Going green on St. Patrick’s Day in Canada? From cooking classes to parades to whiskey tastings, here are some of the best festivities happening across the country.
No matter where you are in Canada, March 17 will likely be marked with a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The date marks the death of St. Patrick, Ireland’s most celebrated patron saint.
But as we all know, it’s also one of the liveliest shindigs of the year. The world goes green for one day, letting loose with foamy pints of green beer and silly-looking leprechaun hats, and Canada is no exception. With Irish roots everywhere in Canada, here are a few places where you can join the St. Paddy’s Day craic (party).
1. Irish Times Pub, Victoria, British Columbia
This seaside town on Vancouver Island is renowned for its golf, gardening and mild weather. But Victoria’s most popular pub, Irish Times, is also a stellar place to party down on St. Patrick’s Day.
“It was nominated by Ireland’s daily newspaper as one of the top 10 best Irish pubs in the world outside of Ireland,” says Katie Dabbs from Tourism Victoria.
On St. Patrick’s Day, book a table in advance if you want to celebrate at this historic building, which dates from 1894. Then get comfy on a tall stool with a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee paired with classic Irish dishes like bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie and Irish stew. For some Canadian pub grub with an Irish twist, gorge on a plate of Irish poutine — fresh-cut fries slathered in gravy, Guinness cheddar, bacon and cheese curds.
2. Lucky Bastard Distillers, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Saskatoon’s local food and craft drink scene is exploding, fueled by innovative chefs and hungry university students. Naturally, this prairie town has something fun cooking for St. Paddy’s Day.
One of Saskatoon’s most popular craft distilleries, Lucky Bastard Distillers, is hosting a “Kiss Me, I’m a Lucky Bastard” event. On St. Patrick’s Day, drop by their new location for a free vodka tour, learn to make themed cocktails and munch on charcuterie boards.
“I enjoy visiting their distillery,” says Aviva Kohen from Saskatoon Tourism. “Not only because I love their unique gambit gin with Saskatoon berries and haskap liqueur that uses a new ‘it’ berry grown locally. But also because they clearly are passionate about what they do and don’t take themselves too seriously, often sporting T-shirts that say things like ‘Vodka pays the bills.’”
3. Pub Saint-Patrick, Quebec City, Quebec
Believe it or not, there’s a whole lot of Irish heritage in French-speaking Canada, including Quebec’s capital city. The Irish and the French Canadians share a 150-year history, starting when Irish immigrants arrived in Quebec City during the potato famine.
First, join the festivities at the Festibière fête la St-Patrick, a three-day celebration of Irish heritage and, of course, beer. The festival opens its doors on Thursday, March 17, showcasing more than 20 brewers, microbreweries, cider houses and restaurants at the Pavillon du Commerce (ExpoCité).
“This event will kick off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities,” says Michelle Morin-Doyle, Deputy Mayor of Quebec City. “Which will lead up to the must-see parade — a true Quebec City tradition.”
Bring your best green attire to the annual parade, Défilé de la Saint-Patrick de Québec, on Saturday, March 20, at 12 p.m. But for many Montrealers, the parade means more than green beer and celebrating a saint.
“To me, the Défilé de la Saint-Patrick de Québec is a strong symbol of cultural renewal and shows the importance of the Irish presence in Quebec,” says Daniel O’Dowd, this year’s Grand Marshal. “Following the arrival of thousands of Irish at Grosse Île during the Great Famine in Ireland, we have been supported by the people of the region, and Quebec has become our second home.”
For an intimate post-parade gathering, vie for a table at Pub Saint-Patrick, Quebec City’s sole Irish pub. Here in the historic Old City, you’ll find an ample selection of scotch, Irish and Quebec beer and Irish music.
4. Old Triangle Irish Alehouse, Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Irish have called Nova Scotia home since 1660, when Irish settler Roger Casey arrived and married an Acadian. Today, Irish or not, Nova Scotians of all heritages love a good craic. On St. Patrick’s Day, some downtown bars, such as the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse, open as early as 7 a.m. and feature Irish music. Following the parade on Saturday, March 12, there’s the 26th annual St. Patrick’s Day Ceili, a family-friendly event where, for $20, you can chow down on Irish stew and enjoy Irish music and dance, courtesy of the Irish Association of Nova Scotia.
5. Montreal, Quebec
Did you know that the Montréal St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the longest-running of its kind in Canada — uninterrupted since 1824?
Mon dieu! It’s no wonder National Geographic voted Montreal’s as one of the top 10 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. Watch the three-hour caravan of colourful floats, marching bands, performers and revelers march along Sainte-Catherine Street on the first Sunday after March 17.
