Where to see Chicago River Dyeing for St. Patricks Day 

Chicago River Dying Green

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!

St. Patrick’s Day is an overlooked holiday. For many years, I forgot about the holiday altogether. But in Chicago, forgetting St. Patrick’s Day is impossible. A week before the Irish holiday, the city dyes bright green in the Chicago River in celebration, and I get to witness it this year.

When I first moved here, I wondered where this tradition originated. The city of Chicago did not decide this randomly. It turns out it has surprising origins. According to CNN, the Chicago river dyeing green is an annual tradition started by the plumbers of Chicago. They used green dye to find leaks in pipes. One day they had fun with the dye and turned the whole river green; everyone liked it so much that now it’s a tradition. Every year, the Chicago River turns green for a few hours before the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Here is where I recommend you see the Chicago River dyeing green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Upper Wacker Drive

The streets crowd the Chicago River on the morning of the celebration. The dyeing starts at 10 am, so around 9 am, I had to find a good spot along the river. This is the first year I have never seen the river turn green and I want front-row seats. At first, I stand over the riverwalk at Upper Wacker Drive. This is a higher viewpoint looking down on the river. The crowds begin to come in, but there is still room. I find a spot, but as I look down, I see I am standing in a puddle of water. I am distracted by the excitement, so it doesn’t bother me at first, but fifteen minutes later, I want to find a new spot and get out of the puddle.

Rookie mistake.

The Chicago river dyeing will start any minute now; I hurry across the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The crowds are piling in now. The bridge is moving slowly. A police officer repeatedly yells, “No standing on the bridge-keep moving.” I go as fast as possible to find a new spot across the river. Pick a spot and stay put if you want advice on seeing the Chicago River dyeing, but that is not what I did.

Pick a spot and stay put if you want advice on seeing the Chicago river dyeing, but that’s not what I did.

As soon as I move, I realize my mistake. The spot on the other side of the river is just as flooded with people. From the time it takes me to walk across the bridge and down the steps, there are no spots left.

Determined, I decided to go back to my original spot. I hustle across the bridge again. The policeman yells again, “No standing on the bridge-keep moving.” As soon as I cross the bridge, I realize I made a mistake.

I couldn’t squeeze through the layers of people even if I wanted to. There are so many people crowding the sidewalk I have to push my way through to see if there are any spots available.

So I walk back across the bridge to the bottom of Trump Tower and pinch my way between two people. They are unhappy with me, but I need a spot.  

Chicago River Dying Green

Bottom of Trump Tower

Then I wait. I am not moving anymore this time. I refuse to miss the show. Minutes later it begins. Several speed boats drive in circles as a bright green Mountain Dew-colored fluid comes from the back of the boat. It’s as if the boats are painting the river in green swirls. The man driving the Dunkin Donuts boat is doing donuts along the Chicago River. The water starts a dull dark blue and changes to e vibrant green in a few minutes. Crowds cheer. 

Nordic House

After a few minutes of watching the river, I am eager to get out of the crowds for a few minutes. I stumble upon the Nordic House, the Swedish American Museum, in the Wrigley Building’s South Tower at 400 N. Michigan Ave. The Nordic House is warm and has a perfect view of the river. They are still dyeing as I peer through the tall windows in the building. It feels incredible to warm up my hands and feet indoors and still enjoy the view of the river. Warmth floods my body again, and I am ready to keep walking.

Steps by the Apple Store

The city is alive with people, which makes it hard to find somewhere to snap a photo. I walk around to find the best river views and see no one near the bottom of the Apple Store. Perfect. I come just in time to take a few pictures and get a new perspective of the river.

Michigan Avenue Bridge

My last stop is along the Michigan Avenue Bridge. You can’t stay on the bridge before the starts of the Chicago river dyeing, but afterward, it’s one of the best views of the green river. The State Street Bridge is also a good location too. Just keep in mind these bridges are busy. If you want to take a photo, you need to move quickly or else you might get pushed out of the way.

Chicago River Dying- St. Patrick's Day 2023

The tradition of the Chicago river dyeing around St. Patrick’s Day makes me feel like a true Chicagoan. These are the places I visited myself, and I recommend them. There are many other spots I still need to explore, but I have many years of seeing the Chicago River dyeing ahead of me.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May you have the luck of the Irish be on your side.



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One response to “Where to see Chicago River Dyeing for St. Patricks Day ”

  1. […] Where to see Chicago River Dyeing for St. Patricks Day 17  Romantic Valentine’s Day Ideas to do in Chicago & Northwest Suburbs […]

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