How to Spend Head of the Charles Weekend in Boston

Row, row, row your boat down the Charles—or walk, walk, walk to these nearby spots for sustenance.

In 1965, the Cambridge Rowing Club’s three founding members came together to launch the Head of the Charles Regatta. Fifty-eight years later, the regatta has become the largest three-day rowing event in the world, welcoming over 11,000 athletes and hoards of spectators to Boston every year. If you’re looking to spend this weekend on the banks of the Charles River, here’s how we’d plan the day.

Dates: Saturday, October 21 and Sunday, October 22
Start time: 7:45 a.m., both days
Last race: 4:02 p.m., Saturday; 4:22 p.m. Sunday

Start line: DeWolfe Boathouse (619 Memorial Dr, Cambridge).
Finish line: Allston’s Herter Park (1175 Soldiers Field Rd., Allston), where Head of the Charles Finish Area Launch Site (FALS) is located.


Before you stake out a viewing spot, head to one of the area’s many coffee shops for some much needed fuel.

On the Cambridge side of the river, Harvard Square offers plenty of options for a warm drink and a pastry, including familiar favorites like Flour and Life Alive. Or, try something a little more unique: Faro Cafe on Arrow Street boasts an intimate vibe and thoughtful beverages. Approaching the race from the Boston side? We recommend Pavement Coffeehouse for bagels or Cafe Turco in Allston before making your way to the riverbank.

See also: The 20 Best Restaurants and Cafe’s in Harvard Square.


Caffeine? Check. Next, we recommend taking the T or walking to the Head of the Charles Finish Area Launch Site, or FALS, in Allston’s Herter Park. Track down an information tent here to pick up a schedule from a volunteer and pencil in the races you don’t want to miss. 

While there are tons of great viewing locations along the Charles, we suggest heading to one of the bridges for the best look vantage point. If you’re hoping to see off an athlete, head to the starting line: the Boston University Bridge is where every race begins. For a bit more excitement (and bigger crowds) we advise you to stake out a spot at the finish line, which is located near the Cambridge Boat Club on the Eliot Bridge. Or, catch a glimpse of the crews mid-race from a viewing spot at the top of Weeks Footbridge, which is known as the most difficult corner on the course, and one of the most challenging in the rowing world. 

If you’re hoping for a more laid-back experience and aren’t worried about forking over some cash, consider attending one of the regatta’s ticketed viewing areas. Reunion Village is one such spot, popular among Head of the Charles and college crew alumni. The FALS Bar is another great option, offering a beer, wine and cocktail garden for spectators 21 and up. 


Sports and snacks go hand in hand. Grab a quick bite at one of the regatta’s many on-site food vendors, located primarily at the Weld Exhibition at Riverbend Park—a gathering area for over 40 vendors and sponsors selling products and offering free swag, located a seven-minute walk from the Harvard Square Red Line MBTA station. For a break from the Head of the Charles foot traffic, venture back into Allston for a burger at Sloane’s (197 North Harvard St., Allston) or take your pick from any of the several unique dining options at Brighton’s Charles River Speedway (525 Western Ave, Brighton).


When you’re sated and/or re-energized, head back to the finish line for some shopping. This area is home to Attager Row, where victors will receive their prizes, and the Rowing and Fitness Exposition. Peruse the white tents for everything from licensed event merchandise to the latest rowing gear. If you’re more interested in the regatta’s spectating ambience than the races themselves, this is the place to be. This year, be sure to grab some branded clothing at the Vineyard Vines pop-up and take a tour of the “Boys in the Boat” exhibition, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the rowing-themed movie of the same name, directed by George Clooney and hitting theaters this December.

By now, you’ll be getting thirsty. Wrap up your day along the Charles at Night Shift Brewing Co.’s Allston beer garden location. If you get there early enough, you may catch the last boat races at 4 p.m.. Celebrating your crew’s victory? Make a reservation at Pammy’s for an upscale dinner or head to Lonestar to wash down the day with some tacos and margs.