When You Go: Viewing Tips from a Local Expert
The 2013 Head of the Charles will be held October 19–20. Craig Lambert, longtime Bostonian and author of Mind Over Water: Lessons on Life from the Art of Rowing, has attended the regatta more than 30 times, including three as a competitor. Over the years he has picked up a few pointers on the best way to view the race.
When to arrive. The race begins at 8:00 a.m., but the crowds don’t start pouring in en masse until after 10:00. Space on the riverbank is first-come first-served, so if you want to secure a prime piece of real estate, the earlier you arrive, the better.
How to get to the site. With a crowd of more than 300,000 spectators, on-site parking is very limited. The best way to arrive is by foot, bike, or public transportation. Taking the Red Line train to the Harvard Square MBTA station is the best option. From there it’s a short quarter-mile walk to the river, straight down JFK Street toward Anderson Memorial Bridge. If you’re driving in from out of town, your best option is to either park at the Alewife MBTA station and take the Red Line to Harvard Square or to leave your car at the Birmingham Parkway parking area in Brighton, where you can catch a quick shuttle over to the race. Memorial Drive, which winds along the Charles on the Cambridge side, is closed to traffic on HOCR weekend, making it the best route to walk or bike to the race.
Where to view the race. Six walkable bridges span the Charles: Boston University Bridge, River Street and Western Avenue bridges, Weeks Footbridge, Anderson Memorial Bridge, and Eliot Bridge. The bridges are some of the more popular venues from which to view the race; throughout the day, racing shells pass beneath, as spectators watch from above. If you find a spot near the Eliot Bridge, you’ll have a front-row seat on the tight traffic jams and occasional collisions as crews squeeze through the final, excruciatingly narrow turn before the Eliot Bridge, then thread gingerly through the center arch as the finish line comes into view.
What to bring. Blankets, binoculars, and folding chairs will come in handy—as will a hale and hearty pair of lungs for cheering on your favorite crews. And definitely bring an appetite. Vendors offer everything from fried dough and burgers to falafel and oysters. But alcoholic beverages are prohibited, so save the spirits and libations for after the race. Cheers!