Where to Watch the 2018 Head of the Charles Regatta

The Head of the Charles attracts thousands of spectators every year. Here's how to navigate the crowds.

Photo courtesy of the Head of the Charles Regatta

For over 50 years, the Head of the Charles Regatta has attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators to a three-mile stretch of the Charles River. They congregate to watch elite athletes complete for glory, with more than 10,000 rowers participating in 61 events throughout the weekend.

The annual Boston tradition, which will take place on October 20 and 21 this year, is the largest two-day regatta in the world. Those crowds lining the river can be daunting, so we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best places to watch the competition.

1. Boston University Bridge

There is no better place to watch the start of the race than the Boston University Bridge. The events begin on either side of the bridge near BU’s DeWolfe Boathouse, so spectators can peer right down at the athletes as they begin their journey. The BU Bridge also boasts the best views of the city from the path of the regatta, offering a stunning panorama of the river and the Boston skyline.

2. Magazine Beach Park

The race really starts to heat up at Magazine Beach Park, where rowers complete their first turn and begin what’s called the “Powerhouse Stretch,” a nearly mile-long straightaway toward the Harvard campus. The north end of the park is also home to the Riverside Boat Club, which acts as the launch site for the singles and doubles competitors. Spectators can witness the confusion as newly launched singles and doubles vie for a position with teams already in the heat of the race, all while enjoying the natural beauty of one of Cambridge’s finest green spaces.

3. Western Avenue Bridge

The Western Avenue Bridge is one of the lesser-known viewing spots on this list, but fans in the know will gather here to watch the most elite events, as rowers often reach their top speeds at this point in the course. Diehard fans can watch teams battle it out at the end of the straightaway as their coxswains begin to direct them through the twists and turns to come.

4. Riverbend Park

The sweeping vista offered by Riverbend Park sits right where the river veers sharply west. It’s the perfect spot for residents of Riverside and Harvard Square to bring children or pets and enjoy the race in a more relaxed setting. The John W. Weeks Footbridge that extends across the river allows viewers to get even closer to the action as the athletes navigate one of the most difficult turns in the race.

People will binoculars on a bridge

Spectators line the Weeks Footbridge, which is one of the most popular viewing spots along the course. / Photo by Hayley Glatter

5. Andersen Memorial Bridge

The Andersen Memorial Bridge not only connects the Harvard Athletic Complex with the rest of the campus, but also serves as the halfway point for the regatta. Every year, fans gather here in huge crowds to cheer on their teams as they push into the second leg of their journey. Space on the bridge can fill up quickly though, so plan accordingly if you want to show support from here.

6. Reunion Village

One of the primary gathering spots for competitors and spectators alike during the race is Reunion Village, the regatta’s annual ticketed viewing area. Located on the Cambridge side of the river between the Weeks and Andersen bridges, the Village is a great place to relax with friends while taking advantage of the wide array of food and drink options available. Regatta alumni will often gather here to reconnect with friends and share memories of past races. Tickets are $10 for one day or $15 for a weekend pass.

7. Weld Exhibition

Opposite Reunion Village on the Boston side of the river sits the Weld Exhibition, where sponsors of the regatta will give out free samples and sell Head of the Charles merchandise. Everyone loves free stuff, so make sure you don’t miss out. This year’s sponsors include the Boston Burger Company, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and LaCroix Sparkling Water.

8. Eliot Bridge

Eliot Bridge is the final bridge before the finish line and is situated in one of the most treacherous stretches of the race course. Tempers tend to flare between athletes at this point in the course as exhaustion begins to take over and every little mistake matters. Eliot Bridge is perched quite low over the river, so spectators are often privy to heated exchanges between rowers in the last leg of the race. The regatta also hosts a gathering at the Eliot Bridge Enclosure just past the bridge, where visitors can enjoy catered meals. Prices here are somewhat steeper than downstream at Reunion Village, with one-day tickets going for $130 and weekend passes for $250.

9. Rowing and Fitness Expo

The Rowing and Fitness Expo, located near the finish line on the Boston side of the river, is a free trade show and retail venue that the Head of the Charles organizes every year. This is the place to be for serious rowing enthusiasts—this year’s expo will host more than 40 rowing product manufacturers. Casual fans can grab a bite to eat and shop for merchandise, or try out one of the state-of-the-art rowing machines there. This is also the site of the Head of the Charles awards ceremony, so be sure to make it here to cheer on the competitors at the end of the weekend.

10. Christian Herter Park

Christian Herter Park stretches between Eliot Bridge and Northeastern University’s Henderson Boathouse on the Boston side of the Charles River. The regatta’s finish line and the Rowing and Fitness Expo are both located at different points in the park, so large crowds tend to gather here later in the day. The park’s wide-open green space is ideal for viewing the final sprint to the finish line. However, there’s still plenty to do while you’re waiting for the boats to round the last bend in the river. Make a quick visit to the amphitheater or the community garden, or grab a pint at Night Shift’s beer garden in the middle of the park. Either way, this is the perfect spot to wrap up your Head of the Charles weekend.

Check out our map of viewing spots below.