Pub crawls are an increasingly popular way of learning Dublin's history while tipping back a few pints. (Photo courtesy Diana Gialo)
In the midst of a recession and with St. Patrick’s Day looming, Dublin is hoping for tourists now more than ever.
“The recession is having a huge effect on Dublin,” said Catherine McCluskey, marketing executive at Fáilte Ireland (meaning “Ireland’s Welcome”). “Tourism is now one of the main contributors to the economy.”
Fáilte Ireland reports Dublin had more than 3.4 million tourists from overseas in 2010 — down from 3.8 million in 2009.
“The recession made it slow for everyone,” said Tom Kelley, co-owner of The Dublin City Pub Crawl. “But we are getting busier in 2012.” Last year, Dublin City Pub Crawl averaged between 15 and 20 crawlers per night; this year it averages between 18 and 25 people.
“We’ve certainly seen a big increase in numbers over the last few months compared to the same time last year,” said Ray Commins, manager and co-owner of Dublin’s Hostels Pub Crawl. “This year so far is looking very healthy.”
Whether joining for the booze or the banter, Dublin’s best pub crawls prove that follow-the-leader trumps a map, especially when a few pints are involved.
The Dublin City Pub Crawl appeals to any age from the lone female backpacker to the middle-aged husband and wife. For €12, crawlers get a pint, snacks, drink specials and great guides to boot. Tour guides like James Smith recount the history of each new pub and teach customers how to pull their own pint at the iconic O’Neill’s Bar and Restaurant. “On our tour, you get to learn about the Irish people,” Smith said. “You meet locals who grew up here — like myself — and we know all the little knickknacks about the area; things you wouldn’t know if you were reading out of a book.”
If Dublin City Pub Crawl attracts all ages, Hostels Pub Crawl has a clearly defined demographic: young people. Hostels Pub Crawl is geared toward backpackers, but keeping up with this crowd takes a drinking rigor that is mainly possessed by students, and this group certainly isn’t subtle. “Our pub crawl is for anyone really — generally people who are young at heart and up for a good laugh,” Commins said. For €12, it includes a half pint of Guinness, free shots and beer pong at one of the pubs. If you’re looking for a party you won’t forget, I suggest you skip the free shots.
"The Literary Pub Crawl has a more broad-based audience,” said Paddy Curran, owner of VisitIrelandTravel.com. “I would recommend it to anyone." This crawl takes the likes of Oscar Wilde and James Joyce to heart. It’s guided by two actors who stop along the way to re-enact excerpts written by Ireland’s literary greats. Before entering each of the four historic pubs, there is a 20-minute skit that takes place around the city at landmarks such as Trinity College and St. Andrew’s Church. The crawl is €12 (are you noticing a theme?) but does not include drink specials.
The Musical Pub Crawl is operated by Discover Dublin, a tour and events company, and is led by two professional musicians who play indigenous Irish instruments. “It’s more of a moving concert than a pub crawl,” said Mark French, musician and owner of Discover Dublin. The musicians lead the way for around 50 eager crawlers each night. The cost -- €12, of course -- and includes visits to three privately-booked bars. “We get any age group; families as well because they feel more comfortable knowing the bar is privately booked for the tour,” he said.
Pub crawls are still off-season, operating Thursday through Sunday through March. In April, the crawls will run every night.
“The advantage of a pub crawl is there’s a group of like-minded people that you would otherwise not meet,” said Patrick Cassidy, tour guide for Dublin City Pub Crawl. “It’s a wonderful opportunity when visiting a new place.”
With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, TODAY's Sara Haines works a shift at a traditional Irish pub in New York City.
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