Great Craic at Gaelic Park Irish Festival in Oak Forest, Illinois

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If you can't make it to Ireland this year but really want (or in my case- need) that “taste” of Ireland, find an Irish Festival.  With a quick internet search I found festivals across the US- you're likely to find one near to you.

Gaelic Park Irish Festival, Oak Forest, Illinois

Irish Festivals in the Midwest kick off in a big way on Memorial Weekend in the area known as Chicago Southland.  The Gaelic Park Irish Festival is a 4 day event filled with live music, live theatre, Irish shoppes, dancing and a carnival.

Gaelic Park Irish Fest Grounds
Acres of Irish Fun!

Chicago's Gaelic Park covers acres of land.  The venue is used year round for cultural events, GAA sports, and as a banquet facility for weddings and other large festivities.  The huge, gravel, parking area is covered with tents Memorial Weekend. Four of the tents house stages of entertainment- from live music to storytelling and magic.  The other tents are filled with all manner of Irish wares- from tasty baked treats to artisans of all types, from authentic goods made in Ireland to fun, inexpensive items made of green plastic that light up.  There is something for everyone, no matter your budget.

Gaelic Storm Live at Gaelic Park Irish Fest
The two largest stages have the most popular live Irish music you'll find. Gaelic Storm live!

Inside the Gaelic Park building you'll also find a lot going on.You can join a ceili at the Tara Stage or enjoy live theatre at the Performing Arts Stage.  These indoor stages are a great way to escape the weather if it isn't cooperating!  Just behind the building is the sports field.  If you're lucky you may catch a hurling match, or Gaelic football.

My daughters especially loved the carnival at Gaelic Park Irish Fest.  And I loved that they could ride- and ride- and ride, without it costing extra.  Yep,unlimited carnival rides are included in festival admission!

Carnival Rides at Gaelic Park Irish Fest
Taking a turn on the swings!

Between the carnival and the Leprechaun Stage, with it's non-stop magicians, my girls were having the “best weekend ever”.

Fun Things to Do at Gaelic Park Irish Fest

  • Taste some Irish food.  Though the Carraig Pub is closed during the fest, you can still try some Irish food from vendors set up around the grounds.  (There are also a lot of non-Irish food vendors for those picky palates.)
  • Watch the Irish dancers at the Feis. A feis is most easily described as an Irish dance competition, and the feis at Gaelic Park draws hundreds of competitors from beginner to nearly professional.  You'll be amazed at how fast their feet can move!
  • Shop.  There are many talented artisans here.  We found beautiful knit caps, gorgeous stained glass and intricate metal work. 
  • Join a ceili.  Often you'll find an introduction to ceili dancing.  Give it a try.  And if you mis-step, just laugh and keep going!
  • Relax with tea.  The Tea House tent was one of the most relaxing places on the grounds.  Get a cuppa (or a pot) and a few slices of bread.  Sit, relax, and enjoy the live music from the next tent over.
  • Enjoy the music.  From acoustic, traditional to the louder, electric bands, every bit of music will have your toes tapping, your hands clapping and your energy up. 
  • Ride the rides.  Take a spin on the swings, crash the bumper cars and laugh.  Be a kid with your kids and just have fun!

Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Fest takes place every Memorial Weekend, Friday thru Monday.  Ireland with Kids would like to thank the Chicago Southland CVB for arranging our visit, providing complimentary tickets and hotel accommodations at the Best Western Plus Chicago Southland.

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