St. Paddy's Day events, from the cultural to the convivial (including the big parade this weekend)
IRISH Public service announcement: you do not need to get drunk on St. Patrick's Day. This year there are a gamut of cultural activities that will teach you more about paddie heritage than finding the bottom of yet another Irish car bomb. But drink yourself green if you must — in this country, an argument could be made that the day has become a celebration of alcoholic pride more than anything. Just please, for the love of corned beef and cabbage — try to limit your use of novelty T-shirts.
The big potato kicks off St. Paddy's season this year and will honor upstanding Irish folks from around the city.
Sat/12. Parade: 11:30 a.m., free. Starts at Market and Second; Festival: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., free. Civic Center Plaza, SF. 1-800-310-6563, www.sresproductions.com 
Stage a preemptive strike against all the Guinness you'll be drinking at this affordable fitness boot camp.
Sat/12 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m., $10. Third Street Boxing Gym, 2576 Third St., SF. (415) 550-8269, www.thirdstreetgym.com 
Snack on Irish bites and booze while perusing the Historical Society's stockpile of Irish American ephemera — photos, pamphlets, and more from the Golden State's green past.
Wed/16 5:30–7:30 p.m., $4 suggested donation, free to members. RSVP recommended. The California Historical Society, 678 Mission, SF. (415) 357-1848, www.californiahistoricalsociety.com 
The leprechaun rager returns for its 11th year in action, featuring the Undead Boys, Street Justice, Crosstops, Ruleta Rusa, and Face the Rail.
Weds/16 8 p.m., $8. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-7788, www.elbo.com 
The Guardian staff's fave cafe around the corner celebrates multiple decades of well-roasted independent business awesomeness with live bagpipers in the daytime and a concert in the evening.
Thurs/17 bagpipes 9 a.m.–1 p.m.; concert 8 p.m., free. Farley's, 1315 18th St., SF. (415) 648-1545, www.farleyscoffee.com 
Between this and the Royal Exchange block party (see below) you'll be well — if not over — served on "Kiss Me I'm Irish" tees, green face paint, and Bailey'swhiskeycarbombGuinness blackout glory. Pad your stomach before you get too deep in the drinkin' with O'Reilly's classic Irish brunch foods.
Thurs/17 Serving brunch 9 a.m.–1:30 p.m.; black party 3 p.m., free. O'Reilly's, 622 Green, SF. (415) 989-6222, www.sforeillys.com 
Make potato prints, drink green punch, and decorate your own pair of shamrock glasses with your little leprechaun at the family learning museum.
Thurs/17 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., $9 museum admission. Habitot Children's Museum, 2065 Kittredge, Berk. (510) 647-1111, www.habitot.org 
Traditional fixin's abound on this Sunset pub's special Irish menu — corned beef and a little Irish stew to go with your Jameson?
Serving from 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Parkside Tavern, 1940 Taravel, SF. (415) 731-8900, www.parksidetavernsf.com 
Wonderbread 5 provides rockin' live tunes during happy hour, and pub Royal Exchange keeps the suds a flowin' at this al fresco rager in FiDi.
Thurs/17 3 p.m.–2 a.m., free. Front between Sacramento and California, SF. www.royalexchange.com 
DJ Nako puts the spin on St. Patrick's, and the swanky science museum plies you with green-themed activities at the shamrock edition of its bangin' night at the museum's weekly event.
Thurs/17 8–10 p.m., $12. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse, SF. 1-888-670-4433, www.calacademy.org 
Can you hold your finger cymbals and Guinness stein in the same hand? Try. This multicultural Celtic bhangra group always brings the jams — its St. Paddy's Day gig in clubland is sure to be the most high energy dance party this side of Riverdance.
Thurs/17 9 p.m., $15. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 625-8880, www.mezzaninesf.com 
Didn't get enough of the folk rock Hounds at the March 12 Civic Center Plaza festival? Check out the SF group's headlining gig ensconced in the wooden glory of the Great American Music Hall. Renée de la Prada's dulcet voice soars over the accordions and violins of her band.
Thurs/17 7:30 p.m., $20. Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750, www.gamh.com 
Celebrate the Irish infiltration into every corner of the globe with the hip-hop-cumbia-reggaetón punch of La Gente, which headlines this diverse lineup, otherwise composed of female singer-songwriters bringing it in the keys of punk, rock, and pop.
Thurs/17 9 p.m., $10. Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com