I just happened to be in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day weekend 2019 on a bleisure trip.
I had been in Atlanta for work and then hopped on a cheap one-way to Chicago to meet my family before we headed to Cancun for Spring Break.
Since I’m highly opportunistic, and my hotel—the Chicago Marriott Suites near O’Hare—was right by an L subway station, I thought I may as well head to the famous St. Patrick's Day parade downtown and also check out the green river.
That sounded like a good idea until I saw the lines of people trying to get L tickets (how come there’s no app for that?).
For event attendees flying into Chicago: The L takes you from O’Hare Airport to the downtown Loop in around an hour, which in rush hour saves time and definitely saves money!
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Chicago is always on the Saturday before March 17—unless March 17 is a Saturday!
I think it’s worth planning an event around—especially if you are considering:
- Chicago downtown, specifically.
- A March time frame.
- Ending your event on a Friday or starting on a Sunday or Monday.
Even if you don’t make it to the parade, the Chicago River stays green for days and was still green the Sunday after the parade. The family and I went down to the river to check it out, have dinner and enjoy an architectural boat tour, which was super interesting and makes it clear why Chicago can make a good host for architecture meetings.
The tour took us up and down the river with explanations of many significant buildings and the time periods in which they were constructed, including:
- A huge post office with an expressway running through the middle of it! I’ve actually driven through this stretch of the Eisenhower and it felt weird. I thought: “This place is so crowded they have to do this.” It was actually very forward-thinking when it was built.
- Repurposed warehouses from decades ago.
- Newer skyscrapers.
- The Trump tower, which has three sections—each representing different components of the Chicago architecture.
Heading toward Navy Pier, there was still a lot of undeveloped land, but it appears that’s being worked on. Also at this point, the St. Patrick’s Day green had vanished from the river and it had gotten a lot colder, thanks to the winds from Lake Michigan.
Shoreline Sightseeing—the operator of the architectural boat tour – knows that the cold can be an issue and offers gloves, a hat and something else, I think a scarf, for $20.
Should We Hold an Event Around St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago?
I don’t see why not, and it might be a draw—especially if you start on a Sunday. I’m not a huge fan of conferences that start on Sundays, but they seem to happen more and more.
I’ve spoken at some conferences on Sundays before, and usually get my worst feedback on those days. “He expected us to be interactive! ON A SUNDAY.”
Lesson learned: just be the entertainment.
And for attendees who aren’t bringing family, maybe mention the river cruise. If a conference starts on Sunday, many are likely flying in on Saturday anyway.
And conferences use surrounding activities and atmospheres all the time to market events.
Attendees can take their kids to a waterpark while they attend an event at Kalahari Resorts Dells in Wisconsin. When Stamats—our parent company—held its annual Higher Education Marketing Conference in San Diego in February 2019, we certainly used the sunshine and beaches as a marketing tool, too.
In this case, you can use St. Patrick’s Day festivities. You don't even have to drink. Between the stunning architecture, the green river and the seemingly infinite dining and entertainment options nearby, hosting a St. Patrick’s Day event in Chicago should be a no-brainer.