U.S. residents are likely to have at least a wee bit ‘o Irish in their genetic makeup. Around one in 10 Americans claim to have roots from this colorful country.
There’s no denying that the United States is a melting pot of cultures, made so by a rich history of immigrants from all over the world. Among the most vocal about their ancestry, however, are the Irish Americans. In fact, even those who don’t have a drop of Irish blood celebrate the culture at least one day every year, on St. Patrick’s Day.
However, Ireland is about far more than one gimmicky holiday, especially in certain towns where higher concentrations of the nation’s 31.5 million Irish-Americans call home. Here are some of the most Irish towns in America where those of Irish descent celebrate extra loud and proud on a regular basis.
The westernmost city on our list by a long shot, Eugene, Oregon’s population is 12.90 percent Irish. Eugene Recreation runs ceili (Irish folk-dancing) classes, for those who want to channel the Lord of the Dance in real life. McMenamins Pub pours a mean Irish stout to wash down the traditional fare, but The Pint Pot is known as the place to see and be seen on St. Patrick’s Day.
The picturesque city of Portland, Maine was undoubtedly too lovely for many Irish to leave after they made the trek across the pond, which is why its population is 20.49 percent Irish. The local hub of all things Irish is the Maine Irish Heritage Center, which puts on all sorts of parades, festivals, performances and other programming designed to celebrate the culture.
The organization even offers genealogy services! The Irish American Club found in Portland is another group that holds parties, hosts speakers and even provides cultural grants to deserving candidates.
13.52 percent of Somerville, Massachusetts residents claim Irish lineage, which is appropriately reflected in the local entertainment scene. making it one of the most fun Irish towns in America featured on our list. Beloved pub R.F. O’Sullivan & Son has been serving up pints for decades, and people regularly flock to The Burren for food, drinks and to catch an authentic Irish band, or two.
Just outside the metropolis of Boston, Somerville is one prong of the area’s Irish cultural scene. There’s even an annual Irish Film Festival in the town, which presents feature films, short films and documentaries made in Ireland.
There’s no shortage of events to enjoy in and around Canton related to Irish culture. This is a great thing for those 13.96 of residents who have Irish ancestry, as well as those who just really appreciate their green beer.
Those who want to party can partake in a pub crawl, or enjoy a totally different event (complete with bagpipes) at another local establishment. There’s also a 5K at the local high school and a gold coin hunt at the Troll Holl Museum.
The central Illinois city of Bloomington has just over 78,000 residents, 17.55 percent of whom extra-appreciate their Irish roots. The area was turned into the bustling community it is today in part thanks to Irish immigrants who built the railroad and established some of the first farms back in the 1800s.
Today, residents and visitors alike enjoy exhibits put on by the McLean County Museum of History, located in Bloomington, as well as events like the Sharin’ of the Green Parade. There are also plenty of breweries around that serve up traditional Irish beverages.
Smack on the banks of, you guessed it, Lake Erie, this Pennsylvania town is home to nearly 96,000 people, 13 percent of whom celebrate their Irish heritage. For most years (pandemic notwithstanding), the Erie Irish Festival has provided the local Irish community with an opportunity to revel in their Irishness, while also giving back to the local community: Proceeds help St. Patrick’s Church operate, as well as the homeless shelter and food pantry.
The coastal Massachusetts city of Quincy has a population of just over 100,000 residents, and more than 23 percent of them are a little (or a lot) Irish. Part of what’s known as the “Irish Riviera,” Quincy is stacked with Irish-specific businesses, like performance schools, Catholic schools, bars, bakeries and many more. The region, like many of the other areas on our list, owes its Irish heritage sadly to the terrible potato famine that forced many out of their home country.
13.86 percent of Ames, Iowa residents consider themselves to be of Irish descent. Locals can take classes to learn Irish dance, and those who really excel may win a spot on the performance team.
There are also Celtic musicians all around town who perform at local events, perhaps even on the patio of an Ames pub, such as the Dublin Bay Irish Pub & Grill. On the menu, there are plenty of Irish eats, including the corned beef reuben, corned beef and cabbage, lamb stew and shepherd’s pie, among others.
Irish culture is alive and well in the New York city of Albany, where 16.42 percent of residents claim some ancestry from the Land of Saints and Scholars. The Irish American Heritage Museum is the cultural heartbeat of the area, and through its exhibits and programming, it documents the centuries of Irish descendants in the area. The non-profit also puts on a spate of events, including an Irish baking competition, a Sweat-er Run, concerts, heritage talks and more.
Topping the list of our most Irish towns in America, more than one-quarter (25 percent) of Warwick, Rhode Island’s population of 83,000 people consider themselves to be Irish to some extent. The city also has an average of 7.41 Irish businesses per 100,000 people.
Among those are O’Rourke’s Bar & Grill, The Cork and Rye Gastropub and McKinley’s Pub, all of which serve food and drink fit for any true Irishman or woman. There’s even a local Irish dance studio to learn the traditional footwork! Then, of course, there’s a St. Patrick’s Day parade held every year for more than six decades.
This list is not a load of blarney
To be Irish is to be proud in any of these culturally significant American towns and cities. Still, even if you don’t hail from the Emerald Isle you’ll no doubt be welcome to clink a glass and sing a “sean nos” (traditional Irish song), or two.
To find the most Irish towns and cities in America, we looked at all cities with at least 50,000 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates and at least one Irish-related business establishment (goods, pubs and restaurants) from a list of commercially licensed business listings.
We then looked at the percentage of residents claiming Irish ancestry according to U.S. Census Bureau surveys and the number of Irish-related businesses per capita and ranked each city for both metrics.
Scores were equally weighted and averaged together. We determined the cities with the best overall final score as the most Irish cities in America.