Pack up your little leprechauns, pin on your shamrocks and get ready for the fun that comes with celebrating all things Irish this month. Here are some of Chicago's family-friendly St. Patrick's Day activities:
March 13: Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., Chicago. Celebrate Irish Dance Chicago at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, free children 11 and under. www.irishamhc.com.
March 14: Chicago's annual Irish Parade kicks off at the corner of Columbus and Balboa at noon. The kids will enjoy the 30 bands, 50 floats, thousands of marchers and leprechauns. If you arrive early (by 10 a.m.), get a spot by the rail east of Michigan Avenue for the traditional dyeing of the Chicago River green.
Shoreline Sightseeing Cruises from Navy Pier-Glide down Chicago's "green" river with the family and learn the role the Irish played in shaping Chicago. Pre- and post-parade departures, $15 for children under 13. Buy tickets online, www.shorelinesightseeing.com or call (312) 222-9328.
Irish American Heritage Center's Festival-Scheduled immediately after the downtown parade, this family event includes traditional and contemporary Irish music, dance food and children's activities. 1 p.m.-midnight. Children 12 and under are free. www.irishamhc.com
March 15: St. Paddy's Day 5K Run/Walk and Kids' Leprechaun Leap
at Diversey Harbor, Chicago, beginning at 9 a.m. Strollers and
leashed dogs are welcome to join after the elite runners have
begun. Register online at www.chicago
South Side Irish Parade-the largest neighborhood parade outside of Dublin steps off from 104th and Western Avenue at noon. There's plenty of floats, families and civic organizations represented. www.southsideirishparade.org.
Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago-Get a great view of the South Side parade from the warmth of this cozy place. Join in its annual event featuring live music, movies for children, food and beverages for purchase. Doors open at noon. www.beverlyartcenter.org or (773) 445-3838.
Gaelic Park, 6119 W. 147th St., Oak Forest-Celebrate Mass at 9 a.m., followed by an authentic Irish breakfast. Round-trip transportation to the South Side Irish Parade for all those who wish to march with Gaelic Park. Huge celebration following the parade. www.chicagogaelicpark.org or (708) 687-9323.
March 17: FitzGerald's Nightclub, 6615 W. Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. Bring the kids and enjoy live music indoors in a heated tent, Irish dancing and food. Begins at 2 p.m. www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com or (708) 788-2118.
Sharon Shea Bossard is the author of Finding Your Chicago Irish (August 2008, Lake Claremont Press, Chicago.) The book is available at www.lakeclaremont.com, www.findingmyirish.com, Amazon.com and local bookstores. She also is the author of Finding My Irish.