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How to Spend St. Patrick’s Day in the Quarter

Erin Rose BarPhoto courtesy of Erin Rose Bar

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering New Orleans’ deep Irish heritage, that the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day (Sunday, March 17) is one of the biggest parade and party times in the city (outside of the Carnival and Halloween). The city’s connection traces back to its history as a Catholic port of call that was one of the main entry points for the country. There’s an entire neighborhood in this town called the Irish Channel, which, as the name implies, was originally settled largely by immigrants from Ireland in the early 19th century. To this day, many locals have roots on the Emerald Isle.

Thanks to this connection the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day is filled with parades, pub crawls and block parties. While the biggest event of the weekend, the Irish Channel parade, plus the biggest block parties, are happening Uptown, there’s plenty to see, do and drink in the French Quarter. There’s a plethora of fantastic Irish pubs we recommend, many of which will be hosting their own St. Patrick’s Day parties, plus two parades that roll through the Quarter. Here’s how you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — all without leaving the French Quarter.

The Parades

Molly’s at the Market Irish Parade
Friday, March 15, 6:00 p.m.
Now in its 37th year, this boisterous walking parade is credited to Molly’s founder Jim Monaghan, whose ashes are interred in a place of honor above the bar. The procession starts and ends in front of Molly’s at the Market (1107 Decatur. St.), weaving through the French Quarter on a bar crawl, with marching groups like Bearded Oysters and riders in carriages. You can catch the parade on Decatur Street, where it turns right on Bienville Street, and then on Dauphine Street, looping past Erin Rose (811 Conti St.), eventually hitting Bourbon Street, and then returning to Molly’s at the Market. If you want to fancy it up, you can do the black-tie pub crawl version in a limo (tickets start at $150). Either way, if you happen to be at the start of the parade, do yourself a favor and try Molly’s frozen Irish coffee.

Downtown Irish Club Parade
Sunday, March 17, 6:00 p.m.
This parade rolls from the Bywater to the French Quarter, making several pit stops on its way to Bourbon Street. It begins on the corner of Burgundy and Piety streets in the Bywater, proceeds up Royal Street, across Esplanade Avenue to Decatur Street, up Canal Street to Bourbon Street. The parade makes several pit stops at the various bars in the Marigny and the French Quarter on its way to Bourbon Street.

Please note that while both parades are great fun, unlike most Mardi Gras Parades they’re more aimed at the adults.

The Bars

These are all fair game during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, whether you want a relatively quiet stopover for some Guinness and a game of pool or an epic party with live music and an Irish buffet. Several of these bars serve as the stops for the parades, so we can assure you — they’ll be partying.

Pat O’Brien’s
718 St. Peter St.
As you might have guessed from its name this iconic French Quarter bar was founded by an Irishman. What’s more, the invention of one of New Orleans’ most famous cocktails, the Hurricane, is credited to him too. Every year on St. Patrick’s Day weekend the bar participates in the festivities with drink and food specials and live music. Check out the flaming fountain on the bar’s patio (it’s a water fountain with fire emerging from its center, as crazy as it sounds).

Kerry Irish Pub
331 Decatur St.
Kerry packs the house for St. Patrick’s every year with live bands performing back to back, with the doors opening as early as 8 a.m. in the years past. You may not find green beer at Kerry but you’re guaranteed a proper pint of Guinness.

Molly’s on Toulouse
732 Toulouse St.
Not to be mistaken for Molly’s on the Market mentioned above, this Molly’s is close to Bourbon Street geographically but might as well as be miles away for its understated charm and a low-key vibe. Housed in an old Creole cottage, Molly’s is all brick and dark wood. You won’t find an epic party there (although things will definitely liven up during the St. Patrick’s weekend), but if you want a bar with Guinness on tap, a pool table and a great jukebox, this local favorite is it.

Erin Rose
811 Conti St.
Also just a few doors away from Bourbon Street, Erin Rose is another low-key watering hole favored by the locals. It’s a stop on the route of Molly’s at the Market parade so you can head to Erin Rose in confidence — there’s going to be a party there. While you mingle, check the memorabilia galore and try the bar’s excellent frozen Irish coffee or a Bloody Mary (made with the house secret recipe). Of course, there’s Guinness on tap plus a selection of local brews. The bar is home to the popular Killer Poboys (look for the takeout window in the back). Everything on the small but mighty menu is delicious.

Ryan’s Irish Pub
241 Decatur St.
Just down the street from the Kerry and next to House of Blues, Ryan’s is another stop for the St. Patrick’s Day parades that go through the Quarter. Cozy booths, beautiful antique bar and plenty of local brews on tap draws a mix of local regulars and visitors.

Fahy’s Irish Pub
540 Burgundy St.
Fahy’s keeps it pretty traditional as far as Irish pubs go, with inexpensive drinks, a horseshoe-shaped bar, pool tables, darts, framed photos, and a laid-back ambiance. There are some Irish beers on tap, but you should try the bar’s specialty called Mind Eraser. It’s made with vodka and Kahlua, and it’s meant to be shared with friends by everyone sticking straws into the drink at the same time and racing to bottom. For St. Patrick’s Day Fahy’s has been known to put out an Irish buffet with traditional offerings like corned beef and cabbage.

Boondock Saint
731 St. Peter St.
Tucked into a brick hideaway between Royal and Bourbon streets across from Preservation Hall, this intimate Irish pub was named after a movie that runs on the loop on the TV inside the bar (don’t worry, there’s a good jukebox too). The famously friendly bartenders serve Guinness and local beer on tap, as well as Irish car bombs. The prices are very, very good — so think of Boondock Saint as your perfect getaway from the 24/7 party happening just steps away on Bourbon St.

Finnegan’s Easy
717 St. Peter St.
Another low-key Irish bar on the same block, Finnegan’s Easy is long, narrow, and is more crowded, but with ample capacity to handle it thanks to its spacious courtyard. You could tell it caters more to the visitors as it serves as a stop on some of the walking tours in the French Quarter. Finnegan’s features sports on TV and cheerfully serves the Irish grub along with more American fare, like wings. The drink menu also varies from the local beer on tab to Mai Tais and Hurricanes.

Balcony Viewing Parties

For some traditional French Quarter-style partying, be on the lookout for balcony bashes at the bars located all up and down Bourbon Street. A balcony bash is pretty much that — you’ll pay a cover and be allowed to plant yourself on a wrought-iron balcony overlooking the street below. Since both St. Patrick’s Day parades that roll in the French Quarter hit Bourbon Street, prepare for much (green) bead tossing and catching.