As in Quebec City, many Irish immigrants fleeing the famine settled in Montreal. If you look closely, the Montreal flag gives a nod to the four founding settler cultures: a blue fleur-de-lis (French), a red Rose of Lancaster (English/Welsh), a thistle (Scots) and a green shamrock (Irish). Toast to this Irish legacy at one of Montreal’s many Irish pubs, where you can enjoy a pint of beer or, if you prefer, a fancy cocktail and some poutine.
6. Keltic Landing, Vancouver, British Columbia
For a Celtic celebration, there’s Keltic Landing, a new two-day immersive experience produced by The Social Concierge and Wet Ape. Get gussied up for the Shamrock Ball, a celebration of Celtic traditions through music, lively dance and Irish spirits. On day two, don your kilt and groove to bagpipes and fiddlers at the Tartan Pride, a party to celebrate Scottish Gaelic heritage. Naturally, this includes a sampling of Scottish spirits and hearty Scottish fare.
7. Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, Whistler, British Columbia
For something completely different, how about celebrating St. Paddy’s Day on the slopes? Some partygoers start the day on the mountain, skiing and snowboarding dressed in green or sporting festive hats and waving Irish flags.
Then, take the party to the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, located at the base of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains in Whistler Village, to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. The craic kicks off at 9 a.m. for breakfast and continues into the wee hours of the night. This year, the entertainment lineup includes The Splinters and Ruckus Deluxe, with live music starting at 1 p.m. Plus, there are gallons of Guinness ready to be consumed.
“Last year the Whistler team poured 1306 pints of Guinness,” says Tania Sear from Tourism Whistler. “That’s 21 kegs!”
8. Crowfoot Wines and Spirits, Calgary, Alberta
Take a break from pulling pints and try your hand at Irish cookery. On Thursday, March 17, Calgary’s ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen is offering an Irish cooking class, which includes a lesson, light lunch and recipes to take home. In an hour, learn to make sumptuous dishes inspired by the Emerald Isle, such as a green salad drizzled in beer mustard vinaigrette, bangers and mash with Guinness gravy and Irish pudding.
For a tipple (or two), Crowfoot Wines and Spirits is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Irish Whiskey Festival. It’s one of their most popular events — a tasting experience of Irish whiskey and beer paired with traditional Irish cuisine.
9. The Irish Village, Ottawa, Ontario
Canada’s capital city has a ton of festivities planned for St. Patrick’s Day. For starters, the Irish Society of the National Capital Region is hosting an Irish Festival from March 11-18, which includes an Irish Night at the Ottawa Senators hockey game on Thursday, March 17. Game on!
Don’t forget about the 34th annual St. Patrick’s Parade, which starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 19, at the corner of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue West. The hottest after-party in town is being hosted by Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, with 12 beers on tap — including a seasonal Strong Irish Red Ale — and accompanied Irish dancing lessons and Irish-inspired cuisine. Two thousand other people thought this was a great idea, and the event is now sold out.
But don’t despair if you didn’t score a ticket. Go for a $6 breakfast at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, complete with live Celtic music and dancers on Sunday, March 13, and a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at noon on Thursday, March 17. And there’s always the plethora of pubs.
“Most pubs throughout the city will have something going on,” says Jantine Van Kregten from Ottawa Tourism. “One of the most vibrant spots is the Heart & Crown in Ottawa’s bustling ByWard Market neighbourhood. This cozy, dark wood pub is one of five connected pubs — they’re all under one roof — that are known as The Irish Village.”
If you go pub hopping in the village, make sure to raise a glass to the industrious Irish-Canadians who built Bytown and the Rideau Canal. Sláinte!
10. McVeigh’s, Toronto, Ontario
“Hogtown” is seriously happening on St. Patrick’s Day, and the festivities start early in March. The showstopper is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, March 13, but the bash continues in the pubs downtown.
“Many Irish and Irish-themed pubs celebrate with great vigour,” says Helen Lovekin from Ontario Tourism. “There’s as much music and dancing as can be crammed into venues such as McVeigh’s, Ceili Cottage and the Dora Keogh. Those three bars are seriously Irish.”
Another option is to head to Corktown, an Irish enclave in Old Toronto where famine-fleeing Irish immigrants settled in the 19th century. These former residents worked in the nearby Gooderham and Worts factories, once the largest distillery in the British Empire. Today, these dilapidated Victorian-era factories have been transformed into a pedestrian-only village with designer boutiques, cafés, artisan shops, galleries and restaurants. Commemorate this history with a pint of craft beer at the Mill Street Brew Pub.