the bounce house, for example, was 2 $1 tickets for a bounce).  Moore Square also has a stage set up with live entertainment, and it's good stuff.  For example, Carbon Leaf (one of my faves, too bad I didn't get a sitter) headlined this year at 7 pm and dancers and other fantastic acts preceded them.  The Festival also has many street vendors selling jewelry, crafts, food and BEER.  That's right, this is one of the few Raleigh events where they actually sell beer outside for you to enjoy!  You can get a Guinness on the street and stand to watch the parade.  (Get IDed at the ticket tents first.)

We watched the parade from a spot right off of Moore Square and, while crowded, it really wasn't ridiculous.  We still had a great vantage point even being a few rows back, had Moore Square and vendors available, and also had some ground to spread our picnic blanket on.

Raleigh puts a bunch of port-a-johns brought in just for the festivities in one corner of Moore Square but it was still a wait to get some tp love.  So, again, plan ahead.  Good news was that the port-a-johns were really clean and brand new.

Take a cooler.  While the street vendors are totally great and fun they aren't the cheapest either and you are certainly permitted to bring a cooler and enjoy your own spread while taking in the festivities.

I can't wait to go again next year and will really plan to spend the entire day.  Just be prepared to deal with the crowds and Slainte!

Raleigh St. Patrick's Day Parade
Annually on a Saturday around St. Patrick's Day
http://www.raleighstpats.org/



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