You might not realize it, but St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in the city of San Antonio, Texas — and not just because of all the great happy hour deals.
Years of annual St. Patrick’s Day festivals and celebrations have become ingrained in the city’s culture and residents of all creeds join together on March 17th to dance, eat, drink, and be merry. And since this year’s lucky day falls on a Saturday, it’s going to be even bigger than last years! If you’re interested in learning more or even participating in the festivities, we’ve gathered some of the most popular activities in the city. With dozens of different events and just one day to enjoy all of them, you don’t want to waste time looking for things to do on the day of.
Bud Light St. Patrick’s Day Festival
One of the premiere St. Patrick’s Day events in the city, the Bud Light St. Patrick’s Day Festival is a two-day long, multi-part event throughout downtown San Antonio’s River Walk. It’s been held downtown since 1968 – making this year the 50th anniversary – in partnership with the Harp & Shamrock Society of Texas and the San Antonio Riverwalk Association.
What will you find at this Irish celebration? Family-friendly activities, Irish novelty merchandise booths, concession stands, live musical entertainment, a potato eating contest, a pot-of-gold search, and, of course, Irish dancing. The festival begins with an afternoon river dyeing where a barge drops dye to turn the water green.
Following the river dyeing are traditional festivities, a river parade, and an artisan show. The river parade consists of a procession of around a dozen floats manned by entertainers (including beloved bagpipers). The artisan show near the Chamber of Commerce includes vendors selling handmade items like pottery, textiles, woodwork, paintings, illustrations, and beadwork.
And don’t forget about the live music! This year’s musical guests include Native Texans, Ledbetters, and O’Malarkey.
Although the event is only slated to run for March 16th and 17th, with it running into the weekend, expect large crowds well into the night and fully booked hotel rooms, so make sure you’re ahead of the pack!
The Harp & Shamrock Irish Festival
In addition to helping to organize the Bud Light St. Patrick’s Day Festival, Harp & Shamrock also host their own Irish festivities, including their 35th annual 5K run at Southside Lions Park East, their Festival and Passport to Ireland event at La Villita, the two-day long Harp & Shamrock Music Festival at Arneson River Theatre, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Alamo, and finally, their original Harp & Shamrock Society river parade on Saturday late afternoon.
Being one of the oldest Irish organizations in Texas, their celebrations are thoroughly planned and organized, ensuring that each part of their celebration builds on the previous. They’re also active throughout the year, hosting an annual “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Hooley” in September, 5K runs, and golf tournaments. This year-round engagement helps keep their organization active, their celebrations lively, and their membership ranks growing, so if you’re interested, helping them clean up after the weekend’s celebrations is a great way to endear yourself to them.
Before hitting the bars, you can kick off your St. Patrick Day celebrations with a family-friendly 5k. The Shamrock Shuffle is an annual event that helps raise money for a beneficiary.
If your family members prefer to just cheer you on, they’ll be happy to know there will be plenty of music, food, and drinks (and runners dressed in costumes) to help keep them entertained.
Howling at the Moon
Need a late-night St. Patrick’s Day event to round out your evening at the River Walk? Head down to Howl at the Moon to sample their green drinks, hear even more musical charms, and witness a fresh round of Irish dancing. Even if you’ve already had plenty of drinks (remember: drink responsibly!), you’ll want to break out your phone to snap a few pictures of Howl’s vivid cocktails and ask one of the bartenders how they’re made.
Make Some New Friends
New to the area? St. Patrick’s Day is a great time for you to make new friends and join a group of like-minded people during their celebrations. Try using MeetUp to browse what groups in the San Antonio area are doing. Most are welcoming of newcomers, especially during the holiday time. It’s a good, interesting way to enjoy to celebrations, especially if you’re not big on drinking or prefer to use libations as a way to break the ice among new peers.
Looking for a concert for your St. Patrick’s Day?
If you happen to be in town for a while to enjoy the celebrations and are looking for a nice way to bookend your visit, there are two concerts you should check out: Architects will be playing at Alamo City Music Hall on March 14 and Jeezy will be gracing the Aztec Theatre on March 21, just in time to cap off the weekend of celebrating in the style of the Irish.