Travelers and commuters, be warned. The weekend festivities for St. Patrick's Day can be chaotic as thousands flock to the parades on Saturday and Sunday.
Whether or not you're planning on attending the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade or the South Side Irish Parade, here's what you should know about navigating the crowds.
Dying of the River
The river dying is scheduled to begin at 9:15 a.m. The crowds will be thinner for this event than for the parade that follows, but plan on arriving early to make sure you don't miss it.
The best places for watching the river dying are along the Chicago River near Columbus, Michigan, or Upper and Lower Wacker on the Riverwalk.
Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade
Thousands of people are expected to march in the parade or watch it from the sidelines. The parade steps off at noon, but crowds will gather several hours before in the best viewing spots.
Buckingham Fountain offers an excellent viewing area; however, this prime spot will fill up quickly. Be prepared to arrive early and camp out before the parade, or you may be fighting with the crowd for a decent view.
The parade route begins at Balbo and Columbus and heads northbound to Monroe.
Avoiding the Parade Crowd
If you do not want to take part in the festivities downtown, it's best to avoid Columbus Drive completely. Instead, take Lake Shore Drive or State Street.
South Side Irish Parade
The crowd at the South Side parade won't be as big as the crowd for the parade downtown; however, expect heavy traffic southbound, including CTA and Metra traffic.
Traveling on CTA
The trains heading into the Loop on Saturday will be packed throughout the morning and midday. Service will be more frequent on the Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Red and Purple Lines to deal with the increased ridership. The trains will also have increased capacity with more cars on each one.
Traveling on Metra
Metra will provide more frequent train service and additional seating Saturday and Sunday for both parades. No alcohol will be allowed on the trains.
If you're driving to the parade downtown from the north or northwest or from the south or southwest, look for parking on Wells or Wabash. If you're driving from the west, it's best to find parking before you reach Michigan Avenue.
The Chicago Flower and Garden Show also takes place Saturday and Sunday, so parking will likely be reduced at Navy Pier.