With St Patrick's Day just around the corner, Northern Ireland has a packed programme of festivities lined up to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.

From street carnivals to open air concerts and even wakeboarding leprechauns there is something for everyone during this year’s celebrations and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is encouraging people to make the most of the holiday and explore what’s on offer.

“Every county in Northern Ireland will be putting on celebrationsfor St Patrick’s Day and will include a whole host of free activities and days out that the entire family can enjoy,” said NITB’s Market Manager (ROI) Fiona Cunningham.

“Northern Ireland will come alive with celebrations, parades, concerts, traditional music and great fun guaranteed no matter which county you visit. The focus is, as always, on family friendly, inclusive events and there really is something for everyone this St Patrick’s Day weekend” she added.

To help get the celebrations underway NITB has put together a guide to St Patrick’s Day events across Northern Ireland:

Belfast will host many events from March 15 – 18 as part of the St Patrick’s Festival including the annual St Patrick’s Day Carnival which will take to the streets on March 17. Community groups from all areas of the city will join professional and amateur performers, musicians and acrobats. The spectacle will finish with a free concert in Custom House Square where visitors can enjoy traditional Irish, Ulster Scots, pop and multicultural music and dance.

Féile an Earraigh is Belfast's leading traditional music festival taking place in the run up to St Patrick's Day in the city every year. The 10th Féile an Earraigh will run from March 11 – March 17 in various venues throughout the Falls area of the city and the City Centre. With a mixture of gigs, dramas, exhibitions and discussions, Féile an Earraigh marks the beginning of Spring with something for everyone. For the first time in 35 years Van Morrison plays in Belfast on St Patrick's weekend too. The intimate gigs, restricted to 250 tickets per show, take place in the Exhibition Centre at the Europa Hotel on March 16 – 17 and each event includes a two course supper prior to the show.

County Antrim
Slemish Mountain is a traditional place of pilgrimage and the annual St Patrick’s Day Walk will be taking place on March 17. Visitors can learn about St Patrick and his historical legacy as well as the history, wildlife and geology of Slemish followed by traditional fayre and afternoon entertainment in the Ecos Centre, Ballymena.

County Armagh
Where better to celebrate Saint Patrick than his chosen city of Armagh? The Saint Patrick’s Festival in Armagh is jam-packed with traditional music sessions, busking, concerts and family entertainment across ten days from March 8 – March 18, making it one of the longest festivals in Ireland.

Join international singing sensation ‘The Priests’ at the spectacular setting of Saint Patricks Catholic Cathedral for an evening of classical music on Friday 8th March, enjoy live music at the City’s busking festival on Saturday 16th March and make sure you don’t miss the main event on March 17 which takes the form of a carnival parade, where marching bands, colourful floats, dance performances and music will fill the streets.

County Derry
With Free entry for anyone who can prove they are called Patrick, Shamrock Shenanigans at Springhill House, Magherafelt, is the perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Discover the shamrock trial around the grounds, enjoy craft activities for the children as well as traditional food, music and more.

The 2013 UK City of Culture St Patrick’s Day Spring Carnival in Derry~Londonderry, will be a celebration of language, history, culture and tradition with a family friendly focus. With carnival parades, concerts, dancing, storytelling and colourful characters the event is the perfect way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with the family.

County Down
St Patrick’s Celebrations, Downpatrick, boasts a seven day programme of events from March 11 - 18 which includes the spectacular St Patrick's Day Cross-Community Carnival Parade which attracts over 30,000 spectators as it makes its way through the streets of Downpatrick on the big day itself, March 17. With over 50 events to choose from and a wealth of FREE entertainment on offer, Downpatrick's St Patrick’s Celebrations has something for everyone including a range of concerts, exhibitions, sporting and family events.

Down County Museum in Downpatrick is also inviting people to join them for a day of family entertainment with Irish dancing, traditional and folk music, storytelling and circus style entertainment including clowns, acrobats and jugglers on March 17. The Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, is a must for anyone interested in the story of St. Patrick. The state-of-the-art centre is an exciting interpretative exhibition which tells the fascinating story of Ireland’s Patron Saint. Enjoy a truly traditional St Patrick’s Day with a unique festival of music, crafts, food, dance and song at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in Cultra on March 17.

The cross community St Patrick’s Day Festival parade has become a focal point on Newry & Mourne’s calendar of events. Live music, street theatre, comedy, and street performances of Irish Dancing will provide an exciting carnival atmosphere not to be missed, which promises to be a fun-packed day for all the family.

County Fermanagh
The St Patrick’s Day Parade in Enniskillen will see marching bands and floats parading through Enniskillen town on March 17 with a range of activities also taking place throughout the day, including the return of the popular wakeboarding leprechauns as well as RNLI displays and hovercraft, jet skiing and jet pack action on the water. St Patrick himself will arrive and there will be face-painting, balloon modelling and other inflatable fun for the kids. ‘Snakes’ is the theme this year and all participants must incorporate this into their floats or display on the day. A Guinness World Record will also be attempted at this spectacular family fun day as the people of Enniskillen attempt to have the world's largest snake on parade through the town.

Or why not celebrate with a St Patrick’s Family Day at Castle Barracks, Enniskillen - a celebration of the local history and culture with archaeological digs, siege machines, medieval food demonstrations, quill writing, bouncy castles and other activities.

County Tyrone
Shamrocks and Shillelaghs at The Argory, Dungannon, offers a fine way to celebrate St.Patricks Day in Tyrone. Children will love the Shillelagh trail and craft activities and adults can enjoy the traditional music and Irish food - a fantastic day of fun for all the family.

The Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh will be celebrating the tradition of The Emigrants Farewell on from March 17 - 19. For many, the hours before departing Ireland for America during the 1700s and 1800s become known as the American or Living Wake and these scenes will be re-enacted with music, song and dance.

Visitors celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Northern Ireland can take advantage of the exclusive accommodation offers available from the Tourist Information Centre which include a 2 night break including breakfast and one evening meal from only £75pps in Days Hotel, Belfast; £89pps in the Dunadry Hotel, Co Antrim and in the Armagh City Hotel, Co Armagh; £79pps in Ramada Da Vinci’s, Co. Derry, £98pps in the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel, Co Down; £79pps (midweek) in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh and £79pps the Valley Hotel, Co. Tyrone.

To find out more about Northern Ireland’s events and festivals or for further information on places to stay or things to see and do in Northern Ireland, check out the free booking and advice service and callsave 1850 230 230, visit NITB’s Tourist Information Centre in Suffolk Street Dublin 2 or click on www.discovernorthernireland.com.

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