To me, St. Patrick’s Day has always been about family.
I’m married to a Greek guy, so most of the time the rich Hellenic culture rules our household. But on one very special day each year, we break out the shamrocks and celebrate my family’s Irish heritage with a St. Patrick’s Day extravaganza.
Before my mother died, she’d host a big Irish breakfast every St. Patrick’s Day, fueling up the troops before we headed out to the pub for a day of “trad” music and lots of pints of Guinness. Now that I’m a mom, it’s important to me to keep that spirit alive. It’s a way of remembering my mother, as well as teaching my little Greek boy that part of him is connected to the Emerald Isle.
We may not drink late into the night anymore, but we do fill our days with local events and activities that get these Irish eyes a-smilin’. Here’s a look at ways to spend the annual wearin’ o’ the Green in Tampa Bay.
Events for the Irish in All of Us
Kick off Paddy’s Day a week early with a little exercise at the annual Shamrock’n Run in Largo. You can run a 5K, sign up for a 1.5-mile walk, or let the little leprechauns loose in the Clover Kids Dash. Sign-up is available on the day of the event.
Mayor’s River O’Green
Curtis Hixon Park, Downtown Tampa
A few years ago, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn decided to challenge Chicago in turning the river running through the city a brilliant emerald hue. The result is a party in Curtis Hixon Park complete with food trucks, beer, Irish music and dancing, and a bright green stretch of the Hillsborough River that rivals anything the Windy City has to offer. After all, a sunny St. Patrick’s Day in Tampa beats the frigid temps of Chicago.
Shamrocks & Shenanigans
Bay Area Renaissance Festival, Tampa
March 18 & 19
Not gonna lie, reading this makes me think more of Scottish tartans than Irish shillelaghs, but it still sounds fun. Highland games, bagpipes, a “Race for the Rattle” for the little crawlers, and lots more.
The Mighty Festival
Raglan Road, Disney Springs
If you fancy a drive to Walt Disney World, Raglan Road is the epicenter of a four-day St. Patrick’s Day celebration called The Mighty Festival. As with most of the St. Patrick’s Day events around the area, this one features Irish music and dancing, along with a tasty menu and Irish brews, all with the magic of Disney.
Beach Bistro St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Anna Maria Island, Bradenton
If you’d love a parade for St. Patrick’s Day, but the Rough Riders’ version isn’t quite your family’s speed, trek on down to Bradenton for the annual parade on Anna Maria Island. It’s a quaint, locally focused parade that features floats, bands, and possibly a…camel? The parade steps off at 4 p.m. from Holmes Beach City Hall, ending at 78th and Palm.
I’ve been to Ireland, and I can tell you that the old saw about a pub on every corner is pretty much on the money. The Tampa Bay area has Irish pubs for just about every taste, from the trendy Irish 31, to the party-hearty MacDintons, to the family-oriented Beef O’Brady’s.
If you’re looking for a place to take the kids, try these spots (just remember, if mom or dad plan to celebrate with an adult beverage, stay safe and make sure someone sticks to soda):
Four Green Fields
The thatched-roof cottage in sight of the downtown Tampa skyline is home to one of the most authentic Irish pubs in the area, and the spot where I’ve spent St. Patrick’s Day for more than 20 years. Arrive early, grab a table, hit the Irish buffet, listen to traditional music, and catch Irish step-dancers. Kids are welcome before the evening crowd rolls in.
The St. Patrick’s Day party at O’Keefe’s has been going strong for years, and just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Take the kids for face painting, Irish step dancing and bagpipes throughout the day.
Irish 31 and Ferg’s Live
Hyde Park/Downtown Tampa/Westchase
These newer entrants to the St. Patrick’s Day scene gear up a week early with a family-friendly party on Saturday, March 12. Both Ferg’s Live in downtown Tampa and the Westchase location of Irish 31 will have “KidsZone” areas with activities like face painting, balloon artists, and coloring contests. All locations will also host a “St. Pup-trick’s” Adoptable Pup Parade benefiting various animal charities. For the more mature partygoers, PaddyFest kicks into its St. Patrick’s Day glory on March 17.