The 2014 Head of the Charles Regatta, celebrating its 50th year, will be held on the weekend of October 18-19. Races run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. And it’s free to watch. Here’s a guide to planning your weekend and getting there.
Head of the Charles Regatta
October 18- 19, 2014
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Every October, the banks of the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge swell with excitement over 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 11,000 athletes from around the world (more than the Winter Olympics) and more than 400,000 spectators, competitors participate in 61 races against the clock and each other. The historic 2014 Regatta is set to feature its strongest and most diverse rowing field in event history. Local, international, and Olympic rowing legends are expected to compete, as well as teams from nations that have never before participated in the Head of the Charles. The three-mile race starts at the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse in Boston and ends at the Artesani Park in Brighton, providing plenty of viewing spots and festival atmosphere.
Check: The Regatta Schedule
When to go
The 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.
How to get there
Avoid driving at all costs. Roads around Cambridge and Boston are congested enough without a few hundred thousand people descending on the area for weekend. There are also road closures to contend with along Memorial Drive from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. With that said, there are three MBTA stations that are just a short walk away from the course; Central and Harvard on the Red Line and BU Central on the Green Line. The Regatta also offers free shuttle service from certain points on the course. The GPS address for drivers is 1225 Soldiers Field Road, Brighton, MA 02135, but you can watch from just about anywhere along the banks of the Charles River.
Where to watch
While 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). The Village is located on the Boston side of the Charles River between the Weeks and Anderson Bridges. All are welcome at the Village for a one-day fee of $10 or a weekend fee of $15. Admission for children under 12 is free.
The Eliot Bridge Enclosure is $90 for a single day or $150 for the weekend. Patrons of this private-access hospitality tent will enjoy beer, soda, fine wine and a unique dining experience. The Enclosure is located upstream from the Eliot Bridge, and sits at the water’s edge. It is only a short walk from both the Rowing and Fitness Expo and the Finish Area Launch Site. Tickets include open access to the tent, morning breakfast items and coffee, and a buffet lunch with two gratis drink tickets. Ticket purchasers must be 21 years of age or older. You may purchase tickets for your guests or accompanying children (no ticket required for those children under 10 years of age). All children must remain in the company of an adult while at the EBE.
Fans will also be able to visit the Head of the Charles Regatta 50th History Exhibit to see historical artifacts, photos, and other HOCR memorabilia from past Regattas. The History Exhibit will be located upstream of the Eliot Bridge, near Hospitality Row.
Rowing and Fitness Expo
Date: Oct. 18 to Oct. 19
Hours: Opens for business Friday, October 17, 8 a.m. and runs through whole Regatta
The Rowing and Fitness Expo is comprised of more than 70 vendors, and is located in Christian Herter Park in Allston. Vendors are situated in and around the big-top tent, which is also the location of the Awards Ceremonies and the Heroic Rower Stage. Vendors offer rowing equipment, food, boat manufacturers and rowing apparel.
The Head of the Charles Regatta is made possible by more than 1,400 volunteers. These volunteers are divided among 30 committees who oversee everything from registration to river control. Committees include awards, cyclists, communications, hospitality, technology services and signage. View the entire list here to choose the committee that is the best fit for you. Volunteer registration is available online here.
Where to stay
If 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.
Paige Lewin & Kim Vareika contributed to this guide.
Paige 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.
Kim Vareika is the owner of Vareika Personal Training and Yoga in Plainville. She has been in the fitness industry for over ten years, and believes that wellness is about more than just physical health. When she is not teaching, practicing, or writing, she resides in Bridgewater where she enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her nephew Caesar. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.