In 2011, the Head of the Charles will be held on October 22-23. Races run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. No admission fee. Here’s a guide to planning your weekend and getting there. For detailed information like race schedules and maps, visit the Head of the Charles Regatta website.
Head of the Charles Regatta
October 22- 23, 2011
8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Every October, the banks of the Charles River from Boston to Watertown swell with excitement from the Head of the Charles Regatta. First held in 1965, the Head of the Charles is the world’s largest two-day rowing event. Drawing 8,000 athletes from around the world (more than the Winter Olympics) and over 300,000 spectators, competitors participate in 55 races against the clock and each other. The Three-mile race starts at the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse in Boston and ends at the Artesani Playground in Watertown, providing plenty of viewing spots and festival atmosphere.
When to goThe most prestigious races — including the Championship and Lightweight contests — occur at the end of each race day, but those times are also the most highly attended. Saturday morning is a great day to go with children, providing the festival atmosphere without all the crowds. But the best time to attend is when there is a team you can cheer on, so check here for the event schedule to better make your plans.
How to get there
If you can possibly avoid driving, do so. The streets of Cambridge and Boston are congested even before the hundreds of thousands of people descend for weekend. There are three MBTA stations along the course (with just a short walk to the banks of the Charles), including Central and Harvard on the Red Line and BU Central on the Green Line. The Regatta also offers free shuttle service throughout the course. There are also road closures: Memorial Drive from Cambridge Boat Club to Western Avenue (8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) and JFK Street to Eliot Street (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday).
Where to watchWhile you can find a spot anywhere along the Charles to get a view, there are a few choice places that you may want to consider as you plan your visit. Here are our faves:
- Watching from the bridges that cross the Charles — which include BU, River Street, Western Avenue, Weeks Footbridge, Larz Anderson and Eliot — provides a unique, close-up experience as the rowers pass underneath.
- Around the halfway mark, between the Weeks and Larz Anderson bridges, you’ll find the Weld Exhibition.
Regatta sponsors set up shop along the Charles, offering free samples, services and official Regatta merchandise for sale.
Reunion Village offers spots for alumni groups, schools and other friends of the Regatta to connect over food and drinks in a tented area (particularly helpful if there’s inclement weather). All are welcome at the Village for a daily fee of $3 or $5 for two people.
Where to stayIf coming in from out of town, there is no shortage of hotels close to the river. In addition to the Doubletree Suites in Boston and the Charles Hotel in the heart of Harvard Square, the Regatta website has a list of discounted area lodging. For a more hometown experience, consider renting an apartment from a local.
Paige Lewin is a Boston lifer who wanted desperately to row in college, but didn’t make the cut. Paige spends her days in academia, while at night retreats to her life as a mother, writing after the lights are out. She contributes to Boston Mamas and is the creator of Mudroom Boston. Paige lives North of Boston with her husband and two sons.