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Guide to Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in St. John’s

There are a ton of reasons you’ll want to spend your next St. Patrick’s Day in St. John’s, Newfoundland. We’re the closest city in North America to Ireland. A good portion of us have Irish roots that we can actually trace back. We love our trad music and a good pint. The government even takes it as a holiday. The only other places in the world that do that are Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the island of Montserrat.

St. Patrick’s Day is serious business here. It’s not just a one day thing. Oh no. It’s a multi-day event. Your liver needs to be warmed up. The party usually starts revving up one or two days before the big day and, depending on the day of the week it falls on, continues on for the weekend. Pubs and clubs will bring out the big guns of live music as the green tide starts to wash over the cobbled path of George Street.

Ah yes, George Street – the epicenter of March 17th activities. We love to tell people that we have more bars per square mile than anywhere in North America. But it isn’t true. Greenwich Village in NYC beats us hands down (they have 125/square mile) but Newfoundlanders never like to let the facts get in the way of a good story. There are, however, 21 bars on a street two blocks long, so that’s something.

The Wearing of the Green

If you’re didn’t wear green, did St. Patrick’s Day really happen? It’s only right to have at least a touch of emerald on if you’re going to celebrate. Don’t own green? A quick trip to the Avalon Mall will get you what you need. Downhome and X Shop can even get you locally themed gear. If online shopping is more your deal, you can get a great shirt from Figgy Duff Dory. Just don’t show up without some green is all I’m saying.

Be sure to dress comfortably, especially your shoes. Put in your Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts if you need to, you may be on your feet all day. This isn’t the day for stilettos. Thankfully, sneakers are having a fashion moment so you can be comfortable and still be stylish.

Stick to Downtown

There are bars and pubs beyond the reaches of Duckworth Street but cabs will be rarer than hen’s teeth for Paddy’s Day (and it’s “Paddy’s”, not “Patty’s” or, God forbid, ‘Pattie’s”) so you want your destinations walking distance from one another. No place you can do that but downtown. You’ll want to venture off George Street itself a bit though to get a breather otherwise you’ll miss out on two great pubs.

Best Downtown Bars for St. Patrick’s Day Festivities (East to West)

  • Erin’s Pub
    Owned by Great Big Sea alum Bob Hallett, this is the most civilized bar of the group so if you need a break from George Street, head here for high quality music and a pint.
  • Bridie Molloy’s
    Arguably, the best kitchen of the group so try to make this your supper stop.
  • Green Sleeves
    Another great food stop with entertainment on two floors.
  • O’Reilly’s Pub
    Recently named Canada’s Favourite Bar by enRoute magazine and arguably Paddy’s Day Central.
  • Shamrock City Pub
    Owned by Irish Descendant and The Fables alum D’Arcy Broderick

Prepare for the Long Haul

St. Patrick’s Day in St. John’s is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be a hero. Pace yourself. Events kick off with breakfasts. Yep, multiple. At 7:30am. Pubs will be blocked before 8am and the music will go until 3am. It’s not for the weak of heart, stomach, or liver.

The O’Reilly’s Pub breakfast regularly sells out so you need to get your tickets well in advance. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until 10am to get your Paddy on there. Bridie Molloy’s and Green Sleeves also help you get down a good base layer of grease with breakfast buffets.

If you want to Snapchat, Facebook Live, or Instagram the shenanigans, I highly recommend you pack a portable cell charger in your bag. Finding an outlet near a seat will be like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…it ain’t gonna happen.

You may also want to slip some throat lozenges (to soothe a throat sore from singing and shouting over the crowd all day) and Advil (for the inevitable headache from said singing and shouting) into your bag as well.

Be Ready to Sing

There is live music in downtown St. John’s every night of the week but for Paddy’s Week we turn it up to 11. Most bars with any sort of Irish bent will have live music all day and night long. Singing along is always encouraged. As is dancing, but space will be at a premium so try to keep your elbows to yourself. Learn how to jig vertically and you’ll make friends.

Skip the Green Stuff

You know some bars will dye their beer for the occasion but it’s not much of a thing here and it’s only the worst kinds of beer that get that treatment. Instead of a green beer try an actual Irish import like Guinness (Erin’s Pub has the best pint outside of Ireland) or go for local beer instead. We have no shortage, from mass-produced Black Horse, Jockey Club, India, and Blue Star to craft beers like Yellowbelly, Quidi Vidi, Landwash, Bannerman, and Port Rexton. My recommendation is to start with the good stuff like a Quidi Vidi Iceberg or a Yellowbelly St. John’s Stout and switch to the cheaper brews the later the day gets and the less your taste buds care.

Just avoid the green stuff.

Are you planning on spending St. Patrick’s day on George Street in St. John’s? What are your survival techniques?

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