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5 places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on the cheap

John Egan
March 15, 2018
St. Patrick's Day

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No one in their right mind wants to blow a pot o’ gold on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

But if you head to one of the most popular U.S. destinations for the Irish holiday — like Boston, Chicago and New York — your trip might not be so golden. Why? Boston, Chicago and New York are three of the priciest cities for tourists and locals alike.

Want to preserve some of the gold in your pot yet still sip green beer, watch a parade, and chow down on corned beef and cabbage?

We’ve come up with a list of five places to observe St. Patrick’s Day that won’t bust your budget, especially considering that we cough up a lot of green to be Irish for a day (or two).

In 2018, the average American was expected to spend $39.65 on food, beverages and overall St. Patrick’s merriment, according to the National Retail Federation. In all, Americans planned to rack up a record-setting $5.9 billion in St. Patrick’s Day spending.

To stretch your St. Patrick’s Day dollars, check out these reasonably priced alternatives to Boston, Chicago and New York that’ll make even the pickiest leprechaun do a jig:

1. Savannah, Georgia

You might not realize it, but Savannah throws one of the country’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day bashes.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, known as the “Hostess City,” draws more than 300,000 onlookers. Bagpipers, Irish dancers, beer, food and more flow onto the cobblestone streets of this charming Southern spot.

The city’s St. Patrick’s Day festival in 2018 was scheduled to span two days and was preparing to welcome a high-profile guest — Vice President Mike Pence. A festival wristband for beer drinkers goes for $10.

According to the Budget Your Trip website, the average traveler spends $123 a day in Savannah (based on two occupants per hotel room). That includes lodging and food, but doesn’t include airfare, gas and related expenses.

Keep in mind that prices for hotels and short-term rentals in Savannah tend to go up during St. Patrick’s season. Nonetheless, Savannah is a bargain compared with Boston, Chicago or New York.

2. Fort Collins, Colorado

The downtown area of Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University, buzzes with activity on St. Patrick’s Day.

The highlight is the Lucky Joe’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which winds through the historic streets of Old Town. Following the parade, revelers gather for the Old Town Irish Party, featuring beer, wine, food and music. Admission to the parade and party is free.

Many hotels in Fort Collins are priced at less than $100 a night, even around St. Patrick’s Day.

3. St. Louis

The Gateway City hosts two St. Patrick’s Day parades — one in downtown St. Louis and the other in the city’s Dogtown neighborhood. Thousands of partiers flock to both events, with the downtown celebration attracting more than 250,000 spectators and over 8,000 runners.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is synonymous with beer, it’s fitting that St. Louis is the birthplace of brewer Anheuser-Busch. There’s no cost to tour the historic Anheuser-Busch brewery.

Budget Your Trip says the average traveler spends $175 a day in St. Louis (based on two occupants per hotel room).

4. Madison, Wisconsin

Highlights of St. Patrick’s Day in Madison, home to the state Capitol and the University of Wisconsin, include the annual parade in Capitol Square and the Madison Shamrock Shuffle run and walk. Madison native Peter Kraus, a former contestant on “The Bachelorette” as well as a fitness trainer and model, was tapped to be grand marshal of the 2018 parade.

The average traveler in Madison spends $80 a day (based on two occupants per hotel room), according to Budget Your Trip. You can barely eat three decent meals in New York at that price.

5. Quad Cities

Billed as the only interstate St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S., the Quad Cities Grand Parade starts in downtown Rock Island, Illinois, then crosses the Centennial Bridge over the Mississippi River and streams into downtown Davenport, Iowa. Tens of thousands of people line the parade route every year.

The main event is followed by the Post Parade Bash at Davenport’s RiverCenter. Admission is $15 for people 16 and over, and free for people 15 and under. Preceding the parade is a race that begins and ends in downtown Davenport. If parades aren’t your thing, the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds hosts a two-day St. Patrick’s party.

For the record, the Quad Cities consists of Davenport and Bettendorf, both in Iowa, and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, all on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. The region is a 2½-hour drive from Des Moines, Iowa, and Chicago.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, a stay at a brand-name hotel in the Quad Cities can be booked for less than $100 a night. Try finding a hotel that cheap in the heart of Chicago!

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