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Get ready for the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade

You don't have to be of Irish heritage to take part in the exciting festivities of St. Patrick's Day. In fact, most who celebrate have no Irish blood at all. All across the country on March 17, Americans don green attire and swig beer and whiskey to commemorate the occasion, but New York City takes the cake with its renowned St. Patrick's Day Parade. Travelers arrive in the Big Apple from all directions in New York car rentals or New Jersey car rentals to enjoy this rowdy bash, and you can too with the help of this handy guide:

About St. Patrick's Day

While most people think of the holiday as an occasion to throw back as many drinks as possible, St. Patrick's Day was actually born from religion. It's meant to celebrate the anniversary of the death of the beloved St. Patrick, the country's national apostle who, in the 5th century at the age of 16, was stolen away from his family in Great Britain and forces to work as a slave in Ireland. He later escaped the country and became a cleric before returning to the Emerald Isle years later to spread Christianity. Today, he goes down in history as the patron saint who delivered Christianity to Ireland.

Originally, when the holiday was established more than 1,000 years ago, the Irish would commemorate the day with a morning of church services followed by a feast of traditional Irish bacon and cabbage as well as drinking and dancing (it takes place during Lent, but the prohibition of meat was waived for this one day).

What to expect at the parade

The Big Apple has commemorated this holiday with the St. Patrick's Day Parade every year since 1762. More than 150,000 people gather on the streets at 11 a.m. to watch the dazzling spectacle. Many of the surrounding roads are closed off to traffic, so you may have to park your Newark International Airport car rental in a paid lot or garage and take a short walk to the parade route - just follow the crowds of people. It lasts about five hours, starting at 44th Street, running along Fifth Avenue and ending at 79th Street around 4 p.m., passing the historic St. Patrick's Cathedral along the way.

Some of the best spots for viewing are at the north end where the crowds are less dense as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can also grab a stool at one of the many Midtown bars and enjoy a refreshing drink as the parade goes by. However, if your party plans on drinking during this event, plan ahead - opt to stay sober and be the designated driver, or leave your New York City car rental at the hotel and utilize public transportation or taxi services.

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