Are you ready for the Head of the Charles?

NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

One sure sign of October in Boston, besides the falling leaves and Halloween-decorated brownstones, is the Head of the Charles, the annual regatta that takes over the Charles River and its surroundings as thousands of spectators gather to watch the rowers.

 

Head of the Charles 2018 is right around the corner, so here’s everything you need to know about the annual sporting event.

 

What is the Head of the Charles?

If you’re unfamiliar, the Head of the Charles Regatta is a rowing head race on the Charles River. It’s the world’s largest two-day rowing event, and Head of the Charles 2018 marks the 54th year of the competition.

 

Since 1965, the best crew teams from around the world have come to Boston and Cambridge for the two-day competition.

 

Each year, the Regatta attracts more than 11,000 athletes of all ages and “tens of thousands of spectators,” according to the Head of the Charles organization.

 

When is the Head of the Charles 2018?

Head of the Charles 2018 takes place Saturday, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.

There are more than 60 rowing events throughout the weekend this year, and the first race kicks off at 7:45 Saturday morning. The last race of Saturday starts at 4:36 p.m. Sunday starts at the same early hour, with the last event at 3:49 p.m. See the full schedule at hocr.org/the-regatta/schedule.

Where to watch the Head of the Charles 2018?

The Head of the Charles is free to watch, and since it stretches for 3 miles down the Charles River, there’s plenty of places for spectators to set up.

head of the charles 2018

Bridges

If you can snag a spot on one of the bridges that spans the Charles River, you’ll have a great view of the action.

The Boston University Bridge is a popular place to set up as the rowing events set off from the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse. The course then goes upriver to the Christian Herter Park. If you want to be a bit further from the beginning, the next bridge down the course is the River Street Bridge, followed by the Western Avenue Bridge.

Then, there’s the Anderson Memorial Bridge and the John W. Weeks Footbridge, which are at about the halfway point of the course.

Finally, you can watch the Head of the Charles 2018 from the Eliot Bridge, which is the final bridge across the Charles before the finish line.

Head of the Charles Venues

There’s also an few areas along the course set up by Regatta sponsors.

The Weld Exhibition is located between the Weeks and Anderson bridges near the Harvard Weld Boathouse. This one is free to get into, and sponsors will be offering food samples and sales here.

The Attager Row: Rowing and Fitness Expo, located near the race finish line, features more than 40 rowing-related product manufacturers, so you can shop while you watch. It’s also the location for the award ceremonies.

Reunion Village costs $10 a day for admission but says it's one of the best viewing sites. The Village is located on the Boston side of the river between the Weeks and Anderson bridges, opposite the Weld Exhibition, and includes a beer garden, dining tent, seating and “play-by-play color commentary” of the races.

There’s also the Eliot Bridge Enclosure, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. This is the most expensive viewing option — one-day tickets are $130, a weekend pass is $250 — but that includes come-and-go access, early morning coffee and breakfast and a buffet lunch with tow included drink tickets (and a cash bar.) It’s at the river’s edge, a short walk from the Rowing and Fitness Expo.

head of the charles

Head of the Charles 2018 road closures, public transportation, parking

The Head of the Charles anticipates that from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, Memorial Drive from Cambridge Boat Club to Western Avenue will be closed.

Officials strongly encourage those who aren’t bringing a boat on their car to take a ride share or public transit to the event. The course is within walking distance of three MBTA stations: Central and Harvard on the Red Line, and BU Central on the B Branch of the Green Line. Buses are near the course, as well, like the 1, 47, 64, 66, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 86. Visit www.mbta.com for more schedule information.

The Regatta also provides two complimentary shuttle bus services. One stops at the Singles and Doubles Launch Site, Anderson Bridge (Boston-side), Cambridge Boat Club and the Finish Area Launch Site. The other runs from the parking area on Birmingham Parkway to the Finish Area Launch Site.

Parking is limited, but there may be free, on-street parking spots on the Birmingham Parkway (but not after 6 p.m.). You can also pay to part at the Alewife T Station, which costs $7 a day and $8 overnight, or the Harvard Stadium, Gate 14,  which costs $30 a day.