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How to Celebrate St. Patty's Day in San Francisco Style

How to Celebrate St. Patty's Day in San Francisco Style

St. Patrick's Day Barhopping, Fun, Activities, Things to Do in San Francisco (SF)

St. Patrick’s Day can be an amazing excuse to drink before 5, or to head straight home to avoid the crowd of pseudo Irish and Irish alike, who are loaded into small bars with sham or pub in the sign. However, if celebrating sounds like an interesting prospect read on for a list of block parties, surrounding bars, and a couple places worth catching a cab to.

Upcoming San Francisco event: Bay to Breakers Coordinating Group Costumes

In the Financial/North Beach Districts there are two block parties less than six blocks apart. The Royal Exchange Block party is on Front street between California and Sacramento. It begins at 3pm and goes on till 11:30pm. The second, which I choose to focus on, is the Aventine Block Party on 582 Washington Street. It starts at 4pm and ends at 2am. Though it is technically illegal to drink in public, the police won’t be pursuing easy-going party-goers. So revel in the chance to drink in these small alleys, enjoy the dj’s, green beer and Irish food. About 1,500 people each will be packed within these alley blocks, according to sffuncheap.com.   

photo by Aventine

If the sea of drinkers is getting a bit overwhelming, take a quick trip around the unreasonably, undervalued North Beach District and explore the green parks and buildings. 4 Blocks in this direction and you’ll pass an Irish Pub: Maggie McGarry’s, a small Irish pub often featuring live music. Keep moving down Columbus to explore more of the outdoors.

Three blocks North on Columbus past Maggie McGarry’s you will reach a crossroad called Kearney. On this corner is the Columbus Tower- a richly ornate green triangular building. If you’re in need of a not so Irish coffee, there are many cafes around North Beach, (Caffe Puccini, Caffe Greco, Caffe Roma) but on the first floor of the Columbus Tower is an elegant coffee shop.

From here you can head east for a block along Pacific into the Jackson Square Historic District. This passage used to be known as the Barbary Coast and was lined with brothels, dance halls, cheap watering holes, and opium dens. The street has since been refined, though some places persist. Now you’re just blocks from where you started.

Bar Hopping Games: Bar Scavenger Hunt

If you’re ready to trade the block party on Washington for bar hopping here’s a list of Irish Pub suggestions by distance (ratings by google):

  • 1-4 Blocks from the Washington Block Party
    • Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub (3.8 $$) 530 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133 is one blocks: Beers on tap & a selection of pub grub in a casual setting with LCD TVs for sports viewing
    • Irish Times (3.6 $ ) is three blocks .
    • Maggie McGarry's (3.7 $ ) 1353 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 Four blocks from Washington: Longtime Irish bar pouring pints, showing soccer matches & staging performances by cover bands.

  • 5-6 Blocks from the Washington Block Party

    • Murphy's Pub (3.2) 217 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108 : Brick-walled Pub with dim lighting featuring bar food, & sports TV :

    • The Irish Bank (3.8) 10 Mark Ln, San Francisco, CA 94108 : Irish bar serving pub grub & a huge selection of whiskeys in an alley lined with outdoor tables.

  • 12 blocks:

    • Johnny Foley's Irish House (4.1 $$) 530 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133 : Irish bar with pints & hearty pub grub as well as frequent live music & dueling piano shows.

  • 15 blocks : Soma Bars, Closer to the Royal Exchange Block Party.

    • Kate O'Brien's Irish Bar (3.7 $ ) :579 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94105 : Laid-back Irish watering hole serving up pub grub, jukebox music, pints of beer & sports on the TV.

    • The Chieftain Irish Pub & Restaurant (4.0 $ ) 198 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103: Bustling SoMa spot with Irish pub grub & beers on tap plus sports on the satellite TV.

  • Other Districts:
photo from yelp.com

The Richmond District has two Irish Pubs:  Blarney Stone and The Bitter End. Across the Golden Gate Park, in the Sunset District, are two more Irish Pubs: Durty Nelly’s (freshly repainted to match the Warriors) and Little Shamrock. All four are dive bars and have darts and/or pool tables. Throughout the year, these locations are dead except for a few locals. However, on St. Patrick's Day, the neighborhoods’ residents pack these bars for a lively celebration.

Personally, Blarney Stone (with attached Irish Bakery) is the closest bar. It’s not a usual stop for me, though it can be surprisingly fun. A local magician often frequents this location. Last St. Patrick's day was an especially enjoyable occasion thanks to his impromptu magic show, which played on repeat. Eventually I cracked his secrets, and couldn’t help but smile at the new amazed onlookers.

Related article: Secret Spots SF Doesn't Want you to Know About - California Street Edition

Don’t forget about the 166th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, running from 11:30 am to 5pm rain or shine! The route begins on the corner of 2nd and Market and ends at the Civic Center, where festivities will continue with entertainment, snacks, and of course, more green beer. Cheers!


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