Denver’s 2022 St. Patrick’s Day festivities on March 12 include the comeback of its parade, parties

Two years ago today, Denver city leaders canceled the beloved St. Patrick’s Day Parade due to concerns over the coronavirus, making it the first major cultural loss of Colorado’s COVID-19 era. (There were 15 confirmed cases in the state at the time.)

This year, they’re reminding us why it’s beloved. City officials and organizers are expecting anywhere from 200,000 to the usual 450,000 or so attendees for the Lower Downtown event, making it the first large-scale St. Patty’s Day party in Denver since March 2019.

And not a moment too soon. The 60th parade, scheduled for Saturday, March 12, is also the biggest free, family-friendly display of all-things-Irish — and a boon for nearby businesses in downtown, LoDo, Ballpark and RiNo ahead of the actual St. Patrick’s Day (Thursday, March 17).

Naturally, there are plenty of Irish-themed events on Saturday outside of downtown, such as Olde Town Arvada’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival; Westminster’s Erin Go Bragh 7.77K; and Swallow Hill’s Gobs O’Phun folk show. For a handy list of these affordable, all-ages St. Patrick’s Day weekend events, check out our friends at Mile High on the Cheap (milehighonthecheap.com).

If you want to head to the downtown parade on Saturday, here are some ideas for making the most out of your trip — with a healthy detour for good measure.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Starting at 9:30 a.m., this feel-good, four-hour parade kicks off at the corner of 19th and Wynkoop streets. As the biggest St. Patty’s Day party in Colorado, it attracts a diverse crowd with floats, traditional displays of music and dancing, as well as horses, clowns, low riders, and military veterans. You name it.

For first-timers: Consider bringing small chairs or blankets, depending on how early you want to arrive for the best viewing spots. Dress for the weather and know that there are no public restrooms along the parade route. The dozens of bars and restaurants within a shamrock’s throw will welcome your business (see below for our thoughts on that).

Ditch your car and find an RTD bus or Light Rail Park-n-Ride lot near you. RTD’s downtown hub is at Union Station, literally across the street from the parade; see rtd-denver.com/fastracks/union-station for maps and tickets. Street closures follow the parade route from 17th to Blake streets, and then down Blake until ending at 27th Street (at the Coors Field parking lot). It’s scheduled to go on regardless of the weather. Streets will reopen around 1:30 or 2 p.m. denverstpatricksdayparade.com

Runnin’ of the Green

Prior to the pandemic, the Runnin’ of the Green was a St. Patrick’s Day weekend tradition in LoDo, considered by many runners to be the unofficial kickoff to the race season. It started in City Park in 1988 and moved to the Union Station area a year later.

It was canceled due to pandemic in 2020 and was held in Washington Park in 2021 for COVID mitigation (it had start waves staggered out for hours). It’s in Wash Park again this year, but with a more normal start lineup, and organizers hope to return to LoDo next year. Adult registration is $45, with 17 and under $40 and seniors $40 (see rungreen7k.com).

Notably, it is on a Sunday (March 13) this year — not Saturday, when most of the parties are scheduled. At 9:55 a.m., special needs athletes and athletes with disabilities start, followed by the rolling waves for the Lucky 7K Run/Walk beginning at 10 a.m., and the Leprechaun Leap 2-Mile at 10:30 a.m. The Irish Post-Event Party runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — John Meyer

Ballpark icons on tap

People-watching haven Wynkoop Brewing Company opens at 8 a.m. Saturday with the the Paddy’O Party, a reserved-seating outdoor event starting at $50 with all-you-can-eat-and-drink breakfast burritos, Bloody Marys, mimosas and green beer. A bagpiper and Irish dancers will perform from 1 to 8 p.m., and Irish menu specials abound. wynkoop.com

The Cherry Cricket’s Ballpark location also opens early (8:30 a.m.) with breakfast burritos ’til 10 a.m., Irish potato leek soup, corned beef and cabbage, and pretzels. Drink specials include $8 Jamesons and a $6 Shillelagh. There’s post-parade live entertainment from Denver and District, Celtic Steps, Michael Collins Band and the Colorado Youth Pipe Band. cherrycricket.com

Actual Irish pub Scruffy Murphy’s (two blocks off the parade route) is presenting two stages of entertainment with Irish dancers and pipers, and Denver’s oldest operating Irish pub, Nallen’s, already has a digital countdown at the top of its homepage. (See also Market Street’s The Celtic.) scruffymurphysirishpub.com or nallenspub.com

Shamrock the Block

The upscale bars, restaurants and other shops at the Dairy Block, 1800 Wazee St., will begin offering themed specials for St. Patrick’s Day as the parade passes by on Saturday morning, and bring them back again on March 17 (the actual St. Patrick’s Day). Kachina & Poka Lola will also host The Wick School of Irish Dance for two free performances in The Maven hotel’s lobby, at noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Seven Grand will serve up $5 Tullamore Dew Pickleback and Slane Irish Coffee shots, among others, on March 12, and at 5 p.m. hosts live music from “a local bagpipe brigade.” Among other whiskies and coffees and green consumables, we like Free Market’s pop-up bar, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions of its specialty drinks. dairyblock.com/events/shamrock-the-block

Irish tacos, outdoor parties, and more food and drink

Mind you, nearly every bar, craft brewery and food cart in Colorado will have a St. Patrick’s Day special — and an improbable amount have live step dancers and bag pipers — so we’re not trying to play favorites here. However, Mile High Spirits distillery is preparing to hold one of the city’s biggest parties on Saturday, March 12, with DJs, drink specials, and more, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. at 22nd and Blake streets. That’s right along the parade route in the parking lot next to Coors Field. Tickets are $25. drinkmhs.com

Union Station, from which you can also watch the parade, will have balloon artists, giveaways and live entertainment along with a special menu at The Terminal Bar (hello, corned beef sliders and Guinness Beer Burgers). Pigtrain Coffee Co. is serving Irish Coffee made with Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Milkbox Ice Creamery opens at noon with a Bailey’s Milkshake. unionstationindenver.com

Again, not playing favorites here, but leave it to Denver chefs to push the limits on themed dishes. On Thursday, March 17, for example, Troy Guard’s TAG restaurants are serving a corned beef and cabbage taco on a green tortilla ($5 at Los Chingones), and Baileys Short Stack pancakes ($15) and Creamy Irish Coffee ($9) at HashTAG. Yum. tagrestaurantgroup.com

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