St. Patrick’s Day in Boston: Some Heritage with Your Hops

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Posted March 14, 2013 by Scott Kearnan in Downtown Boston
Irish Famine Memorial

Outside of Ireland, there’s no St. Patrick’s Day like a St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. There are wardrobe requirements (go green or go home!), plenty of clinking glasses, and a shared sense of cultural identity. It’s basically our Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and Fourth of July rolled into one.

That said, it’s important to remember that celebrating Irish history isn’t just about chugging green beer in sticky-floored pubs. Mind you, I love a good sticky-floored pub. But after visiting Ireland for the first time last year, I found myself wishing I knew more about actual Irish history—and about how it intersects with the history of Boston. Well, guess what? Time to break out some green sneakers to hit the Irish Heritage Trail, a self-guided walking tour of significant locations downtown. Strolling between the 18 stops on the Trail is a great way to spend a St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. But if history’s not your thing, I’ve selected a few stops on the Trail that also happen to be near modern downtown attractions—those of the eating, drinking, and playing variety.

Discovering the history here is a reward in itself. However, if you need to bribe yourself with a pint of Guinness along the way, well, do what you must, lad.

Rose Kennedy Garden: There’s a pretty well-known family around these parts that you might have heard of: the Kennedy family. Ring a bell? Rose Kennedy was the matriarch of the family that yielded a much-loved president, esteemed senators, and even an ex-boyfriend of Taylor Swift. Politics ran in her blood; Rose was the daughter of one-time Boston mayor John Fitzgerald. Today the park in her honor is part of the larger Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, a swatch of public outdoor space that hosts special events, food and art markets, and plenty of food trucks. Check out the schedule here.

So grab a gooey grilled cheese, plunk down with your laptop, and have a working lunch thanks to complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the parks. St. Patrick’s Day or not, every urbanite needs to enjoy some green space now and then.

Irish Famine Memorial: Boston’s large Irish population can be traced back to the years between 1845 and 1849, when about 100,000 Irish refugees arrived here. Why? Because the Emerald Isle was stricken with a potato blight that caused the Great Famine, which ultimately claimed about a million lives. At the intersection of School Street and Washington Street, this memorial pays tribute to the lost. It includes two statues and eight memorial plaques that explain the history of one of Ireland’s defining historical periods.

So, if you need a place to shake off the heavy vibes, I suggest Scholars on School Street. A popular spot for after-work crowds from the nearby Financial District, it boasts plenty of pool tables, regular DJ parties, and a wide menu of cocktails and dinner plates. You’ll find plenty of potatoes here, or French fries, anyway.

Granary Burying Ground: No, I’m not suggesting that you go back to your high school goth days and hang out in a cemetery. The Granary Burying Grounds on Tremont Street is actually an important stop on the Irish Heritage Trail. Here, many Protestant Irish were buried alongside such notable names as Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and John Hancock. Every tombstone has a tale to tell. If you want the spookiest stories, book a ride on the Ghosts & Gravestones trolley tour, which includes the Granary Burying Grounds as one of its stops. (Yes, I’ve done it. And no, not just in October.) It’s entertaining, even if you’re not into things that go bump in the, um, midday sunshine.

Before you bid the Heritage Trail adieu, make one last cemetery stop at the Central Burying Ground on Boston Common along Boylston Street. It’s the city’s only historical burying ground to bear Celtic crosses on headstones.

Still not sure where to head on the greenest day of the year? The Voice has you covered with authentic Irish experience recommendations for St. Patrick’s Day in Boston.

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