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The best places to watch the Chicago River dyeing

Chicago River dyeing
Photograph: Grace DuVal

The best places to watch the Chicago River dyeing

Get a great view of the Chicago River dyeing ceremony for St. Patrick’s Day from these vantage points.

Written by 

Zach Long

Emma Krupp


Jeffy Mai


As is tradition, the Chicago River will be turned green for St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, March 11. Crews start the process in the morning, working from Columbus Drive to State Street, and the dye typically lasts a day or two (here’s how they dye the river). After the water changes colors, it’s off to Grant Park for the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Whether you decide to crowd onto the Riverwalk or buy a ticket to a rooftop event, here’s where you can watch the St. Patrick’s Day Chicago River dyeing.

How do they dye the Chicago River green?

The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 pours 50 pounds of dye into a quarter-mile stretch of the Chicago River over the course of 45 minutes.

When do they dye the Chicago River green?

Crews will begin dumping dye into the river at 10am on Saturday, March 11.

Why do they dye the Chicago River green?

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day! The tradition was started in 1962 when members of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union were feeling festive and decided to dump 100 pounds of dye into the water.

What is used to dye the Chicago River green?

The exact formula is a secret, but it’s an orange-red, vegetable-based powder.

Where to watch the Chicago River dyeing

Chicago Riverwalk

You’ll have to arrive early to get a great spot, but you won’t have to shell out any cash for a spectacular view of the river dyeing on the Chicago Riverwalk. For the best views of the festivities, head for the portion of the walkway between Columbus Drive and State Street.

Michigan Avenue Bridge

Photograph: Max Herman

Michigan Avenue Bridge

Situated in the middle of Columbus Drive and State Street where the river dyeing action takes place, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is one of the most popular spots to get a view of the festivities. People show up to claim a spot on the bridge extra-early on the morning of the parade, so be prepared to stand on your toes if you roll out of bed late and show up when the dyeing begins.

State Street Bridge

Photograph: Neal O’Bryan

State Street Bridge

Gaze down on the western end of the Chicago River dyeing from atop the State Street bridge, which is typically lined with folks snapping pictures of the boats pouring out dye below. The views are free, but as with any other public, river-adjacent space, you’ll have to claim your spot early if you want an unobstructed view.


Columbus Drive Bridge

Photograph: Neal O’Bryan

Columbus Drive Bridge

Columbus Drive wins points for its (slight) edge on proximity to the parade route compared to the other nearby river walkways. Once you’ve had your fill of watching the acid-hued dye flowing into the river, you can sneak out early and simply head south on Columbus Drive to grab a parade-side spot along Balbo Drive in Grant Park.

LondonHouse Chicago

Watch the river turn green from way up high at LondonHouse Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day bash, where guests can imbibe bottomless green beer, dance to a live DJ, snack on breakfast bites and catch stunning views of the river dyeing revelry while atop the hotel’s 22nd floor outdoor terrace (or from within the indoor lounge, if you’re looking to stay warm). General admission tickets include St. Patty’s Day swag, a four-hour open bar, breakfast and access to DJ areas, though you can also spring for VIP tables with bottle service.