Clevelanders really, really dig St. Patrick's Day. It's right up there with the home opener in terms of crowds and metric tons of booze consumed during the daylight hours. Basically, we're talking a whole season of Browns tailgates poured into one day. Every bar in every neighborhood will be a possible landing point at some point during the binge session, but downtown is the center of it all. There's the parade, of course, which is the big draw. And regardless of whether you want to or not, you're probably going to end up in the thick of things. That's just your green-bedazzled destiny. It will also be the future of thousands and thousands of others, which is great. The people-watching alone is worth the trip. There are some logistical hurdles to clear, though. How do you get there? Where should you go? How do I get back home? Wait, it's 3 p.m. and I've already drank more than I have since Thanksgiving; how do I stay awake and relatively coherent? Yes, we've been there too, and through years and trials and errors, we've come up with a pretty basic set of tips and tricks for best enjoying the pilgrimage. Let us help you, all for free (the advice, not the shots of Jameson; sorry).
Transportation: Don't even think of driving downtown. It's a bad idea for any number of reasons. Streets are shut down for the parade and the avenues that aren't are packed with crowds that tipsily jaywalk more than Clevelanders already do on a daily basis, which is saying something. It's dodge 'em out there. Then there's the parking, which is going to cost you a pretty penny if you can even find a suitable lot not already packed with cars of those poor souls who couldn't get the day off and have to watch the festivities from the windows of their downtown office.
That goes for everyone, even if you're not drinking. If you are, don't be a dangerous asshole and put anyone's life in danger.
Uber and Lyft will be the predictable winners of the BAC Olympics, but be prepared for surge pricing and long waits and fuzzy phone calls from drivers telling you there's a group of teens in leprechaun outfits blocking the road and can they maybe meet you clear on the other side of the block?
RTA is really the only way to go. Whether you're schlepping in from the suburbs and utilizing the park-and-ride centers, ditching your car in Ohio City or Shaker and hightailing it in on the rapid, or figuring out for the first time which bus it is that comes down your street everyday and where do you transfer to get downtown, public transit is your friend. It's affordable, it's pretty damn reliable, and chances are the guy in the next seat is holding a flask that you might get a sip from. Speaking of flasks ...
Flasks are your friend: The lines be long, the tempers high, the music at full volume and the Bud Lights pricey. You're going to fork over fistfuls of cash and maybe probably leave your credit card at the bar after forgetting to close it. That's just how it goes. But temper the damage to your bank account by filling up a flask or that water bottle (which, admit it, you've never put water in) with your liquor of choice and enjoy stress-free swigs all day. You'll be thanking us when your friend disappears for 30 minutes to try and grab a brew or two and then drunkenly forgets to get you one anyway.
Take a break from the crowds: We don't even need to roll through the usual suspects. It's pretty easy to pinpoint where the crowds will gather — Flats East Bank, West Sixth, East Fourth, anywhere with a bathroom that's close to the parade route — and the crowds are a key component in the experience. (Otherwise, you'd stay home.) But the crowds can get to be a bit much and every once in awhile you might need confirmation that you do in fact have personal space that need not be invaded by 37 of your closest, unshowered friends. For sanity, for a brief respite, for a couple of minutes without fake Irish music assaulting your ears, find an off-the-beaten-path spot and enjoy it. Try the second floor at Little Bar, or one of the five floors at Tomo, or the Huron Point Tavern, or Moriarty's, or Becky's. There's plenty of cheer and whiskey to be found that doesn't necessarily need to be served with chaos.
Eat early and eat often: There's a reason kegs and eggs is so popular, and it's not just because the boozing can start before sunrise. If you want to last all day — or, hell, last until dinner — you need a little something in your stomach. The crowds swell around the parade, and getting anything decent is going to involve paying too much and eating a sloppy sandwich off a paper plate while you stand against a wall. You'll be in much better shape if you start the base early and strategically build it all day. That corned beef sandwich is pretty nifty at 3 p.m., but it's even niftier at 10 a.m.
Try putting water in that water bottle: Or at least buy some water or grab a glass whenever there's one for the taking. Maybe even pop a vitamin or two to start the day. These are just basic rules of the road for marathon boozing. Ignore such warnings and you're asking for a mid-day hangover, an early bedtime, and lots of FOMO when you do eventually wake up.