Saint Patrick's Day Parade: Details on the Annual Celebration in San Francisco

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: January 17, 2024

Every year, San Francisco is home to one of the largest Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in the world. The parade draws more than 100,000 people.

Since it's so large, it's always held on a weekend. The 2024 event date is Saturday, March 16.

The theme of this year's parade is UniteSF.

This is a wonderful annual parade and one that I love to attend every year. It's a huge event with a lot of wonderful music, colorful groups, and amazing support from the community. 

This year, there will be a celebration at Civic Center Plaza from 11:30 am to 2 pm. It's a little smaller than the festivals they used to have, but is still a great multi-cultural event to check out after the parade.

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About The Parade

The Saint Patrick's Day Parade features a number of local Irish dance companies, bands, and groups. You will also see many important San Francisco officials, politicians, police, and firemen.

The parade starts at 2nd and Market Street, then makes its way down Market to the Civic Center Plaza, the location of the festival. Below, you'll see the route they usually follow for the parade.

The parade starts around 11:30 am and lasts about two to two and a half hours. There is usually plenty of room to see the parade clearly along Market Street, but it gets more crowded the closer you get to Civic Center Plaza.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade Map in San Francisco

Insider's Tip: If you are watching the parade with your kids, I recommend finding a spot around Market and McAllister. This is where the parade route turns to head to Civic Center. There is usually plenty of room here, so you don't have to fight the crowds to get a good look. It's where you will find me almost every year watching this fun event.

Here are just a few of pictures from previous years.

A band playing bag pipes in the Saint Patty's Day Parade in San Francisco
A truck with a sign showing the distance to SF and San Jose from the Saint Patty's Day Parade.
Irish hound dogs in Saint Patty's Parade in SF
A colorful car in the SF Saint Patty's Day Parade
Irish Dancers performing in the SF Saint Patrick's Day Parade in 2013
Bagpipers playing in the SF Parade in 2013

2024 Celebration at Civic Center Plaza

This year, they plan to have a UniteSF multi-cultural celebration at Civic Center Plaza from 2:30 pm to 6 pm.

The event will include live music, food, drinks and so much more! 

Here are the bands that are currently scheduled to play:

  • The Hooks
  • Glide Ensemble
  • Dublin Soul

Previous Year's Festivals

In previous years, there has always been a large festival that lasts all day long. They are no longer doing a festival this large, but you can check out this section to learn more about what they used to do for years before they started the block parties and smaller celebrations.

At the end of the parade route is the annual Irish Festival, which starts around 10 am and lasts until 5 pm. The festival is for all ages.

The main festival area is where you will find the food, beer, and live bands. Everyone is welcome to enjoy this area, but you will have to go through security to enter.

The Saint Patrick's Day Festival in San Francisco

Here you'll find the typical street fair food vendors, as well as some Irish Pubs serving Irish nachos, bangers, and fish n' chips.

At this festival, the beer is also flowing. The beer booths have three options: a lighter beer, Guinness, and Irish Coffee. The lines are long, but you usually don't have to wait too long.

The beer booth at the Saint Patrick's Festival in SF

Outside food and drinks are not allowed inside the food area. They are strict on this and will not let you into this area if you have any food or drink with you.

There is one main stage at the festival where different Irish bands play all day long.

An Irish band on stage at the annual Saint Patrick's Day Festival in SF

Kids' Area at the Festival

There is another part of the festival just for children. This area includes games, candy, and other fun kid-friendly activities.

The kids area at the SF St Patrick's Day Festival
One of the rides at the Saint Patrick's Day Festival in SF
The catch a wave slide at the Saint Patrick's Festival in SF

You will find the kids' activities and rides on Grove Street, which is south of Civic Center Plaza. You do not need to go through security to get to this point.

Keep in mind that although the parade and festival are family friendly, St. Paddy's Day does get a little crazy later in the afternoon.

I like to leave the festival no later than 4pm, so I can catch the bus or train to another neighborhood. This way I don't have to share too much space with those who've had a little too much to drink.

Other Fun SF Festivals

Cherry Blossom Festival: One of the largest festivals every year is the spring Cherry Blossom Festival. Every April, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, it's time to celebrate. Over two weekends, the Japantown district comes to life with music, traditional Japanese cuisine, and more. This is one festival you don't want to miss!

Carnaval Festival: On Memorial Day weekend, you will find the colorful Carnaval Festival in SF's Mission District. This Latin American-inspired event offers Caribbean and Latin American food, dancing, and other entertainment. The highlight is the parade, which happens the Sunday morning before Memorial Day.

Annual Wine Tasting Festivals: Since we are so close to Northern California wine country, SF is often selected for large wine tasting events. Every year, you can sample zinfandel at the ZAP Festival, raise your glass of pinot at Pinot Days, and spice things up with tempranillo and other Spanish varieties at the TAP festival.

All Festivals & Street Fairs: You will find dozens of festivals and street fairs in SF all year long. Some of the most popular include the Pride Festival in June, the Fillmore Jazz Festival in July, and the Stern Grove Festival which lasts all summer long.

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