Back in the mid-1800s, Americans were less than thrilled about the “Irish invasion," which they believed threatened to bring disease, crime and job insecurity stateside.
No matter that Ireland was in the midst of a severe famine, which caused them to seek refuge from the homeland they otherwise loved — people were ticked off about these newcomers, and they were thought of as third-class citizens.
As half-Irish fictional heroine Scarlett O'Hara would say, fiddle-dee-dee to that!
Fortunately, the tide has a-turned on the American opinion of the Irish, and we've learned to embrace the culture with great enthusiasm. In 1991, the month of March was declared Irish-American Heritage Month, and it's packed with celebrations, parades and awareness efforts around the country to recognize the 32 million Americans who also claimed Irish ancestry in the 2018 Census.
In particular, St. Patrick's Day has become a beloved national tradition, during which people don green and run around pinching anyone who forgets to do so. At its core, St. Patrick's Day is a celebration of its namesake saint, but it's definitely made all the more jovial by green beer and Irish coffee galore.
If it seems like St. Patty's Day all year round in these cities that's probably because of their impressively high Irish population percentage. Check out this list of the 10 most Irish cities in the U.S.
Toledo is home to about 275,000 people, 11.6 percent of which consider themselves of Irish ancestry. It's fair to say that Toledo was built on the backs of many Irish, who literally dug the canals and laid the railroads upon which the city owes its prosperity.
Located in northwest Ohio just along the banks of Lake Erie, Toledo's modern Irish roots are strong, with a handful of authentic pubs at which to pull a pint. Those who really want to keep the spirit alive can join the Toledo Irish American Club, which celebrates everything Irish, including sports, music, dance and literature. Even non-Irish are welcome to join in the fun!
Irish eyes are loving the average rent prices in Toledo, which are about $780 for a one-bedroom apartment.
About an hour's drive west of Milwaukee is Madison, another hotbed of Irish-American enthusiasm. With about 260,000 residents, 11.7 percent of Madison locals consider themselves Irish to a significant degree.
Anyone nostalgic for the Old Country need only behold Erin's Snug Irish Pub, the exterior of which looks straight out of Dublin and features everything an Irishman could want on the inside, including traditional breakfast, authentic ales and even a suit of armor.
Not too far away is the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center in Milwaukee, which is a meeting ground for local Irish organizations. It even has an Irish genealogy library on site! Locally, the Celtic Cultural Center of Madison (Irish are a subset of Celtic descent), is an up-and-coming organization that hosts relevant film festivals, lectures, performances and Irish language classes. Even though it gets cold enough to skin a cat (as the Irish would say) in Madison, there's always plenty to do, culturally-speaking.
A one-bedroom apartment in Madison will cost you about $1,200 a month.
It's easy to see why the capital city of Nebraska would attract an Irishman or two because outside the metropolitan areas are impressive expanses of untouched land. Some 11.8 percent of Lincoln's population of nearly 290,000 consider themselves Irish in some regard, and if there's anything we know about traditional Irish it's that they value land and everything it represents! Although outdoorsy types certainly appreciate the insane amount of parkland and agricultural industry that Lincoln has to offer, the modern Irish also appreciate the area's booming tech sector.
Those aching for a shot of whiskey or a pint of hand-crafted beer can stop by any of the oh-so-appropriately-named Irish pubs, including Duffy's Tavern and O'Rourkes Tavern (doesn't get a whole lot more Irish than that, right?) Or, take in a performance by the Lincoln Irish Dancers — or even sign up for lessons yourself!
You can get a one-bedroom apartment in Lincoln for about $950 a month on average.
The only hard thing about being an Irish American in Lexington is figuring out what to do first to embrace the proverbial roots. Lexington, which is situated in central Kentucky, is a booming city of nearly 325,000, 11.8 percent of them Irish.
Lexington is unlike some of the other cities on our list because many Irish settled in the area before the Potato Famine. As a result, the cultural influence began earlier and is undeniable, particularly related to the area's beloved bluegrass music.
The city hosts a number of Celtic and/or Irish festivals, including the Rose of Tralee International Festival and the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival. It's perhaps the day-to-day Irish activities that make this area extra-special, including dance performances and classes, as well as live music by musicians like Robert Tincher and Liam's Fancy.
Those with a hankering for traditional goods always make a point to stop by Fáilte, an Irish import shop that stocks beloved Irish and Scottish items, including food, clothing and Celtic jewelry.
Your average one-bedroom apartment in Lexington will run about $960 a month.
Nearly 13 percent of Boise's population is Irish, or about 30,000 people total. The most populous city in Idaho, Boise's Irish roots go back to the very beginning before Idaho was even a state. A handful of Irish immigrants made their way out west and set up shop.
Among those, an Irish miner by the name of John Andrew O'Farrell eventually became known as one of the most prominent figures in Boise, thanks to his land and mine holdings. He also encouraged the establishment of irrigation via the Snake River. More and more Irish Catholics followed, and eventually, the area became known as a hub of Irish fortune.
