Philadelphians get really excited about a few things, which can either charm or terrify visitors who happen by on these special occasions. If you are a non-Philadelphia native, it may be good to live by the following rules. Do not wear another team’s jersey if it’s football season. Do not question why a grown man might be waiting in line for hours to see the Flower Show. Do not try to compete in Wing Bowl – you will lose. And above all, do not get in the way of the Erin Express on St. Patrick’s Day.
Philadelphia loves St. Patrick’s Day so much that we celebrate it a few times. On two Saturdays, March 9th and 16th, anyone over 21 years old can participate in the Erin Express bar crawl. Via yellow school bus, revelers are transported among 15 different bars between noon and midnight. The bus is completely free, so do not be tricked into paying $20 to one of the services that claims you need a wristband to participate.
Noon might sound early to start throwing back the Guinness, but it is my favorite part of the day. The lines at bars become frustratingly long in the afternoon, so aim to get to a bar early and spend a couple hours there before moving on to the next one. I like to start at The Blockley at 3801 Chestnut St. It’s not on the official Erin Express list, but it’s close to many of the bars where the Express will stop. Plus, it opens at 9 a.m. if you are feeling particularly motivated, and is located in the University City area where everyone seems to flock for the festivities.
After you have had your turn dancing on the bar at The Blockley, try a fishbowl at nearby Cavanaugh’s and take an Irish car bomb at The Blarney Stone, both in walking distance. You absolutely must wear a green shirt, or you risk sticking out like a sore thumb. But a lot of bars will be giving out necklaces, hats and other favors, so your look will become more festive along the way.
Later in the day, the event gets sloppy. It’s hard to find a bathroom, and merrymakers become belligerent – or sick. College students will sneak back to nearby houses for a nap. This is the perfect time to stop at Copabana at 4000 Spruce St. If you can get a table, order nachos and a key lime margarita to stay festive. If you can’t get a table, head over to the spacious Greek Lady at 224 S 40th St. for a cheap cheesesteak or gyro (true Philadelphia sustenance) to help fuel the rest of your day. Hop the Erin Express downtown to Slainte to enjoy the rest of your night. Breathe. If you’ve made it through today, you can make it through anything.
Grace has spent every past St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia. She will be sad to miss the debauchery this year, but remains optimistic that New Yorkers will follow through and show her a good time this year.