Ten thousand elite athletes compete in Boston's Head of the Charles Regatta, the world's biggest 2-day rowing (sometimes called "sculling" or just "crew").
Held on the 3rd weekend in October when fall foliage colors begin to peak along the Charles River where the races take place, the Head of the Charles Regatta attracts top rowers from Boston and around the world.
If you are coming to watch, you'll be part of a massive crowd of up to 300,000 spectators lining both sides of the river plus nearby bridges.
This year marks the epic event's 50th anniversary.
Women's crew team competing in Head of the Charles Regatta
With more than 55 exciting events involving almost 2,000 boats over the 2-day period, there's plenty to watch. If you know someone who's racing, as we did when our friends' son competed on the MIT crew team, the regatta is super-exciting.
Otherwise, it's simply a perfect excuse to be outside enjoying the October weather. The 3-mile race starts at Boston University's DeWolfe Boathouse near the the BU bridge and finishes just past the Eliot Bridge by the Artesani Playground in Brighton.
Three members of the Cambridge Boat Club started the Head of the Charles Regatta back in 1965, and the race has grown ever since. Members of racing clubs, college crew teams, and even high school teams converge to compete to be the best in their class.
A "head," in England, is a type of regatta, or boat race, in which boats depart at 15-second intervals on a 3-mile race. The winner of each race is called the "head" - or, in these races, the "Head of the Charles."
Race events start at roughly 15 second intervals - so it's an action-packed day with record-breaking numbers of sculls filling the river. At just about any time, you can see numerous boats on the water.
In addition to the races, the event features displays by boat builders, a rowing and fitness expo, other sponsors, and, of course, food. Reunion Village, an area filled with tents set up by participants and sponsors, provides a lively social and networking scene.
In addition, many of the university and private boat houses along the river host open houses, which can be a lot of fun to visit, especially since many of the sponsors offer free giveaways.
Seven bridges span the river along the 3-mile race course, and you'll find excellent views from all of them.
Many fans like the Eliot Bridge because the bend in the river at this point means you'll see the rowers display their skills as they navigate a hairpin turn right before they pass under the bridge.
By contrast, the BU Bridge oversees a calm stretch of smooth rowing - but spectators get more elbow room.
Spectators watching Head of the Charles Regatta from the BU Bridge
Keep in mind that October weather in Boston can be tricky. During recent years, regattas have experienced everything from spectacular sunshine and blue skies to drenching downpours to heavy fog. We even had a freak snowstorm a few years ago.
When the weather is good, bring your camera because you'll see exciting action to photograph on the river, plus plenty of gorgeous fall foliage. When the weather is bad . . . well, personally I find alternate indoor activities unless someone I know is racing, but committed fans will bring their umbrellas and windbreakers, and enjoy the races just the same.
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Boston in October
Fall Foliage Viewing
Fall Foliage Tours
More to Do in Boston this Month
Columbus Day Events
Columbus Day Parade
Ringling Bros Circus
Halloween in Boston
Halloween in Salem
Head of the Charles Regatta