New York City’s streets are about to run green as the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade descends on midtown Manhattan. This Tuesday, March 17 – the date marking the death of Ireland’s most renowned patron saint, Saint Patrick – revelers can catch all the bagpipe players, dancers and bands as they march up Fifth Avenue. Here’s everything you need to know about the parade, including route, start time and best viewing spots.

The centuries-old tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of New York’s favorite events. In recent years, it has drawn around 2 million spectators who flood the streets dressed in green. The parade is truly meant for marchers – since the first procession was held in lower Manhattan in 1762, floats and automobiles have never been allowed. The largest New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in history was in 2002; it honored the fallen rescue workers of 9/11.

The parade hasn’t been without controversy. For years, gay rights groups have clashed with parade organizers over not allowing gay organizations to march. Last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio chose not to participate in the parade, citing the exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

This year, organizers have allowed one gay group to participate, but gay rights advocates said the move wasn’t enough. "As an Irish-Catholic American, I look forward to a fully inclusive St. Patrick's Day Parade that I can share with my wife and children, just as my own parents shared with me," Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the gay rights group GLAAD, told the Associated Press in September. 

nyc-parade-1 People stand along Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York, March 17, 2014. Photo: Reuters

New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Route Map

The parade begins at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue near Bryant Park and will head north, passing the towering St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th Street. It ends at 80th Street in front of the American Irish Historical Society.

The parade starting line can be reached by taking the 4/5/6 trains to Grand Central, or the B/D/F/M trains to 42nd Street-Bryant Park. The N/Q/R 42nd Street-Times Square stop also is close to where the parade begins. 

parade-2 Participants march along Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, March 17, 2007. Photo: Reuters

New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Start Time

The parade kicks off around 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 17. It ends around 4:30. 

parade-3 Nuns wave Irish flags outside St. Patrick's Cathedral during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, March 17, 2014. Photo: Reuters

New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Best Viewing Spots

The best spots to catch the parade are toward the end of the parade route, above 66th Street, according to NYC Trip. That’s where the midtown shopping and office crowds end. Head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and snag a spot on the top entrance steps – you’ll have the perfect bird’s-eye view.

The grandstands, which are only available to ticket holders, are situated between 62nd and 64th streets. Avoid trying to stand in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral as it tends to be the most densely packed area along the route, according to New York City travel expert Heather Cross.