Today, Boise's Irish community features not one, but two Irish dance troupes (Irish Dance Idaho and Killarney Irish Dance Company). The Idaho Bluegrass Association offers weekly jam sessions for musicians of all levels, and there are more than enough Irish pubs to whet even the thirstiest whistle in Boise.
You can find a one-bedroom apartment in Boise for about $1,240 a month on average.
The Irish community of Boston is more than 95,000 strong, at 13.7 percent of the total population. The area's booming Irish community is likely due to the painful circumstances of immigration, as many poor Irish fleeing the famine simply couldn't afford to go any farther west. It took a long time for locals to accept the Irish, and they were persecuted for their accents, heritage and religious choices.
Today, Boston is one of the most Irish-American-friendly communities in the country. People looking to remember ancestors lost during the potato famine can stop by the Irish Famine Memorial on School Street. There's also the Thomas Cass statue in Boston Public Garden, which commemorates the service of the Irish-born colonel who was a major figure during the U.S. Civil War. Those looking to go really off the beaten path can visit the Rest Haven cemetery on Deer Island, where more than 800 Irish immigrants, who died while in quarantine, are buried in a mass grave.
But Boston isn't all doom and gloom and memorials. The city boasts its own monthly Irish newspaper, Boston Irish, and hosts a ton of festivals, including the annual Irish Film Festival, Celtic Music Festival and Bualadh Boston, an Irish literary festival. In summary, Boston is the ideal spot for Irish-Americans looking for both somber reflection and a rollicking good time.
Boston is the most expensive city on our top 10 list. A one-bedroom apartment here goes for an average of $3,735 a month.
The city of Omaha owes quite a debt to the Irish-Americans who helped settle and turn the prosperous city into what it is today. Nearly 65,000 people, or 13.8 percent of the general population, claim Irish ancestry in Omaha, not such a big surprise considering that Irish immigrants helped build the railroad that literally put the city on the map.
The love of the Irish is anything but forgotten in Omaha, which in 2013, saw the establishment of the Omaha Irish Cultural Center, which plans to eventually open a permanent location to host Irish cultural classes in music, dance and language. They also hope to expand to put on festivals, literary readings and other events for Irish enthusiasts. In the meantime, stop by Donohue's Irish Pub for a pint, but also to take in the mural by the South Omaha Mural Project on the building depicting Irish heritage.
Just like it's neighbor down I-80, average rent prices in Omaha are about $950 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
About a half-hour's drive east of Phoenix, the city of Scottsdale is home to about 35,000 (13.8 percent of the population) Irish-Americans. Such close proximity to the capital city makes it extra easy for Scottsdale's Irish population to embrace their roots of yesteryear, as Phoenix is home to the Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library, where visitors can do a full-on genealogy search, enjoy art exhibitions or even take classes via the Academy of Irish and Celtic Studies.
There's no shortage of Irish pubs at which to while away a meal and a drink. Of those, Skeptical Chymist gets its unusual moniker from a book penned by Irish-born author Robert Boyle in the 1600s. Back in those days, pharmacies and grocery stores also functioned as pubs, so in keeping with tradition, this pub also offers traditional Irish apothecary items for purchase.
That perfect climate will cost you. Average rent prices here are more than $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment.
The eastern Washington city of Spokane almost made the top spot on our list with 14.1 percent Irish (nearly 31,000 people). Unlike the Irish ghettos of Boston and other east coast metropolises, the Pacific Northwest, when settled in the mid-1800s by Irish newcomers, was delightfully unbiased. The settlers took advantage of the land and opportunities and many earned wealth, or at least a solidly comfortable lifestyle.
Irish eyes are still smiling on Spokane today, as the city is a mecca for all things Ireland-related. The Sister Cities Association of Spokane has a partnership with Limerick, Ireland, to encourage the appreciation of Irish and American cultures between the two cities. In addition, the area often plays host to Irish musical and theater performances.
Settle in Spokane for an average of about $1,200 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Pittsburgh is proud to be the most Irish city in America, with nearly 43,000 Irish at 14.2 percent of the total population. This pride rings out loud and clear by way of multiple days-long festivals celebrating the Irish traditions of the area. The city is not only home to a massive St. Patrick's Day festival but also hosts the “Halfway to St. Patrick's Day Festival" in September every year.
Organized by the non-profit group Pittsburgh Irish Festival, these events are where the very biggest and best Irish cultural influencers come together to entertain the masses. More than 25,000 people come together to take part in music, dance, food and libations. The cultural area also features authentic weavers, lace makers, storytellers, harp/whistle demonstrations, historians and more. The rest of the year, the organization puts on a spate of cultural and educational programs to help people truly appreciate Irish culture.
Your average one-bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh will cost you about $1,625 a month.
These cities may be smaller, but they're definitely mighty in their love of all things Irish. Check out this list of the top 25 most Irish-populated small cities in the U.S.
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To determine our list of the most Irish cities in America, we looked at a 2018 American Community Survey of people reporting ancestry from the U.S. Census Bureau to determine the percentage of residents who claim to have Irish ancestry in the 100 most populated cities in the country.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory from March 2019 to March 2020. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.